Posted by admin at 2 May 2016

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DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

Forced to withdraw rape case’, Ghaziabad village Dalits threaten conversion (2)

Ghaziabad: Dalit community members of a village on Sunday threatened to convert to Islam or Buddhism after allegedly being beaten up and pressured by another group to withdraw cases related to the rape of a 17-year-old girl. They alleged that “several influential people” forced them to reach a compromise on a second complaint as well. The second complaint was against a former pradhan for beating them and forcing them to withdraw the rape charges at a prayer meeting held for the girl on Saturday, they said. However, the two groups reached a compromise on Sunday in the second case. A senior member of the Dalit community said they may not follow through with the conversion, but other members were disappointed about the way they were treated. “Time and again, we are subjected to humiliation and pressured to withdraw cases. Our community members have threatened to convert either to Buddhism or Islam,” said Bhim Sen Gautam, a resident. On March 29, a man from Yadav community raped a girl when she was alone at home, while his accomplice kept watch. The girl set herself on fire after the incident, and died on April 6 in a Delhi hospital. Both accused were arrested under charges, including rape. “My daughter was hospitalised for nine days and could not survive. She poured kerosene and that burnt the upper part of her body. I lost my child but people threatened us for a compromise. We have no option but to think of conversion,” said the mother of the victim. Santosh Devi, another resident, alleged that her husband, brother-in-law and two more family members were beaten up on Saturday. “There was an incident earlier in our family where my brother-in-law was shot dead and in that case too we had to reach a compromise. How long will we reach compromises? I think conversion is the only way out so that our voices are heard,” she said. Meanwhile, the police said they will not quash the FIR in Saturday’s incident. “Although the two parties have reached a compromise, the investigating officer will decide whether to file the final report or a chargesheet on the basis of evidence and statements…We sent our officials to inquire about the threats of religious conversion, but the community members denied it,” said Ghaziabad superintendent of police Salman Taj. (Hindustan Times 11/4/16)

Dalits groups begin hunger strike (2)

Hassan: Dalits of Sigaranahalli and members of the Dalita Hakkugala Samiti, here on Wednesday, began a hunger strike opposing untouchability being practised at Sigaranahalli in Holenarasipur taluk. Around 100 people, many of whom were members of pro-Dalit organisations, joined the dharna in front of the Deputy Commissioner’s office. The leaders addressing the gathering criticised the district administration and people’s representatives for failing to ensure justice for Scheduled Castes of the village. Narayana Das, senior Dalit leader, said the district administration had no moral right to hold Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s birth anniversary programme on Thursday. “If the district administration had respect for the constitution and Ambedkar, it should first take Dalits of Sigaranahalli to the temple in the village before conducting the programme,” he said. CPM district general secretary Dharmesh, on the occasion, said that leaders of the Janata Dal (Secular) had stood by the people of one caste, ignoring the demands of the Dalits. He also demanded that the Home Minister Dr. G. Parameshwara, Social Welfare minister H. Anjaneya and district in-charge minister A. Manju visit Sigaranahalli and provide justice to the Dalits (The Hindu 14/4/16)

Mayawati attacks Modi on Dalit outreach, calls it an ‘eyewash’ (2)

Lucknow: Cautioning dalits and backwards against BJP’s designs, former UP chief minister Mayawati on Thursday said its leaders will only act as a “bonded labourers of RSS” and claimed Prime Minister Narendra Modi could do little for the OBCs though he claims to belong to the community. “BJP or RSS can make any dalit or backward as the prime minister or chief minister of any state but he cannot do any thing good for his people…he will always remain a bonded labourer of BJP or RSS,” the BSP supremo said taking on her political rivals at a meeting to pay homage to Dr Ambedkar on his 125th birth anniversary. Her remarks came in the backdrop of BJP appointing Keshav Prasad Maurya, a backward, as the UP unit president. “This is clearly evident in the government of Narendra Modi who moves around saying that he is an OBC…leave alone doing anything for his caste people, he has not done anything for tea sellers though he has had free tea from them,” Ms. Mayawati said. Virtually sounding the bugle for 2017 assembly election, Ms. Mayawati targeted ruling Samajwadi Party accusing it of “failing on all fronts” and promised a society free of fear and corruption if she is voted to power. The BSP supremo also hit out at Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for “not taking cognisance” of suicides by Dalit students when his party was in power. “Now that the Congress is out of power, the ‘yuvaraj’ (prince) is going around in states ruled by other parties and indulging in theatrics,” she said referring to Rohith Vemula suicide in Hyderabad. Training her guns at BJP, Ms. Mayawati said Mr. Maurya has been appointed by BJP as state unit president though he has a criminal record and earlier its Chief Minister Kalyan Singh, who too belonged to backward community, could do nothing and all along toed the line of RSS on Ayodhya temple for which he had to also lose power. Criticising Mr. Modi, she said although he spoke publicly on the issue of reservation because of “political compulsion”, it appears to be a “mere eye wash and a mischievous move”. “Had Modi’s intentions been clean, before allying fears on any move to do away with quota, he would have taken action against his party men and RSS workers who have been issuing wrong statements on making reservation ineffective,” she said. She warned that any move in the direction of ending reservation will have a serious impact and her party will not take it silently. “If the need arises, I will personally lead the agitation by coming out on the streets,” she said. She also cautioned people against possible moves to rake up Ram temple issue by igniting religious feelings before the coming elections in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Punjab. “They might resort to this tactic after failing to lure people on sensitive issues like love jehad and Hindu rashtra among others to serve their political interests. “The real God and messiah of dalits, backwards and other deprived people all over the country is only Babasaheb Ambedar and not in Ayodhya, Mathura or Kedarnath,” she said. Ms. Mayawati said though a lot is being said about erecting memorials on Ambedkar, Mr. Modi has not taken action against his minister V.K. Singh “who made derogatory comments” against the followers of Ambedkar. (The Hindu 14/4/16)

Nallampatti Dalits want case registered against upper caste community (2)

ERODE: Dalit residents of Rice Mill Pudur Colony at Nallampatti on Sunday demanded the Thingalur police to register a complaint against members of upper caste community over denial of livelihood for the last one month. The Dalit community members wanted immediate action on a petition they had submitted a couple of days back complaining about what they termed as socio-economic boycott by upper caste community members. Police officials had reportedly told them that the case could be registered only after a consultation on the relevant Sections with legal experts. Police sources said there were complications involved in registering a case since the upper caste members cannot be intimidated into providing employment to Dalits in their fields. According to a police official, the cordiality in the relations between the two communities was being vitiated by some organisations claiming to champion the cause of Dalits. Ever since a face-off erupted between the Dalits belonging to Arundathiyar sect and upper caste members a month back after the death under suspicious circumstances of a 55-year-old Dalit worker Chinnasamy, there has been an uneasy calm in Nallampatti. A week back, the affected Dalits had submitted a petition to the district administration pleading for intervention for their economic sustenance, citing a resolution adopted by upper caste members not to engage for farm work any Dalit worker from the Rice Mill Pudur locality. They had asked for interest-free loans with subsidy component as a remedy. Earlier this month, a team from the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) visited the Rice Mill Pudur locality and held inquiries. The Dalit residents had complained to the team that Chinnasamy was murdered by an upper caste group over his strident stand on a PCR (Protection of Civil Rights) case registered in Thingalur police station. The Dalit residents had also expressed unhappiness over the Police Department’s handling of the case. (The Hindu 18/4/16)

Dalit Barred from Entering Tank, 4 Booked (2)

MADURAI: The Kottampatti Police, on Monday, registered a case against four caste Hindus under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, on charges of preventing a Dalit from taking a bath in a common water tank and allegedly assaulting him. According to a police source, the accused include C Thangaraj (25), P Chinnathambi (40) and A Pandian, all from Lekkadaipatti village near Kottampatti, and K Alagarsamy (40) of Amman Kovilpatti village. The injured P Saravanan (35) of Lekkadaipatti has been admitted to the Government Rajaji Hospital, said the source. A police source stated that the common tank in the village had a tap which the residents used for collecting water for drinking and other purposes. In the afternoon of April 16, Saravanan came to the tank to use the tap water for a bath. Motor operator Alagarsamy apparently asked Saravanan to leave saying he had been bathing for more than an hour. A heated exchange resulted, said the source. Following this, it is alleged that Chinnathambi, Thangaraj and Pandian assaulted him. Based on a complaint by Saravanan, the police registered a case against the four, including Alagarsamy, said the source. In a separate incident, the Samayanallur police, on Monday, arrested a caste Hindu, R Viji alias Vijayakumar (27) of Pudukanmai village and registered a case against his mother R Chitra, under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act for allegedly assaulting two Dalit women. A police source said that Viji and S Mukammal (47) were neighbours. Mukammal was living with her sister T Bothumani. On Monday, Viji parked his two-wheeler close to Mukammal’s house. When he went to take his vehicle, Viji found some of the parts, including the indicator, damaged and felt that Mukammal’s house children might be the culprits. Following this, an altercation broke out. It is alleged that Viji and Chitra pushed Bothumani. Mukammal lodged a police complaint. In another incident, the Melur police arrested a 42-year-old caste Hindu on Monday, under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, for allegedly assaulting a 38-year-old Dalit.  The police arrested A Manikandan of Thilagar Street, Melur, said a source in the police. M Panjavanam of Subburaman Street, Melur, ran a meat shop on land owned by a caste Hindu on the Trichy-Madurai Main Road, said the source. On Monday, an inebriated Manikandan apparently went and parked himself close to Panjavanam’s shop. Panjavanam  requested Manikandan to move away since women come to his shop and his (Manikandan’s) presence may impact business, said the source. Irked by this, Manikandan reportedly spoke to him using abusive language and attacked him with the weighing machine. He said Panjavanam was running the shop on land belonging to a member of his community. (New Indian Express 20/4/16)

TRIBALS

Tribal people want strengthening of LAMPS (6)

NAMAKKAL: Tribal people have called for strengthening of Large Area Multi-Purpose Cooperative Societies (LAMPS) so that their standard of living is improved. There are 20 LAMPS functioning in the State with the objective to assist the tribes in marketing their products and providing interest-free short and medium term loans. Apart from this, 101 fair price shops are also being run by LAMPS. Tribal people sell coffee, pepper, honey, tamarind, tea, fruits, flowers, grains and spices to the societies located in hill areas and in tribal populated areas. But, the products purchased from tribals are not marketed by the society and middlemen play the role in exploiting the tribal people, said K.A. Gunasekaran, Chairman of Tribal Peoples’ Council. He said that the societies are dependent on the central co-operative banks leading to funds crunch. “Tribal people are unable to avail the crop loans on time and had to depend on money lenders,” he said. He wanted cold storage facilities for all the LAMPS in the State and also sales representatives for promoting the products so as to reduce unemployment among graduates of tribal youths. “If not, all LAMPS should be attached to the Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India Limited,” he added. Also, he wanted LAMPS to become the nodal agency of National Scheduled Tribe Financial Development Corporation. (The Hindu 11/4/16)

Tribesmen oppose imposition of POCSO (6)

A group of tribesmen under the aegis of the Committee on Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) against Tribes Marriage took out a march to the POCSO court here on Monday against the imposition of the provisions under various sections of the Act on tribesmen who married girls under 18 years from their communities. Speaking after inaugurating the march, social activist Daya Bai said it was usual for a tribal youth, especially among the vulnerable tribal sects such as the Paniya and Kattunayakka, to wed a girl as per their customary laws after she attained puberty. But many tribal youths had been imprisoned under various sections of POCSO as the bride had not completed 18 years of age, she said. Many tribespeople were illiterate and ignorant about the Act, Ms. Daya Bai said adding that the government should consider sensitizing them to the Act, instead of arresting the bride groom just after the marriage and imprisoning them. P.G. Hari, a social activist and convener of the organisation, said as many as 60 tribal youths in the district had been arrested under various sections of the Act and many among them were undertrial prisoners. Eleven youths among them were sentenced to prison term from 10 years up to 40 years after trial and their brides were living in Nirbhaya hostels of the Social Welfare Department. Though the court had granted bail to many among them, they were yet to get bail as the landless tribal youths were not able to produce the documents demanded by the court such as land tax receipts and documents of their land. “We are not supporting child marriages but the authorities can charge them under the sections of the Prevention of Child Marriage Act 2006,’ Dr. Hari said. However, imposing POCSO on tribal youths, who married as per their customary laws, was not suitable for a civilized society, he added. Social activist P. A. Pouran presided over the function. The police blocked the march nearly 500 metres before the court complex. (The Hindu 12/4/16)

Tribals allege harassment (6)

SALEM: Tribals in Chinna Kalvarayan Hills in Karumandurai allege that they are harassed by police for distributing pamphlets seeking fulfilment of their demands. Recently, tribals in Karumandurai distributed pamphlets carrying message that they are boycotting the Assembly election as their long-pending demand for implementing the 5th Schedule of the Constitution was not fulfilled. They said that they were unaware of the model code of conduct as no awareness programmes were conducted in their hamlets. They were treated like criminals at police station for distributing pamphlets. “Even after they tendered an apology in writing that they are unaware of the election code, they were asked to come to the station regularly and warned,” said K.A. Gunasekaran, chairman of Tribal Peoples’ Council. – Staff Reporter (The Hindu 15/4/16)

Habitat rights for Mankidia tribe in the offing (6)

BHUBANESWAR: The Mayurbhanj district administration has initiated a process to enable the tribe to file claim for habitat right in the Similapal Sanctuary area. If everything goes smoothly, Mankidias will become the first of 13 primitive tribes to get habitat rights under the Forest Rights Act. “A process has already been initiated by the district administration to recognise habitat rights of Mankidias under the FRA. We are documenting life and livelihood of Mankidias and their access to forest for food and other daily needs,” Mayurbhanj District Collector Rajesh Pravakar Patil told The Hindu on Sunday. “We have conducted detail deliberations with the community leaders of Mankidias residing in 14 villages in the district. Efforts are being made to get their claims approved through Gram Sabhas at the panchayat level,” informed Mr. Patil. He added: “Our process of recognising habitat right will be definitely better than that of others. Documentation of life of Mankidias is being done in a very systematic manner. If everything goes smoothly, the small primitive tribal group will have habitat rights in their hand within next one to one and half month.” The administration’s efforts are being hailed as refreshing. “It is often seen that the government departments play obstructionists’ role in recognising rights of forest dwellers under the FRA. After Independence the Mankidias have not been mainstreamed. Therefore the administration has come forward to help them file their claims,” said Y. Giri Rao, Director of Vasundhara, a Bhubaneswar-based advocacy group which has been involved in improving the FRA implementation in Odisha for years. According to Mr. Rao, the claim of habitat rights will be passed by the Gram Sabhas villages inhabited the Mankidia tribals. Subsequently, the Sub-Divisional Level Committee will go through the habitat right claims and forward them to the DLCs. The Mankidia habitats have distinct features such as rich forest, mountains and valleys. Most people live in isolated habitations. Despite various development initiatives taken by the government and the non-government organisations, the socio-economic condition of Mankidias has not improved much. “The recognition of habitat rights in its true spirit is the key to development of these particularly vulnerable tribal groups. If the State is serious about the wellbeing of the development of PVTG, they must take this habitat rights recognition process seriously and may follow the model set by the Mayurbhanj district administration,” said Subrat Kumar Nayak, Bhubaneswar-based developmental expert. The community members source their food from forests and are excellent hunters. Of late, they are struggling to make two ends meet due to restrictive forest regulations. The habitat right is expected to help alleviate their concerns to a great extent. In 2010, the community had produced first matriculate when Baya Mankidia successfully cleared matriculation examination. (The Hindu 18/4/16)

Saffron brigade’s kumbh embrace with dalits, tribals (6)

Bhopal: RSS is organising a three-day ‘samajik samrasta snan’ (social harmony holy dip) from May 11 to 13, in the Kshipra river, which will be attended by the organisation’s top brass, including chief Mohan Bhagwat and his deputy Suresh Bhaiyyaji Joshi. A day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi comes to the Ujjain Kumbh, BJP national president Amit Shah will take a holy dip in Kshipra on May 13 along with other stalwarts in his team. Hundreds of dalits and tribals, who are being invited to the Kumbh celebrations, will join him. To consolidate Hindu vote bank and bring dalits and tribals into its political demography, RSS last year launched its agenda of samajik samrasta (social harmony) with the slogan of one temple, one source of water and one crematorium for all – thereby breaking traditional discrimination against deprived communities. Speaking to TOI, RSS functionary in Bhopal Anil Saumitra said that earlier this year, during its conclave in Nagore, Rajasthan, the organisation decided to go against caste-based discrimination and observe 2016 as year for social harmony. “RSS ensuring participation of dalits and tribals is not a new concept. It has been done before in Gujarat, Chhattisgarh and in Mandla district of Madhya Pradesh, where the organisation observed Shabari Kumbh,” Saumitra explained. Invitations are being sent to dalit organisations all across the country to join the celebrations. Thinkers and intellectuals from the communities are being invited for academic exchange of ideas during the three-day function. “RSS does not want that certain communities, especially dalits, should feel left out and isolated from such celebration of faith,” Saumitra said. (Times of India 20/4/16)

WOMEN

‘Property rights crucial for women empowerment’ (8)

VIJAYAWADA: Union Minister for Urban Development and Parliamentary Affairs M. Venkaiah Naidu said equal rights to hereditary property would empower women to a large extent while their efforts to grow in their chosen fields are duly supported by the government in terms of funding and logistics. Felicitating successful women entrepreneurs from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in a programme organized by the Association of Lady Entrepreneurs of India (formerly Association of Lady Entrepreneurs of Andhra Pradesh) here on Sunday, Mr. Venkaiah Naidu said the Central government was keen on both financial and legislative empowerment of women. “For uplifting women financially, the government is implementing various schemes and striving to achieve political consensus on reservations in Parliament and State Legislative Assemblies”, he said in an indirect reference to the Women’s Reservation Bill. Mr. Venkaiah Naidu said the well-being of women was one of the priorities of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and he vowed to do everything that is required to provide them equal opportunities at work and in other fields. Skill development is one thing that has been given top priority and various initiatives like Stand-Up scheme for SC/ST and women entrepreneurs were yielding the desired results slowly but steadily, he observed. Association of Lady Entrepreneurs President K. Rama Devi said the organisation completed training over 10,000 prospective women entrepreneurs and it looked forward to setting up businesses on a larger scale in exclusive industrial estates sought to be established in all districts of A.P and Telangana. A.P Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu promised to provide dedicated industrial estates for women and encouraged them in various other ways, Ms. Rama Devi said and added that the Association’s Vandemataram project nurtured the talents of thousands of women in textiles and apparel sector. Earlier, Mr. Venkaiah Naidu presented Best Women Entrepreneur Award to Sentini Hospitals MD Padma Movva, Women Entrepreneur Awards to G. Vijaya Lakshmi (Jiti Sportswear Private Limited) and K. Srilakshmi (Aamrex Formulations) and Start-Up Awards to S.N.V. Lakshmi (Manav Kalamkari Prints), Jayalakshmi (Jayalakshmi Creations), and Zabeen (Great Divine Garments). (The Hindu 11/4/16)

Study records 4,472 ‘missing girls’ among Indians in Canada (8)

If an Indian immigrant couple in Canada has already had two children, the likelihood of the third child being a girl is less likely. A paper published on April 11 in the journal CMAJ Open notes that the skewed sex ratio among Indian immigrants in Canada has resulted in about “4,472 missing girls”. The actual number of missing girls may be much higher given that the calculations based on the ratios did not factor in repeated induced abortions of female foetuses. The deficit in the number of newborn girls to Indian immigrants in Canada is around 200 per year. Unlike in the general trend of 103-106 boys per 100 girls, the proportion of male children increased according to the birth order among Indian-born mothers. The majority of missing girls occurs at the third and higher order birth. Indian mothers, who already had two children, gave birth to 138 boys per 100 girls. It increased to 166 boys per 100 girls when Indian mothers in Canada already had three children. Dr. Marcelo Urquia, the first author from St. Michael’s Hospital, Ontario, and others note that the presence of an Indian-born father skewed the ratio towards more boys per 100 girls at the second and higher birth orders immaterial of whether the mother was born in India or not. “It is a woman’s right to undergo an abortion in Canada. No questions are asked regarding the reasons. Induced abortions are legal and free in Canada,” Dr. Urquia told in an e-mail to The Hindu . “Implantation of male embryos are not allowed under Canadian law. However, there is no law preventing women to undergo an abortion for any particular reason, even if it involves sex selection.” The paper says that the sex ratio among Indian-born mothers with two previous daughters was 196 boys per 100 girls overall. The study examined birth certificate data of 5.8 million births to Canadian-born women and 1,77,990 Indian-born women between 1990 and 2011. (The Hindu 14/4/16)

Will ensure strict compliance with law to fight female foeticide: Akhilesh (8)

Lucknow: Condemning the pratice of female foeticide, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav today said his government will ensure “strict compliance” with the law against it even as he called for a “change in mentality” to fight the menace. “The government will deal with the problem with full sincerity and ensure strict compliance with the law for checking female foeticide,” he said at a programme here to honour women achievers. The chief minister further stressed that ending the evil would “also require a change in mentality”. “Girls are the strength of the family… nobody can forget Rani Laxmibai… she was the symbol of woman power,” he said. Stressing that his government has been working for the “honour, security and progress of women”, Mr. Yadav cited various schemes in Uttar Pradesh being run specifically for them. He also said that of the 17 lakh laptops distributed among students in the state, a good chunk went to girl students. “Women make up half the population of the country and they cannot be ignored. Any country where women lag behind cannot progress,” he said. On the occasion, Mr. Yadav announced a cash reward of Rs. 11 lakh for Kalbaliya dancer Gulabo Sapera. (The Hindu 16/4/16)

Women denied equal pay despite being highly educated (8)

Women are at par with men in education but have failed to secure equal access to quality jobs and representation in the government, finds a global study. It also suggests the need for greater policy interventions to close gender barriers. The findings from more than 150 countries showed that women have reached 91 per cent of the education that men have. Yet, they have reached only 70 per cent in terms of employment. The share of women employed in the relatively high-paying industrial sector compared to men has dropped 20 per cent since 1990. Since men are highly paid, women are squeezed into lower-paid positions.Greater exclusion from high-paying jobs and a disproportionate amount of unpaid household work, including care for children and ageing parents, offer two key reasons for women’s lower employment and income, the researchers said. Further, the gender gap is seen to be widest in political representation. Overall, women share of parliamentary seats is 25 per cent compared to men’s. But, even as legislative bodies in some nations have no female members, political representation for them has increased from 14 per cent in 1990. But some countries like Canada, Rwanda, Norway have adopted political gender based quotas to improve female representation in government. Without women, governments are more likely to spend taxpayer money in ways that disproportionately benefit men, or ignore the extra burdens on women. Potential solutions include affordable childcare, paid parental leave, diverse hiring practices, public transportation access, rural health clinics, and even gender quotas. The researchers measured gender inequality in three key categories: capability (education and health data), livelihoods (employment, job segregation and other economic indicators), and agency, as measured by parliamentary seats and other forms of political representation. (Times of India 18/4/16)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

Child marriages peak ahead of Krishna pushkarams (14)

VIJAYAWADA: After the Godavari Pushkarams last year, it is Krishna Pushkarams now for performing marriages in a hurry, particularly child marriages. Parents are busy meeting purohits, fixing muhurtams, booking marriage halls, temples, chefs, and ordering wedding cards. Many people from the coastal districts and neighbouring Guntur, Prakasam and Khammam (in Telangana State) prefer to perform weddings at the Kanakadurga temple. Priests admit that there is a heavy rush for marriages ahead of the pushkarams. “Child marriages are rampant in Krishna district when compared with other districts. Many parents are in a hurry to marry off their minor wards before the 12-day event,” said an officer. However, priests say as per the almanac, there is no dearth of muhurtams before and after the pushkarams and parents can fix marriages on auspicious days even in August. But, the crux of the matter is the illegality of child marriages.“There are auspicious muhurtams on August 4, 6 and 8, and again good muhurtams begin from October after the pushkarams and marriages can be performed after the Dasara festival. For Krishna Pushkarams there is no sentiment and parents can perform marriages till August,” said Nimmagadda Patanjali Sastry, a priest. Krishna District Women Development and Child Welfare (WD&CW) Department Project Director (PD) K. Krishna Kumari told The Hindu Indrakeeladri is the most preferred venue. “In some cases, brides are aged between 12 and 16 and are school dropouts. We are trying to prevent child marriages during this period. We have stopped many marriages in the last three months,” Ms. Krishna Kumari said. The WD&CW officials in association with Revenue Department staff are planning to conduct awareness meetings in all mandals in Krishna district to enlighten the parents on the consequences of child marriages. “We wrote to the Revenue Divisional Officers (RDOs) of Gudivada, Vijayawada, Nuzvid and Machilipatnam to conduct awareness programmes to prevent child marriages, who responded positively and the meetings will begin on April 16,” the PD said. (The Hindu 12/4/16)

Dirty picture of child labour in India and other developing countries (14)

We, the generation is bridging two millennia, are standing at a threshold that will change the way the world works. But to do that, we need to abolish many ill practices and child labour is definitely one of them. Despite the economic prosperity and dramatic fall in poverty levels in the last few decades, unequal access to education is ensuring that millions of children are still trapped under the vicious claw of child labour in India. An article published in the Economic Inquiry said that Jayanta Sarkar and Dipanwita Sarkar from the Queensland University of Technology Business School in Australia had compared the levels of child labour and schooling across various economic groups in India, Peru and Ethiopia. They have developed an innovative overlapping generations economic model to explain how child labour stubbornly persists despite falling poverty in developing countries. Jayanta said that the “fixed private cost” of schooling meant the poor had less access to education relative to the rich, a key driver in child labour among the poor. “Typically schooling, even in a ‘free’ education system, imposes a large burden on the poor through the fixed costs of things like transportation to and from school and books and other materials,” he added. The researchers found that inequality in income may matter more than poverty in explaining why child labour continues. “Instead of schooling, families below a level of relative income invest in child health to ensure children possess physical capability to perform unskilled work,” said Dipanwita. A UNICEF report estimates that 246 million children are still engaged in child labour in developing countries including India. (India Today 13/4/16)

Stop sale of kids for work: Lawyer to CM (14)

JAIPUR: Taking up the matter of rampant child labour in the state, a Delhi-based lawyer on Friday addressed a petition to chief minister Vasundhara Raje as well as the national commissions for child and human rights and the Union ministry for women and child welfare. The matter became urgent after a Hindi daily on Friday reported that two children, just eight and 10 years old, managed to escape from hard conditions of labour after getting in touch with Childline in Dewas, Madhya Pradesh. Lawyer Shehzad Poonawalla in his petition said that Yogesh Dube of the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights had recently pointed to the large number of children from tribal-dominated southern Rajasthan districts of Udaipur, Banswara and Dungarpur being trafficked for work in BT cotton fields in Gujarat. The commission had asked the state government to set up checkposts in the border districts to prevent children from being sold into labour.On Friday, the Hindi daily reported that the children had been sold for as little as Rs 3,000 and Rs 4,000 for strenuous work tending to sheep in Madhya Pradesh. They were kept hungry for hours and made to walk long distances, herding sheep. It was found that deals were struck quite blatantly for children in Banswara. Tol Singh, who is a resident of the district belonging to the Bhil tribe, said, “It is not as if it is entirely just a sinister thing. The goat and sheep herders from Madhya Pradesh arrive here and see the large number of children in poor tribal households, and offer to give them work in exchange for about Rs 5,000 a month. Poor parents with large families to take care of think it might be a good deal.” “Children as young as six are being sold or hired for labour. Besides cracking down on child labour, the state government must also provide for the poor and the vulnerable, so that they are not forced to resort to such things,” Poonawalla told TOI. A report of the central government in 2012 found that Rajasthan had the third-largest number of children in work, after Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. Figures released by Labour Watch, on the basis of data from the National Survey Organization’s 61st round which was held about 10 years ago, put the number of children engaged in work in the state at 34.8 lakh. (Times of India 15/4/16)

Dhanbad drive against child labour from today (14)

Dhanbad: The district administration of coal city is all set to launch a crackdown on child labour to make the district free from child labour. DC Kripanand Jha has issued a directive on Saturday to the state labour department of the district to coordinate with all the blocks and identify the places and units where the children are engaged. Labour department estimates say there are more than 500 children engaged in different sectors in the city primarily in eateries, construction, grocery shops, coal crusher units etc.Labour superintendent, Rakesh Kumar Sinha, said that the department has decided to launch the drive from April 17 to rescue children and minors engaged in hard labour and rehabilitate them. The move will be supplemented with an extensive campaign to sensitize people and warn them against making children work in establishments or houses, added Sinha. The labour department has formed a task force comprising police and block officials which would raid different areas to rescue child labourers. The department said, children rescued during the drive would be handed over to Child Welfare Committee (CWC) which will hand over the children to their parents. “Priority will be to ensure their proper rehabilitation so that they do not return to the same job. The children will be returned to their parents and linked to the CWCs of the district for monitoring their status. Administration of the district will also be linked up for extending necessary anti-poverty schemes for the families that force their children into labour as well as sponsorship for the rescued minors” said Labour Superintendent, Sinha. Jha while speaking to TOI said that the district will be made free of child labour. He also said that stern action will be taken against employers who have engaged children in hard labour. (Times of India 17/4/16)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

Minority tag likely for India’s 5,000 Jews (7)

NEW DELHI: The BJP-led NDA government is considering a proposal from the Jewish community demanding grant of minority status. An assessment submitted as part of the Jewish representation puts the numbers of Jews at just about 5,000 in the country. Ministry of minority affairs has sent this proposal to concerned departments and agencies for an opinion. The final call for grant of minority status lies with the Union Cabinet. The development gains significance in the backdrop of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s assertion last month at the world Sufi meet that India can accommodate minorities, including “micro minorities” like Parsis, and has the space for “believers and non-believers”.Union minister for minority affairs Najma Heptulla on Tuesday said that the proposal for minority status for Jews is under consideration. It is learnt that the proposal was received by the ministry from Jewish community representatives in October last year. A scrutiny of the demand led to a need for assessment of their population in India. Armed with the figures, the ministry has now sent the proposal to concerned departments for an opinion. If all aspects are found to be in line with the law a formal proposal will be made which may then be put up for consideration of the Union Cabinet. (Times of India 13/4/16)

BJP, RSS Can’t Have Monopoly Over ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’: Vaghela (7)

AHMEDABAD: Senior Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela today slammed BJP and RSS on the issue of chanting ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’, saying leaders of both these outfits can’t have a monopoly over the slogan. “The issue of (raising slogan) ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ and nationalism has been used (by BJP and RSS) to suppress the voice of young generation. You can’t have monopoly on this slogan. People do not need a certificate from BJP and RSS, who are using this slogan to divert people’s attention from core issues,” Vaghela said. Speaking at a party function to mark the 125th birth anniversary of B R Ambedkar here, the former Union Minister also alleged that though BJP and RSS are against the reservation system, their leaders are now trying to project themselves as true followers of Ambedkar to get votes of the Dalit community. “If you continue to threaten people on this (slogan) issue, more and more people will refuse to obey your orders and say that do whatever you want, but we will not say ‘Bharat Mara Ki Jai,’” he added. Vaghela alleged that BJP leaders are remembering Ambedkar only to get votes in upcoming Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, which has sizable number of Dalit voters. “They used Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s name in Gujarat. Recently they used Subhash Chandra Bose’s name in West Bengalelection. Now, they are using Ambedkar’s name to get votes inUP election. “In reality, they (BJP, RSS) never liked the idea of reservation and never endorsed Ambedkar’s views. It is all about getting votes,” he alleged. (New Indian Express 14/4/16)

Minorities panel drags T, AP to court (7)

Hyderabad: State Minorities Commission chairman Abid Rasool Khan has dragged Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, among others, to the high court for allegedly not taking steps to initiate a CBI probe into the irregularities in wakf institutions as recommended by it. The commission has also sought an order from the two states asking the CBI to begin the probe. In his petition, Khan said that the commission had received several complaints about mismanagement and alienation of wakf properties in both states. He claimed that the AP State Minorities Commission Act allowed the body to entertain such complaints. As a result, the commission probed such 15 cases to ascertain if there were irregularities. In the petition, the commission cited the example of Maulvi Nabi Khana near Madina building in the Old City and claimed that while rents for properties of the institution could have been fixed at Rs 50,000, the wakf board has been collecting a rent of Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000. The petitioner explained that the speaker of the then assembly in united Andhra Pradesh had constituted two house committees – once in 1995 and later in 1999. Both committees had given guidelines and made certain recommendations. Further in 2006, the Centre constituted a joint parliamentary committee to study the state of affairs of wakf properties and wakf boards across the country, among other issues. “The parliamentary committee in its observations and recommendations to the Centre and states expressed displeasure over rampant encroachment of wakf properties over the last 40 years in Andhra Pradesh, which was one the states having largest wakf properties,” an excerpt from the petition reads. Apart from a full-fledged inquiry into wakf affairs in both states, spanning a period of 30 years, the commission is seeking interim orders from the HC directing both the state governments and the Centre to consider initiating a CBI probe into alienation of wakf land. Further, it is also seeking an interim order to direct the state governments and the wakf authorities not to lease wakf properties, not to change managing committees and not to issue no objection certificates. It has also sought interim orders directing the CBI to proceed with a preliminary inquiry. (Times of India 18/4/16)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

Muslims protest ‘racial profiling’ at Agra hotels (7)

AGRA: The reported move of some Agra hotels of denying rooms to minority community tourists from Iraq, Pakistan, Syria and other countries affected by ISIS during the days preceding the visit of the Royal British couple, Will and Kat, to the city on April 16 has raised hackles with Muslim organization dubbing it as an “unjustified racial profiling”.Reports indicate that hoteliers have taken an “unofficial” decision not to rent out rooms to tourists from these countries to “avoid harassment” in case of any untoward incident during the much-hyped visit of the Britain’s Prince and his wife. Reports also reveal that rooms are being denied to these tourists on the pretext of hotels being full. However, none of the hoteliers are willing to speak on record on the issue. The move has caused resentment among city based Muslim organisations who are questioning the logic behind it. Talking to TOI Aslam Quereshi, chairman of Islamia Local Agency, said this move is sending a very wrong message. “Tourists are given visa after checks so why impose such restrictions”, he said adding that this is racial profiling and needs to be condemned in strongest of words. “Tourists are our guests whether they are from Pakistan or any other country, we should welcome them”, he added. Adnan Quereshi of Sarv Daliya Muslim Sangharsh Samiti too said such racial profiling is “absurd”. A local Muslim leader, Haji Jamiluddin Qureshi, also criticized the move and said it “exhibited our weakness”. He said, “we don’t get tired shouting Atithi Devo Bhava but these hotels are denying rooms to tourists on basis of their race and nations:. When contacted, SP Intelligence, Satyam, categorically denied that any such directions had been issued, “All hotels are required to follow due processes of verifying the Visa and are at liberty to contact us in case of any suspicion”.Rakesh Chauhan, president of Hotel and Restaurant Association, Agra, also denied knowledge of any such move and said if some hotels have taken this decision unilaterally, its “absolutely wrong”. He said this is an off seasons for the city and hotels have only 30% occupancy, so if anyone is denying room on the pretext of it being full, they’re lying. (Times of India 11/4/16)

Springing harmony: Hindus worship the tree which Muslims nurture (7)

Takpura (Ayodhya): Every morning, Asma clears the floor of a revered tree barely 25 meters from her home while her relative Qurban Ali watches over it. Thereafter, Hindus in the vicinity offer prayers to the tree over health issues. Devotees believe that the divine tree can boost intelligence level, end financial woes and enable a worshipper to master his skills. The tree, known as Ramrama, is the latest addition to the symbols of communal amity in Ayodhya, the land of Rama. “It was discovered about a decade ago and is called Ramrama because the name of Lord Rama is naturally engraved on it. Muslim families nearby take care of it, keep the premises clean and ensure that no one harms it as it is revered by Hindus,” said Rajendra Prasad Majhi, a devotee who visits the place every morning. The tree was discovered by Pandit Arjun Prasad Bihari, who worked at a local publishing house, in 2005. “I had read about it in Vishnu Purana but never knew it existed. While reading a story in a special edition of Kalyan (a publication of Gita Press), I read that the tree was in a place called Ashokvan in Ayodhya which compelled me to search for it. References of Ashokvan took me to Takpura where I found it,” Bihari told TOI. The tree is being promoted by local organisations working to develop Ayodhya’s tourism potential. Sri Saryu Avadh Balak Sewa Samiti member Ashish Mishra said, “There is so much to Ayodhya than the dispute. There are over 7,000 temples and stories of faith every ten yards but the richness of the culture is yet to attract tourists. Ramaram is being promoted as the ‘tree of life’ by local tourist guides.”Mahant Girishpati Tripathi of Tewari Mandir is not surprised by the uniqueness of the tree. “All religious literature on Ayodhya says that Ram exists in every particle on this earth. The tree is a ‘pratyaksha’ (perceptible) specimen of the same,” he said, adding that the uniqueness intrigues visitors. Though the botanical name of the tree is not known, seers claim that it finds mention in religious texts particularly in Vishnu Puran. According to Pandit Arjun Prasad Bihari, “Shlok number 28 on page number six of the sixth chapter in Vishnu Puran talks about the Ramaram tree. It says that Ramaram was the son of sage Kashyap and Ilaya (one of his 13 wives).” Different Hindu Puranas keep Kashyap at the centre of the story of creation. These stories say that humans, animals, fishes, birds and plants are his children. (Times of India 15/4/16)

Muslim Rashtriya Manch to appeal youth not to fall for ISIS (7)

Nagpur: The three-day national convention of the Muslim Rashtriya Manch (MRM) in Nagpur is expected to appeal to the Muslim youth not to join ISIS, and launch a special cell to monitor those who could fall prey to the terror group’s propaganda, senior RSS leader Indresh Kumar said. Issues such as waving of Pakistani flag and hailing that country, who should be the community’s icons, how to discourage the practise of talaq, root causes of communal riots and promotion of education among Muslims would also be discussed by over 150 Muslims leaders, scholars and religious heads from across the country, Kumar said last evening. The convention started on Saturday. On the opposition by some Muslim clerics to the chanting of ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ slogan, Kumar said, “It is all matter of semantics. Saying Madar-E-Watan Hindustan Zindabad or Bharat Mata ki Jai is one and the same thing. But those issuing fatwa on it are fundamentalists promoting violence.” Kumar also denied MRM is an offshoot of RSS, saying it’s an “independent organisation of nationalist Muslims”. (DNA 17/4/16)

Muslims lag in education enrolment, says survey (7)

New Delhi: Nearly half the Muslim population in the age group of 5-29 years is not enrolled anywhere for education in urban areas, according to the 71st round of the survey on education by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) conducted between January and June 2014. This is the highest among various religious groups. While 50.4 per cent of Muslims were not enrolled anywhere for education in this age group during the survey period, 48.2 per cent were enrolled and attended their classes. However, 0.6 per cent of Muslims were enrolled but did not attend their classes. There has, however, been an improvement in the enrolment of Muslims in the age group of 5-29 years in various kinds of education, compared to the previous such survey conducted between July 2007 and June 2008. There were 53.6 per cent of Muslims who were not enrolled in the previous round. At that time, 44.7 per cent of Muslims were enrolled and attended their classes. In 2014, while Muslims were the largest religious community in terms of number of people not being enrolled in education in urban areas, in rural areas, 53.1 per cent population of the community enrolled and attended classes in various courses. Between the two rounds of survey, there has been improvement in terms of education enrolment among various religious communities. Besides Muslims, Buddhists also had a higher number of population – 51.5 per cent – not getting enrolled for education in 2007-08 in urban areas. Similarly, 47.7 per cent of Sikhs also fell in this category. The category of Buddhists were merged into other religions in the latest round. Taking enrolment and attendance as the criteria of the educated people, Christians were the foremost in terms of education, followed by Hindus. (Business Standard 18/4/16)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

Christian Union Extends Support to AIADMK (7)

COIMBATORE: The Progress Union for Christian People (PUCP), a newly formed association of a section of Christians in the region, today extended support to the ruling AIADMK in the May 16 Assembly elections, claiming it was the only party which protected their needs and rights. J Sundar, Founder President of PUCP, a union confederation, said AIADMK has been instrumental in providing Rs 20,000 subsidy to the community to undertake the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Besides it was AIADMK which had stated that Dalits who had converted to Christianity should not be deprived of concession or benefits as per the Ranganatha Mishra Committee recommendation, besides taking it up in Parliament, he said. On attacks on their places of worship, Sundar said the government had arrested and taken action against the culprits, which no other governments did during their regime. If AIADMK came to power, it would help resolve problems being faced by the community in maintaining their graveyards, he said, adding it should also continue to take action against what he termed were frequent attacks on Churches and other prayer and meeting halls. (New Indian Express 12/4/16)

Church Collects Aid for Kerala Temple Tragedy Victims (7)

NEW DELHI: In solidarity with the victims of the Kerala temple tragedy, Delhi-headquartered Believer’s Church, a Christian denomination with congregations and parishes worldwide, is collecting medicines, food packets and clothing to provide relief to the affected people in Kollam. The Church said it is also mobilising its medical team with specialised doctors from its Tiruvalla Hospital to aid in relief operations. A number of volunteers on behalf of the Believers Church are also assisting the local administration in relief operations, it said. K P Yohannan, Metropolitan of Believers Church said, “We will do everything in our power to help the bereaved families and provide timely medical assistance to those who have been injured.” The Church said it is willing to provide free of cost treatment to the sufferers at its state-of-the-art multi-specialty hospital in Tiruvalla which is about 35 kms from Kollam.”Believers Church Medical College Hospital, Tiruvalla, is offering free treatment to all victims of the Kollam tragedy,” added Yohannan. The Church said it is pooling resources, including collecting donations, for carrying out relief work in Kollam and assisting in rebuilding works. “We have collected 5,000 mosquito nets and as many packets of medicines, food and clothes to be sent to Kollam. We have a team of doctors which is monitoring the verification of medicines that are to be sent,” Bishop Simon John of the Delhi Centre of Believers Church said. The Bishop said the Church has asked all its members in cities like Lucknow, Udaipur, Chandigarh, Kolkata, Delhi, Amritsar to contribute for the cause. “Use of firecrackers is a part of the festival. People should be more careful while using them. And as a Church we have taken an initiative and asked our members not to use firecrackers. We are trying to communicate to people and raise awareness that firecrackers may cause harm,” he said. (New Indian Express 13/4/16)

Transfer Properties Back to Church: Supreme Head (7)

KOCHI: In a move that could curb bishops of the Jacobite Syrian Christian Church amassing personal wealth, Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II – the supreme head of the Church – sent a letter to the Regional Episcopal Synod asking bishops to transfer properties acquired in their names or in their family members’ names to the respective diocese and register in the name of the Church. The letter gains significance in the wake of the stand-off between the Patriarch and the Catholicos in various matters, including hierarchy, and allegations raised by laymen organisation within the Church that Metropolitan were amassing  personal wealth, using their religious position. It is observed that the move may intensify the stand-off between the Patriarch of Antioch, head of Syrian Orthodox Church and Catholicos, regional head of Jacobite Syrian Christian Church. Patriarch Aphrem II, in his letter dated April 12, a copy of which is in possession of ‘Express’, has said he had received complaints against bishops that ownership of properties, schools, and charitable  institutions were in the names of bishops or in the names of their family members. “We are are aware of the possibility that it can be challenged by the other faction. We have to  respect the constitution and traditions of our church and accordingly in order to avoid further disputes concerning the ownership  of these properties,” Patriarch said in the letter.  Meanwhile, Jacobite Almaya Forum, a laymen organisation which has been raising voice against the ill practices in the Church, especially wealth amassing by bishops, welcomed the decision. Almaya Forum leaders had lodged complaint to the Patriarch alleging that the Church had no budget, account auditing, since 2002.  “Catholicos and their nominees have been amassing personal properties. It may be recalled that Catholicos and his henchman Thampu had to abscond following a case against wealth amassment,” Almaya Forum leader Paul Varghese said. (New Indian Express 16/4/16)

Bastar church attack: We are left with no option, says Christian Forum chief (7)

Raipur (Chhattisgarh), Apr. 19 (ANI): Strongly condemning the attack on a church, a pastor and his seven-month pregnant wife at Tokapal village in Bastar District, Chhattisgarh’s Christian Forum president Arun Pannalal on Tuesday said that such attacks were common across the state, adding that they had been left with no option. “Earlier, we were optimistic about the judiciary as we are getting nothing except dates. And thus, we don’t have any option left with us,” said Pannalal while expressing his disappointment over repeated incidents of church attacks in the state. “This was not the first incident. In 2005, a church was vandalised in Tokapal, which was on a private land. Such attacks are not happening just in Raipur, but across Chhattisgarh. Nearly 20-25 churches have been attacked so far this year,” he said while pointing out one of the reasons behind the attacks on churches is some people have problem with our religion. “They are targeting the Christian community so that they could ‘keep alive an object of hate’ for their own end that is why they are using our community,” he added. Unfolding the incident that took place at the Tokapal church, Pannalal said that a group of 10 to 12 people with their heads covered with saffron bandana and armed with sticks, swords and knife entered the church premises at around 7p.m. on Sunday. “They started hurling abuses and asked the people present in the church to raise slogans of ‘Jai Sri Ram’. Their activity left the people confused. In the meantime, the hooligans poured patrol on pastor and his wife, who is seven months pregnant. Fearing worst, the pastor and his wife ran out of the church while crying for help,” he said. “When they ran out of the church, the hooligans splattered patrol on the church surface and walls and set it on fire,” he said. “Hearing the pastor and his wife’s cry for help, the residents of nearby villages ran towards the church. However, by the time they reached there, the hooligans disappeared into the darkness of the night,” he added. Recalling an encouraging order earlier from the High Court, Pannalal said, “We had challenged a Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s resolution passed at a gram sabha in which they had prohibited the entry of non-Hindus, including Christians, to a village.” (ANI) (Times of India 19/4/16)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

BHRC seeks ATR from Purnia DM (13)

Patna: Bihar Human Rights Commission (BHRC) on Monday directed Purnia district magistrate to depute a nodal ADM/additional collector to appear before the commission on May 19 with an action taken report (ATR) in connection with denial of benefits to a refugee from Bangladesh.One Radhavallabh Pal of Banmankhi ward number 16 in Purnia district lodged a complaint with the BHRC that neither the state government nor the central government provided him land for settlement and other benefits despite repeated requests. The application says that Pal, a refugee from Bangladesh, had migrated to India in 1951 from his native village Bhingulia under Chandpur police station area in Tripura district of Bangladesh (erstwhile Pakistan). He also holds a refugee registration card (No 17/51 dated March 8, 1951) issued by the Bihar government. “Purnia district magistrate has failed to respond to the BHRC notice on Pal’s plea as well as consecutive four reminders for the same,” BHRC member Neelmani said and directed the Purnia DM to take necessary action and Purnia divisional commissioner for information. (Times of India 11/4/16)

A tribute to the revival of Tibetan civilisation (13)

NEW DELHI: A handful of Tibetan refugees followed their deposed ruler, the Dalai Lama, to India in 1959 with nothing in their hands. Decades later, this nation has emerged as the largest reservoir of the authentic Tibetan culture. A photo festival here presents their success story. The largest ever photo—exhibition on the Dalai Lama and Tibetan civilisation — “Thank you Dalai Lama” by photographer Vijay Kranti is running at All India Fine Arts & Crafts Society (AIFACS) till April 15. “This photo—festival is an artistic tribute to the success story of a peaceful and brave refugee community, its monk leader the Dalai Lama and their magnanimous hosts — the people and the government of India”, said Vijay Kranti, a senior Indian journalist, an accomplished photographer and an acclaimed Tibetologist. “On behalf of Indian citizens, I acknowledge HH Dalai Lama and Tibetan refugee community for making a creative use of Indian hospitality,” he said.— IANS (The Hindu 14/4/16)

Pope brings 12 refugees to Rome (13)

ROME: Declaring “we are all migrants”, Pope Francis visited the Greek island of Lesbos on Saturday with a message of hope for those seeking asylum in Europe and a stinging rebuke for those who closed their hearts to the desperate. His one-day trip to Europe’s migration hotspot culminated dramatically when three Syrian refugee families, all Muslim, returned with the pontiff to Rome, where they will be housed by the Vatican. The Pope told reporters that his gesture was “a drop in the ocean” but hoped that afterwards, “the ocean will never be the same again”. “All refugees are children of God,” he said aboard the papal plane on its flight back to Rome. The departure of the 12 refugees was the climax of an emotional visit that saw migrants kneeling in tears before the 79-year-old Roman Catholic leader. “You are not alone… do not lose hope,” the Pope, who was accompanied by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop Ieronymos, the head of the Church of Greece, said at the Moria registration centre, where around 3,000 migrants are being held. The vast majority have requested asylum but will likely be deported under a controversial agreement reached last month to tackle Europe’s refugee crisis by sending all irregular migrants who land in Greece back to Turkey. As the Pope was escorted through Moria to meet a select number of migrants, one man broke into tears as he knelt at the pontiff’s feet, requesting his blessing. Another woman who slipped past security to approach the pontiff also broke down in tears as he paused to listen to her. A group of small children presented the Pope with a dozen drawings. Lesbos is one of the first ports of call in the EU for the hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers who have fled war, poverty and persecution in the Middle East and Asia across the Aegean Sea via nearby Turkey in the past year. The religious leaders said a prayer at Lesbos harbour in memory of the hundreds of migrants who have drowned during the voyage in overcrowded smuggler boats. “Merciful God… though many of their graves bear no name, to you each one is known, loved and cherished,” the Pope said. Earlier they signed a declaration calling on the international community to “respond with courage” to the humanitarian crisis and calling on religious communities to step up efforts to assist refugees. — AFP (The Hindu 17/4/16)

Bihar to set up cell for linguistic minorities (13)

PATNA: Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar on Sunday said his government would soon set up an exclusive cell within the minorities’ welfare department to hear the grievances of linguistic minorities like Bengalees and others. The new cell will be known as ‘Linguistic Minorities Grievances Cell’. Speaking as chief guest at the platinum jubilee celebration of the Bengalee Association, Bihar, organized at AN Sinha Institute of Social Studies here, CM also announced that the children of linguistic minorities who would pass matric examination with the first division would also get a stipend of Rs 10,000 just like the children of religious minorities. He also assured all possible help from the state government to the members of Bengalee community residing across the state. Responding to a demand raised by the Bengalee Association’s president Dr Dilip Kumar Sinha, CM said he would soon hold a meeting with official to explore what he could do for the welfare of the East Bengal’s refugees who were officially settled in different districts of Bihar. CM recalled that he had in 2009 held a meeting with officials on the issues being faced by such refugees. Some problems were solved at that time. Earlier Dr Sinha, in his address, said that around 4 lakh Bangla speaking refugees have been permanently settled by the central government in different districts of Bihar especially West Champaran. But they are still facing different sorts of problems like issuance of caste certificate and registration of land in their name. “The Centre had earlier ordered to give ‘raiyati’ claim of refugees on the lands officially allotted to them. But it has not been done so far. Hence, the refugee family cannot sell their land even in dire situation, Dr Sinha pointed out. He also raised the issue of non-appointment of sufficient number of Bangla teachers in the state government’s schools. CM said, had Dr Sinha submitted a copy of his demands earlier, he would have come to the programme with some decisions. “Since the issues are being raised here when I am on dais, it is difficult for me to give any decision on the demands. The matter of appointment of Bangla teachers are being looked into by the education department. As far other demands are concerned, I request Dr Sinha to come to my office and I will call a meeting with the officials over the problems of members of the association,” CM said. He also called upon the Association members to support the state government’s move of total prohibition. Addressing the function, ADRI’s member-secretary Shaibal Gupta lauded Nitish Kumar for taking bold decision like prohibition. “Total prohibition is a courageous resolve of Nitish Ji,” Gupta said and added the CM had always been working for development of different linguistic and religious minorities in the state. (Times of India 18/4/16)

Modi govt to allow Pakistani Hindus to buy property, open bank accounts in India (13)

New Delhi: There are around 400 Pakistani Hindu refugee settlements in cities like Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Jaipur, Raipur, Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Kutch, Bhopal, Indore, Mumbai, Nagpur, Pune, Delhi and Lucknow. “The central government has been constantly reviewing the hardships being faced by the minority communities in Pakistan staying in India on LTV. To ease some of their difficulties, it is proposed to provide the facilities,” a notification issued by the Home Ministry says, as per PTI. The facilities include permitting opening of bank accounts without prior approval of the Reserve Bank of India subject to certain conditions, permission for purchase of dwelling unit for self-occupation and suitable accommodation for carrying out self-employment without prior approval of RBI subject to fulfilment of certain conditions. Issue of driving licence, PAN and Aadhaar cards, permission to take up self-employment or for doing business which is considered safe from security point of view, dispensing with the requirement of personal appearance before the Foreigners Registration Officer for registration are a few other facilities being planned. Allowing free movement within the State/ UT where they are staying instead of restricting their movement within the place of stay, allowing free movement to those living in the National Capital Region (NCR), simplifying the procedure for visit to a place in any other State/ UT are being proposed. Permission for transfer of LTV papers from one State/ UT to another State/ UT, waiver of penalty on non-extension of short term visa/ LTV on time, permission to apply for LTV at the place of present residence in cases where the applicants have moved to the present place of residence without prior permission are some of the other highlights. (Zee News 18/4/16)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

No provision for govt accommodation to ‘outside cadre’: RTI (1)

Mumbai, Apr 11 () Though there is no provision in state policy to provide government accommodation to officers and employees of the ‘outside cadre’ in Maharashtra, an RTI query has found that some of them have been provided this facility apparently by exercising special powers of the Chief Minister. The Right to Information query, filed by activist Anil Galgali with the state General Administration Department (GAD), had sought details regarding allotment of government accommodations to Officers on Special Duty (OSDs) at Chief Minister’s Office. In reply, GAD’s Under Secretary S M Dhule said there was no such provision in the policy, drafted in 1995, for providing of government accommodation to the officers and employees of the ‘outside cadre’. However, as per the RTI, the Chief Minister has special rights to allot 10 per cent of the available accommodation as special cases. Galgali had also sought the list of babus in the waiting list who were in queue to get the accommodation, but it was not provided citing that the query was “out of scope”.Galgali said he would challenge it with the appellate authority. Earlier, an RTI query filed by Galgali had found that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis appointed as many as eight external staffers as OSDs in CMO with monthly expenses on their salary totalling Rs 7.69 lakh. Galgali said, “I filed this RTI query in the follow-up of my first query to know that what are the other benefits these outsider staffers were availing from the government bypassing senior bureaucrats’ rights.” When contacted, a senior officer in Public Relations Department of the CMO office said they need time to respond the query. (Times of India 11/4/16)

Delhi University refuses to reply to RTI plea on PM’s BA degree (1)

New Delhi: Delhi University has declined to give information under RTI related to PM Narendra Modi’s bachelor of arts degree. The university cited inability to find information without a roll number as reason for the denial. The plea was accepted by the central information commission (CIC), which has dismissed the case. According to his election affidavit, he completed a distance education course from DU in 1978. His subject is said to have been Political Science. This is not the first time details of Modi’s educational qualifications have been sought, and denied, under RTI. Earlier, Gujarat University refused to make information related to the PM’s masters degree public, saying that the marksheet and other details were personal information. An RTI plea was also filed with the PMO on his MA degree. It was turned down because authorities said that they did not have the information. Delhi resident Hans Raj Jain had sought information on how many persons bearing the name of “Mr. Narendra Modi” had passed BA in 1978 as external students. According to the order given by information commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu, the chief public information officer said that admission is given based on a candidate’s roll number and the university would have to manually search for the candidate’s name, which was impossible. “Moreover the information sought is too general as he (applicant) wanted to know details of all candidates bearing name starts with letters M (Modi) & N (Narendra),” Acharyulu said. (Times of India 14/4/16)

RTI reveals pace of action against corrupt officials slow (1)

Bareilly: An RTI query has revealed that 31 cases of corruption in 2015 and five cases this year till February 2016 , against gazetted and non-gazetted officials in Delhi were registered with the Anti-corruption branch but not a single chargesheet has been filed till now relating to these cases. A Moradabad-based RTI activist, Pawan Agarwal, who filed this RTI query, said, “The motive of filing the RTI was to know about the action taken against corrupt officials in Delhi after Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) came to power. However, from January 2015 to February 2016, 36 officials have been booked on corruption charges but all cases are pending and no chargesheet has been filed till now.” He added, “I sought information on a number of cases registered and number of chargesheets filed against gazette and non-gazette officials from 2010 to February 2016 to compare the status of cases over the years.” The RTI reply stated that chargesheet was filed in seven cases of corruption in Delhi out of a total of 64 cases in 2014. With 64 persons booked by Anti-corruption branch, the highest number of cases of corruption were reported in 2014 in the period between 2010 to February, 2016. According to RTI reply, out of 23 cases registered in 2013 with the Anti-corruption branch of Delhi, chargesheet was filed in only five cases. Similarly, 21 and 12 government officials were booked on corruption charges in 2012 and 2011, respectively. However, the chargesheet has been filed only in seven each in these cases in 2012 and 2011. In 2010, a total of 39 cases were registered with the Anti-corruption branch in Delhi and chargesheet was filed in 22 cases. The RTI activist added, “The RTI reply clearly shows that maximum number of cases of corruption are pending for years and only in a few cases, the chargesheet has been filed. Both Centre and Delhi government had promised to fight corruption before forming their respective governments but the speed in taking action against corrupt officials is slow.” (Times of India 16/4/16)

India’s official name can’t be RTI query, says law ministry (1)

Ahmedabad: The Union law minister has junked an appeal under the RTI Act seeking the official name of the country, while withholding the earlier reply by public information officer that the information did not come under the Act. Khevna Shukla, a city-based woman, in March filed an RTI application before the Prime Minister’s Office and then put it to the law minister. The PMO said that it was not required to give the real name as this RTI query did not come under the definition of information. Shukla asked the same question under RTI to the Union Ministry of Law and Justice which did give an answer. S K Chitkara, deputy secretary with the law ministry, said in a reply dated February 29, 2016 “As per our Constitution, the name of the country is ‘India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.’ Shukla said that as she was not satisfied with the answer, she filed the first appeal with the law ministry, which stated that the information sought by petitioner does not come under the purview of the RTI Act while disposing of the plea. (Times of India 18/4/16)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

AAP launches movement for revamp of UP’s education sector (11)

MEERUT: Taking a cue from its Delhi government, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Tuesday appealed to the Uttar Pradesh government to “revamp” the state’s education sector, with a focus on government schools. The nascent party announced a movement for the overhaul in the sector by demanding better facilities for government schools and action against the commercialization of education. AAP workers sent a memorandum of their demands to chief minister Akhilesh Yadav. “Since the condition of government schools in the state is deplorable, most parents are forced to turn to private schools to get a quality education for their children. However, many parents are being openly exploited by schools due to the commercialization of education,” said Shailendra Gaur, AAP district president. He alleged that school mafias are operating in the state. “Schools often hand out a list of supplies to parents that they are told to buy only from certain shops. This shows that there is a clear nexus between schools and shopkeepers,” Gaur said. He also criticised the hikes in private school’s fees. “Schools arbitrarily increase their fees. This puts a lot of economic strain on parents. The education department needs to put an end to this rampant corruption. The state must also ensure that government schools in the state have facilities on par with government schools in Delhi,” he said. (Times of india 12/4/16)

CBSE raps schools for forcing kids to buy non-NCERT books (11)

Agra: The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has sent out a directive warning the heads of all affiliated schools to end the “unhealthy practice” of coercing students to buy textbooks other than those approved by NCERT (National Council of Educational Research and Training). CBSE local resource person Jagdish Sharma told TOI: “Following a series of complaints regarding schools compelling children to buy books from publishers other than NCERT-approved ones, the board has sent letters to principals of all schools warning them against the practice.” The letter issued by the board’s additional director Sugandh Sharma reads: “In this context, CBSE would like to reiterate in unequivocal terms that prescribing of too many textbooks and coercing parents and children to buy them is unhealthy practice that is educationally unsound, specially since NCERT textual materials are the base for preparing test items in the Board Examinations and the Question Paper of CBSE is set according to prescribed syllabus of the subject.” The board has also stated that there is no shortage of NCERT books. Sales counters are running at Ajmer, Bhopal, Shillong, Bhubaneswar, Mysuru, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Guahati and New Delhi. Any school affiliated to CBSE can procure their required NCERT textbooks in bulk from all these centres. CBSE has also informed schools that the books published by NCERT for classes I to XII are available free of cost at epathshala.nic.in and those published by CBSE are available at cbse.nic.in.Despite CBSE’s strongly-worded letter, several parents in the city are still unsure if this would help their child. Some worry that not buying only NCERT books might mean their kids lag behind the rest of the students, who might have purchased the extra books. Arjun Nagar resident Sunita Singh, who is the parent of Class VIII student, said: “There is no other option but to purchase the books prescribed by school. CBSE must be more efficient in ensuring their is a common syllabus and textbooks in all schools.” A Class XI student’s father Rajesh Agarwal, who resides in Kamla Nagar, fears his daughter would fail to secure good marks if she does not buy all the books prescribed by the school. “I have no idea what will help my daughter secure good marks in her examinations. So, I tend to believe that the textbooks prescribed by the school will help her,” says Agarwal. From Hariparwat, Shalini Srivastava, who is the mother of a Class VII student, complained: “Schools add excessive books. They set such conditions that you have to purchase the whole set of books from a particular vendor. Complaining about anything will only create a problem for my child.” (Times of India 14/4/16)

Government is right on age for admission under RTE quota: HC (11)

Bengaluru: The Karnataka High Court has said it does not find fault with the decision of the State government to fix the cut-off date and age group for admission of children under the RTE quota for the academic year 2016-17. A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Subhro Kamal Mukherjee and Justice Ravi Malimath passed the order while dismissing a PIL petition, filed by the RTE Task Force, Bengaluru. “We are of the view that the decision taken by the government to fix cut-off date is not faulty, as the children of the same age group will study in the same class. If the cut-off date is extended, it will result in a situation where older children would have to study with younger children in the same class,” the Bench said in its order. “Even otherwise, it is a policy decision of the government, which is in the larger interests of the public. We find no good ground to entertain the writ petition,” the court said. The government had issued a notification on February 8, 2016, stating that children from 3 years 10 months to 4 years 10 months are eligible for admission to LKG, and those from 5 years 10 months to 6 years 10 months as on June 1 of this academic year would be eligible for admission to 1st standard. However, the petitioner seeking relaxation in cut-off date contended that those who were a day or a couple of months younger or older would be deprived of admission in this academic year..The petitioner also pointed out that the Department of Public Instruction, in the previous academic year, had relaxed the age group to enable some children, who were closer to the cut-off date, to get admission. (The Hindu 15/4/16)

A learning experience for tribal children (11)

KOZHIKODE: For children from the tribal colonies in Kozhikode district, the summer camp ‘Gothrayanam,’ was a novel experience. The children made the most of the opportunity. They were initially a bit perplexed with the new environment. But as the camp progressed with singing and dancing along with some classes on certain serious issues, they slowly became a part of the camp. Gothrayanam was organised for the members of the Scheduled Tribe Balasabha and was a platform for the children of various tribal colonies in the district to come together and exchange their experiences. The camp was organised with the aim of enhancing their social skills and creativity in such a way that they could easily blend with mainstream society. Children in high schools from 32 panchayats in the district took part in the camp that started on Saturday. The camp was a venue to explain to these children the importance of education and to impart them guidelines to frame their future effectively. This was necessary as a large number of tribal children drop out of school during their final years. Trainer from Block Resource Centre Dinesh Pancheri conducted the personality development classes while Excise Inspector from Vadagara C.Mohammed spoke to them on the ill-effects of drugs and liquor. Regional Town Planner K.V. Abdul Malik spoke on job opportunities in the private sector. Besides entertainment programmes like Vanchippatt, the camp consists of classes in acting, mathematics, paper craft and fabric painting. The camp that was inaugurated by District Mission Coordinator T.P.Muhammed Basheer concludes on Monday. (The Hindu 18/4/16)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

Poverty Forces Man to Abandon His Child(21)

RAYAGADA:  Kashipur block in Rayagada district has been synonymous with poverty and even today, there are several cases where people have been deprived of social security. One such villager is Ratnakar Majhi of Badapukel village under Kashipur block. He is unwilling to take custody of his baby boy as he does not have money to take care of him. Instead, an ASHA worker of the village has taken up the responsibility for bringing up the child. This despite the fact that the ASHA worker, a mother of three, is herself struggling to feed her family. Last month, Nilei Majhi, wife of Ratnakar, delivered a baby boy in her house. The ASHA worker, Uttmee Majhi, helped her in the delivery. Soon after, Nilei’s condition deteriorated and Uttmee had to rush her and the newborn to Tikiri Primary Health Centre as Ratnakar was away. As her condition deteriorated, Uttmee took Nilei to the District Headquarters Hospital (DHH) in an ambulance but doctors declared her brought dead. As none from Nilei’s family, including her husband, turned up at the DHH, Uttmee and some locals arranged to send her body back to Badapukel village. The ASHA worker kept the newborn with her for immediate medical attention. After three days, when Uttmee brought the infant back to the village to hand him over to Ratnakar, he refused to accept his child by saying that he has no money to bring him up. Ratnakar works as a daily labourer to maintain his family of three, including his mother and a minor daughter. When he does not get work, he collects non-timber minor forest produce and sells them in the local haat. Ratnakar has no ration card and his MGNREGS job work is of no use as he hardly gets any work under the employment guarantee scheme. While Ratnakar said he would not be able to take care of another child due to his failing health and poverty, the ASHA worker said she too would not be able to take care of the infant for long as she is already struggling with maintaining her family with a meagre salary. Rayagada Collector Jagannath Mohanty said he has no information of the infant but the district administration will extend a helping hand if Ratnakar or the ASHA worker officially approach him. (New Indian Express 13/4/16)

China to lift 2.49 million people out of poverty in 2016 (21)

Beijing: China will relocate 2.49 million people from rural areas this year as part of efforts to fulfil on the government’s target of lifting over 70 million people out of poverty by 2020. China’s economic planner, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), together with several other agencies, asked local authorities in 22 provinces and regions to intensify efforts to achieve the target. To support this, the NDRC has allocated 16 billion yuan (USD 2.5 billion) since March, and several loans and funds have also been promised. Despite China’s double digit economic growth over the past decades, there are still 70 million people living below the poverty line of 2,300 yuan in annual income by 2010 price standards last year, many in harsh conditions without roads or water and power. The authorities describe eliminating rural poverty as the most difficult challenge in building a “moderately prosperous society,” and the government aims to help the remaining poor shake off poverty and enjoy essential social services by 2020. (DNA 15/4/16)

Rally against denial of ration cards (21)

Bhubaneswar: Beggars and persons with disabilities on Saturday staged a protest rally in front of the state food commission’s office here, demanding disposal of complaints about ration card irregularities. The agitators said at least 1,000 such complaints were submitted to the commission during the last three months. The commission has issued notices to the district collectors concerned with regard to only 200 cases, and has not disposed of a single case, they alleged. The agitators led by activist Pradeep Pradhan submitted a memorandum to the commission chairperson, which sought her immediate intervention in the matter.The memorandum alleges the government’s negligence has deprived lakhs of poor tribals, dalits and disabled persons of their legitimate right to be enrolled as a beneficiary of ration card. It urges the commission to work on a war footing to dispose of all the complaints and ensure food security to the poor. Pradhan regretted a large number of applications of the poor were rejected arbitrarily. Though complaints have been filed against this, the government has not even started an inquiry into the matter, he said. However, official sources claimed a move was on to expedite the process of distribution of ration cards to genuine beneficiaries. (Times of India 17/4/16)

Group pushes safe eating through organic foods (21)

Nagpur: Protests and creating awareness are part of any movement, and the movement for adoption of organic foods is being spread using these strategies. The individuals propagating awareness about organic food include people from diverse backgrounds and professions, including doctors, PhD holders, students, lecturers and many more. As temperatures this summer are soaring beyond 45°C, the group is trying to provide citizens locally grown lal ambadi and belfal juice to beat the heat. These locally available products are rich in iron, keep control on cholesterol, increase haemoglobin and help in digestion. Geographically, these are the best suited food ingredients to be consumed in summer in this region. This drive is a part of the Food Literacy Programme being implemented in Nagpur, where the group is making people aware about food sovereignty, food security and how big MNCs are controlling the entire trade of food and edible oil. The group is also targeting some specific companies, accusing them of overselling genetically modified seeds, and chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which are a threat to human health and environment. The ‘Organic Awareness Drive’ was organized in the city on Sunday at Japanese Garden and Futala lake. Mandar Deshpande, a farmer from Wardha, who is a mechanical engineer as well, spoke to people about organic products and their benefits. He grows 18 to 19 kinds of crops in his farm organically. Arvind Pandey , a retired helicopter pilot of the Indian Air Force, who saved more than 2,000 people during the Kedarnath tragedy, also shared his knowledge regarding organic food during the drive. The positive response to the drive encouraged the entrepreneurs and volunteers enough to decide to serve the people of the city on a daily basis by establishing a distribution centre at Shivaji Nagar. They will inaugurate the centre on May 21, so that they can offer people safe and poison-free food. (Times of India 18/4/16)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

EPFO settles 118 lakh claims in FY16, 96% in 20 days (14)

New Delhi, Apr 12 () Retirement fund body EPFO has settled 118 lakh claims including PF withdrawals last fiscal ended March 31, of which 96 per cent were settled within the mandated period of 20 days. “At the end of the financial year 2015-16, EPFO settled 118 lakh claims out of which 39 per cent were settled within 3 days, 79 per cent within 10 days and 96 per cent within 20 days,” the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) said in a statement. It redressed 22,925 grievances during the month settling 95 per cent of the grievances, leaving 1,280 grievances pending at the end of the financial year 2015-16. About 72 per cent of the grievances are pending disposal for less than 7 days. A total of 2,21,624 grievances were redressed in 2015-16. In order to widen the social security net, the government took a major decision to bring all banks under the ambit of EPF and MP Act, 1952 employing 20 or more persons, for those employees who are not entitled to the benefits of Contributory PF or old age pension in accordance with any scheme or rule framed by the Central or the state government or by the respective banks established under the Banking Regulations Act, 1949. EPFO said that all such banks shall be covered under the Act with effect from February 10, 2016. The issue of coverage of contract workers has been an area of top concern and priority for EPFO. Therefore, to streamline and facilitate the work of field offices, a software has been developed for the purpose. It will help EPFO to verify whether the particular contractor establishments are already registered or not and its compliance position. To bring more and more construction workers under the ambit of the Act, the month of April, May and June 2016 shall be observed as “Compliance for Construction Workers” months.  (Times of India 12/4/16)

Death of woman at NREGA work site leads protests (14)

BELAGAVI: A woman from Kadoli village near Belagavi died on 10th April on the work site of national rural employment guarantee act (NREGA). After the death, an attitude of panchayat officials, members and police to wrap-up the case in hurry has come on the target of various pro-labour organizations and NGOs. Condemning the anti-labour attitude, members of Belagavi District Building and Other Construction Workers Organization (BDBOCWO) led by advocate NR Latur staged protest in the premises of DC office. Organization claims death of Laxmibai Ramu Balagaonkar (54) happened due to over heavy work while police concluded the case calling it the death by scorching heat taking suo-motto complaint. Interestingly, police came to the hurried conclusion even before arrival of post mortem report. However, Bandu Belagaonkar, son of victim has registered separate complaint in the police station, saying the death of his mother took place because of heavy and stressful work. Now the complainant is being pressurized by the members of gram panchayat and PDO to withdraw it. “GP president and PDO are asking me to withdraw police complaint immediately. They are saying why I am falling in such police cases which take long time to resolve. They have promised me of paying Rs 1 lakh by different means as compensation”, complainant Bandu told to the TOI.Death of Laxmibai occurred when she was engaged in de-silting work of Markandeya river. Initially she experienced chest pain. She was died before shifting to the hospital. The work she engaged was lifting the soil in a skep from around 15-20 ft steep. Laxmibai doing NREGA work since past two years and she was completely fit. But the work allotted at the work site to women was heavy one. Besides, according to NREGA manual, implementing agency must arrange safe drinking water and first aid box at the work site which was not on this particular site. Incident has occurred due to lack of first aid facilities and heavy and stressful work but not by scorching heat, claimed advocate NR Latur. He urged the government and Karnataka Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board to sanction appropriate compensation to victim’s family according to Workmen Compensation Act. P Sushila, secretary of Spandana, NGO, works for solving the issues of NREGA workers said implementation agency has to take responsibility of the incident. Generally in such situation, everybody try to pass the buck or wrap-up the issue in hurry. Concerned agencies do everything like putting pressure on family members of victims using money or muscle power. They do it because lapses in work implementation are highlighted if enquiry is conducted. District administration has to take this case seriously and give justice to victim’s family, she urged. When asked district project director on the scheme and deputy secretary (development) in zilla panchayat, said as the death has occurred on worksite, the process for the compensation will be carried out once the post mortem report comes. “I will check into the matter that if any lapses were there at the worksite”, he said. (Times of India 15/4/16)

MGNREGS workers stage protest (14)

NAMAKKAL: Stating that wages under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) was not paid to them for the past three months, over 100 women workers picketed the union office in Elachipalayam near Tiruchengode here on Saturday. Workers said that over 300 women are involved in the work under the scheme in Molipalli Panchayat. They said that the promised wage of Rs. 150 per day was not given to them in the past three months and also 100 days of work was not allotted to them. Workers said that Rs. 150 wage was paid to all the workers in nearby panchayats before 20 days, but workers in Molipalli Panchayat were paid only Rs. 110 per day. “Even that is pending for three months now,” they added. Workers said that when they inquired with officials, they were informed that only after elections they would be paid their wages. “In the absence of agricultural activities, we depend only on the daily wage. But denying it is posing hardship to us,” they added. Officials held talks with them. (The Hindu 17/4/16)

Min wage for contract workers to be Rs 10K, order soon (14)

HYDERABAD: The Centre will issue an executive order to ensure contract workers get a minimum wage of Rs 10,000 per month, Union Minister of State for Labour and Employment Bandaru Dattatreya said today. “It is the endeavour of the Central government to make reforms in labour laws and to proceed from minimum wage to universal wage. Because the Opposition is not cooperating in the Parliament, we will do it through an executive order,” Dattatreya told reporters here. “Because the Parliament is not functioning properly, we don’t want to wait and we want to go ahead with some executive orders for the welfare of the workers,” he said.He said the government has decided to make changes to rule 25 of the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Central Rules and every contract worker will be entitled to get Rs 10,000 per month. “We have framed this rule and sent to the Law Ministry (for approval) and shortly a notification will come and after this all the state governments will implement this decision,” he said. Dattatreya said the Supreme Court had given a direction, keeping in view of Consumer Price Index and variation DA, to increase the minimum wage. “In view of the apex court order, we are enhancing it first to Rs 10,000 and then we want to go for universal minimum wage,” the minister said. All contractors must register with the Labour Ministry, he said, adding in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh over one lakh sanitation workers (those who get Rs 8,500 per month) will benefit, besides crores of workers elsewhere, by the minimum wage rule. (Times of India 18/3/16)

Despite nationwide ban, 10 manual scavengers died in city since 2010 (14)

Chennai: Although manual scavenging has been banned in the country, Metrowater continues to flout the law by sending workers down manholes and sewage pits, sometimes to their deaths, in a bid to cut costs or make up for lack of equipment. As many as ten manual scavengers, including six contract workers, employed by Metrowater died at work in Chennai since 2010, an RTI application reveals. In response to the application filed by OnlineRTI.com, Metrowater, which is responsible for cleaning sewerage lines in the city, said three people died in sewers while doing this job during 2011-12, one in 2012-13, two in 2013-14, three in 2014-15 and one in 2015-16 (till February). The reply said Metrowater spent Rs 1 crore over the last five years as compensation to the families of the victims. The RTI request also disclosed that Metrowater has just 142 jet rodding machines against the required 200. This shortage could be the reason for its dependence on humans to clean sewerage lines. However, the actual number of deaths of manual scavengers in the city could be more as the RTI reply is only related to manual scavengers employed by Metrowater. Activists say other government agencies including Greater Chennai Corporation, individuals and private firms also employ manual scavengers. For instance, four men, including three members of a family, died of asphyxiation while cleaning a septic tank at a restaurant in Thoraipakkam on OMR on January 20 this year. Manual scavenging was banned in the country under the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition Act), 1993. The law was extended in 2003 to cover people working in sewer lines and septic tanks. Further, the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, states that no person, local authority or any agency shall engage or employ, either directly or indirectly, any person for hazardous cleaning of a sewer or a septic tank. According to government records, there are only 458 manual scavengers in the state including 252 in Chennai. But the actual number could be more, say activists. Bezwada Wilson, national convenor of the NGO Safai Karmachari Andolan, says, “This is a blatant violation of the Act. It is unfortunate that a government agency, which is supposed to enforce the ban, continues to force workers to enter sewer lines without any safety precautions.”.. (Times of India 17/4/16)

RESERVATION

Gujarat government to start fresh negotiations with quota leaders (25)

Ahmedabad: Gujarat Government on Monday announced it will start a fresh round of negotiations with the Patel quota agitation leaders from the next week. Health Minister Nitin Patel, who heads a committee of ministers set up by the Government to negotiate with Patel groups seeking reservation under the OBC category, made the announcement today. Patel and other ministers today met the Chief Minister Anandiben Patel and handed over a report on roadmap to arrive at a compromise formula with Patel groups including the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) led by Hardik Patel and Sardar Patel Group (SPG) led by Lalji Patel. Patel later told media persons that Government will try its best to see that the agitation ends as early as possible. “In our meeting with the CM, it was decided that the committee will now invite the mediators for further discussion. These mediators will be called within a week. We will convey Government’s view to them so that they can discuss it with PAAS and SPG leaders,” said Patel. “After our meeting with the mediators we will call PAAS and SPG leaders for discussion.” The Government recently appointed some prominent Patel leaders including the BJP MP Vitthal Radadiya as mediators. “Apart from the demand of reservation, there were many other demands in the letters given to us by PAAS and SPG, a month ago. The committee discussed all of them at length with the CM today,” said Nitin Patel. SPG chief Lalji Patel handed over a memorandum of 27 demands last month to the CM. The jailed PAAS leader Hardik Patel also sent a 27-point charter to the CM. Some of the key demands are reservations for Patel community, release of jailed leaders and withdrawal of cases against them, and action against the police officers who allegedly committed atrocities on members of the community during the agitation last year. Minister Nitin Patel claimed that the leaders also suggested an alternate mechanism if the core demand of reservation was not acceptable. “Both the organisations also suggested setting up of a ‘Patidar Aayog’ to take care of the community. This is also an alternative to the reservations and the Government is ready to discuss it,” he said. The Government had already started the process of withdrawing the cases against Patel youths, he claimed. “Barring three-four cases, we have already started the process to withdraw cases. Several cases are already withdrawn. For last seven months, we have not arrested anyone named in the pending FIRs,” said Patel. About withdrawal of cases against Hardik and his three aides who are still behind the bars in sedition cases, Nitin Patel expressed inability on Government’s part. …  (Zee News 12/4/16)

 ‘Reservations have empowered weaker sections’ (25)

BELAGAVI: Calling B.R. Ambedkar a “dalit” is deceptive and we should stop attributing the term to the great visionary leader who gave the Constitution where socio-economic, political and cultural rights of every section of the Indian society had been upheld, said B.P. Maheshchandraguru, professor at the Department of Communication and Journalism, University of Mysore, Mysuru. Delivering a special lecture at the 125 birth anniversary of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar here on Thursday, he also rejected the attribution that Ambedkar and the contemporary dalits belonged to backward sections of the society. “Those who are still described as dalits and backward have grown equally competitive and their presence can be seen in socio-economic and cultural activities. Though Ambedkar belonged to the dalit section, he scripted the Constitution not on the basis of any reservation but because of his intellectual prowess and wisdom. We must stop calling dalits as backward as intellectually they are second to none.” Dr.Maheshchandraguru said reservations created for dalits, minorities, and backward classes ensured socio-economic and political empowerment of the exploited sections, consequently leading to members of these communities rising to the highest echelons of political power in the State and Centre. Small Scale Industries Minister and district in-charge Satish L. Jarkiholi, addressing the gathering, called upon the dalits to use various government programmes and schemes to improve their socio-economic conditions. Dr. S.N. Hullannavar, professor of Political Science, Karnataka Arts College, Dharwad, highlighted major political situations and the role played by Ambedkar in Indian politics and freedom struggle. Deputy Commissioner N. Jayaram, Police Commissioner Soumendu Mukherjee, Superintendent of Police B.R. Ravikanthe Gowda, Zilla Panchayat CEO Gautam Bagadi, Commissioner of Belagavi City Corporation G. Prabhu and officials of the Social Welfare Department were present. The celebrations were organised by the district administration and Department of Social Welfare. Earlier, Mr.Jarkiholi, Feroz N. Sait, MLA, and other prominent persons took part for a while in a grand cultural procession consisting of a large number of contingents representing various social organisations. (The Hindu 14/4/16)

Gujarat: Curfew in Mehsana, Patel agitation turns violent (25)

Mehsana: Curfew was today clamped in Mehsana town in Gujarat and mobile internet service banned as a massive rally of the Patel community demanding reservation and immediate release of their jailed leaders turned violent with two buildings being set ablaze and some police vehicles damaged. “We have imposed a curfew in Mehsana town till tomorrow morning. Mobile internet service has been suspended during this period. The violent mob set ablaze two government properties….a sub-divisional magistrate and a mamlatdar (revenue officer) were injured in the stone-pelting,” said Lochan Sehra, Collector of Mehsana, 73 km from Ahmedabad. A godown of Food Corporation of India and a district office were set on fire, police said, adding 15 persons have been detained in this connection. Five policemen and two officials sustained injuries in the incidents, police said while agitators claimed that 25 of their supporters were injured in police action. In Surat, police detained 435 Patel agitators who hit the streets after learning about incidents in Mehsana. Surat police commissioner Ashish Bhatia said the situation was under control. Mobile internet services were banned also in Surat and Rajkot as a precautionary measure, district authorities said. In Mehsana, police used lathicharge and fired teargas shells on the agitators who allegedly engaged in stone- pelting. Patel protesters had gathered at Modhera crossroad as part of the `Jail Bharo’ agitation announced by the Sardar Patel Group (SPG), one of the prominent groups seeking OBC quota for the Patel community. SPG chief Lalji Patel received head injury during the face-off with the police. A blame game erupted with police claiming they resorted to lathicharge only after some  started hurling stones at them while Patel alleged that agitators were targeted without any provocation. “Our protest was peaceful as announced earlier. However, police suddenly hit me and some of our members when we were walking ahead of the procession. I was hit on head. You can see the blood on my face. We were beaten up without any provocation,” said Patel, who along with some other agitators were detained by the police. In-charge DGP of Gujarat P P Pandey claimed the situation deteriorated only after some people resorted to violence. “Police always work to establish peace. The gathering was peaceful initially. However, the situation deteriorated only after some persons resorted to violence and damaged property,” Pandey said. Meanwhile, SPG as well as Hardik Patel-led Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) have given a call for `Gujarat Bandh’ tomorrow. “Our Patel brothers were brutally beaten up during the peaceful rally today. Lalji and few other SPG leaders received grievous injuries in the police lathicharge. We condemn this use of excessive force by police and have given a call for Gujarat bandh tomorrow,” said SPG spokesperson Purvin Patel, adding that PAAS too supported tomorrow’s bandh. ….  (Deccan Herald 17/4/16)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

NGO Sevalaya Provides Education to 2,000 Students in 40 Villages (1)

CHENNAI: For P Valarmathi and other residents of Kasuva village in Thiruvallur district, whose lives revolve around brick kilns and agricultural fields, it took a while for them to realise the importance of educating their children. Due to the dire situation these families were in, kids were often compelled to take up work at the cost of their education. But, today, what was once considered an unaffordable luxury is no longer out of reach for them, thanks to the free quality education provided by Sevalaya, an NGO. The school run by the NGO began in 1988 and provides education to over 2,000 students catering to 40 villages around Kasuva. The school has grown from its initial days with just a handful of students under a single hut — a stage where Sevalaya has become synonymous with Kasuva village. Says Valarmathi, who has four school children, “This is a boon for daily wage earners like us struggling to find our next meal. If not for this initiative, it would have been difficult for us to think of educating our kids.” Having scored 464 marks in Class 10 two years ago and awaiting the Class 12 board exam results, Valarmathi’s eldest daughter hopes to pursue nursing from CMC Vellore. The school is dependent on funding received from various sources, including from corporate houses and individuals. It also benefits from services by volunteers, including from aboard, who offer to take classes or teach children life skills. A standout feature that makes the school special is the strong bond it shares with its alumni. Every Sunday, a bunch of alumni visit the campus and can be seen cleaning the classes or volunteering to help children staying in hostels with their classes. In fact, as many as 10 old students are currently on the staff roster. Says, S Muruganandham, a 2005 pass out, “During my days, Sevalaya was the only school in the area to offer Class 12. The only other option was to travel over 5 km to Thiruninravur. After graduating from college, I realised that I could set an example to Sevalaya students, as they could relate to someone from a similar background who came up the hard way.” But for the man behind Sevalaya, the challenge is not so much as enrolling children into schools, but to prepare them for jobs. Says V Muralidharan, who founded Sevalaya back in 1988, “It’s not enrolment that should occupy our thoughts. We have to focus on tackling the dropout rates and the rising unemployment levels. The rural youth, in particular, are being misled and wasting their life as they don’t have the required skills to get employed.” As for the future, Muralidharan hopes to set up community colleges in and around the area to equip youngsters with skills that could fetch them regular incomes… (New Indian Express 11/4/16)

Activists seek timely hearing of cases (2)

BHUBANESWAR: A team of concerned citizens and social activists met the Director of Public Prosecutions, Odisha, here on Tuesday and sought timely hearing of the cases of under-trial prisoners in different courts of the State, especially in Nayagarh and Bhanjanagar Sessions courts. The members of the civil society also apprised Director of Public Prosecutions Gajendra Mohapatra about the ongoing hunger strike by the under-trial prisoners in Jharpada and Bhanjanagar jails demanding speedy trial of their cases, and consequently the order of the Odisha Human Rights Commission on the issue. The team that met Mr. Mohapatra included veteran journalist Rabi Das, advocate Biswapriya Kanungo, social activist Rumita Kundu and Narendra Mohanty of Campaign Against Fabricated Cases (CAFC). After hearing the team members, Mr. Mohapatra assured that his office will take measures towards speedy trial of all related cases before commencement of summer vacation, according to Mr. Mohanty. (The Hindu 13/4/16)

SHRC rescue minor children locked up in house (1)

Bengaluru: On Saturday afternoon, after receiving complaints from neighbours that a woman had branded her five-year-old son, the Gangammanagudi police accompanied a team from the Karnataka State Human Rights Commission to the woman’s house at Kashimpura here. The police said the woman, identified as Manjushree (35), was a single parent and had moved in to a rented house around four years ago with her two children – a five-year-old boy and three-year-old girl – after her husband left her. Her neighbours noted that Manjushree would lock up the children inside the house before heading out to work every day. She would return home late. The KSHRC team noticed burn injuries on her son’s chin and palm. When questioned, Manjushree said that she was “trying to discipline her naughty son.” The team, after offering to help her get placement, warned her against punishing her young children. The police have now been asked to monitor her regularly and ensure that the children are enrolled in an day care centre. (The Hindu 16/4/16)

OIC concerned about ‘human rights violations’ in J&K, says Pakistan (1)

Islamabad: Pakistan on Sunday claimed that the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has called on India to implement UN resolutions in Jammu and Kashmir and expressed concern at the ‘violations of human rights’ in the state. In a statement issued in Islamabad, the Pakistan Foreign Office said, “the 13th OIC Summit, held in Istanbul from 10-15 April, called on India to implement pending UN Security Council resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir, expressed concern at the gross violations of human rights committed” in Kashmir. It said the OIC also “affirmed support to the Kashmir struggle, which could not be equated with terrorism and called upon the UN for implementation of the Security Council’s relevant Resolutions on Kashmir which call for the resolution of the dispute and guarantee Kashmiris’ (inalienable) right to self-determination through a UN supervised plebiscite.” In the Joint communique issued by the Summit, the OIC “reaffirmed that Jammu and Kashmir is the core dispute between India and Pakistan and its resolution is imperative for bringing peace in South Asia,” the FO said. It welcomed the establishment of a standing mechanism by the OIC Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) for monitoring the human rights situation in Kashmir and called upon India to allow the OIC Fact Finding Mission and the international human rights groups and humanitarian organisations access to Kashmir. It appealed to the Member States and Muslim Institutions to grant scholarships to Kashmiri students in different Universities and institutions in OIC Countries. Also, the OIC Secretary General presented a report to the Summit in which he highlighted that Jammu and Kashmir issue as an unresolved issue. (Indian Express 17/4/16)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

Can atheists swear in the name of Constitution: PIL filed in Bombay HC (19)

Mumbai: The question came to the discussion table in Bombay high court on Thursday when two petitions were filed seeking liberty to people who are “atheists”to take oath in the name of Constitution in the courts, instead of swearing in the name of God. Currently, as per Oath Act, 1969, a witness or any person who deposes in the court, can swear in the name of God or by placing hands on a religious book. In a PIL, a Pune-based couple, Sunil Mane and his wife Laxmikanta, cited a couple of cases in Maharashtra at Bhivandi magistrate court and Pune district court wherein senior government officials have told the court that they do not believe in God and expressed their willingness to take oath in the name of Constitution but unfortunately they have not been permitted, the PIL said. In another petition, an officer of Bhiwandi Municipal Corporation has made a similar plea. Both the petitions are slated to come up for hearing in due course, high court sources said. “The Oaths Act, 1969, needs to be declared as violative of Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution,” the Pune-based couple said in the PIL. They urged the court to issue directions to the Union and state governments that persons who are not willing to take oath in the name of God or by putting their hands on any religious book should be allowed to take oath in the name of Indian Constitution. “People who are not believers of God but have full faith in the Indian Constitution are getting denial during judicial proceedings at various levels in Maharashtra when they request that they be administered oath in the name of Indian Constitution,” the PIL said. “It is high time to make the oath system suitable to democracy and in accordance with the spirit of Indian Constitution,” the PIL states. Advocate Asim Sarode, through whom the PIL has been filed, said, “People, who are non-believers of God, are not allowed to swear in the name of Indian Constitution or placing hands on the rule book.” He said that a person of any religion would not have objection to taking oath in the name of Constitution as it is his or her duty to abide by the Constitution. “This will help avoid flaring of communal thoughts and feelings and it will also not create problems for people who are atheists,” Sarode added. (Hindustan Times 14/4/16)

High Court upholds legal provision against foreign tax havens (19)

Madurai: In a major boost to the Centre’s efforts to prevent infusion of black money through shell companies in foreign tax havens, the Madras High Court has upheld the Constitutional validity of Section 94A(1) of the Income Tax Act, 1961 which empowers the government to declare any country, with which it lacks effective exchange of information, a ‘notified jurisdictional area.’ Dismissing a batch of writ petitions challenging the legal provision, inserted in the Act through an amendment in 2011, a Division Bench of Justices V. Ramasubramanian and T. Mathivanan held that the insertion of Section 94A(1) did not amount to disrespecting international bilateral treaties to avoid double taxation. The judges also refused to quash a notification issued by Central Board of Direct Taxes on November 1, 2013 declaring Cyprus a notified jurisdictional area irrespective of having entered into an ‘Agreement for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to Taxes on Income and on Capital,’ with the Republic of Cyprus on December 21, 1994. Stating that the 1994 agreement contained a specific provision for exchange of information about investments made by Cyprus-based companies in India and the source of investments, the judges said that a breach of that obligation had forced the Centre to declare Cyprus a notified jurisdictional area and demand tax from assesses transacting with individuals or companies in that country. Authoring the judgement, Mr. Justice Ramasubramanian said that defensive measures such as insertion of Section 94A were aimed at enforcing transparency in cross border remittances and preventing abuse of benefits conferred by treaties. He recalled that the leaders of G20 nations had adopted certain resolutions in the London summit on April 2, 2009 and issued a statement which read: “We agree to take action against non-cooperative jurisdictions including tax havens. We stand ready to deploy sanctions to protect our public finances and financial systems. The era of banking secrecy is over.” Observing that the resolution passed by the G20 was what was sought to be given effect to by the insertion of Section 94A in the Income Tax Act, the judge said that 15 other countries, including Australia, France, Germany and the UK, had taken both legislative and non-legislative measures to deal with non-cooperative jurisdictions such as British Virgin Islands, Jersey and Bermuda. (The Hindu 14/4/16)

Cops can’t be used to pressurise others under DV act: Court (19)

New Delhi, Apr 18 () The Domestic Violence Act cannot be made a tool for using cops to pressurise others, a Delhi court has said while dismissing a woman’s plea seeking police protection to attend her daughter’s wedding. The court dismissed the woman’s appeal seeking presence of two policemen to pressurise her husband and in-laws to let her attend the marriage peacefully, saying there were no specific allegations of threat in her domestic violence complaint, hence the relief could not be granted. “The protection order under the Domestic Violence(DV) Act is aimed at protecting a vulnerable victim. DV Act cannot be used for using the police force to pressurize others. In these circumstances, the court does not find any ground to grant  relief to the appellant. Appeal is, therefore, dismissed,” Additional Sessions Judge Vrinda Kumari said. The woman, who had earlier secured monthly interim alimony from her husband in the domestic violence case lodged against him, argued that presence of two police constables with her would pressurize her husband and his family members and she would be able to attend the marriage ceremony of her daughter, who lives with her father, in peace. The court noted that there is no protection order in favour of the woman and also in her complaint she had not alleged that she was not being allowed to see her children but had merely stated that her kids were brainwashed against her. “In the entire complaint before the trial court as well as in the rejoinder, there is no allegation that the appellant (woman) is not being allowed to see her children. “In the rejoinder filed before the court, the woman has merely stated that her children have been brain-washed by the husband and are not being imparted any religious training. There is no specific allegation that the husband had ever  restrained her from visiting her children,” it said. A magisterial court had on January 19, 2016 granted the woman interim maintenance from her estranged husband in which the court did not consider her prayer for police protection. Earlier this month, the woman moved two applications- one for release of the cheque deposited by her husband pursuant to maintenance order and the second seeking police protection to attend the wedding of her daughter, who lives with her father.  (Times of India 18/4/16)

Triple talaq: Muslim Law Board to contest Shayara Bano case in Supreme Court (19)

LUCKNOW: With the All India Muslim Personal Law Board deciding to oppose any move to scrap triple talaq and contest the Shayara Bano case that has called it unconstitutional in the Supreme Court, the stage is set for another Shah Bano-like confrontation that had turned into a hot-button issue in the 1980s. In 1985, Shah Bano, a 62-year-old Muslim mother of five from Indore, who was divorced by her husband, had won the right to alimony in the SC. But the then Congress government of Rajiv Gandhi, under pressure of Islamic orthodoxy, passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, which diluted the SC judgement, and denied even destitute Muslim divorcees the right to alimony. The AIMPLB on Saturday also decided to thwart any attempt at intervention by the Centre, or “any authority”, in the Muslim personal law. Last month, the SC had admitted the petition of Shayara Bano from Uttarakhand seeking triple talaq to be declared unconstitutional. The apex court had also initiated suo motu proceedings to examine the need for protecting the rights of all Muslim women. AIMPLB is all set to become a party to the case. “The SC has accepted the board as a party in the case. Now, the board will seek a similar intervention in the Shayara Bano case,” said lawyer Zafaryab Jilani. Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi, who was also present, said AIMPLB must hire best lawyers to put up a strong case before the Supreme Court. (Times of India 18/4/16)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

11 killed as live wire hit by police bullet snaps (1)

Tinsukia (Assam): At least 11 people were killed and 20 others were seriously injured on Monday when a high voltage wire, hit by bullets, fell on demonstrators, as police fired in the air to disperse them at Pangeree in upper Assam. Police said the incident took place when a large number of protesters armed with machetes and sticks pelted stones at the Pangeree Police Station in Tinsukia district and tried to gherao it, demanding that those arrested in connection with the killing of two persons in the area three days ago be handed over to them, police said. They threw stones and broke glass panes of the police station. To control the mob, police fired in the air and the bullets hit an overhead high tension electric wire causing it to fall on the demonstrators. Nine of them died on the spot and one died at the Tinsukia Civil Hospital. Another person died on the way to the Assam Medical College Hospital in the neighbouring Dibrugarh district. Senior district civil and police officials along with central paramilitary forces and police reinforcements have rushed to the spot. The officials were holding meetings with the protestors to neutralise the situation, the police said. Indefinite curfew was imposed in Pangeree police station area in upper Assam’s Tinsukia district. — PTI (The Hindu 12/4/16)

J&K: Indian Army orders inquiry into killing of 2 civilians (1)

Srinagar, Apr 12 : The Indian Army has ordered a probe into the killing of two civilians as they were protesting against the alleged molestation attempt in north Kashmir’s Handwara town on Tuesday, reports said. The civilians were killed as Indian Army opened fire on the protesters. According to reports, the civilians were protesting after an Indian Army soldier tried to molest a girl in the area. Scores of youths took to streets against the molestation case as angry army men opened fire to disperse the protesting youth which left atleast six persons injured, said an eyewitness. All the inured were shifted to a nearby hospital, where two persons reportedly succumbed to their injures (New Indian Express 13/4/16)

 Abuses by police, forces major rights problem in India: US (1)

Washington: Abuses by police and security forces are the most significant human rights problem in India, the US said on Thursday while raising concerns by civil society over the “failure” of the Gujarat government to hold accountable those responsible for the 2002 riots in the state. “The most significant human rights problems involved police and security force abuses, including extra-judicial killings, torture, and rape; corruption remained widespread and contributed to ineffective responses to crimes, including those against women, children and members of scheduled castes or tribes; and societal violence based on gender, religious affiliation, and caste or tribe,” the US State Department said in its annual 2015 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. The report was released by Secretary of State John Kerry at the headquarters of the State Department . “The frequently grim examples detailed in this report strengthen our resolve to promote fundamental freedoms, to support human rights defenders and to document and promote accountability for violations of human rights,” Kerry wrote in the preface of the report. In its detailed Congressional-mandated report on India, the State Department continues to raise its concerns about the victims of Gujarat riots not receiving justice so far. “Civil society activists continued to express concern about the Gujarat government’s failure to hold accountable those responsible for the 2002 communal violence in Gujarat that resulted in the deaths of more than 1,200 persons, the majority of whom were Muslim,” the report said. “On September 16, the Gujarat High Court’s acting Chief Justice assembled a new bench to hear the appeals from Maya Kodnani, Babu Bajrangi, along with others who authorities had sentenced to imprisonment for their role in the 2002 Gujarat riots. This was the fifth bench to hear these petitions,” the State Department said. In its report, the State Department alleged that “lack of accountability” for misconduct at all levels of government persisted, contributing to widespread impunity. Investigations and prosecutions of individual cases took place but lax enforcement, a shortage of trained police officers and an overburdened and under resourced court system contributed to infrequent convictions, it said. “Separatist insurgents and terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir, the northeastern states and the Maoist belt committed serious abuses, including killings of armed forces personnel, police, government officials and civilians. Insurgents were responsible for numerous cases of kidnapping, torture, rape, extortion and the use of child soldiers,” the report said. Among other human rights problems the report stated included disappearances, hazardous prison conditions, arbitrary arrest and detention and lengthy pretrial detention. The report said court backlogs delayed or denied justice, including through lengthy pretrial detention and denial of due process. (Hindustan Times 15/4/16)

Fresh protests in Kashmir’s Handwara and Kupwara, restrictions reimposed (1)

Srinagar: Fresh protests broke out on Monday in Handwara and neighbouring areas of Kupwara district in north Kashmir, prompting authorities to reimpose curfew-like restrictions which were relaxed for a few hours in the morning after five days, while mobile internet services have been restored in the Valley. The twin towns of Handwara and Kupwara had been rocked by violent protests that left five persons dead since last Tuesday. After a lull on Sunday, fresh protests broke out on Monday in Handwara and Kupwara’s Kralgund and Trehgam areas. “Restrictions have been imposed again in Handwara, Kralgund and Trehgam areas of Kupwara district following violent protests,” a police official said. As soon as the authorities relaxed curfew at 8 in the morning, scores of youth in Handwara came out on roads protesting against the killings. The protesters were also demanding removal of army bunker from Handwara town. Police and CRPF fired tear gas shells to chase them away. “The protesters were chased away and there was no damage done in the incident,” he added. In another incident, clashes between youth and security forces broke out in Kupwara’s Tehgam and Kralgund areas following which restrictions were again imposed in the district. “To prevent escalation of the protests and the deterioration of law and order, restrictions under section 144 were again imposed in the district,” said a police official. He said that the protesters were demanding the removal of the army bunker from the Handwara town and bringing to book the security personnel responsible for the killings. Meanwhile, students in two universities of the Valley also held protests against the killings. Hundreds of students of University of Kashmir in Hazratbal assembled outside the humanities department and marched through the campus, shouting anti-government and anti-army slogans. Similar protests were also held in Islamic University of Science and Technology in Awantipora. Mobile internet services, which were snapped in the Valley following violent protests over the alleged molestation of a girl by an army soldier on Tuesday, were restored a little past midnight on Monday as there was no major incident of protest or violence on Monday, an official said on Tuesday. Situation in rest of the valley was returning to normalcy with the resumption of business and educational activities. Three persons including a woman were killed in firing by security forces on protesters on Tuesday while two more persons were killed in separate security forces action against violent protestors on Wednesday and another on Friday . (Hindustan Times 18/4/16)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

183 Maldives journalists sign petition for press freedom (1)

 Male, April 11: Some 183 Maldivian journalists have signed a historic petition urging authorities to tackle threats to press freedom, including the withdrawal of a bill criminalising defamation and ending impunity for crimes committed against the press. The petition — submitted to the President’s Office, the People’s Majlis and the Supreme Court on Sunday — comes in the wake of the arrest of some 18 journalists from a protest last week, Minivan news reported. Maldives It received support from newspapers across the political spectrum, including pro-government websites and opposition aligned outlets. Journalists from Haveeru, Raajje TV, The Maldives Independent, Sun Online, Villa TV, Sangu TV, CNM, Dhuvas, Vaanuvaa, Vaguthu, Avas and Dhi TV signed the petition. Journalists at the state broadcaster Public Service Media were ordered not to sign the document. Mohamed Hamdhoon of Haveeru said: “This is an unprecedented petition as it is the first time that so many journalists are on the same page. So I hope that all the authorities will sit down with us for a discussion.” “The fourth pillar of democracy is the media and since this petition includes signatures from almost every media outlet within the fourth estate we are hoping that the authorities consider this as a strong petition and respond to us.” The petition outlined nine demands, including a thorough inquiry into the abduction of The Maldives Independent journalist Ahmed Rilwan, withdrawal of the defamation bill, and action to revive the Maldives’ oldest newspaper Haveeru, which remains closed amidst a dispute over ownership. “After years of attacks, including murder attempts and disappearances, Maldivian journalists are now facing a different kind of threat; action by courts and regulatory bodies and a defamation bill that if passed will be the death knell for press freedom in the Maldives,” said Zaheena Rasheed, the Editor at The Maldives Independent. “Restrictions on press freedom threaten the people’s right to be informed.” The petition also called for the withdrawal of charges against 24 journalists arrested since President Abdulla Yameen assumed power. Three Raajje TV journalists are facing prosecution for obstructing police officers. (Oneindia 11/4/16)

Activists, writers condemn NCPUL directive (1)

RAICHUR: Activists, writers and cultural personalities associated with Aavishkara – Progressive Cultural Forum staged a demonstration outside the office of Deputy Commissioner here on Wednesday condemning the recent controversial directive of the National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language (NCPUL) to all Urdu writers. They held that compelling the writers who take assistance from the government to sign a form declaring that they will not oppose any government policy is not only undemocratic, but a strong impediment to freedom of speech. “In a real democratic set-up, writers, artists, intellectuals or any citizen for that matter are free to criticise, condemn and even protest against any government action or policy irrespective of whether or not s/he receives any help from the government. It is not a feudal era where intellectual community was rewarded for praising the monarch and punished for criticising or opposing it. Dictating citizens what they should and should not speak or write amounts to an attempt to restoring feudal or fascist order,” Chennabasava Janekal, convenor of the forum, said during the agitation. The activists alleged that the BJP-led Union government was targeting Urdu writers as most of them were from the Muslim community. “It is an attempt to silence outspoken Urdu writers majority of whom are Muslims. Attempting to silencing criticism either by force of draconian measures is essentially an expression of intolerance to a particular community or dissent,” Mahesh Cheekalaparvi, a member of the forum, said. The activists demanded that the NCPUL, that functioned under the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development, to immediately and unconditionally withdraw the directive. A memorandum, addressed to the Union HRD Minister, was submitted to the office of Deputy Commissioner. (The Hindu 13/4/16)

Bangladesh: 81-year-old magazine editor arrested for sedition (1)

Dhaka: An 81-year-old well-known pro-opposition magazine editor in Bangladesh was on Saturday arrested for sedition and his alleged involvement in an abduction plot of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s son in the US last year, police said.  Shafik Rehman, the editor of popular Bengali monthly magazine Mouchake Dhil and also a British citizen, had worked as a speech-writer for former prime minister Khaleda Zia and his arrest is the latest in a series of cases that have sparked concern over freedom of speech. Rehman was approached by three men in plain clothes who identified themselves as reporters and asked him to accompany them, said his wife Taleya Rehman, a former BBC journalist. Police later said Rehman, who has also worked with the BBC, was arrested in connection with a sedition case lodged with the Paltan police station in Dhaka last year. “He (Rehman) has been brought to our Detective Branch…he has been arrested in connection with a case pending with the (Dhaka’s) Paltan police station,” a police official said. The official added that Rehman was arrested as he was found involved in a plot to abduct Prime Minister Hasina’s son and Information and Communications Technology advisor Sajib Wajed Joy last year from the US. Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), meanwhile, condemned the arrest and demanded Rehman’s immediate release. BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said the government arrested him to divert peoples’ attention from its numerous failures. “The incident proves that there is no democracy in the country and nobody has the right to express his free opinion,” Alamgir said. He is the third pro-opposition journalist to have been arrested by the government. Two other journalists associated with Bangladesh’s leading Bengali and English newspapers have also been booked for defamation and sedition. Rehman has formerly served as a speech-writer for two-time former prime minister and opposition leader Zia who is also the chief of BNP. He shot to fame for his criticism of the government during General H M Ershad’s dictatorship through in his weekly column after becoming editor of Jaijaidin weekly in the 1980s. Rehman had to leave Bangladesh facing the wrath of Ershad but returned after he was dethroned. (Indian Express 16/4/16)

Don’t patronize media that distort news, says Salve (1)

Nagpur: Noted lawyer Harish Salve called on the viewers to stop watching channels and reading newspapers that distorted facts while providing news. He was speaking on ‘Trial by media distorts justice’ at Chitnavis Centre on Saturday. The event was organized by Rotary Club of Nagpur that also felicitated the senior lawyer with its ‘vocational service award’. Salve, who hails from the city, however clarified that he was against putting curbs on media by government. Instead, he called for a regulatory body of senior journalists to check news distortions. He underlined how freedom of speech was at the core of democratic society and shaped opinions and judgments of civilians of the country. “Freedom of speech liberates us as individuals and at the same time gives us immense authority to formulate opinions of the ones around us. Article 19 mentions distinctly about the freedom of speech but there isn’t enough talk about the freedom of press,” he said. Salve, also a chartered accountant, talked about the insolence of the media that disrupted the working and proceedings of the court, as their behaviour amounted to invasion of privacy. He made passing references to high-profile cases like 2G scam, Talwar family and Vodafone, and how the media blew these cases out of proportion that ultimately affected their outcome. He also talked about how distortions made by ‘court owls’ who kept tabs and wrote live updates of proceedings of court that was permissible, but also had its consequences and created complications. “Opinion of the media is not the universal truth. The focus of the media is always upon the aspects that ‘break’ news, they do not question ‘why?’ or the reason behind it. Media and the government should always have a healthy tension between them. If there is a smooth relationship, it is not good for a flourishing democracy,” Salve, the son of former union minister the late NKP Salve, added. He said all the court trials should be made public to a certain level so that those charged guilty got a fair trial. “Media pressures the police and they are compelled to make statements to save their reputation. It has also banished all rules of privacy and values of respecting someone’s reputation isn’t seen anywhere.” Salve, who earlier worked as attorney general of India, raised a very significant question, “Are media a public service or a commercial pursuit?” He encouraged the elimination of running a parallel proceeding by the media because of which many times when the bail application comes to the court the case had already been solved by the ‘analytical’ media. “Media have to be accountable,” he added. Calling arbitration in India a joke, he demanded its overhaul as in developed countries like US and UK. He expressed disappointment over misuse of social media after the Supreme Court abolished Section 66 of IT Act, a case that was led by him. The lawyer mentioned that media served what people wished to see and if they changed their approach there would surely be a change in the Indian democracy. Salve concluded the speech by quoting his mentor Nani Palkhivala, “Democracy is a ceaseless endeavour. Democracy is a work in progress.” (Times of India 17/4/16)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

Gamblers unleash violence on raiding cops, hurt two (7)

Nagpur: Two constables of Jaripatka police station were injured when gamblers went berserk seeing cops approaching their den at Kamgar Nagar shortly before midnight on Sunday. One of the constables, Bajrang Paudwal, received 12 stitches on his head after being hit by a stray stone hurled by the gamblers. The cops were out searching for criminals as a part of police’s citywide ‘all out patrol system’ that requires all the staff of police station to be out on anti-crime duty. The unarmed cops, on a mission to nab criminals, opted to raid the place upon spotting the gamblers. Unprepared for the action though, the cops made a miraculous escape leaving their bikes at the spot after the gamblers turned violent attacking the raiding team with stones, brick and sticks apart from raining blows and hurling abuses. Paudwal was left profusely bleeding after being hit by a stray stone hurled by the gamblers in the melee. In-charge of the detection branch squad, police naik Deepak Rithe, also the complainant in the case, too was injured after being hit on the face. The cops were discharged from a private hospital where they got preliminary treatment. Rithe’s squad, comprising Paudwal and five others, was heading towards Kapil Nagar via Kamgar Nagar when they spotted some people assembled in a huddle behind a pan kiosk owned by Sheru Sagir Ahmad who too is one of the accused in the case. Sheru’s elder brother Shakeel and his more than half a dozen friends, including Naushad Chini, were involved in attacking the cops. Shakeel has around 11 offences, including murder in 2011, against him. Sheru too has four offences in his crime record. Rithe, in his complaint, stated the cops were advancing towards the spot seeing gamblers assembled in a huddle. The gamblers immediately switched off the light sensing trouble. The unexpected harrowing experience for the cops was yet to come. While most gamblers sneaked away from the place, Shakeel, Sheru and Chini decided to attack the cops to thwart the raid. Apart from hurling abuses, Shakeel and other started pelting stones on advancing cops. Sheru also got himself injured with a brick with an intention to implicate the cops. Jaripatka police station’s PSI RK Thakur’s squad later picked up Sheru, his brothers Imran and Sameer along with another identified as Sheikh Ramzan Shaikh Khwaja. An offence has been registered at Jaripatka police station against the culprits charging them with assault, rioting, threatening, and obstructing government official among others. Sources from north Nagpur said Shakeel and his brothers had been operating the gambling den at Kamgar Nagar since long in collusion with a section of cops from Jaripatka police station. There has been no substantial action on the den in the past, it is learnt. (Times of India 12/4/16)

Sachar attacks CM over Muzaffarnagar riots (7)

Lucknow: Former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court and national president of Socialist Party (India) Rajindar Sachar attacked the chief minister Akhilesh Yadav over the Muzaffarnagar riots. Justice Sachar, who is also the patron of Peoples union of civil liberties (PUCL), said it is unfortunate that suspicion was raised in the judicial probe report given by Justice (retd) Vishnu Sahai. He alleged that the probe report is a cruel joke on the human tragedy where 70 persons were killed.  “All the political leaders were given clean chit and an inspector of the intelligence was held responsible for the worst ever riots in Muzaffarnagar’’ said Justice (retd) Sacchar. “PUCL went for a probe in the Muzaffarnagar riots which was headed by journalist Kuldeep Nair but it was surprising that when I wanted to meet the CM to make him aware about the findings, chief minister refused to meet me,” he said. Socialist Party (India) also announced first list of 15 candidates for UP Assembly polls next year, giving nine seats to women and promising to project a woman as the chief ministerial candidate. The SP (I) plans to contest most of the 403 seats in UP polls and would give 60 per cent of the candidature to women nominees,  said  party’s national president Justice (Retd) Rajinder Sachar.       Earlier, after a meeting with Justice Sachar, UP PUCL general secretary Vandana Mishra too, expressed support for the ideology of the Socialist Party (India). Party’s national vice-president and in-charge of UP, Sandeep Pandey said the party has already released a 33-point poll manifesto, will go for full prohibition in the state, if voted to power. Sandeep Pandey, a Magsaysay award winner for social work, said that the manifesto of the party promises to end red and blue beacon lights, corruption in government departments and to stop foreign investments. The manifesto also bats for common education system, reservation for women in all the sectors and banning use of loudspeakers at the religious places.   The manifesto also promises to implement the Sachar Commission report and providing free education and health care for all. (The Pioneer 14/4/16)

Curfew imposed on H’bag after mob clash, violence (7)

Ranchi/Hazaribag/Bokaro: Ranchi/Hazaribag/Bokaro: Curfew was imposed in Hazaribag after fresh violence was reported in the town and its surrounding areas on Sunday when two groups of people clashed, torched shops and pelted policemen with stones injuring several of them on the last day of the Ramnavami festival, deputy commissioner Mukesh Kumar said. The trouble started when objectionable recorded slogans were played in a Ramnavami procession triggering clash between the two groups of people in Khirgaon near Hazaribag railway station, Kumar said. The stone pelting invited strong retaliation from people in the procession and the situation stonewalled into a violent clash leaving three policemen and some locals injured. “The injured cops were taken to a hospital. Around 20 roadside shops were also set ablaze,” SP Akhilesh Kumar Jha said. Incidents of clash and arson were also reported in other parts of the town Boddom Bazar Gowaltoli, Panch Mandir Chowk and Kud locality the DC said, adding that 20 shops belonging to both groups were torched. As the situation spinned out of control, CRPF, RAF, Jharkand Armed Police (JAP) and several local police forces were rushed to the spot to restore peace. Vehicles of the district administration moved around the town asking people to remain indoors. DIG (Hazaribag) Upendra Kumar along with the top district officials patrolled the affected areas to instill confidence in people. “The exact number of people injured in the incident is still not known,” a police officer said. Fear stalked commuters passing by National Highway 33, which connects the capitals of Jharkhand and Bihar, and passes through Hazaribag town. “The paramilitary forces are monitoring the vehicular traffic on the highway. The vehicles are being given protection. The situation is completely under control,” SP Jha said, adding police are conducting raids to nab the miscreants. Meanwhile, the Bokaro district administration on Sunday lifted the curfew that was clamped in areas under four police stations since Friday night following violence during a Ramnavmi procession at Siwandih village under Maraphari police station here. … (Times of India 17/4/16)

J&K: Fresh protests in Handwara as restrictions lifted briefly (7)

Srinagar: Fresh protests broke out on Monday in Handwara and neighbouring areas of Kupwara district in north Kashmir, prompting authorities to reimpose curfew-like restrictions which were relaxed for a few hours in the morning, while mobile internet services have been restored in the Valley. Authorities lifted the restrictions on movement of people for three hours in Kupwara town in the district and the relaxation was further extended as there was no report of any untoward incident there, a police official said. The twin towns of Handwara and Kupwara had been rocked by violent protests that left five persons dead since last Tuesday. After a lull Sunday, fresh protests broke out today in Handwara, Kralgund and Trehgam areas. “Restrictions have been imposed again in Handwara, Kralgund and Trehgam areas of Kupwara district following violent protests,” a police official said. Around 150 youths started pelting stones in Handwara town as authorities relaxed the restrictions for three hours from 8.00 AM to 11. 00 AM, the official said. Mobile internet services, which were snapped in the Valley following violent protests over the alleged molestation of a girl by an army soldier on Tuesday, were restored a little past midnight as there was no major incident of protest or violence yesterday, an official said today. Three persons including a woman were killed in firing by security forces on protesters on Tuesday while two more persons were killed in separate security forces action against violent protestors on Wednesday at Drugmulla and on Friday at Nathnusa. (Indian Express 18/4/16)

COMMUNALISM

VHP plans a Ram temple in each UP village (26)

AYODHYA/LUCKNOW: The VHP on Monday started a campaign for construction of Ram temples in every village in UP. The campaign was kicked off with distribution of statuettes of Ram Darbar among VHP workers for installation in their respective villages on Ram Navami. The VHP plans to install these statuettes in one lakh villages across the country. According to a VHP member, Ram Navami would be used to mobilise masses for the cause of a Ram temple in Ayodhya. On Tuesday, BJP’s newly-appointed UP chief Keshav Prasad Maurya called construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya a matter of faith for his party. But he clarified that BJP would contest the 2017 assembly election on the issue of development. (Times of India 13/4/16)

Swayamsevaks sing RSS anthem for Baba Saheb (26)

BHOPAL: Taking a break from the upper caste versus lower caste arguments, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has endorsed Baba Saheb Ambedkar as an avatar of social harmony. On his 125th birth anniversary, for the first time in the history, the sangh recited its anthem “maan vandna” and took out a road march, the famous path sanchalan, to salute Ambedkar for his contribution to the society. This was not only observed in parts of Madhya Pradesh but also at Ambedkar’s birth place Mhow, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid rich tributes to the Father of Indian Constitution. RSS clarified, it supports the principle of social harmony as promoted by Baba Saheb. It also supports his fight for equality for all people, with the message of helping poor and uplift downtrodden through social awareness across the country. “Path sanchalan is a regular event and RSS has always respected Baba Saheb for his contribution to the society. But this time we are remembering him on his 125th anniversary, that makes special”, said RSS coordinator Pradip Tripathi. He said “maan vandna” is recited with chants (ghosh) to praise and give respect to a great personality, who has worked for social reforms, given direction to the country. “Baba Saheb is among those personalities who worked for social awareness, drafted our constitution, planned financial and agricultural policies”, he recalled. As the programme began near the statue of Baba Saheb in Bhopal, a large crowd gathered to watch Swayamsevaks performing with the musical band and saluting Ambedkar on his birth anniversary. The performance was also followed by the foot march, where RSS workers donning khakhi shorts and white shirts, armed with sticks, marched on the Board Office square. The programme lasted for 20 minutes. RSS is celebrating the current year as ‘social harmony year’ and decided to spread social awareness with a message of Ambedkar, ‘equality for all’. (Times of India 14/4/16)

VHP wants Congress govt to change Shimla to Shyamla (26)

Shimla: Taking a leaf out of Haryana’s BJP-led government’s decision to change Gurgaon to Gurugram, Himachal Pradesh unit of Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) wants the Virbhadra Singh government to do the same in the state by changing Shimla’s name to Shyamla. To build pressure on the state government to act on its demand, VHP on Saturday submitted a memorandum to Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh justifying the need to shun British legacies – a sign of slavery and follow the trend of renaming towns and cities. The Hindu organisation has also handed over a list of other Himachal towns, including famous hill destination of Dalhousie, to be named as Subhash Nagar after Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. The claimed that Netaji had strong connection with the town, which is named after a British Governor General Lord Dalhousie. Led by Aman Puri, state president of VHP delegation informed the chief minister that several historic towns and places should have been renamed as was done in case of Minto Bridge and Victoria Park. Besides renaming Shimla as Shyamala, which has reference in history books and documents as a place named after Ma Shyamla (Goddess Kali), the VHP also asked that Peterhoff, an HPTDC hotel-cum-state guest house should be renamed as Valmiki sadan, while Nurpur town of Kangra should become Ram Singh Pathania, a valiant soldier who fought against the Britishers in 1857. When contacted, Deputy Mayor Tikender Panwar said nobody should be allowed to temper with name of Shimla as this being a world famous place. It’s very funny to note VHP being up at its agenda to promote deities and typical Hinduised feelings. “What locus standi the VHP has to seek conversion of names of popular places. Simla has already become Shimla. There should be no change,” he said. Asha Kumari, a Dalhousie MLA and former minister, said the demand of VHP is laughable. “I vehemently oppose such a demand as Dalhousie has always been Dalhousie since its been part of erstwhile Chamba state. VHP should mind its own business rather drawing cheap publicity.” (Indian Express 16/4/16)

Hindu Mahasabha, RSS stayed away from freedom struggle: Historian (26)

Aligarh: The idea of nationalism in India, as in all third-world countries, is essentially rooted in ‘anti-imperialism and anti-colonialism’, historian Mridula Mukherjee said, asserting that proponents of Hindutva had nothing to do with it. “It is ironical that the proponents of Hindutva brand of nationalism, who are presently trying to appropriate the mantle of Indian nationalism had nothing whatsoever to do with the ideas of anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism. “The other three essential elements of any sort of nationalism — equity, civil liberties and democracy — also have no space whatsoever in the Hindutva brand nationalism,” Mukherjee, a former director of Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, alleged while delivering a lecture at the Aligarh Muslim University on ‘India and the road to nationalism and freedom’ on Sunday evening. She claimed that even as late as 1942, organisations like Hindu Mahasabha and RSS had deliberately stayed away from the movement of freedom struggle. She said that there was no role whatsoever of these forces in the Quit India Movement. Mukherjee said that the past two months following the upheaval in Jawaharlal Nehru University have been very edifying and educating phase in the growth of democratic movement in contemporary India. She said that a vital fall out of the JNU episode was that “after quite some time the youth of India have once again started examining the roots and the future of democratic functioning of institutions, freedom of speech and civil liberties in India”. “This is like a new awakening and it is only a matter of time before these ideas begin to find space in the minds of youth all over the country,” she said. Mukherjee has been critical of the Modi government on the issue of intolerance and the JNU row. (Hindustan Times 18/4/16)

TERRORISM

Pathankot attack: Red corner notice to be issued against Masood Azhar (12)

New Delhi, Apr. 11 : In a major development into the Pathankot attack, a red corner notice is set to be issued against Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Maulana Masood Azhar and three others after a special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court in Mohali issued arrest warrants against four suspects of the terror group. According to NIA sources, JeM suspects Kashif Jan and Shahid Latif were involved in the Pathankot attack and played an instrumental role as trainers in the terror outfit. Masood Azhar, his brother Abdul Rauf, Jan and Latif are being touted as the main culprits into the deadly attack on Indian Air Force Base. Earlier, the NIA had also secured non-bailable arrest warrants against the four JeM terrorists. The special court issued the arrest warrant after weighing the evidence presented by the NIA. During the meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Chinese counterpart on April 18 in Moscow, India is likely to take up the issue of China blocking its call to ban Jaish-e-Muhammad chief Masood Azhar at the United Nations. External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said, “India is in constant touch with China on the matter. The issue has already been taken up at high level. There cannot be two sets of rules for judging terrorists.” China stopped the UN sanctions committee from designating Masood Azhar as a terrorist, stating that the case did not meet requirements of the Security Council. China maintains that designation of any individual as terrorist by the UN is a serious issue, and, therefore, there was a need for more evidence from India for better understanding to ban JeM chief. (New Kerala 11/4/16)

India Attacks ‘Secret Veto’ Used to Protect Terrorists, Their Backers From UN Sanctions (12)

UNITED NATIONS: India took aim squarely against the use of secret vetoes to protect terrorists and their backers from UN sanctions, an action that China has repeatedly taken to provide cover for Pakistan-based terrorists and Islamabad. That secrecy results in a lack of accountability and engenders impunity, India’s Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin said Thursday facing the wielder of the secret vetoes, China’s Permanent Representative Liu Jieyi, from across the Security Council chamber’s horseshoe-shaped table. China is the Council’s president for this month. Each of the 15 members of the of the A1 Qaeda, Taliban and ISIS Sanctions Committees now has a veto and none outside the panels is told who wielded the veto in a specific instance, Akbaruddin told the Council debate Thursday on “Threats to International Peace and Security Caused by Terrorist Acts.” “The general membership of the UN is never ever formally informed of how and why requests for listing terrorists are not acceded to,” he said. “Counter terror mechanisms such as the Sanctions Committees that act on behalf of the international community need to build trust not engender impunity by the use of this form of a ‘hidden’ veto.”Although word does eventually gets out about who vetoed a measure, that country does not have to explain its action or publicly responsibility for it because of the official secrecy. Last month it prevented Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohamed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar, who is behind the January Pathankot air force base attack, from being put on a sanctions list as a terrorist. And Beijing blocked New Delhi`s demand last year for taking action under the Council`s anti-terrorism resolutions against Pakistan for freeing Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the Lashkar-e-Taiba mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attack in which 166 people were killed. Asked at a press conference about the latest veto, Liu blandly said Azhar did not meet “the Council’s requirements” to be considered a terrorist. Ironically Liu circulated a note to UN members ahead of Thursday’s meeting that called for “avoiding double standards in the fight against terrorism.” “All acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable whenever, wherever and by whomsoever they are committed. Terrorism poses a global threat, from which no member state is exempt,” his note said. “Cutting off the sources of terrorist financing; the disruption of financing channels is a vital and effective way to degrade and defeat ISIL and other terrorist organizations.” With China providing cover, Pakistan’s Permanent Representative Maleeha Lodhi claimed that her country “is perhaps among the few countries, which has a ministerial-level committee to oversee the implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions.” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon brought up the issue of state-sponsored terrorism. “We must also have the courage to address certain difficult situations, such as the support that violent extremists and terrorists may receive — directly, indirectly and perhaps even unintentionally — from governments,” he said sitting next to Liu. “We need to focus on implementing the relevant provisions of Security Council resolutions … and other resolutions and measures that sanction terrorist groups and individuals,” Ban added. Outlining the magnitude of the global problem, Akbaruddin said, “According to authoritative accounts 2,850 lives have been lost and nearly 4,500 others have been injured in terrorist related violence in 38 countries during the first three months of this year.” … (New Indian Express 15/4/16)

US rights report slams India for ‘extra judicial killings’ and ‘arbitrary arrests’ (12)

NEW DELHI: The US department of state’s 2015 report on human rights practices in India has, in its segment on “extra-judicial killings”, mentioned the killing of 20 suspected red sandalwood smugglers by the Andhra Pradesh special task force in an “encounter” on April 7 that year and gunning down of five terrorists by Telangana police the same day in Nalgonda while transporting them from prison to a Hyderabadcourt. Talking of “arbitrary arrests” in India, the report dated April 13 cited the acquittal of 14 men, charged under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for alleged association with banned outfit Simi, by a Khandwa court on September 30, 2015. In October, the Peoples Union for Democratic Rights and the Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association alleged police abuses in 75 UPA cases registered between 2001-12 in Madhya Pradesh against former Simi members and their friends and as-sociates. The peoples union and the teachers’ association alleged police abuse in these cases and claimed they had no links to SIMI,” it stated.The report also raised the charge of National Investigation Agency (NIA) “going soft” in the Malegaon blasts case involving alleged Hindutva terror elements. “On September 11, the Supreme Court asked the central government, the Maharashtra government, and the NIA to respond after public interest litigation cases requested intervention for a fair trial in the 2008 Malegaon blast case. Rohini Salian, the special public prosecutor in these cases, filed an affidavit with the Bombay high court where she named the NIA official who asked to her to ‘go soft’ in her pursuit of a prosecution. Salian, in press interviews, alleged some NIA officials pressured her to act in favour of the arrested Hindu extremists in contrast to the Muslims arrested in the case,” it noted.The human rights report also brings up the repeated detention/arrest of Kashmiri separatist and Dukhtaran-e-Millat chief Asiya Andrabi in 2015. She was first arrested on August 17 under UAPA for hoisting Pakistani flag on Pakistan’s Independence Day, in Srinagar, but released only to be re-arrested on September 18 for alleged cow-slaughter. Bail followed but she was again arrested on November 2 under preventive detention laws “to stop her from organising protests against PM Narendra Modi’s Srinagar rally on November 7,” it stated. She is currently out on bail. Referring to the Manipur ambush of June 4, wherein Naga insurgent outfit NSCN(K) killed 20 Indian Army personnel, the report said the Army Special Forces retaliated on June 9, killing between 30 and 70 rebels at multiple locations inside Burmese territory. (Times of India 16/4/16)

Nations can’t afford double standards on terror, says Sushma Swaraj (12)

Moscow : Terrorism poses the biggest challenge to international security and nations cannot afford to adopt double standards in the fight against it, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said on Monday at the 14th Russia-India-China (RIC) foreign ministers meet. “If we continue to adopt double standards in dealing with terrorism, it will have serious consequences not just for our own countries, but the international community as a whole,” she said. Sushma Swaraj called on the RIC countries to lead the way in getting the international community together to counter terrorism through joint action, including at the UN. Raising the issue of UN Security Council reform, Sushma Swaraj said that the issue demands greater urgency, and sought support of Russia and China for this.“There has been some positive movement in this connection with a text being put for the first time on the table for inter-governmental negotiations. However, we need greater urgency on this issue. I seek the support of my Chinese and Russian colleagues for taking the IGN process forward,” she said. On the slowdown of the global economy, the Indian minister said that as three large, emerging economies, India, Russia and China share similar approaches and could benefit “from coordinating our positions”. The minister also sought active participation of all members in the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) summit to be held in Goa in October this year. “We hope to have a very successful BRICS Summit in Goa in October,” she said. (Hindustan Times 18/4/16)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

Proactive policing helps curb Maoist menace in Gadchiroli district (12)

Mumbai: Proactive policing has helped bring down activity of CPI (Maoists) in the Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra over the past few years. While Maoist-affected regions are limited to Gadchiroli, Chandrapur and Gondia districts, urban centres like Mumbai, Thane, Nagpur and Pune also have significant number of Maoist sympathisers, according to sources in the state police. Gadchiroli remains the most affected, with encounters between the police and the CPI (Maoist) cadre becoming a regular feature in the district. For instance, in 2013, the police arrested 50 Maoists and killed 27. While the surrender and rehabilitation policy for Maoists was formed in 2005, it was amended after 2013, after which a significant number of Maoists surrendered. In 2014, 13 were killed, 13 were arrested and 37 surrendered, while in 2015, five were killed, 26 arrested and 56 surrendered. In 2016 – up to March – four were killed, seven arrested and 21 surrendered. Sources in the police said aggressive policing has helped contain the problem and an effective government policy of surrender has also helped. Also, in August 2014, the reward to those who tip off the police was increased by a significant amount — the arrest or killing of the Maoist group general secretary comes with an award of Rs1 crore. The government recently amended the scheme and the rewards will now be given to those captured or killed from 2013, a source said, adding this was done as some big operations were undertaken that year. The government did not leave out its forces that spend a lot of time combating Maoists. To overcome the reluctance of officers to serve in the region, the state government has introduced incentives, including accelerated promotions, to serve in the region. An accelerated promotion is be given to those who have killed or arrested Maoists, defused landmines or have got information that has led to an arms seizure. After being promoted, the police officer will be eligible for higher pay as per the new rank, sources said. Superintendent of police (Gadchiroli) Sandip Patil said 114 Maoists have surrendered since 2014 and they have arrested 46 others. (Hindustan Times 12/4/16)

Naxals gun down ex-MLA’s bodyguard in Gadchiroli (12)

Nagpur: Head constable Nanaji Nagose (45), bodyguard of ex-MLA Deepak Atram, was shot dead by six-member ‘Action Team’ of Naxalites at Challewada village in Aheri taluka in south Gadchiroli on Thursday at a programme organized on the occasion of 125th birth annivesary of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. Nagose, who suffered three bullet injuries, was shot from close quarters by Naxals who also took away his AK-47 assault rifle and around 100 rounds of ammunition. This is the second murder of a police personnel by Naxalites in south Gadchiroli within a short time. A constable from Hedri post was shot dead in a similar manner by Naxal team earlier. The latest strike took place less than seven kilometres of Repanpalli sub-post. It is learnt that Aheri local organizational squad (LOS) commander Nandu Atram and Ashok were masterminds of the attack. The Naxals are learnt to have fired almost half a dozen rounds during their operation before fleeing from the spot with the arms and ammunitions of the slain cop. The villagers, gathered for the programme, too got panicked. Superintendent of police, Gadchiroli, Sandip Patil said the rebels had taken to using the civilian attired ‘Action Team’ during their ongoing Tactical Counter Offensive Campaign (TCOC). “It is a Naxal plan to single out cops for attack and decamping with firearms and ammunitions,” said Patil. “There is also a violation of Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) here as the bodyguards are expected to operate in buddy pairs which was not done in present case,” he said. Ex-MLA Atram, who was earlier reportedly on Naxals’ hit-list, had gone to Challewada to attend Dr Ambedkar birth anniversary programme. The first speech of a lawyer-activist had just started when the rebels targeted the bodyguard. Nagose, serving as Atram’s guard for three years, was heading to drink water as the former MLA settled on the dais. The erstwhile MLA has been allotted two armed guards by the district police. Nagose and his counterpart were attached to Aheri police station. “We initially thought the villagers were bursting crackers but later spotted people running around. The villagers and organizers immediately cordoned off the place and also tried to get together but the Naxalites sneaked away,” he said. Atram said he had been allotted two guards but they attend to him alternatively violating the SOP. It is learnt the Naxal team zeroed in on Nagose from close range leaving the guard dead at the spot. The injured guard was flown to Gadchiroli by a helicopter but declared dead on arrival at hospital. (Times of India 15/4/16)

Huge recovery of explosives in Naxal affected Cahnaduli district (12)

VARANASI: Chakia police in Naxal affected Chandauli district of Uttar Pradesh made a huge recovery of explosives from Chakia-Ahraura (Mirzapur) road on Saturday afternoon. Police were trying to know whether explosives were smuggled for any destruction by Naxalite groups or for illegal mining.According to Chakia police, on tipped off the Chakia-Ahraura road was cordoned near Shikarganj police outpost in afternoon and a massive checking drive was launched there. During the checking drive police noticed a pick-up van and tried to stop it. But, before police could reach close to it two persons jumped out of the van and fled from the scene leaving the vehicle abandoned. Inspector Chakia Anand Singh informed, when the van was checked 16,000 gelatin rods packed in 40 plastic bags were found loaded on it. On getting information the SP Chandauli Amit Verma, teams of Intelligence Bureau, bomb disposal squad and other agencies also reached there. During initial investigation of police it surfaced that the explosives had been procured from a manufacturing unit of Gomia (Jharkhand). The van was coming from the side of another Naxal affected Sonebhadra district. As the police failed to catch the carriers it proved difficult for them to ascertain the reasons for the purpose of smuggling of explosives in such a huge quantity. Verma constituted two teams of police to arrest the carriers. (Times of India 16/4/16)

Maoists kill 22-yr-old ‘police informer’ in MP’s Balaghat dist (12)

Jabalpur: A 22-year-old man was killed allegedly by the Maoists on the suspicion of being a police informer at village Pipartola in Balaghat district, police said on Sunday. Two villagers – Surendra Singh Dhurve and Jangla Baiga alias Rajkumar (27) – were allegedly abducted by armed Maoists on Friday. They were taken to the interior parts of the region where Dhruve was executed. The Maoists also beat up Baiga, but he managed to escape. Dhruve’s body was found on the village outskirts on Saturday night, police said, adding that the Maoists suspected he had informed the police about their movement which led to the encounter in Chukkatola–Bhagwandeeh forest area on April 7. Balaghat range inspector general of police DC Sagar said: “It is yet to be ascertained if any particular group of Maoists (dalam) is behind the killing…More clues are being gathered from the area to track down those involved in killing of the innocent villager.” Police have declared a reward of Rs 30,000 for information on the whereabouts of the left-wing extremists who have allegedly killed the villager. Maoists activity in Balaghat, the district worst affected by left wing extremism in Madhya Pradesh, have increased over the last few months putting the police force alert. On April 11, over a dozen Maoists set a truck at Dhiri Murum village in Mataghat jungles on fire. The truck, laden with bamboo, was on its way to Lanjhi from Nandaura when the incident took place. Maoists, however, did not harm truck driver Jehangir and labourers. They reportedly asked the men to get down from the truck before setting the vehicle afire. The rebels allegedly gave some pamphlets to the truck driver and labourers demands a hike in the wages of labourers engaged in plucking tendu leaves in the area. Jehangir later lodged a report at Lanji police station after which a search operation was launched in the area.Earlier, a group of Maoists allegedly kidnapped more than 12 sarpanchs from the district. They were let off after a warning, directing them to either release the payment for people engaged in MGNREGS works within two weeks or resign from their posts. On April 7, a woman rebel was injured in a gun battle between the left-wing extremists and the joint forces of Madhya Pradesh Anti-Maoist Hawk Force, Central Security Force and Balaghat district police in the jungles between Chukkatola and Bhagwandeeh. The Maoists were camping in the jungles in Balaghat district to extort money from contractors of tendu leaf plucking on the Madhya Pradesh-Chhattisgarh-Maharashatra trisection. (Hindustan Times 18/4/16)

TRAFFICKING

Many destitute children trafficked to India: CIB (1)

Kathmandu: Many children displaced by last year’s devastating earthquake were taken to India, a preliminary investigation by Nepali Police’s Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) shows. Chief of CIB Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) Nawaraj Silwal said they have begun collecting data of children from the 14 districts severely affected by the earthquake. “Given the sensitiveness of the investigation, details cannot be said now. But from what we have so far gathered indicates that many children who have left the districts have been taken to India,” said DIG Silwal, adding that a special team has been formed to investigate into the case. The special CIB team has been collecting and verifying the data on children who left the quake-affected districts. The police probe was launched following revelations that Nepali children had been sold as slaves in the UK. British newspaper The Sun reported on April 4 that gangs operating in Indian state of Punjab were selling Nepali children as young as 10 to rich families in the UK for £5,300 (Rs800,000) each. That prompted the government to verify the news through its diplomatic channel and ramp up security at the border. According to the Central Child Welfare Board (CCWB), the government body entrusted to monitor the movement of children in the country, 237 children have gone missing in the wake of the earthquake last year. Further suspicion on the trafficking had aroused after police rescued 195 children from Thankot in Kathmandu and Dhading district on June 9, 2015. The children, brought in from Lho Monastery of Lho Village in Gorkha, were travelling without the letter of the district CCWB office, which was made mandatory in a bid to curb child trafficking in the wake of the earthquake. (Kathmandu Post 12/4/16)

Cabinet nod for India-UAE MoU to prevent human trafficking (1)

New Delhi: In order to effectively curb the menace of human trafficking to Middle East, India and the UAE will soon sign an MoU for cooperation in preventing and combating the crime. A meeting of the Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, today gave its approval for signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between India and United Arab Emirate under which a joint task force with representatives from both sides would also be constituted to monitor its implementation. The MoU is expected to be signed very soon after the approval, an official spokesperson said. It will strengthen the bonds of friendship between the two countries and increase bilateral cooperation on issues of prevention, rescue, recovery and repatriation related to human trafficking, especially of women and children, expeditiously. The MoU will strengthen cooperation to prevent all forms of human trafficking and ensure speedy investigation and prosecution of traffickers and organised crime syndicates in either country. It will ensure taking preventive measures that would eliminate human trafficking in women and children and in protecting the rights of victims of trafficking. Anti-trafficking cells and task forces will work on both sides to prevent human trafficking. Police and other concerned authorities will work in close cooperation and exchange information which can be used to interdict human traffickers. The repatriation of victims would be done as expeditiously as possible and the home country will undertake the safe and effective re-integration of the victims. (Zee News 13/4/16)

India working to stop women, child trafficking: Maneka Gandhi (1)

Shillong: India is in the process of finding a solution to thwart trafficking of women and children from Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan, Union Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi said here on Monday. Gandhi, who inaugurated the “Regional Conference of North Eastern States on Child Adoption” here, also directed all the northeastern states to appoint a special woman police official in each village to prevent trafficking of women and children. “We have discussed this issue (trafficking of women and children) in the cabinet. We had called a meeting with these countries last month in which all NGOs working on this and others in Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh came,” she said. “We will have another meeting next week in India. We are telling each other what we can do. This month, we are going to see that specific solutions come into being,” she said. On trafficking of women and children from the northeastern states, Gandhi said: “There is an enormous amount of trafficking of children going on from the northeast. We find them in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and many going to Malaysia and Thailand. It is not fair.” She appealed to the northeastern states to emulate the ‘Shaurya Dal’ model in place in Madhya Pradesh by appointing a ‘special woman police volunteer’ in every village by the end of the year, the selection and training of which will be done by the superintendent of police. “The job of special women police is to be vigilant in the village and see that children do not go missing, women are not beaten by husbands, girls are sent to school,” she said. In her inaugural address, the minister spoke on child adoption and the 2015 guidelines on adoption of children. She said the revised guidelines coupled with a new IT-enabled adoption system named CARINGS will simplify the adoption process and provide transparency, taking into account the fact that all child care institutions in the country are brought into an integrated system. On the vulnerability of children deprived of the love and care of parents, she stressed the importance of foster care homes and said her ministry would financially support foster parents who provide a family-like care facility for children in need of such care and protection. Lamenting that home studies were being delayed, she said such delays lead to the adoption process getting hampered. (Business Standard 18/4/16)

18 labourers missing from Pilibhit, family members suspect human trafficking (1)

PILIBHIT: In a suspected case of human trafficking, 18 labourers, including a woman and seven girls, have been missing for about a month from this UP district. All of them are members of four families from Deuri village under Gajraula police station. In a written complaint to the superintendent of police, two relatives of the labourers have alleged that all of them were hired by two unlicensed contractors to work in brickfields located in Gonda and Bahraich districts. The area ASP has ordered an investigation in the matter instead of directing police to lodge an FIR first. Complainants Rustam and Kutbemdar claim the contractors, Zakir Hussain from Deuri and Maqbool from Puranpur village, took the 18 hires—aged 8 to 28—with them and reported back a few days later that all had been employed at a brickfield in Malda village of Balrampur district. About a fortnight later, when the villagers tried to ascertain the wellbeing of their kin, they could not find the contractors, and on visiting Malda they learnt that none of the 18 labourers had been employed there. Rustam and Kutbemdar said they are certain the missing persons have become victims of human trafficking. Rustam alleged Gajraula police refused to register an FIR against the labour contractors, passing the buck to police in Balrampur. ASP Vikas Kumar Vaidya backed the decision of Gajraula station officer Vivek Trivedi, saying, “How can police become a party in the matter when the whereabouts of 18 persons are not known, and the incident did not occur in Pilibhit district?” Vaidya said the case ought to be investigated by the district labour inspector, and that he had ordered an investigation and an FIR would be registered if the need arose. Pilibhit labour inspector S P Singh also initially argued that the case lay in the jurisdiction of another district but two hours later, on Tuesday, he said he had visited Gajraula police station and the matter would be resolved soon. (Times of India 19/4/16)

CORRUPTION

‘Three days after attack on CBI team, cops still clueless (5)

MADURAI: The city police are yet to make any arrest in connection with the incident in which an armed gang attacked CBI officers and released two people, including a superintendent of the central excise department while the officers were in the proccess of arresting the duo based on a bribery complaint. Deputy commissioner of police (law and order), Madurai city, Bandi Gangadhar said they were yet to make any progress in the case, three days after the incident. They have formed nine special teams led by inspectors, which are closing in on the culprits, he said. The city police have filed attempt to murder and dacoity cases against central excise superintendent Ashok Raja, Krishnan and seven others, and are searching for them. The movements of family members, colleagues and other people who were in close contact with the accused are being closely monitored. The police picked up a few of them and conducted inquiries. On Sunday night, a team of CBI officers seized unaccounted valuables, including gold and cash during a search at the houses of Ashok Raja and Krishnan. The officers were attacked when they caught Ashok Raja red handed while he was receiving a bribe of `75,000 from a cable television network operator hailing from Nagamalai Pudukottai in Madurai district. CBI sleuths inspector R Murugan and constable Balachandran were injured in the attack. They were taken to a private hospital for treatment.  (Times of India 12/4/16)

LTC Scam: Hamid Ansari gives approval for prosecution of JD(U) MP Anil Sahani (5)

New Delhi: In a first for the Rajya Sabha, house chairman Hamid Ansari has given his approval to CBI to prosecute JD(U) MP Anil Sahani for alleged corruption in LTC Scam. Ansari gave the sanction to prosecute Sahani under Section 197 of CrPC which gives the Rajya Sabha chairman the authority to give sanction to prosecute sitting MPs of the upper House. Sahani is among the four people named by the CBI in its 2015 chargesheet – the LTC scam was exposed in 2013. Sahani and the other accused allegedly used forged e-tickets and fake boarding passes to cause a loss of Rs 23.71 lakh to the exchequer. While it is for the first time that a sanction has been to prosecute a sitting member of the Rajya Sabha, the Lok Sabha has had two such instances in the past. First was in 2010 when then Speaker Meira Kumar acted against Congress MP Rajaram Pal in the cash-for-query scam. Kumar again gave a similar sanction to Delhi Police against BJP MP Ashok Argal in the cash-for-vote case. (Zee News 15/4/16)

RTI reveals pace of action against corrupt officials slow (5)

Bareilly: An RTI query has revealed that 31 cases of corruption in 2015 and five cases this year till February 2016 , against gazetted and non-gazetted officials in Delhi were registered with the Anti-corruption branch but not a single chargesheet has been filed till now relating to these cases. A Moradabad-based RTI activist, Pawan Agarwal, who filed this RTI query, said, “The motive of filing the RTI was to know about the action taken against corrupt officials in Delhi after Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) came to power. However, from January 2015 to February 2016, 36 officials have been booked on corruption charges but all cases are pending and no chargesheet has been filed till now.” He added, “I sought information on a number of cases registered and number of chargesheets filed against gazette and non-gazette officials from 2010 to February 2016 to compare the status of cases over the years.” The RTI reply stated that chargesheet was filed in seven cases of corruption in Delhi out of a total of 64 cases in 2014. With 64 persons booked by Anti-corruption branch, the highest number of cases of corruption were reported in 2014 in the period between 2010 to February, 2016. According to RTI reply, out of 23 cases registered in 2013 with the Anti-corruption branch of Delhi, chargesheet was filed in only five cases. Similarly, 21 and 12 government officials were booked on corruption charges in 2012 and 2011, respectively. However, the chargesheet has been filed only in seven each in these cases in 2012 and 2011. In 2010, a total of 39 cases were registered with the Anti-corruption branch in Delhi and chargesheet was filed in 22 cases. The RTI activist added, “The RTI reply clearly shows that maximum number of cases of corruption are pending for years and only in a few cases, the chargesheet has been filed. Both Centre and Delhi government had promised to fight corruption before forming their respective governments but the speed in taking action against corrupt officials is slow.” (Times of India 16/4/16)

Lokayukta to handle trial in 1,640 cases for now (5)

Bengaluru: The government on Monday told the Karnataka High Court that the Lokayukta police wing have been asked to take care of 1,640 corruption cases pending trial before various special courts in the State till the newly formed Anti-Corruption Bureau is fully equipped to handle them. The notification, issued on April 13, was produced before the court during the hearing of a petition wherein the High Court is monitoring the progress made in the investigation and trial of corruption cases. However, Justice A.N. Venugopala Gowda, who is monitoring the cases, expressed displeasure over the absence of a full-fledged agency to deal with corruption cases despite the apex court repeatedly directing the governments to act quickly. The court adjourned further hearing to April 25. (The Hindu 19/4/16)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

Ministry to Come up With Guidelines on Environmental Nod: Javadekar (9)

NEW DELHI: The Environment ministry will soon come up with a set of standard guidelines for giving environmental clearances to real estate sector as a part of its efforts for ease of doing business and making processes simple, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said today. “We will publish draft notification which will be indicative as we want public consultation to happen. It will be robust but simple and standardized guidelines for real estate projects,” the Union Environment Minister said during an interactive session with industries organized by industry lobby FICCI. Currently, apart from environment clearance, permission is also required from municipal authority for building residential projects, the minister said. “We studied all the conditions for environmental clearances given in the last 10 years. They are practically the same. So we have standardised the conditions,” Javadekar said. Javadekar said the state governments, which will include those guidelines in their building by-laws, will no longer need to give environment approvals separately. “Real estate sector will not require a separate window for environment clearance in those states which will adopt our standard rules into their building laws and permission rules. This way the plan sanctioning authority will also become environment sanctioning authority if they accept our standard guidelines,” he said. The ministry is also deliberating on introduction of civil penalties for violating environmental clearance rules. “We are also bringing civil penalties. If somebody violates the conditions given in environment clearance or does not take clearance and starts operation, it is all categorized as violation,” he said. Javadekar said not even a single case has been decided ever for violating the rules and regulations related to the environment clearances by the industries. “Everybody was happy with the violation and the process. But now we are changing the process. We are bringing a law which will bring in civil penalties. And they will be hidden.Javadekar said even as processes and permissions have been made easy, the compliance of environment rules will become stricter. “In Ganges, out of 764 polluting industries, 570 installed the monitoring machines but 140 were non-compliant. We gave them closure orders,” he said. The minister also said that the pollution in Ganga has reduced by 30 per cent in the past two years. “With limited monitoring of one year we have successfully reduced industrial pollution in Ganga by 30 per cent in comparison to what it used to be two years ago,” Javadekar said. (New Indian Express 12/4/16)

UN panel to study how to limit global warming (9)

OSLO: The UN’s panel of climate scientists agreed on Thursday to study how to limit global warming to the toughest target set by world leaders, saying even small rises in temperatures could be harmful. The panel would look into ways to restrict the rise in temperatures to 1.5 degree Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times after a 195-nation summit in Paris agreed in December to try and phase out net greenhouse gas emissions this century. Hoesung Lee, chair of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said there were “serious risks” with even minor rises in temperatures from current levels, for instance to coral reefs and to coasts from rising sea levels. “There was not much scientific research on this topic” when the IPCC last issued a major overview of the risks of global warming in 2014, he told a webcast news conference from Nairobi.The IPCC would issue the 1.5C report in 2018 and two other special climate reports in coming years, one on land, desertification and food security and another on oceans and the world’s icy areas, he said. The December 2015 summit asked the IPCC to come up with a report about 1.5C, a level scientists reckon would demand drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.. Last year, average global surface temperatures hit the highest since records began in the 19th century, about 1C above pre-industrial times. Lee said the IPCC would also issue an overall report about the risks of climate change in 2022, in time for a scheduled global review in 2023 of governments’ plans for fighting climate change. (Times of India 14/4/16)

Pollution impact on monuments slow but long lasting: Experts (9)

NEW DELHI: While human life has perennially been under threat of pollution, monuments haven’t been spared either and are being adversely impacted by contaminated air, experts say. Among the most evident symptoms of an affected monument, particularly those built in white marble or limestone is the gradual yellowing of the walls, similar to what has been happening to the Taj Mahal in Agra. Pollutants like sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, generated by vehicles and industries, react with air moisture to form acids that eat into the marble resulting in change of colour and even corrosion. The latest casualty in Delhi is the Lotus Temple, which in the present day, stands amidst alarming traffic chaos and is subjected to vehicular emissions which may have been contributing towards the greying of the monument. The structure which is the last of the seven Bahai’s temples in the world, is made of porous Pentelikon marbles that was used to construct ancient monuments in Greece. Academic, activist and writer Sohail Hashmi says that to realise the harm met out to the monuments on an elementary level, all one has to do is to rub a wet handkerchief on the wall of the monument. “A black, grimy muck comes off. But, it is not just dust. It is the unburnt fuel from the vehicles and the sulphur fumes from the industry. These get into the cracks and get accumulated over time. The acid rain seeps in and damages the monuments,” says Hashmi. “The white limestone doors in Red Fort that were revived in 2010 during the Commonwealth Games have become yellow in about 6 years. This is what pollution does,” he says. According to a previous statement by Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), the damage done by pollution is “irreversible” and only further damage can be restrained. Meanwhile, the odd—even scheme, launched by the Delhi government appears to have come as a relief to the historical structures, with results of having reduced not just the traffic congestion, but also pollutants in the air. “The impact of pollution on monuments is very slow and long lasting. The lustre goes away and their life reduces. To protect them in the long run, a lot of efforts have to be taken,” says Kapil Mishra, Delhi Minister for Tourism. Art Consultant and cultural theorist Alka Pande, says “there is scant we can do about it.” She says that pollution is only an inevitable but unfortunate consequence of the development that India is asking for. “What can we do? We can’t take them (monuments) and place them in a vacuum. Pollution is part of the process of development. It is an underside of development.” We can try and clean the environment which of course is being done by Chief Minister Kejriwal. But what else do we do? All we can do is look at sustainable development. It (Odd—Even scheme) does work in the way that it does reduce the traffic… (The Hindu 18/4/16)

Greenery near home increases life-span: Study (9)

Women live longer in areas with more green vegetation, according to new research funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the US National Institutes of Health. Women with the highest levels of vegetation, or greenness, near their homes had a 12% lower death rate compared to women with the lowest levels of vegetation near their homes. The results were published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. “It is important to know that trees and plants provide health benefits in our communities, as well as beauty,” said NIEHS director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D. “The finding of reduced mortality suggests that vegetation may be important to health in a broad range of ways.” The study, conducted by scientists at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, examined greenness around the homes of 108,630 women in the long-term Nurses’ Health Study. The researchers mapped home locations and used high resolution satellite imagery to determine the level of vegetation within 250 meters and 1,250 meters of homes. They then followed the women from 2000 to 2008, tracking changes in vegetation and participant deaths. During the study, 8,604 deaths occurred. The researchers found the biggest differences in death rates from kidney disease, respiratory disease, and cancer. The researchers also explored how an environment with trees, shrubs, and plants might lower mortality rates. They showed that improved mental health and social engagement are the strongest factors, while increased physical activity and reduced air pollution also contribute. The scientists consistently found lower mortality rates in women as levels of trees and plants increased around their homes. This trend was seen for separate causes of death, as well as when all causes were combined. When researchers compared women in the areas with highest greenness to women in the lowest, they found a 41 percent lower death rate for kidney disease, 34 percent lower death rate for respiratory disease, and 13 percent lower death rate for cancer in the greenest areas. “The ability to examine vegetation in relatively fine detail around so many homes, while also considering the characteristics of the individual participants, is a major strength of this study,” said Bonnie Joubert, Ph.D., NIEHS scientific program director overseeing the study. “This builds on prior studies showing the health benefits of greenness that used community-level or regional data.” The scientists also looked at characteristics that can otherwise contribute to mortality risk, such as age, race, ethnicity, smoking, and socioeconomic status. This enabled them to be more confident that vegetation plays a role in reduced mortality, rather than these factors. If participants moved or the vegetation near their homes changed during the study, the scientists took those changes into account in their study. (Times of India 19/4/16)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

Centre orders funds for buying fodder in drought-hit states (20)

New Delhi: Expressing its resolve to tackle the situation arising due to drought and deficient rains in various parts of the country, the Centre on Monday ordered immediate allocation of funds to the affected states to buy fodder. A high-level meeting, presided over by union Cabinet Secretary Pradeep Kumar Sinha and attended by chief secretaries of all drought-affected states, also decided immediate drought relief out of the State Disaster Response Fund. States will be given funds immediately under the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana for fodder, an official source said here. The states were also expected to approach the Centre for availing of financial assistance under the National Lifestock Mission implemented by the department of animal husbandry, dairying and fisheries. Among other directives, the cabinet secretary instructed the ministry for drinking water and sanitation to release funds for rural drinking water supply to mitigate problems faced by the state governments. “The rural development ministry shall ensure that the drought-affected states give wage employment to people over and above the stipulated 100 days and release funds on time,” the source said. Also present at the meeting were secretaries in the ministries of agriculture, rural development, drinking water, animal husbandry, food and public distribution, water resources, home affairs, finance and railways. The Central Drought Relief Commissioner made an overarching presentation on the rainfall deficiency and kharif 2015, rabi 2015-16 and measures being taken to tackle difficulties faced by farmers in drought-hit states. Other critical issues of providing additional employment of 50 days under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme over and above the 100 days, preparation of crop contingency plans for districts facing drought and allocation for drought relief were also discussed. The food grain situation and its distribution through the public distribution system under the National Food Security Act, assistance under the National Disaster Response Fund /State Disaster Response Fund, provisioning for nutritional requirement of children and lactating mothers, midday meal scheme, and most importantly, the drinking water supply were also reviewed, the sources said. On Sunday, at the intervention of the Prime Minister’s Office, the Centre announced that Bundelkhand in Uttar Pradesh will get a special package of Rs.1,304 crore for drought relief under the National Disaster Relief Fund. The Centre also said that drought-like situations in Vidharbha and Marathwada in Maharashtra too would be reviewed at high-level meetings. (Zee News 11/4/16)

Schoolchildren lead the way in organic farming (20)

KALPETTA: Inspired by their success in the cultivation of traditional rice varieties last year, a group of students of the Government Higher Secondary School (GHSS), Meenangadi, in the district has come out with different varieties of organic vegetables at affordable rates for Vishu. “We have launched the project titled ‘Kani Kanan Kanivellari’ with the support of the Meenangadi Krishi Bhavan to sensitise the public on the significance of consuming pesticide-free vegetables and promoting organic cultivation through the student community,” says M.K. Rajendran, NSS programme officer, GHSS, Meenangadi. As many as 50 NSS volunteers of the school cultivated 12 different varieties of organic vegetables such as kanivellari or golden melon, cabbage, bitter gourd, green chilly, okra, cucumber and brinjal on one acre of rented land. The students spent Rs.40,000 for the cultivation, and, in the first harvest on Monday, they got vegetable crops worth Rs.10,000. The students have also put up a stall on the premises of the school to sell the produce. “There is good demand from the public for the organic vegetables and we sold the entire produce by noon,” said K.J. Surya, a Plus One student of the school. The vegetable saplings were raised in paper grow bags, made by the students, to avoid the use of plastic.“We are selling the produce at a nominal rate to the public as we were able to avoid the intervention of the middlemen,” Ms .Surya said. The Meenangadi grama panchayat provided the services of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme workers for the venture during the planting of vegetable saplings. (The Hindu 13/4/16)

Unable to repay loan, farmer allegedly commits suicide in TN (20)

Chennai, Apr 17 : A 65-year-old farmer in Coimbatore, who had borrowed 70 lakh rupees from a nationalised bank, committed suicide on Saturday. The farmer allegedly died after consuming pesticide. According to reports, the victim, identified as Ramasamy, had taken the loan to set up a farm for cultivation of capsicums and tomatoes. He had repaid around Rs. 6 lakh which he borrowed from private lenders. His family has alleged that the bank authorities backtracked on a 50 per cent subsidy and asked him to repay the entire loan. His son told mediapersons that he was under stress and therefore committed suicide. Police said no suicide note was found though. (New Kerala 17/4/16)

No farmer suicides in watershed areas: Nabard (20)

HYDERABAD: The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development has said that there were no instances of suicide by farmers in areas where the bank supported watershed programmes. Addressing a press conference highlighting the performance of Andhra Pradesh regional office of the bank on Monday, its chief general manager Hairsh Java said the bank released a grant of Rs.175 crore for 166 watershed projects in AP last year and 154 of them were completed. As a special drive to support the farmers of nine distressed and suicide prone districts of AP, the regional office conducted 58 customised financial literacy awareness camps. As many as 54 Farmer Producer Organisations were sanctioned grant assistance to provide end-to-end solution from farm production to marketing of agriculture produce. The office is implementing a climate change project for development and restoration of mangrove plantation in the coastal area and provide livelihood for fishermen in three villages of Krishna district with a total financial assistance of Rs.3.81 crore. The total business of Nabard in the State in 2015-16 was Rs.8,301 crore, which was a 22 per cent growth over previous year. About 3.76 lakh self-help groups were provided bank credit. (The Hindu 19/4/16)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

Capital Region Lands will Be Re-classified for Compensating Farmers, AP Tells HC (4)

HYDERABAD:  The Andhra Pradesh government told the High Court on Tuesday that it had decided to re-classify the lands in the capital region  of the state for the purpose of paying compensation to farmers under the Land Pooling Scheme and also under the Land Acquisition Act.   A division bench of the court comprising acting chief justice Dilip B Bhosale and justice P Naveen Rao was hearing two petitions filed separately by K Anil Kumar, a farmer from Krishnayapalem in Mangalagiri mandal in Guntur district having lands under Kishtayyapalem lift irrigation project, and 55 farmers under the Rayapudi lift irrigation scheme in Tulluru mandal in Guntur district, seeking directions to the authorities to consider all the lands drawing water from both the lift irrigation schemes as Jareebu. Additional advocate-general of AP Dammalapati Srinivas submitted that the government intended to re-classify the lands and the earlier orders which were issued classifying the lands as Jareebu and dry lands of the region would not be enforced. He urged the court to dispose of the petitions by recording his statement. Senior counsel E Manohar, appearing for the petitioners, pointed out that the government had assured the court earlier that it would withdraw the earlier order but till date those orders were not withdrawn and urged the court not to dispose of the petition till issuance of fresh orders for re-classifying the lands. At this juncture, the AAG said the earlier orders would not be enforced and no plots would be allotted to the petitioners as per the earlier orders and the interim orders granted in these petitions earlier would not preclude the government from allotting plots and pay compensation to the farmers as per the new classification, and urged the court to adjourn the case for hearing after summer vacation. While considering the request of the AAG, the bench adjourned the hearing to June 14. (New Indian Express 13/4/16)

Villagers want POSCO to announce ‘complete withdrawal’ (4)

BHUBANESWAR: The villagers opposing the POSCO steel plant project in Odisha’s Jagatsinghpur district are demanding that the South Korean steel company be forced to make a formal announcement to completely withdraw from the project. This demand has been made in the wake of the hearing of a case pertaining to the project in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) where POSCO submitted that their environmental clearance was valid up to July 19, 2017, and they would not be able to do any work because the land has not been handed over to them and therefore the project cannot proceed any further. At this stage, POSCO is unable to carry out the project and if they plan to take advantage of the environmental clearance and complete the project, they would inform the Applicant and the Tribunal, the NGT noted in its recent order. POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), an outfit of the local people that has been opposing land acquisition for the project since 2005, on Wednesday demanded that the State government, which had acquired land for the company’s proposed steel mill, should hand over the all land occupied for POSCO to the villagers immediately and recognise their land as per the Forest Regulation Act, 2006. “The government should stop all types of repression to our people and withdraw all false and fabricated criminal charges against our villagers immediately,” said Prashant Paikray, spokesperson of PPSS. Mr. Paikray further demanded that the government replant the trees in their sensitive coastal areas where more than two lakh trees were indiscriminately cut down by the administration for POSCO. “Proper and adequate compensation should be paid by the government to the widows and children and the injured family members attacked by the pro-project goons in the year 2008 and 2013,” Mr. Paikray demanded. He alleged that the State police have turned their area into a repressive colony. After inflicting severe physical injuries on the old and young people, they have slapped numerous fictitious cases on our people and have put many in the jail, Mr. Paikray added. “More than 420 false cases have lodged against the villagers and warrant order has been issued against more than 2,000 people, out of which 300 are women. Due to the police warrant, the villagers are not able to venture out of the villages,” claimed Mr. Paikray in his statement. He said that in response to a call by the PPSS, the people have started reoccupying the betel vine lands forcibly occupied by the district administration for POSCO. As a result, many cases have been filed against the villagers, he added. (The Hindu 14/4/16)

Findings of Jha panel report too scary for MP? (4)

BHOPAL: Tipped as another scam, as murky as Vyapam, allegations of large scale corruption in relief and rehabilitation of Sardar Sarovar dam project affected that was probed by Jha commission seems to have made Madhya Pradesh government edgy. After Supreme Court order, state government has received the voluminous report this week and is weighing its response. In the last few months, state government battled in high court and then in Supreme Court to ensure the report is not made public. State government, which never challenged appointment of the commission by the high court in 2008, opposed tooth and nail when retired Justice SS Jha submitted the report it in MP high court. After Shivraj Singh Chouhan government challenged MP high court order to hand over the report to all affected parties including Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), the Supreme Court on March 30 directed the court order not to open the commission report. Court was directed to hand over the voluminous report to state government within 10 days. The apex court said the state government should initiate action on the report in case it finds wrong-doings during the relief and rehabilitation task and submit an action-taken report to the Supreme Court within six weeks. Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA) has received the report earlier this week. Minister of state for the Narmada valley development authority, Lal Singh Arya told TOI, “We are committed to the welfare of people. Each and every word of the Supreme Court will be implemented.” Talking to TOI, Medha Patkar of NBA asked, “Why the government is afraid of facing it. It cannot act on its own wrong doings”.In fact, this is the same government that did not sanction staff to the Jha commission for 6 years after it was instituted in 2008, she said. A special investigating team comprising PWD, Revenue and police officials was made in 2014, she added. A division bench of the high court comprising Chief Justice AK Khanwilkar and Justice Sanjay Yadav on February 16 this year had rejected the state government’s demand that it should be first handed over the inquiry commission’s report and that it would place it in the legislative assembly. Court ordered the report to be handed over to all the parties in the matter, including the Narmada Bachao Andolan, the organisation spearheading the cause of the people displaced by the Sardar Sarovar Project. “The high court ruling sent the Madhya Pradesh government into panic mode and it acted swiftly to ensure that the commission report does not get out,” said Medha Patkar. She said that more than 45,000 families are still living in more than 195 villages and it is a testimony that R&R work is still incomplete. (Times of India 15/4/16)

Jokatte residents assured of land acquisition notification (4)

MANGALURU: Minister for Large Scale and Medium Industries R.V. Deshpande on Sunday assured residents of Jokatte of notifying 27 acres of land to be acquired for creation of green cover between the periphery of Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Limited’s Coke and Sulphur units and the village. Mr. Deshpande announced this after his meeting with residents of Jokatte who have been fighting against air, sound and water pollution caused allegedly by MRPL’s Coke and Sulphur units. Mr. Desphande said that he had received a proposal from the Deputy Commissioner for acquisition of 27 acres of land on the village-side for planting trees and create a green buffer zone between the two units and the village. He said that the notification for acquiring the land will be issued shortly. Muneer Katipalla, who represented the Jokatte Nagarika Horata Samiti, said that the Minister expressed regrets to residents for the pollution caused allegedly by the MRPL’s two units. Hussain, convenor of the samiti, spoke of the problems faced by the residents. Minister of State for Youth Empowerment K. Abhayachandra Jain, MRPL’s Managing Director H. Kumar, MLA Mohiuddin Bawa, Deputy Commissioner A.B. Ibrahim and Karnataka State Pollution Control Board’s Environment Officer Rajashekar Puranik attended the meeting. (The Hindu 18/4/16)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

Shifting of Paravur victims not being considered (3)

Thiruvananthapuram: A special review meeting held at the Government Medical College Hospital (MCH) here on Monday by the doctors, health administrators and expert teams of doctors from New Delhi decided that there is no situation which warranted the shifting of any of the patients currently at the MCH to other specialised centres. The meeting was chaired by Health Minister V. S. Sivakumar. The group of 20 doctors from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, Safdurjung Hospital has been camping at the MCH since Sunday and helping in the management of trauma victims. They were joined by a four-member team of burns specialists from the Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences on Monday. At present, seven persons with burns of over 60 per cent were battling for their lives inside the Burns ICU. Another seven persons with about 40 per cent burns were also under treatment and these cases are salvageable with proper treatment. Serious head injuries have been sustained by 27 persons and their condition also needs monitoring. It has been decided to shift two of the patients to the Liver Transplant ICU and another to the Gastroenterology ICU. Three operation theatres are ready for performing emergency surgeries for burns patients. It was decided to buy five new ventilators and to move three ventilators from other hospitals to the MCH. Twenty attenders would be appointed from Kudumbasree as the hospital desperately needs additional hands to help out. The doctors pointed out that the trauma victims needed comprehensive care and management to ensure that they came back to normal life and that much more attention needed to be paid to their mental health and post-trauma rehabilitation. A team of mental health experts and doctors from the Physical Medicine Department will help in the proper rehabilitation of the patient while they recover from their physical injuries. Others who participated in the meeting included Health Secretary K. Ellangovan, District Collector Biju Prabhakar, State Mission Director of NHM G.R. Gokul, Director of Medical Education Ramla Beevi, Principal of the Medical College Thomas Mathew, Superintendent D. Mohandas, Deputy Superintendent S. Sreenath and Deputy Superintendent of the Super Speciality Block Ramesh Rajan. (The Hindu 12/4/16)

 

Women in MP fare low on hygiene during menstrual cycle: Survey (3)

Bhopal: Menstrual hygiene practices depend on an individual’s socio economic status, local traditions and belief, access to water and sanitation. But despite several programmes by state government across state, it has been found in NFHS (National Family Health survey) 2016 that only 37.6% women between age group of 15-24 years use hygienic methods of protection during menstrual period. This includes both – urban and rural areas in Madhya Pradesh. The figure is second lowest across country. Roli Shivhare of Vikas Samvad said, “Generally girls and women use cloths during menstrual cycle. They wash and reuse these cloths rather than using disposable pads. The reused cloths are not often washed with soap and clean water. Also they don’t dry it in sunlight owing to social taboos. Unhygienic practices are found more in rural areas as compared to urban areas.” In urban areas 65.4% women use hygienic method across state. Talking about the figures, women and child development department secretary JN Kansotia said, “Udita project to provide low cost napkins has been taken up in last six months and about 25,000 aganbadis have been provided with vending machines that spew sanitary napkins. This project will have a designated amount for its implementation and figures of rural areas might change through the survey.” Activist Poornima Singh, who has been working to promote good menstruation health in rural areas said, “Poor practices can increase a woman’s susceptibility to reproductive tract infections (RTI) and Urinary tract infection (UTI).” Bihar fared the poorest in the survey with only 31 per cent girls in 15-24 years of age having hygienic menstraution practices, followed by Tripura (43.5 per cent) and West Bengal with 55 per cent. Highest numbers of young women using hygienic methods during menstruation are in Tamil Nadu with 91.4 per cent. Puducherry, a union territory, recorded highest 96.9 per cent females using hygienic methods. Across India, there are 73 per cent urban women using hygienic methods of protection during menstruation and only 47.6 per cent women using hygienic method in rural areas. (Times of India 14/4/16)

 ‘Maternal mortality rate showing improvement’ (3)

Maternal and Child Health Care Day was observed under the auspices of the Health Department with a focus on checking the post partum haemorrhage in pregnant mothers admitted to the labour wards. Doctors and gynaecologists underlined the role of child care nurses in checking the maternal mortality rate by a sustained follow-up on the pregnant women. S. Syed Mohideen, Joint Director of Health and Rural Services, said the district had been making good headway in improving maternal and child health care delivery. The district had registered a record in the reduction of the maternal mortality rate from 89 per 1,000 live births in 2012 to 63 in 2015. In fact, the district had bagged a certificate of appreciation from the State government. V.C. Subash Gandhi, coordinator of the Tamil Nadu Health System Project, said the staff nurses should play a key role in bringing down the maternal mortality rate. A close observation and surveillance would go a long way in achieving the desired results, he added. Earlier, D. Parimala Devi, Dean of the Government Medical College and Hospital, gave away the Dr. Muthulakshmi Memorial Award to R. Sujatha Pudukottai District Maternal and Child Health Officer. G. Kalyani, Aranthangi District Maternal and Child Health Officer, was present. (The Hindu 17/4/16)

Lifestyle ailments continue to be Mumbai’s most lethal killer (3)

Mumbai: With demanding work schedules and volatile environmental changes, it’s hardly shocking that lifestyle ailments continue to be Mumbai’s most lethal killer. For the 15th year in a row, coronary heart diseases have topped this list, with almost four lakh people succumbing to heart-related dysfunctions over the years, according to an RTI query. The data is based on death certificates issued by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) between 2001 and 2015. A close second on this list is cancer, which has moved up a slot in the last 15 years. The condition that claimed 3,031 lives in 2001 is responsible for 7,272 deaths in 2015, a staggering 140% increase. As per the data, cancer deaths are recording a double-digit rise year-on-year. The overall disease trend in Mumbai, experts said, is akin to many developed nations, where heart diseases and cancer, both preventable to a great extent, are contributing to high mortality. “Besides lifestyle, there is tremendous environmental stress and pollution in the city. Nanoparticles and gaseous fumes emitted from vehicles or other sources are also contributing to an increase in the risk of coronary artery disease,” said cardiologist, Dr Brian Pinto. For youngsters, psychosocial stress to earn and commute is adding to the stress. Smoking, of course, remains a major underlying cause for cancer and heart ailments. The only silver lining has been a significant decline in tuberculosis, HIV/Aids and deaths due to burn injuries. One of the most dreaded communicable diseases, TB, recorded a near 30% decline in deaths in 2015, compared with 2001. “TB, at second position in 2001, climbed down to third. But we still lose at least 18 lives to the disease every day,” said RTI activist Chetan Kothari, who had filed the query. Kidney and liver diseases have also shown a sharp increase. Deaths due to kidney failure, for instance, have grown by 141%. “Indians are already at a higher risk of developing kidney diseases because of the surge in patients suffering from diabetes and high blood pressure. It is one of the fast emerging non-communicable disease threats,” said a nephrologist from KEM Hospital, Parel. (Times of India 17/4/16)

HIV/AIDS

HC comes to rescue of HIV+ couple’s children (3)

NEW DELHI: : Providing succour to two children of an HIV-affected couple, the Delhi High Court has directed the AAP government to grant admission to them in a senior secondary school in the vicinity of Aya Nagar. The kids were at the risk of being abused and neglected if left to fend for themselves. Justice Manmohan of the High Court passed the direction last week on a writ petition moved by the couple stating that they could not look after their business of plying of truck after they were tested positive for HIV. The petitioners sought direction to the financier to take back the commercial vehicle in full and final settlement of the loan sanctioned to them. They also sought a direction to the government to provide financial and educational assistance for upbringing of their children in accordance with the National Child Policy and Article 21 (right to life) of the Constitution. (The Hindu 11/4/16)

Jharkhand seeks corporate help to check HIV (3)

Ranchi: The Jharkhand government will seek financial help from the mining companies and corporate establishments to address the rising cases of HIV positive cases in the industrial pockets.. Jharkhand State Aids Control Society (JSACS), the nodal agency of AIDS monitoring and intervention activities in the state, will approach mining majors like the Central Coalfields Limited (CCL), steel major Bokaro Steel Limited (BSL) and other PSUs besides corporate houses to provide condoms at subsidized rates and replenish the condom vending machines for truckers, miners and unorganized labour sector. “Truckers are usually the first ones to contract the disease which is then spread around the mining settlements,” statistical officer of JSACS Sudeep Sanyal said. JSACS authorities said the decision to seek external comes after the re-filling of condom vending machines in high risk areas was stopped after the suppliers ended their agreement with National Aids Control Organization (NACO) in 2014. The halt in supplies forced JSACS to remove the vending machines from 50 spots in urban pockets and high priority areas in mining districts. “The subsidized condom distribution programme cannot kick off in the state unless other measures are taken,” a JSACS officer said. JSACS has sought help under the funds allocated for the corporate social responsibility activities and will approach the companies to distribute condoms among these vulnerable groups at subsidized rates and help organize regular screening to detect new positive cases. This comes at a time when as many as 16,905 people are living with HIV disease in the state and new infections are on the rise. “A large number of HIV positive cases are hidden from our knowledge because they have not got themselves screened. The population mostly comprises of migrant workers and truckers and can infect thousands more,” said Shami Akhtar, state programme officer of JSACS. The data collected by JSACS through various screening camps across 24 districts show that at least 1,500 people contracted infections in 2015. The numbers are higher in industrial and mining districts of East Singbhum, Dhanbad, Giridih, Seraikela-Kharsawan and Hazaribag. Besides condoms, the JSACS will also approach the industrial houses for contributing to the awareness campaigns in the high priority areas. (Times of India 14/4/16)

How does HIV virus evades immune system (3)

New York, April 17 : Scientists have identified a human (host) protein that weakens the immune response to HIV and other viruses. “Our study provides critical insight on a paramount issue in HIV research: Why is the body unable to mount an efficient immune response to HIV to prevent transmission?” said one of the researchers Sumit Chanda, professor and director of Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) in the US. The findings showed that a deficiency in NLRX1 — an intracellular protein — reduces the replication of the HIV virus. It also slows down the power of immune system and promotes immunity to infection. “Importantly, we were able to show that deficiencies in NLRX1 reduce HIV replication, suggesting that the development of small molecules to modulate the innate immune response may inhibit viral transmission and promote immunity to infection,” Chanda added, in the paper published in the journal Cell Host and Microbe. Further, host immune checkpoints that control the immune response to cancer were also discovered. “This research expands our understanding of the role of host proteins in viral replication and the innate immune response to HIV infection, and can be extended to DNA viruses such as HSV and vaccinia,” added another researcher Haitao Guo, postdoctoral research associate at University of North Carolina. Immune checkpoints are immunological “brakes” that prevent the over-activation of the immune system on healthy cells. Tumour cells often take advantage of these checkpoints to escape detection of the immune system. The results have important implications for improving HIV antiviral therapies, creating effective viral vaccines, and advance a new approach to treat cancer, the team concluded. (New Kerala 17/4/16)

CBI gets time in Junagadh HIV case (3)

Ahmedabad: A special CBI court on Saturday extended one month’s time for the CBI to come up with its final report on further probe in connection with thalassemia kids contracting HIV through blood transfusion in Junagadh Civil Hospital. This happened after the CBI requested for more time on the ground that one month granted earlier by the court was not enough for the task.  (Times of India 17/4/16)

 

Posted by admin at 20 April 2016

Category: Uncategorized

 DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Tension as villagers oppose Dalit entry into temple (2)

Hassan: Tension is prevailing in Sigaranahalli in Holenarasipur taluk since this morning following upper caste people’s opposition to Dalits entering the Basaveshwara temple in the village. The villagers gheraoed senior officers including Assistant Commissioner E. Vijaya and Additional Superintendent of Police Shobha Rani and engaged in heated arguments with them. The officers were in the village after Dalit families had demanded the district administration to ensure they were also allowed to participate in the Durga Parameshwara Jatra Mahotsava, beginning on Friday. Holenarsipur Tahsildar Y.M. Renu Kumar had held a meeting with representatives of seven villages, who participate in the festival, on Thursday. The representatives had reportedly agreed that they were not against the participation of Dalits in the festival. But when Dalits sought to enter the Basaveshwara temple on Friday morning, they were opposed. Senior officers held a meeting with the Dalits, who reiterated their demand. However, the upper caste people opposed it, resulting in a tense situation. The people engaged in a heated argument with the officers and also threw stones at police vehicles and assaulted two journalists who visited the village. When The Hindu contacted the Tahsildar, he said the heated argument was going on. “Nobody has been assaulted here. People are engaged in arguments”, he said. (The Hindu 1/4/16)

2. Activists protest rape, murder of dalit girl (2)

New Delhi: Amid a push for womencentred schemes like ‘Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao’ and ‘Selfie With Daughters’ by the NDA government at the Centre, the alleged rape and murder of a Dalit girl in Rajasthan has come as a setback. Student organisations are protesting the rape and brutal murder of 17-year-old Dalit girl Delta Meghwal, who was pursuing a teacher-training course. “Justice must be ensured as early as possible and urgent intervention at highest level is required, but it seems that there is big difference between what they profess and what they do,” said Minakshi Singh, chairperson of Samarpan Trust, an NGO working for women’s empowerment. Advocates of women’s rights and NGOs working for women empowerment have repeatedly said that women are “more vulnerable” to sexual offences cutting across caste, class and socio-eonomic status in big metropolitan cities like Delhi. A feudal and misogynistic mindset, however, is also dominant in small pockets of the national capital region. Girl students of Delhi University alleged that there is a tendency to look on girls as objects of sexual pleasure. “Right from travelling in metros to hanging around in malls or markets, you can easily sense indecency. Incidents of eve-teasing, passing lewd comments, making indecent gestures and even molestation are not uncommon and we have accepted it as a reality of our life,” said Arpita, a student. An officegoing girl said she feels “more vulnerable at secluded places” as compared to public spaces. Dalit girls of DU, particularly those from rural background, said they are easy prey in backward and remote rural areas.But even the metropolis doesn’t grant them safety. They said a sense of fear exists even in Delhi and is more prominent in backward pockets in and around Delhi where an orthodox mindset prevails. “The condition is worst in villages but it’s also not too good in Delhi, at places like Burari and Nangloi. Even women from upper castes raise objections over Dalit girls wearing jeans and western attire. Moreover, the men from upper castes spare no opportunity to pass lewd comments on school or college going girls of Dalit community,” said Komal Rajak, a Dalit Ph.D scholar from DU. Another Dalit girl said in colleges in Delhi, too, the attitude of fellow students and some teachers changes drastically after knowing one’s caste. “As soon as they came to know about my surname, they start behaving as if I am best avoided,” said Pooja Kant, Dalit research scholar in DU. Dalit rights activist are pitting the Delta Meghwal case as another ‘institutional’ murder were students belonging to Dalit community are allegedly targeted. “They have started a series and this one follows ‘Rohith Vemula’, as they cannot tolerate any Dalit boy or girl standing parallel to them by making education his/her tool for upliftment. They have a government both at Centre and state and they will use every means at their disposal to supress this matter,” said Surendra Singh, president, Youth for Social Justice. (The Statesman 5/4/16)

3. 6 held for beating, stripping Dalit teens in Rajasthan (2)

JAIPUR: Six persons were arrested on Tuesday for allegedly beating and stripping three Dalit teenagers in Laxmipura village in Chittorgarh district of Rajasthan. The assailants suspected the boys of having stolen a motorcycle. Three of the six arrested are Dalits, Superintendent of Police Prasanna Kumar Khamesara told The Hindu. On April 2, a stolen motorcycle was allegedly found with the teenagers, aged 16-17, of the ‘Kanjar’ nomadic group. Thereafter, a mob at Laxmipura beat them up and stripped them naked. “This is not the first time the three have been accused of theft. Cases of burglary and fighting had been registered against two of them earlier,” said Gaj Singh, Station House Officer of the Bassi police station. The teenagers were detained on April 2 and an FIR against the attackers was filed at the Bassi police station the next day. (The Hindu 6/4/16)

4. SC/STs, Dalits, disabled to get 100% fee waiver at IITs (2)

SURAT: Union human resource development minister Smriti Irani on Wednesday promised a fee waiver for all SC/ST, Dalit and physically challenged students of the 23 branches of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). A formal announcement to this effect will be made soon. “Besides a complete fee waiver for these students, those with a family income of less than Rs 5 lakh will be given a 66% concession in the fees,” Irani told TOI.Irani said the move will benefit nearly 50% of the 60,471 students enrolled in the country’s premier technology institutes. The decision follows an IIT panel clearing a proposal for a three-fold fee hike, from Rs 90,000 to Rs 3 lakh per annum from the next academic session. The final decision on this rests with the HRD minister. Irani, however, refused to comment on the hike and only said the fees had not been increased yet. The minister was in Surat to participate in an event to mark BJP foundation day. Currently, the IITs have a 15% reservation for SCs, 7.5% for STs and 27% for OBCs. The 66% concession in fee will benefit a much larger number of students from the middle-class and lower middle-class segments. (Times of India 7/4/16)

5. After ‘rape’, suicide of Dalit girl, a thousand Dalit families threaten to convert to Islam (2)

Meerut: Tensions have been running high in Ghaziabad district’s Bamheta village after the alleged gangrape of a school-going Dalit girl last week. The girl, a student of class VIII, committed suicide after the incident. Bablu and Rancho Yadav, the accused, had allegedly been pressuring her family to withdraw the case. Matters took a turn for the worse on Sunday when, during the girl’s ‘chautha’, Lila Dhar, a former village head, came with family members of the accused and allegedly thrashed the girl’s family. After the incident, a thousand Dalit families in the village threatened to convert to Islam en masse. “On March 29, the girl was gangraped by Bablu and Rancho Yadav. The incident took place around 5:30 pm. They had the audacity to commit such an act in the evening hours because the girl was a Dalit. They thought they could get away with anything. On April 6, the girl decided to end her life. She burnt herself to death. On Sunday, during her ‘chautha’, some people from the family of the accused came and beat up the family of the girl. They were accompanied by Lila Dhar, a former pradhan of the village,” alleged Pradip, a Dalit resident of Bamheta. He added, “Dalits are a minority in this village but we are a united bunch. There are about 1,000 Dalit families. We have been facing oppression at the hands of some other castes. The rape incident was just the trigger. Even policemen take bribes and side with the other community. After the scuffle at the ‘chautha’, we are contemplating conversion to Islam. Nobody has listened to us within the folds of Hinduism. Maybe if we convert to Islam, we will get a fair hearing.” Meanwhile, Ghaziabad senior superintendent of police (SSP) Dharmendra Singh said, “I am aware of the matter. Police have already taken action in this case. The two main accused were arrested and sent to jail earlier this week. After the scuffle at the ‘chautha’, we have registered a fresh case. We even spoke to the family of the accused and they are satisfied with the police action. Now the situation in the village is peaceful.” (Times of India 10/4/16)

TRIBALS

6. Tribal women to intensify stir against Bevco outlet (6)

KALPETTA” Tribal women under the aegis of the Adivasi Forum launched an indefinite agitation on January 27 demanding the closure of the Bevco retail outlet at Mananthavady. Many social activists had visited and expressed solidarity with the agitators. Social activist Daya Bai would visit them on April 11. The indefinite agitation launched by a group of tribal women under the aegis of the Adivasi Forum demanding the closure of a Kerala State Beverages Corporation (Bevco) liquor shop at Mananthavady entered its 66th day on Friday. Though the Adivasi Forum, along with the local people and Kerala Madyanirodhana Samithi (KMS), had appealed to the Chief Minister, Excise Minister, Tribal Welfare Minister, District Collector and the Deputy Excise Commissioner in Wayanad against the outlet in 2015, the authorities are yet to take any step to shut down the outlet, K.K. Mujeeb Rahman, a State coordinator of the KMS, said. “There are 10 settlements of Adiya and Paniya tribal people in the vicinity of the outlet and nearly 95 per cent of the tribal men of the hamlets are addicted to liquor,” said Vella, a tribal woman of the Payyampalli Adiya hamlet and leader of the agitation. “Two days ago, a 40-year-old man died in our hamlet owing to alcoholism. The life span of our men is reduced to 45-50 years from 75-80 years. Because of their drinking habit, children in their families drop out of schools,” she said. Kakka, a 70-year-old tribal woman of Veettichal Paniya hamlet, who is participating in the agitation, said her only son had been addicted to alcohol for the past 15 years and closure of the outlet would help him quit the habit. “If the government continues to be apathetic, we will stage a hunger strike in front of the official residence of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy,” Vella said. Many social activists had visited and expressed solidarity with the agitators. Social activist Daya Bai would visit them on April 11, she added. (The Hindu 2/4/16)

7. Odisha tribals gear up to protest state’s move to mine Niyamgiri hills (6)

BHUBANESWAR: After the state government’s fresh move to revive its proposed mining plan in Niyamgiri hills bordering Kalahandi and Rayagada districts, tribals residing in the hills are geared up for a strong movement against the government to protest its plan. They have decided to go Supreme Court to keep their views on the issue. Recently, the state government through its PSU Odisha mining corporation (OMC) had filed an interlocutory application in the Supreme Court urging it for re-convening of the gram sabhas to get opinion from the affected tribals on mining in the hills. In its order, the court had directed the state government to file a fresh petition after including all stakeholders as parties in the case. The tribals, mainly Dangaria and Jharania kandhas, said they will not allow anybody to mine their sacred hills. They protest mining in their area because they believe the hill is the abode of their god Niyamraja. They also fear the mining will destroy the ecology of their motherland and livelihood of the primitive group. “According to Supreme Court’s order, gram sabha had been taken place at 12 affected villages and people of these villages rejected the mining proposal in 2013. But why the government is raising the issue again? It is hatchling a conspiracy against us,” said Niyamgiri Surakshya Samiti president Kumuti Majhi. He said samiti members have started sensitizing the tribals on the issue. He has convened a meeting on Thursday to discuss about their next plan of action to protest the government’s fresh move. “All the tribals are ready to go to jail, but we will not bow down before the government’s pressure,” he added. Lok Shakti Abhiyan president Prafulla Samantara, who is planning to fight the case in the apex court, said the state government’s plan to mine Niyamgiri hills anti-tribal and illegal. “It violates the forest rights act (FRA), 2006. If the government takes any step in this regard, we will definitely oppose it,” he added. Niyamgiri tribal movement leader Lingaraj Azad said they have kept close watch on government’s move in the issue. They would definitely stage protest and oppose it in an appropriate forum, he added. Steel and Mines minister Prafulla Mallick said the government is not against tribals and doesn’t force anybody to give their lands for mining. “The gram sabha had rejected mining proposal in the hills in 2013 when state-owned OMC had a joint venture with a private entity, Vedanta Aluminium Limited. Now there is no joint venture and only the state-owned company will go for mining. So a fresh gram sabha is needed for the new scenario,” he added.Mallick refused to comment on Supreme Court’s fresh order. “I can comment on our next plan of action after going through the court order,” he added. In 2013, Supreme Court hearing a petition filed by the Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) regarding mining in the Niyamgiri hills had directed the state government to hold gram sabhas to know whether mining in the hills affect the religious, community and individual rights of the forest dwellers or not.The tribals had unanimously rejected the mining proposal at the gram sabhas held in 12 villages between July 19 and August 20, 2013. (Times of India 4/4/16)

8. C K Janu may contest on BJP ticket (6)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Prominent tribal activist C K Janu said on Wednesday that she is considering contesting as an NDA candidate from Sultan Bathery in Wayanad district. The move has surprised people involved in tribal rights movements she has led even as Janu said she has not taken a “final decision”. On Wednesday, the Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha (AGMS) leader held talks with leaders of the BJP and Bharat Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS), a key BJP ally in the state. The talks triggered rumours that the BDJS will field Janu as its candidate, but she dismissed the rumours. “I won’t be contesting for BJP or BDJS. I’m discussing possibilities of contesting as an independent candidate as part of the NDA, but no decision has been taken,” Janu told Deccan Herald. BJP state president Kummanam Rajasekharan had earlier said there were possibilities of Janu joining the NDA but said the final word had to come from her. Janu’s move has led to differences within the AGMS. (Deccan Herald 7/4/16)

9. Tribal Women Demand Total Liquor Ban in Odisha (6)

ROURKELA: At a time when Bihar has shown the way by imposing prohibition, the rural and tribal women fighting  against alcoholism in Sundargarh district demanded that Odisha Government too should impose a ban on liquor. As alcoholism continues to ruin the backward tribal society and other weaker sections, they demanded total ban on liquor in the State. Meanwhile, protest against sale of liquor by a women’s  group at Bileimunda of Garjanjor panchayat in Hemgir block entered its eighth day on Thursday. Tribal leader Prof Bijay Toppo said rampant alcoholism in tribal society is preventing them from freeing themselves from poverty, ignorance, illiteracy and superstition. Due to alcoholism, crimes are on the rise. The rural economy and farm sector continue to face a downward slide as a majority of tribal men are alcoholics while tribal women and young girls shoulder family responsibilities. There should be a total ban on sale of liquor in Odisha and not in a few tribal districts, he added. Subhashree Ray, a member of National Alliance of Women’s Organisation, said the fight against liquor will continue as long as the Government remains inactive. Rise in road accidents and crime against women are linked to alcoholism, she said. (New Indian Express 8/4/16)

WOMEN

10. Axe falls on 4 teachers in sexual harassment case in Nellore school (8)

NELLORE: Three teachers working in the Space Central School at Satish Dawan Space Centre (SDC) in Sriharikota of Potti Sriramulu Nellore District were reportedly suspended while another contract teacher was terminated from services following charges of molesting Class X girls. Controller of the SDC JV Raja Reddy told media about the disciplinary action initiated against the teachers after the findings of an inquiry committee conducted by P. Lalitha Devi, heading the Internal Complaints Committee against sexual harassment at the SDC, found the teachers guilty of sexual harassment.According to Reddy, those suspended were Krishna Prasad, Science Teacher, Darbhoji, drawing teacher, and Shanmukh Sundaram, Maths teacher. Sudheer, a computer teacher working on contract system, was reportedly sacked. The incident took place on Wednesday, but came to light belatedly with the SDC authorities receiving complaints from parents of the victims. It may be recalled that three officers at the SDC were suspended a couple of years ago on similar charges of sexual harassment involving B.Tech students doing apprenticeship at the space centre. The SDC has been funding the school run by the state government with 200 students from the Yanadi tribe as part of corporate social responsibility (CSR). The police said they have not registered any case for want of a complaint from either parents or victims. (Times of India 1/4/16)

11. Muslim participation lowest among women in workforce: Report (8)

Pune: Pune-based Dr Razia Patel, who was part of a high-level committee that recommended a complete ban on oral, unilateral and triple talaq (divorce), said that a bleak picture persists on the overall status of Muslim women in the country. Among all communities studied, Muslim women are the lowest on labour force participation rate. Dr Patel was part of the 14-member committee chaired by Dr Pam Rajput, which was appointed by the Ministry of Women and Child Development in 2013 to assess the status of women in the country since 1989 and to evolve policy interventions. The committee, which completed its surveys in 2015, paid special attention to women in marginalised communities. Razia Patel, who is an associate professor at the Indian Institute of Education in Pune, told The Indian Express that the central committee had strongly recommended a complete ban on oral, unilateral and triple talaq. “We have also recommended that justice through courts should be accessible and fast so that women are not required to go to unconstitutional arbitration courts,” she said. “It makes wives extremely vulnerable and insecure regarding their marital status,” said Patel. These women experience high levels of violence at home and outside, she said. When it comes to customary practices and personal laws, Adivasi, Muslim and Dalit women are far from being equal to their male counterparts and these laws and practices are actively used against them by their community, she added. Muslim women lag behind in almost all key socio-economic indicators of development. They are economically and educationally marginalised, have low social status, experience domestic abuse as well as “communal violence spurred by identity politics”, Patel said. The report states that Dalit, Muslim, Adivasi, elderly and differently-abled women have low levels of educational attainment. While Adivasi and Dalit women have a relatively large workforce share, Muslim women have the lowest participation rates. According to the 2011 census, the total number of women workers in India is 149.8 million. Though most women make an economic contribution in one form or another, much of it is not documented. Only 25 per cent of women are working, less that half per cent are seeking work and the total women labour force is a mere 25.3 per cent, and there has been a steady decline in the last decade. Only 15.5 per cent of urban women are in the workforce compared to 30 per cent in rural India. Within this, the share of Muslim women in the workforce is less than 10 per cent, Patel said. According to the 66th round of the National Sample Survey Organisation (2009-10), out of every 1,000 women in the labour force, only 101 were Muslims. …  (Indian Express 3/4/16)

12. Women devotees prevent women activists from entering Mahalaxmi temple’s sanctum sanctorum

KOLHAPUR: A group of women, who claimed themselves as devotees of Mahalaxmi, obstructed the women activists from entering the sanctum sanctorum of Mahalaxmi temple on Monday. A group of around 40 women activists led by social activist Anuradha Bhosale attempted to enter sanctum sanctorum of Mahalaxmi temple. When the activists reached at the silver arch from where the sanctum sanctorum of temple begins, the devotee women that were already present outside sanctum sanctorum along with the officials of Paschim Maharashtra Devasthan Samiti (PMDS), Sripujaks and police officials forcefully stopped the activist women and asked them to take darshan from outside the sanctum as per the tradition. After objection by the devotee women, Bhosale requested the police officials, PMDS officials, temple priests and women devotees that were present on the spot that they are here not to fight against anyone but to exercise their right and at least two activists should be permitted to enter sanctum and perform pooja. The women devotees objected to this idea also stating that this is against the tradition. But the women devotees remained adamant on the objection and stated that no woman should be allowed to enter the sanctum as it is our traditions from ages and all women should abide by it. The women devotees also stated that they will not allow any woman to enter inside the sanctum.As both groups started quarrelling, the police that were watching them fighting forcefully brought the women activists outside temple stating to maintain law and order in the temple area. Anil Deshmukh, police inspector in-charge of Juna Rajwada police station said, “We were present in temple to maintain law and order and avoid any kind of obstruction to devotees that come to take darshan. When women began to quarrel, we asked them to move out of temple and they agreed. We have not received any directions or orders from higher authorities regarding the women’s temple entry issue so far.” (Times of India 4/4/16)

13. ‘Imbalance in Sex Ratio not Alarming’ (8)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Despite a decline in child sex ratio being experienced in the state particularly under age of five, it is not so alarming,  said demographic expert, P Mohanachandran Nair,  professor and head, department of demography and Director, Population Research centre,University of Kerala. In response to the talk by Sobha Koshy, Chairperson of Kerala State Commission for protection of Child Rights expressing concern over the imbalance in child sex ratio,  Mohanachandran Nair observed that since 1971 census the sex ratio among young children has been on a decline in the country. According to him, in a natural situation, for every 100 female child, 105 boys were expected to be born and this discrepancy will vanish within five or six years and a balance will be achieved in the sex ratio. Usually females are thought to be genetically more resistant to diseases than males and are likely to survive infancy. This power of disease resistance in female babies seems to have disappeared in India in recent times. This trend in the sex ratio of young children is certainly without any unexpected happenings. The higher mortality rate among girls than boys clearly indicate the existence of female disadvantage in the society, he points out. Recently in India, a reduction in mortality rate was observed, particularly in female mortality. But this favourable trend got nullified by the declining sex ratio at birth. These variations in the sex ratio at birth are due to demographic characteristics of the children and parents. Finally it emerged that, neglect and discrimination against girl children are the main reasons for the lower sex ratio among children. Higher practices of female infanticide and increasing female child mortality are the byproducts of discrimination against female children. “In fact what is more alarming is the leap in the mortality rate among female children. Some female babies are killed or abandoned soon after birth. However, there is no clear evidence how common or widespread this practice is. Some scholars, however, doubt its existence,” he points out. The possible reasons may be sex selective abortions, neglect and increased discrimination against girl children (including infanticide). Poverty, illiteracy and dowry system are the other possible reasons behind female foeticide. The control in infant mortality, especially neonatal mortality, increases the chances of survival of the male babies. Improvements in maternal as well as infant care, is beneficial for live birth and survival of children, but male children gain more than the girls, contributing to an increase in sex ratio at birth as well as during infancy and childhood. In Kerala, the under-five child sex ratio was 980 in 1971 and it declined to 962 in 2001 and increased to 966 in 2011. While for India there is a rapid decline in the child sex ratio since 1991. It declined from 979 in 1971 to 924 in 2011. No district in the state has child sex ratio below 952, but Thrissur (953) and Alappuzha (955) have the lowest sex ratios. However, Sobha Koshy, Chairperson for  Commission for Protection of Child Rights,responding to the stand of Mohanachandran Nair told Express that it has to be found out why the child sex ratio is  declining alarmingly in districts like Ernakulam and Kottayam. “Is there a particular reason for the decline of ratio to 910 in places like Chavakkad. We need rational explanations on why particular  districts had recorded such a decline,” she argues. She also advises that  we should go beyond the social indicators to  find the actual reasons behind the  decline in the ratio. (New Indian Express 6/4/16)

14. Deprived of Pension, Unmarried Women Demand Dignity (8)

DHENKANAL: Though the State Government has included all unmarried women above 30 years of age under the Madhubabu Pension scheme in order to ensure their social security, the scheme is yet to be implemented in the district due to non-availability of beneficiary data base. As a result, these women become victims of social neglect. Sources said as many as 10,000 unmarried women, who are struggling for survival, are running from pillar to post to get the benefits under the scheme in the district. Last year, the State Government had launched the scheme under the newly created Social Security and Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (PwD) department.  But the data base of all pension holders is yet to be prepared. Earlier, the District Social Welfare Officer (DSWO) was managing social security-related pension schemes. After creation of a new department, the District Social Security Officer (DSSO) has been assigned to ensure pensions to widows, physically-challenged and other eligible persons at the district level. Reports from different grievance cells of the district state that unmarried women are being allegedly subjected to domestic violence. In their complaints, they have urged the district administration to provide pension under the scheme and livelihood opportunities immediately. Basanti Sahoo of Sogar village in Kamakshyanagar alleged that several complaints seeking protection from domestic violence have been filed at grievance cell but to no avail. Social activist Sankarshan Hota said unmarried women should be treated under special category with a policy intervention. They must be covered under health insurance, rehabilitation and livelihood schemes, he added. When contacted, DSSO Bishnu Charan Behera said after receiving complaints at the grievance cells, the district administration is trying to cover women above 35 years of age, though the guideline stipulates 30 years of age, under the social security net. There should be joint effort by Panchayatiraj and Social Security departments to ensure Madhubabu pension for them, he added. (New Indian Express 8/4/16)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

15. NHRC raps states for laid-back attitude in rehabilitation of rescued bonded child labourers (14)

New Delhi, April 1 (ANI): The National Human Rights Commission has taken it very seriously that six states have adopted ‘lackadaisical attitude’ in the rehabilitation of 740 bonded child labourers rescued from various parts of Rajasthan during March, 2013 to July, 2014. These states include, Rajasthan, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and NCT of Delhi. Notices have been issued for specific actions to the concerned authorities in all the six states with directions to submit action taken reports within eight weeks without fail. During the course of enquiry, the commission found that 740 child labourers were rescued. They included maximum 610 from Bihar and the rest 130 from Jharkhand, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Rajasthan. But Release Certificates were issued for only 456 children from Bihar. However, they were not given copies of the Release Certificates by the concerned authorities in Rajasthan. Release Certificates for 284 rescued bonded child labourers were yet to be issued, which are essential to start their rehabilitation process in their respective States by the concerned district administration. Justice D. Murugesan, Member, NHRC has observed that no heed seems to have been paid to the miseries of the children. The issue of the rescue of child labourers is not merely an instance of employing a child in violation of laws. It is rather more heinous in nature that children are being taken from one state to another, which cannot happen without the involvement of human/child traffickers. He also observed that no report has been submitted by the state agencies of the six state governments regarding the action taken plan to curb this menace of child trafficking, which requires to be handled with a coordinated approach to prevent such instances in future. Therefore, the allegation of the complainant that the human/child traffickers have not been dealt with in accordance with law, required to be investigated in an impartial and transparent manner. Accordingly, notices have been issued to the Chief Secretary and Director General of Police, Government of Rajasthan to get the cases of these 740 rescued child bonded labourers investigated through CB-CID at headquarters. The report shall inter-alia contain the identification of children belonging to Schedule Caste/Schedule Tribe, if any. A notice has been issued to the Labour Commissioner, Government of Rajasthan, calling for an action taken report, indicating the reasons for non-issue of the Release Certificates. The report shall contain the measures taken for recovery of outstanding wages and rehabilitation amount from the concerned employers, including Rs.20 thousand for each rescued child and penal action taken against the offenders involved in child labour and child trafficking. Further, notices have been issued to the Chief Secretaries, Directors General of Police/Commissioner of Police and Labour Commissioners of Governments of Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and NCT of Delhi to submit comprehensive action taken report, indicating the rehabilitation of released child labourers and penal action taken against the offenders involved in the alleged child trafficking. They have also been asked to submit report about the steps taken to prevent occurrence of child trafficking/labour in future. (ANI) (Times of India 1/4/16)

16. Awareness on child rights – Panel invites applications for campaign (14)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KeSCPCR) has set April 15 as the last date for preparation of the information, education and communication (IEC) materials through posters and pamphlets for creating public awareness on child rights. Interested individuals and organizations with experience in poster presentation, pamphlet and newsletter creation, handouts, booklets and visual publicity material can send their applications to the secretary, KeSCPCR, Vanrose Junction, Thiruvananthapuram-34 before April 15. (Times of India 4/4/16)

17. MP: Poverty forced Bihar parents to sell children (14)

Indore: Battling poverty and debt for long, it was after much discussion that Rukmani and Sandeep Meena from a small village near Patna decided to hand over their nine-year-old son to a mediator in Indore. The couple was promised monthly Rs 2000 and accommodation for the child, who was assured job in an industry in Madhya Pradesh. The child boarded an Indore-bound train with 37 others aged between eight and seventeen years. The story of Rukmani and Sandeep is no different from that of families who were summoned by the Child Welfare Committee (CWC). The children were rescued by the childline and the Government Railway Police under an operation Bachpan on March 29. “The parents were in debt, had more than two-three children, were extremely poor and had no option except for trading their children to these mediators who showed them a happy picture,” said Brijesh Dhakkad, city-co-ordinator of Childline. The childline and GRP suspect the mediators are based in Indore. “The children were counselled by us but they were so badly brain-washed that they did not say anything. It was only after their parents were called and we started questioning them that it was revealed that a deal was struck by a group of individuals from Indore,” said Dhakkad. He said they have listed the names of mediators with the help of parents and would now track them. Santosh Patel, a volunteer with childline, said, “When the document verification was conducted it was found that two children were having identification cards of Nepal, while the rest were from different villages in Bihar.” (Hindustan Times 5/4/16)

18. 24 children sent to adoptive families (14)

Thiruvananthapuram: As many as 24 children, two siblings and a pair of twins, at the Kerala State Council for Child Welfare found new homes with 22 families from September last year to March this year. The children have been placed with the parents after a fresh set of Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) guidelines came into force on August 1, replacing the guidelines of 2011. As per the new guidelines, all adoptions will follow the online process. The council had restarted the adoption process in July last year after a gap of 16 months. In the interim, it had overhauled the process in accordance with the CARA guidelines of 2011 to bring in more transparency. Various procedures, including scrutiny of applicants and house visits, were followed, at the end of which 28 Prospective Adoptive Parents (PAPs) qualified for taking home 35 children below the age of three. Not all the couples who were found eligible appeared to adopt the children. ‘Matching’ sessions during which parents were shown the children and medical examinations of the children were conducted. Couples who did not make choices got two more opportunities. All this took a couple of months. In the meanwhile, the new CARA guidelines as per which the adoptions have to follow the online process came into effect. Online applications were allowed earlier too. However, now, offline applications have been completely stopped. A visit to the CARA office ensured that the couples who had completed the matching process did not lose their seniority, a social worker said. Depending on priority, the next steps for adoption got under way. The online process was made mandatory only for the rest of the PAPs. Under the online procedure, no manual registration of Prospective Adoptive Parents (PAPs) or matching or referral of any child to any PAP by any agency are allowed. Of the 22 parents who adopted the children, at least eight had applied online. A number of parents are in reserve too, awaiting no-objection certificates. (The Hindu 8/4/16)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

19. Najma says govt not sincere to minorities (7)

Lucknow: On her first visit to the state, which has around 19 per cent Muslim and other minorities’ population, after being appointed as minority affairs minister, veteran party leader Najma Heptullah came down heavily on Akhilesh government for non-cooperation. Citing a recent meeting, Heptullah said about four days ago, a meeting of the waqf from all over the country was held in New Delhi, which was attended by representatives from various states but no one from UP came.The state has maximum of around 1.45 lakh hectare of waqf land and maximum of illegal grabbing of waqf property has been done in the state, yet the response has been unfortunat On her first visit as Union minorities affairs minister to the state which has around 19% population of Muslims and other minorities, veteran party leader Najma Heptullah came down heavily on the Akhilesh Yadav government alleging it of non-cooperation with Centre. “The Akhilesh government has been claiming to be pro-Muslim, but is doing nothing in the interest of the minority community,” said Heptullah who was here to attend a skill development programme for madrassas at Integral University on Saturday. Citing a recent meeting, Heptullah said about four days ago, a meeting of waqf boards from all over the country was held in New Delhi and was attended by representatives from various states but no one came from UP. “This is not the first time UP didn’t register attendance…it was not present at a similar meeting held about a year ago,” said the Union minister. The state has maximum of around 1.45 lakh hectare waqf land and maximum cases of illegal grabbing of waqf property. She urged state BJP chief Laxmikant Bajpai to stage a sit-in against illegal grabbing of waqf land and assured him she would accompany him whenever a dharna was organised. (Times of India 3/4/16)

20. Opposition demands CM’ apology over statement on ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ (7)

MUMBAI: Opposition members in the state Legislative Assembly started ruckus over CM’s statement made in Nashik during BJP party workers rally, demanded an apology for his statement that “Those who can’t chant Bharat Mata don’t have the right to live in this country.” Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis however replied opposition strongly said he will keep chanting Bharat Mata ki Jai whether he remains the Chief Minister or not. As soon as the question hour over in the Assembly, Leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil moved an adjournment motion saying that minorities today are being made to prove their patriotism and BJP tried to diver the issues like farmers suicide. “Today there are so many issues plaguing the state but the CM is tried to divert real issues facing is facing and the message spreads among minorities that they have to prove their patriotism by chanting the slogans,” Vikhe Patil said.Pointing to the Congress, chanting of pro India slogans is being deliberately linked to a particular religion by “people with malafide intentions” and that attempts are being made to create a divide between communities. “At the Wagha border, soldiers only sing Vande Mataram and chant Bharat Mata ki Jai. There is no religion or caste,” he said. The Congress is only taking up this issue to please their High command. Muslims are patriots and the Opposition is questioning their patriotism by raking such issues,” Fadnavis said. (Times of India 4/4/16)

21. Heptulla hits pause key on minority funds (7)

New Delhi: The ministry of minority affairs is awaiting completion reports and information on commissioning of 1,655 schools, 168 Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) and 47 polytechnics for which funds were sanctioned to the states over the years. Only one ITI and two polytechnics approved under the Multi Sectoral Development Program since 2008-09 has been reported commissioned. Moreover, utilisation certificates for hundreds of crores sanctioned to various states under the eleventh and twelfth five year plans are pending from state governments. The information was shared by the ministry in a presentation at the National Conference of Ministers and Secretaries of Minority Welfare in State/UT Governments on Tuesday. It was pointed out that delay in submission of utilisation certificates was a problem that was delaying release of further grants. Out of the total release of Rs 2935.50 crore under the eleventh five year plan, utilisation certificates for an amount of Rs 166.15 crore for the first instalment and Rs 324.10 crore for the second instalment are still pending from state governments. Government data shows that a similar situation is arising in the twelfth plan. Utilisation certificates for the first and second instalments for the twelfth plan, worth Rs 792 crore, are pending against the release of funds worth Rs 3467.99 crore. Against this backdrop, the ministy has decided that in 2016-17, the second instalment of the designated funds for the minorities will be released only when utilisation certificates are recieved for 60% of the first instalment released during 2015-16. Also, utilisation certificates for 100% of the first instalment released in 2014-15 and earlier have been sought from the state governments concerned before any fresh funds are released.Minister for minority affairs Najma Heptulla added that the Centre wanted to develop waqf properties across the country to enhance the revenue of states/Union Territories for minority welfare activities and expects cooperation in this effort. She cited the Sachar committee report to point that there are 4.90 lakh registered waqf estates spread over 6 lakh acres of land across India. “The market value of this property is estimated to be around Rs 1.20 lakh crore. Estimated annual income from these properties is Rs 12,000 crore. Actual income from waqfs is just about Rs 163 crore per annum, the minister informed. With only one ITI and two polytechnics approved since 2008-09, the ministy has decided that in 2016-17, the second instalment of designated funds for minorities will be released only when utilisation certificates for 60% of the first instalment released during 2015-16 are received (Times of India 6/4/16)

22. ‘When will Gujarat give Jains minority status?’ (7)

Ahmedabad: A delegation of Jain leaders met district collector Rajkumar Beniwal and handed him a notification, demanding the implementation of the central government’s directive to include Jains in the minority category and provide them the benefits associated with it. The leaders said that despite several representations, the state government failed to implement the notification even as 14 other states of India have done so. On January 27, 2014, the Ministry of Minority Affairs issued a notification where under the powers of clause (c) of Section 2 of the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992, the central government notified the Jain community as a minority, in addition to five other communities – Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis. Pramod Shah, president of Gujarat Jain Manch, told TOI that the minority status to Jains was given during the UPA regime. “After the change of government, we were hopeful that we would get our due – a similar notification by the state government – in no time. The state government had indicated last year that this status was just a few days away. However, nothing happened. Despite making several representations and holding a dharna in the last six months, nobody is willing to give the community its due,” said Shah. Other representatives said not all Jain community members are affluent and a delay on this issue affect the admission prospects of thousands of students among other benefits. “We believe we will also have to take the agitation route if the government doesn’t stop making mere promises and take concrete action,” said Jain. (Times of India 8/4/16)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

23. Centre not to support Aligarh Muslim University on granting it minority status (7)

NEW DELHI: The NDA government on Monday told the Supreme Court that it would withdraw the appeal filed by the erstwhile UPA government challenging the Allahabad high court verdict holding the Aligarh Muslim University as non-minority institution. “I changed my mind two months ago,” attorney general Mukul Rohatgi told a three-judge bench headed by Justice J S Kehar about the Centre’s decision to withdraw the appeal and distance itself from AMU, which has sought to counter it. “I am distancing myself from the AMU,” he further told the bench, also comprising Justices M B Lokur and C Nagappan. He submitted that as the AMU was set up by the central Act and in 1967, a five-judge Constitution bench of the apex court had in Aziz Basha judgement held it as a “central universitry” and not a minority institution. Rohatgi said 20 years later, an amendment was brought in 1981 to accord the university minority status which was held as unconstitutional by the high court. “You cannot override the Aziz Basha judgement. Union of India’s stand is that according minority status to AMU would be contrary to the Aziz Basha judgement and it still holds good,” the top law officer told the bench which permitted the Centre to file an application along with an affidavit within eight weeks to withdraw the appeal filed by it. The bench said the AMU, which was represented by senior advocate P P Rao, thereafter, can file the counter-affidavit to the Centre’s stand and posted the matter for hearing after the summer vacation. The apex court also allowed some intervenors, for whom senior advocate Salman Khurshid appeared, to assist in the matter. The high court had in January 2006 struck down the provision of the AMU (Amendment) Act, 1981 by which the university was accorded a minority status. The division bench of the high court had upheld the decision of its single judge passed in 2005 by which it termed as “unconstitutional” the granting of minority status to AMU and 50 per cent reservation to Muslims in 2004. The issue of AMU’s minority status had cropped up before another bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur which was hearing a separate matter relating to the challenge of appointment of its vice-chancellor Lt General (retd) Zameeruddin Shah. “Can a university itself be termed as a minority institution,” the bench, also comprising Justice U U Lalit, asked during the hearing. The matter had come in the pre-lunch session and the attorney general, who was present in the courtroom, said that “Union of India is not inclined to proceed with its appeal against the high court judgement before another bench.” Khurshid, who was also present, said the decision of another bench on the issue of minority institution will have a bearing on the vice-chancellor matter as well. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who was present in the courtroom, said the present VC was appointed during his tenure as the Union minister for human resource development. The attorney general had, on January 11, also made a statement in the apex court that AMU could not be categorised as a minority institution. “It is the stand of the Union of India that AMU is not a minority university. As the executive government at the Centre, we can’t be seen as setting up a minority institution in a secular state,” he had submitted, adding that “the previous stand (of UPA government) was wrong.” (Times of India 4/4/16)

24. Muslims bow before motherland 96 times in a day: Farangimahli (7)

Lucknow: “Muslims bow before their motherland 96 times while offering namaz five times in a day. But how many times people raising the ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ slogan bow before their motherland?” Maulana Khalid Rasheed Farangimahli, Imam-e-Eidgah and noted Islamic scholar posed this question for saffron outfits (without naming them) amid the raging Bharat Mata slogan controversy. “Muslims bow before their motherland (India) 96 times in 24 hours while offering namaz five times a day. How many times these people (pressing Muslims to raise Bharat Mata Ki Jai slogan) bow before their motherland,” asked Khalid Rasheed, while talking to HT on Tuesday. He said: “Muslims do not need to prove to anyone their love for the country. We have been raising the slogans ‘Hindustan Zindabad’, ‘Jai Hind’ and ‘Madre Watan’. All have the same meaning as ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’.” “We will not say ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ under anyone’s pressure,” he added. Coming down heavily on the recent fatwa issued by Darul Uloom, directing Muslims not to raise ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ slogan, Khalid Rasheed said: “Institutions of religious importance like Darul Uloom should not issue fatwa on sensitive issues like the ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’.” “Fatwas issued by the Darul Uloom are taken seriously by the community (Muslims). So, the institution must not issue such fatwas,” he said. Stressing on the negative impact of such fatwas, the Islamic scholar said: “Such fatwas further alienate the Muslim community from the mainstream of the society. Therefore, Darul Uloom should not have issued fatwa on this issue (Bharat Mata Ki Jai).” Khalid Rasheed also asserted that there was no need for Darul Uloom to issue fatwa on each and every issue which comes before it. “There is absolutely no need to issue fatwa on every issue. The Darul Uloom must ignore controversial issues,” he said. The issue of ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ made headlines after All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) president Asaduddin Owaisi courted controversy at a public meeting at Udgir tehsil in Latur district (Maharashtra) on March 13. He declared that he would not chant ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ slogan even if a knife was put to his neck. Owaisi’s statement was a riposte to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s statement advocating that younger generation must be taught to chant slogans in favour of the country. However, the RSS chief had recently stated that no one should be forced to chant the ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ slogan. (Hindustan Times 6/4/16)

25. Secular politics behind backwardness of Muslims: Naqvi (7)

Guwahati, Apr 7 (PTI) Backwardness of Muslims in India in education and employment is a dangerous part of “secular political conspiracy”, according to Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi who accused Congress of exploiting the minority community by keeping them poor and illiterate. Addressing election meetings at Bilasipara, Mankachar and Golakganj in Assam, the BJP leader said the increase in percentage of Muslims living below poverty line during last few decades in states like Assam and West Bengal proves that “votebank politics of secularism” has severely affected poor Muslims. The Minister of State for Minority Affairs asked people of Assam to vote for BJP this time and see the change in fortunes of the state and its poor people. “Votes given to BJP will prove to be a blow to the political termite of corruption,” he said. Naqvi, the Muslim face of BJP, said the backwardness of Indian Muslims in education and employment is a dangerous part of the “secular political conspiracy”.He said some political parties, including Congress, think they can politically exploit Muslims by keeping them illiterate and poor and by creating a feeling of insecurity among them. He said the “walls of secularism and communalism and fabricated political issues” were raised to prevent the light of development from reaching the poor among Muslim community. Had the amount “spent on the papers” in the name of socio-economic-educational empowerment of minorities, been spent honestly at the ground, there should not have been a single person of these sections living below poverty line, the Union Minister said. “But the money meant for development of poor, reached to the vaults of power-brokers, middlemen and corrupt,” he said. Naqvi said the Modi government took steps to ensure the “blockade of power-brokers and locked out the loot-lobby from the corridors of power in Delhi”.”Our Government has established a system to monitor that every penny meant for development of poor is spent honestly,” he said. He said those who allowed the loot of the rights of poor during the last 15 years in Assam will not be spared. “Those who hold the development of the poor as hostage, will be punished strictly,” he said. Naqvi assured people of Assam that BJP is the guarantee of security, safety and prosperity of all sections of society including Minorities.  (India Today 7/4/126)

26. Muslims valued only for votes in the Bodo areas? (7)

KOKRAJHAR: Hundreds of Bengali-speaking Muslims displaced during the ethnic violence orchestrated by National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) militants in the Bodo heartland in 2012 are yet to get homes. Their resettlement is still a distant dream as the Bodos are at loggerheads with them over possession of land. Yet both national and Bodo parties want their votes, for they can be the deciding factor in these election. Muslim voters make up over 15% votes in the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) area. In Kokrajhar (West), Muslims (55,000) outnumber Bodo voters (38,000). Kokrajhar (East) has over 35,000 Muslim voters. Most of these Bengali-speaking Muslims migrated from other districts, some own land. More than 500 Bodos, Muslims and adivasis were killed by Bodo militants in clashes between 1993 and 2012. Barring the NDFB (Songbijit) faction, all groups were disbanded or have joined the peace process. The 46-member BTC is ruled by Bodoland People’s Front (BPF), a BJP ally. In the 2012 violence, over a lakh Muslim families were displaced. About half were relocated in other districts. BTC agreed to rehabilitate only 11,000 families. The rest live in camps. BTC has banned ‘settlements’ for Muslims on vacant grazing grounds.”We don’t want them (Muslims) here. Their presence means violence again by militants. We too live in fear,” says Harishankar Brahma, an eldery villager of Athiaguri. But come elections, parties welcome them, even offering “conveyance to the polling stations,” says a BPF supporter. At Athiaguri, seven families had to move to a camp after NDFB rebels torched their homes. “I have my land but can’t go back,” says Ataur Rahman (65). “For the LS election, we went to the village to vote on the insistence of political parties. Our names are enlisted on the rolls there.” But 155 families in a relief camp south of Kokrajhar town boycotted the 2014 LS election. “We requested authorities to change our polling station. Political parties pleaded with us to vote there but when I sought security, nobody gave any guarantee. We decided to boycott the polls,” says Md Neamat Ali at the Parogura camp. They trust no party, be it AIUDF, BPF or Congress. “We are not concerned about the change of guard in Dispur. We want a paribartan in our lives. We want to return home. Candidates came to us for votes this time, too. But we want a permanent solution. We don’t want to live only for voting,” Azizul Hoque, another camp inmate, says. (Times of India 9/4/16)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

27. Christian priest ‘abducted’ by ISIS is safe, says Sushma Swaraj (7)

New Delhi: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told a Church delegation Saturday that Christian priest Father Tom Uzhunnalil, who was reportedly abducted by the Islamic State in Yemen, is safe. She also said the government was adopting all possible means for his quick and safe release. The minister said that the “wild rumors being spread about any harm done” to the priest were “totally baseless”. The Church delegation, which met Swaraj on Saturday afternoon, expressed “deep concern and distress” over the fate of Uzhunnalil, whose whereabouts are not known even 29 days after his abduction. There have been some unconfirmed reports he was killed by militants. Uzhunnalil, a Salesian priest, was kidnapped in Yemen on March 4 during a raid on a nursing home run by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, the Washington Times reported. “Swaraj has categorically assured the delegation that Uzhunnalil is safe and that the government is adopting all possible means for his quick and safe release. The Honorable Minister further said that the details of the negotiations and the technicalities involved with the negotiations cannot be divulged now, as it would endanger the process of the release,” a statement from the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI), the apex body of the Catholic church, said. The press note issued by Monsignor Joseph Chinnayyan, deputy secretary general, CBCI said Swaraj shared with the delegation “the strenuous effort taken by the External Affairs Ministry, and personally by her, to procure a safe passage for Sister Rema, the only surviving nun from the terrorist attack in Yemen.” (Indian Express 3/4/16)

28. Law will be tweaked making divorce by Christians faster? (7)

New Delhi: The law and justice ministry has proposed a change in the law to reduce the separation period for Christian couples seeking to file for divorce by mutual consent. Sources said the ministry has drafted a Cabinet note to amend the 1869 Divorce Act in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling and demands by the community. It proposes to halve the separation period for couples from two years to one year before a petition can be filed for divorce by mutual consent, bringing it in line with the laws for other communities. The separation period under the Hindu Marriage Act, Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act and Special Marriage Act is one year. Section 10A(1) of the Divorce Act, added by a 2001 amendment, says a couple seeking divorce should be living separately for “two years or more”. A Supreme Court ruling last April questioned the existing law, asking: “Should Christians stay separated for two years when the period for others is one year? It doesn’t make sense to us. It is a pure question of law and you (government) should have acted on your own,” a bench of Justices Vikramjit Sen and A.M. Sapre observed. (Asian Age 4/4/16)

29. Church vandalised (7)

NAGERCOIL: A 17-year-old boy was arrested on Monday for having allegedly damaged the statues of Innasiyar, Anthoniyar and Infant Jesus at the Infant Jesus Church in Vadakku Ramanathichanputhur near Anjugiramam in Kanyakumari district on Sunday night. The damage was noticed by the public who informed the church authorities. On the basis of a complaint lodged by A. Joseph (58), treasurer of the church, Anjugiramam police arrested the boy of the same area. He was remanded in judicial custody after producing him before a local court. (The Hindu 5/4/16)

30. Dalit Christian group to support AIADMK (7)

CHENNAI: The Dalit Christian Liberation Movement (DCLM), which has been campaigning for Scheduled Caste status for Dalit Christians in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, has announced its support for the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) in the forthcoming assembly election. In a statement on Thursday, DCLM said that Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had shown concern about the plight of Dalit Christians and had written a letter in 1995 to the PM recommending SC status to Dalit Christians.“Her party has also given 9 tickets to Christians in the forthcoming elections. The AIADMK had also raised the issue of Dalit Christians in Rajya Sabha,” the statement read. (The Hindu 8/4/16)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

31. Citizenship promise raises stakes in Barak Valley (13)

Silchar: The Modi government’s plan to grant citizenship to refugees belonging to Hindu and other minority communities who came to India from Bangladesh due to religious persecution has a lot to do with its stakes in the election, especially in the Bengali-dominated Barak Valley of Assam. The Barak Valley will vote on April 4 in the first phase along with other constituencies in upper Assam and the hills. The valley along the India-Bangladesh border has 15 assembly constituencies with more Muslims than Hindus. Bengali-speaking people, whether Hindus or Muslims, often face questions about their nationality in the state, which saw a massive six-year-long anti-foreigner agitation in the ’70s and ’80s. The people here are, however, unhappy with the central government’s delay in fulfilling its promises. An official notification, issued by the Union home ministry on September 7 last year, had said the central government had decided to exempt Bangladeshi and Pakistani nationals, belonging to minority communities, from relevant provisions under the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 and the Foreigners Act, 1946 on humanitarian grounds. The exemption would apply to those who entered India on or before December 31, 2014 and either do not have relevant documents or have documents that have expired. The central government, accordingly, issued two notifications in the official gazette under the two acts. However, several people here alleged that this failed to curb the harassment of Bengali-speaking people by the police. It just continues under a different, convenient name. “People are being harassed in the name of detection and identification of foreigners,” said Sadhan Purkayasthya, a social worker. “More than 150 citizens have been languishing in the detention camp at Silchar,” he added. Many NGOs here, including Barak Upatyaka Banga Sahitya O Sanskriti Sammelan, expressed their dissatisfaction with the delay in granting citizenship to displaced Bengalis despite publication of the gazette notification. The NGO has urged the Prime Minister to introduce a comprehensive bill in the parliament to mitigate the ‘ongoing offensive on the Bengalis and other non-Assamese people living in Assam’. The political blame game is on, however. BJP national general secretary (organization) Ram Madhav at a programme in Silchar on Thursday said the Congress has hindered the amendment of the act in the house. The Congress rejected the charge and blamed BJP for the delay. At an election rally in Silchar, chief minister Tarun Gogoi alleged that AGP and BJP are both anti-Bengali. He said the BJP state president, Sarbananda Sonowal, was responsible for scrapping the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act, 1983, an act which helped Indian Bengalis protect themselves in the period when ‘detection of foreigners’ had come into focus earlier. (Times of India 3/4/16)

32. Over 172,000 migrants reach EU in 2016 (13)

Geneva, April 5 : The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) on Tuesday said 172,089 refugees and migrants have reached Europe by sea since the beginning of 2016 while 714 individuals have died attempting to do so. Figures show that 152,137 of these entries have been recorded in Greece, Xinhua news agency reported. Almost 50 percent of those reaching the country this year are from Syria, while around 25 percent are Afghans. The remaining arrivals have been recorded in Italy (19,287), Spain (638), and Cyprus (27). While 366 refugees have lost their lives attempting to cross the eastern Mediterranean route separating Turkey and Greece, IOM indicated in a statement that there have been “no deaths on the Eastern Mediterranean since the start of implementation last week of a new migrant agreement between Turkey and the European Union that allows for repatriation of those arriving on the Greek islands.” In compliance with the new agreement, 202 people were repatriated to Turkey on March 4, two of which were Syrians who volunteered to be sent back. Further death toll figures show that the central Mediterranean route linking North Africa with Italy has claimed the lives of 343 migrants this year while five people perished on the western Mediterranean and Western African routes. (New Kerala 5/4/16)

33. Soon, Pakistan Refugees Can Purchase Homes, Drive (13)

NEW DELHI:  The Modi government has decided to issue driving licenses and Aadhar cards to Hindus and other minorities from Pakistan, who escaped persecution and took refuge in India. Soon, the refugees would be able to purchase houses and apply for PAN cards. Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his poll campaign in April 2014 had promised equal rights to Pakistani minority refugees, mostly Hindus, in India. He had said, “Those refugees from Pakistan who come here only for saying Bharat Mata ki Jai … nobody cares about them.” He had promised that if BJP was voted to power Pakistani Hindu refugees would be treated like other Indian citizens. Since assuming power, the NDA government has initiated a slew of measures including amending rules to extend citizenship and facilitating Long Term Visa (LTV) for the aggrieved community. (New Indian Expres 7/4/16)

34. Mixed feeling among refugee returnees (13)

Vavuniya/Jaffna: Nirmala Devi, a mother of two growing children, is happy that she is back in Vavuniya, her husband’s place, after having lived in Tamil Nadu as a refugee for 23 years. She returned to Sri Lanka in 2013 along with her husband and the children. “We wanted to raise our children in the right way” is her answer why she and her husband decided to come back. “And, that’s not possible in a camp for refugees,” she says nonchalantly. Her parents and younger sister are still in camps of Karur and Coimbatore. “I won’t compel them to return. The decision should be theirs,” she points out. Angamuthu Vanniyamoorthy, a 61-year-old farmer of Nagal Iluppaikulam of the Vavuniya district, has been able to rehabilitate himself swiftly on his return since 2012 even though he was away for 22 years. Thanks to the help from OfERR (Organisation for Eelam Refugees Rehabilitation) and others, his daughter, who was born in Tamil Nadu when he and his family were in a Krishnagiri camp, has been given the citizenship of Sri Lanka. “Before returning to Sri Lanka, one has to ensure that one has all the important documents including birth certificates. There shouldn’t be any difficulty in getting citizenship here for one’s children,” he says, adding that not many follow this and complain later. But, Sivaguru Premachandran, a tailor by profession, who came back to Jaffna four years ago after 17 years, is not on the side of Nirmala Devis and Vanniyamoorthys. Repenting his decision, he wonders: “Why one should return? For everything from entertainment to education to health care to art and culture, we, in the Northern Province, invariably look to Tamil Nadu,” he says. He took the decision to return only after finding out from his relatives and friends about the situation. Like many others, he wanted to shed the tag of “refugee” and lead the rest of his life with honour and dignity. However, he admits that he and his wife have not been able to adapt themselves to the Jaffna environment after a prolonged displacement. Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran says many refugee-returnees are “disillusioned.” He also contends that in respect of refugees living in Tamil Nadu who hail from Mullativu and Vavuniya, despite them holding land ownership documents, permits have been cancelled and Sinhalese have been settled there. This has to be reversed to enable voluntary repatriation of such refugees. (The Hindu 9/4/16)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

35. CIC raps official for not giving IB report to whistle-blower (1)

Chandigarh: Rapping the information officer of the union Ministry of Environment and Forests for not supplying the report of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) to whistle-blower IFS officer Sanjiv Chaturvedi, regarding his alleged harassment during the Congress regime in Haryana, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has sought the former’s explanation to initiate penal proceedings against him.The IFS officer, currently posted as deputy secretary at the AIIMS, New Delhi, needs a copy of the IB report in connection with his petition before the Supreme Court, seeking action against Haryana officials. The IB report belongs to “the issue of foisting false cases against him in retaliation against his investigation, and reports against major corruption” in Haryana a few years ago. “There appears to be truth in Chaturvedi’s contention regarding the alleged harassment meted out to him by the Haryana government,” the intelligence bureau (IB) had informed the MoEF by submitting its report to the ministry in 2014. The MoEF did not supply the report to Chaturvedi on the basis of IB’s objection. IB is one of the organizations specified in the second schedule to the RTI Act under Section 24, exempting it from the purview of the RTI Act, except when CIC considered that the information sought is either related to corruption or violation of human rights by that organization. “Though the IB has objected to the disclosure, CPIO (Central Public Information Officer) of the MoEF should have exercised his independent discretion with due application of mind in deciding whether the copy of IB report held by them could be shared with the applicant,” observed the panel. The commission directed the CPIO to explain why penal proceedings shall not be initiated “for not applying his mind to exercise discretion as required under RTI Act, to decide on sharing the copy of the IB report, the gist of which is already is known.” The panel has also decided to issue a notice to the intelligence agency asking it to send a responsible officer to present their case. “It is no more a matter of secrecy. It has come into public domain with extensive media coverage that the applicant (Chaturvedi) exposed the afforestation scandal involving several politicians and bureaucrats leading to suspension of 40 public servants. He is a whistle-blower indeed, who faced the wrath of corrupt public officers and became victim of several kinds of harassment,” observed information commissioner M Sridhar Acharyulu in his recent order. (Times of India 1/4/16)

36. Provide compensation in cases of excessive detention, says CIC (1)

NEW DELHI: Prison authorities should not wait for detainees to approach courts seeking compensation for custody exceeding their term and instead develop a mechanism for providing compensation on their own, Central Information Commission has held. “It is the duty of the State to provide for a system to see that no prisoner is detained even a minute beyond the term and, if it happens even by mistake, it has to pay suitable compensation without driving the victims to courts of law,” Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu said.A Tihar prisoner O. P. Gandhi had approached the Commission claiming that the relevant information and documents furnished by the authorities evidently established that he was detained 18 days in excess and claimed adequate compensation for this wrong done to him. Tihar authorities said they did not have any mechanism to grant compensation on their own and, if Gandhi wanted compensation, he should have filed an application. “The authorities should have justified the detention beyond term. That was not done. In such cases, the good governance demands prompt payment of damages for the trespass to person by false imprisonment under law of torts (civil wrongs),” Acharyulu noted. He said better administration demands that the jail authorities should have a pre-determined system of calculating the value of freedom approximately and, when he is released, the prisoner should get the duly calculated amount to compensate for the “false imprisonment” without waiting for a formal filing of petition. “Section 4(1)(c) and (d) of RTI Act mandate public authority to have such policy for better governance,” he said. The Information Commissioner said when the right is already guaranteed under Article 21 of Indian Constitution (personal liberty), and when it is proved that it has been violated, why should State wait for a formal petition to be filed? “Why push the detained victim to file a suit in civil court or write to higher courts seeking remedy for violation of personal liberty? In a welfare state, it is the duty of the Sstate,” he said. Mr Acharyulu said if Tihar authorities required a formal petition for compensation in such violations of excessive detention, they should have framed a format or template and informed the prisoners to avail of such service by filling a formal application. “They should have treated this second appeal itself as the formal application for the compensation and considered the same positively,” he said. He said it will be a legitimate expectation of the people that responsible officers would inform them that a system is in place to prevent excessive detention and, if it happens, to provide remedy/compensation along with rates of compensation under the obligation of Section 4 of Right to Information Act, 2005. Directing the Tihar prison to positively consider plea of Gandhi for compensation, Mr Acharyulu said the jail authorities should also have a fixed time to respond to the petition with payment of compensation. – PTI (The Hindu 5/4/16)

37. Temple order: HC refuses urgent hearing to RTI activist (1)

Mumbai, Apr 7 () The Bombay High Court today refused to give urgent hearing on an application filed by an activist seeking recall of its earlier order holding that it was a woman’s fundamental right to enter any place of worship and the state government’s duty to protect this right. On April 1, a division bench headed by Chief Justice D H Waghela observed that women have the fundamental right to enter any place of worship where men too are allowed, and it was the government’s duty to ensure that this right was protected. The court had also ordered the state government to ensure strict implementation of the Maharashtra Hindu Place of Worship (Entry Authorisation) Act 1956. The directions were given while hearing a public interest litigation by senior advocate Nilima Vartak and social activist Vidya Bal, challenging prohibition of entry of women in temples, like the Shani Shingnapur in Maharashtra. Today, an application was filed before the same bench by an activist from Thane district, Sunita Pal, seeking recall of the April 1 order of the high court on the grounds that the court has misconstrued the Act and its provisions. Pal’s advocate Subash Jha told the court that the Act was not meant for gender discrimination and is not even remotely connected to the issues raised in the PIL. “The Act was formed post Independence for Dalits and others from Scheduled Caste so that there is no discrimination against them. If gender discrimination was the issue behind forming the Act, then the legislation would have specifically mentioned ‘women’ in the Act,” Jha argued. The high court today, however, said before going to the merits of the application it would have to first decide if such an application is maintainable.”You (Pal) have filed application in a petition in which you (Pal) are not even a party,” Chief Justice Waghela said while posting the application for hearing on April 11. (Times of India 7/4/16)

38. RTI Activists Cry Foul Over Defunct SEIAA Website (1)

CHENNAI: It’s been months since the official website of Tamil Nadu State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) became defunct after a Pakistani group, Faisal 1337, has allegedly hacked it. So far, the authorities have failed to restore the website leading to huge outcry among RTI activists. Though the SEIAA confirmed that the website was defaced by Pakistani cyber attackers and it lodged a complaint with the cyber crime branch, RTI activists allege that leaving it in a limbo was a deliberate attempt to keep several incriminating documents out of public scrutiny. SEIAA website is one of the sources through which public can challenge any environmental clearance granted to a company. This legitimate right, the activists say, is being denied. RTI activist R Kothandaraman, honorary president, Puducherry Environment Protection Association, said he had sent several e-mails to SEIAA, environment secretary, union environment ministry and others, but haven’t got any response. SEIAA chairman S Kalyanasundaram replied on March 21 via e-mail refuting the allegations, but acknowledged that the website was hacked. He also claimed that the authority has re-installed the WAMP server and hosted the Cleaned website and application post setup besides configuring the firewall. It was awaiting domain redirection from National Informatics Centre (NIC). However, activists are not ready to buy this argument. “The reason for us to become suspicious was an environment clearance granted to a corporate giant involved in pharmaceutical business operating in SIPCOT Industrial Estate in Cuddalore district. The EC was granted by SEIAA without jurisdiction. The company is located in a critically polluted area, which means only MoEF can grant the EC. We wanted to challenge it, but EC is not made available in the public domain. I have filed RTI applications to SEIAA, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) and environment principal secretary, but none have furnished the documents,” they alleged. “TNPCB and the office of principal secretary of environment in their replies maintain that they don’t have the copies of the EC, which is shocking. SEIAA never replied. Astonishingly, some of the files relating to this particular pharmaceutical firm have been removed from MoEF portal as well,” they added. (New Indian Express 8/4/16)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

39. Vijender Gupta to AAP government: Provide free education to poor (11)

New Delhi: Leader of the Opposition in the Delhi Assembly Vijender Gupta has written a letter to Delhi education minister Manish Sisodia and demanded the immediate provision of free education and study material to poor children. Mr Gupta said that children belonging to economically weaker sections are not getting free and compulsory education due to casualness and red tapism in the Delhi government. The Leader of the Opposition said on the one hand the Delhi government is boasting that it has paid maximum attention to education in the previous and current Budget so that no child is deprived of education, and on the other hand, private schools in the city are refusing to implement instructions issued by the education minister and the education department. “This has affected the future of poor children. The Delhi government has taken no strict legal action against any of the private schools so far. If poor children are deprived of the right to education, the BJP, along with parents of poor children, will fight against it,” he added. Mr Gupta mentioned that scores of parents were visiting his office daily with the complaint that none of the private schools were following the directions issued by the Delhi government. Not to say of providing this material to the students free of cost, they are being compelled to buy school books, stationery, uniform, school bag, etc. at arbitrary price of more than five times in the market. The parents, who refuse to buy these costly materials from the school, are being threatened by removing the names of their wards from the school rolls. (Asian Age 2/4/16)

40. ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai, nahi to admission nahi’ (11)

Ahmedabad: The controversy surrounding ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ reached a new height in Gujarat on Sunday. Till now the slogan was being equated with patriotism by those in favour of it while the ones against it quoted religious freedom or Indian Constitution to not chant it. An educational trust in Amreli — Shree Patel Vidhyarthi Ashram Trust which is headed by Gujarat BJP leader Dilip Sanghani — has brought right to education within the ambit of the raging controversy and declared that students seeking admission to its institutes will have to write ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ on their application forms, or lose admission. According to sources, the decision was taken in a trust meeting on Sunday. The trust runs a primary school, two high schools and a college in Amreli. Currently, around 4,500 students study in the four institutes. Political observers feel Dilip Sanghani has made the move to get back in the limelight after being sidelined in the new dispensation under state BJP president Vijay Rupani. Even at the district level, Vijay Rupani appointed Hiren Hirpara, a confidant of MP Narayan Kachhadia, as the BJP’s Amreli district president. It was no surprise then that Sanghani preferred to not attend felicitation programme of Hirpara. Sanghani, while talking to Mirror, justified the decision stating it was the 104-year-old trust’s attempt to inspire nationalism in its students. He said, “In the time when anti-national sloganeering is gaining momentum on educational campuses, we want our students to respect their country. So, we have decided to give admission only to those students who write Bharat Mata ki Jai. Our trust was founded by Mohan Veerji Patel, a freedom fighter. We strongly feel that a trust with such legacy of nationalism has a responsibility to invoke in its students the feeling of nationalism. The new rule will be implemented from upcoming term. Students who don’t write Bharat Mata ki Jai on the admission forms will not get admission.” The decision by the trust has not gone down well with the Congress which accused BJP of trying to divide the country. Congress MLA from Amreli Paresh Dhanani said, “BJP must stop disrespecting the constitution which has given all religions and caste an equal status. It doesn’t require us to prove our patriotism by chanting some slogan. This decision by the trust headed by Sanghani proves that BJP does not believe in India’s democracy.BJP is trying to divide the country by engaging people in illusive democracy for their political gain.” … (Times of India 4/4/16)

41. Drive to bring children back to school (11)

Bhubaneswar: Worried about the large number of out-of-school children, the Odisha government has started a special enrolment drive to bring them back to school in the current academic session. Teachers have been asked to do a household survey and convince parents to send children below 14 years of age to school through the drive. The schools will celebrate Prabesh Divas on April 7 to welcome the new students with a school kit, uniform, text book, sweets and balloons. “The objective of the drive is that not a single child between six and 14 years of age is left out from school. To ensure the enrolment of each and every child of this age, teachers have been asked to go from door-to-door, make announcements in public gatherings like weekly markets, use posters, banners and talk to panchayati raj institute (PRI) members and anganwadi workers,” said project director of Odisha Primary Education Project Authority (OPEPA), Mahendra Mallick. Interestingly, the state government does not have the exact figure of the number of out-of-school children. This includes school dropouts as well as those who have never been to a school. Hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) last month, the Odisha high court had asked the state government to conduct a household survey to know the current figure of out-of-school children in the age group of six-14 apart from the details of the children enrolled in schools every year. Following the order, the state government started the survey last month, which is scheduled to be completed in June this year. Responding to a question, Union HRD minister Smriti Irani had told the Lok Sabha on March 14 that Odisha had 4,35,560 out-of-school children in 2009, which came down to 4,01,052 in 2014. The dropout rate among school children in Odisha is 2.94% compared to 6.05% in 2009-10, she said. It is a gross violation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, which has the mandate to provide compulsory education to all children between 6 and 14 years of age. “After getting flak from the high court, the state has geared up to do the household survey. But the accuracy of collected data is another challenge,” said RTE campaigner Anil Pradhan. (Times of India 5/4/16)

42. 74,971 children are out of school: Maharashtra (11)

Mumbai: A survey conducted by the state government in July 2015 has revealed that 74,971 children were out of school in Maharashtra. Education minister Vinod Tawde assured the Assembly that most of these children have been enrolled in schools now and given education guarantee cards which would help monitor their attendance. “We have found 74,971 out-of-school children in the state. The survey was conducted last year on July 21. The students have been enrolled in nearby schools under the Right to Education Act. We have also given them education guarantee cards which will help monitor them and ensure they continue going to schools,” Mr Tawde said, while replying to a query in the Assembly. Elaborating on the card, Mr Tawde said that it would help the students to get admission into other schools in case of migration and also keep track of their progress. The state will periodically conduct this survey to ensure all children get enrolled, he added. The minister further said that children absent for more than 30 days at a stretch would be considered as out-of-school students. The minister also said schools having less than 20 students would not be closed down, as some of the MLAs were apprehensive about shutting down of schools. MLAs Harshwardhan Sakpal, Ranajajitsingh Patil, Yashomati Thakur, Virendra Jagtap, Vijay Vadettiwar and Ameen Patel raised the issue and asked Mr Tawde to give details of the survey. They pointed out discrepancies in the number of out-of-school students revealed by the state government and NGOs. The state had conducted the survey of all children in the age group between 6 and 14 years in July last year to ensure that all children get enrolled in schools as per the Right to Education Act. However, controversies erupted after a few NGOs came up with different figures for children who were out of school. (Asian Age 7/4/16)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

43. India to stay on high growth path for 10-20 years: Arun Jaitley (21)

Melbourne: India will continue on the current path of growth for a couple of decades more, bringing benefits of liberalisation to its people and eliminating the curse of poverty, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said here on April 1. Asking Australian superannuation funds industry leaders to invest in India, he emphasised that the growth path the country is moving on, it will stay on it. “Its only then India can eliminate the curse of poverty,” Jaitley said, hoping that the growth rate would last for at least 10-20 years. “We do believe that 7.5 per cent rate can be improved upon… And government is concentrating on several areas specially rural India,” he said. “People in India are benefiting from the whole process of liberalisation,” he added. Jaitley was speaking at a round-table meeting with top leaders of superannuation fund sector. The meeting was attended by Australian Minister for Small Businesses and Assistant Treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer, Chairman of Future Fund Peter Costello and Indian High Commissioner Navdeep Suri. Others present at the meeting included a high-powered Indian delegation led by industry body FICCI. A superannuation fund is a voluntary tax-advantaged pension plan that can act as a supplementary social security pillar in addition to the mandatory occupational plans run by Employee Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO). Jaitley said the government was opening up the system and almost all sectors have been liberalised. He said number of conditionalities have been removed and Indian government was also conscious of policy stability. He also assured rationalisation of tax system stating that India offered a huge amount of opportunity for even manufacturing sector, infrastructure sector. Speaking at the meeting, FICCI President Harshavardhan Neotia said India has made considerable progress over the last year, reflected in improvement in key macroeconomic indicators like GDP growth, inflation, fiscal deficit, current account deficit as well foreign investment inflows. Most importantly, he said, there is an element of positivity and optimism about India, which is shared not just by domestic industry but also globally. He said superannuation funds have ready to invest funds and we from Indian industry are here to invest projects. (Asian Age 1/4/16)

44. New UN Decade aims to eradicate hunger, prevent malnutrition (21)

New York, Apr 5 : Calling attention to the nearly 800 million chronically undernourished people and over two billion with micronutrient deficiencies, the United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed 2015 the start of the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition. The 193-member General Assembly adopted a consensus resolution on Friday, calling on the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to lead the implementation of the Decade. In a press release welcoming the decision, FAO called the document a major step towards mobilizing action around reducing hunger and improving nutrition around the world. The UN agencies, in addition to working with national governments, will collaborate with the World Food Programme (WFP), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the UN Childrens Fund (UNICEF), and involve coordination mechanisms such as the UN System Standing Committee on Nutrition (UNSCN) and multi-stakeholder platforms such as the Committee on World Food Security (CFS). Among other topics to be focused on during the Decade will be assistance to the some 159 million children under the age of five who are stunted, meaning too short for their age, and the approximate 50 million in that age bracket who are wasted, or have a low weight for their height. Meanwhile, around the world, about 1.9 billion people are overweight, of whom 600 million are obese. This resolution places nutrition at the heart of sustainable development and recognizes improving food security and nutrition are essential to achieving the entire 2030 Agenda, FAO Director-General Jos Graziano da Silva said. Children cant fully reap the benefits of schooling if they dont get the nutrients they need; and emerging economies wont reach their full potential if their workers are chronically tired because their diets are unbalanced. Thats why we welcome the Decade of Action on Nutrition and look forward to helping make it a success, he added. (New Kerala 5/4/16)

45. Dalit Woman Commits Suicide After Killing 3 Children in Odisha (21)

NABARANGPUR: A Dalit woman allegedly poisoned her three children, set her house on fire and committed suicide apparently due to poverty at a village in Odisha’s Nabarangpur district, a police officer said today. The incident took place yesterday at Dongariguda village under Kosagumuda Block of the backward district, Nabarangpur Superintendent of Police, Jugal Kishore said. According to preliminary investigation, the woman Kumari Harijan (29) first gave poison to her three children — daughters Parvati (7) and Reena (4) and one-and-a-half-year-old son Nilu — and then consumed it herself after setting her belongings in the house afire, the SP said. The incident came to light when the villagers found smoke emanating from the thatched house yesterday afternoon and rushed to the spot, police said. They broke the door open as it was locked from inside and on entering the house, they found the children lying down, while Kumari was in a critical condition. They were rushed to the Community Health Centre at Kosagumuda, police added. The doctor declared the three children dead and after some time Kumari also died. Dhaniram Harijan, husband of Kumari was not present as he works as a daily labourer at Nagarnal in Bastar District of Chhattisgarh. Police are probing all aspects but said at the outset “financial problems” seemed to have played a role in the death. (New Indian Express 6/4/16)

46. Centre to provide 1.5 crore gas connections to BPL families (21)

Vadodara: The Centre will provide 1.5 crore gas connections to women members of Below Poverty Line (BPL) families during the current fiscal, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan has said. “We will provide 1.5 crore gas connections to women members of BPL families in fiscal 2016-17 and our target is to provide gas connections to five crore women in the next three years,” Pradhan told reporters here last night. “It is a new initiative of our government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to provide cooking gas to women members of BPL families with state support,” he said. “After Prime Minister requested people to give up gas subsidy, 96 lakh people have surrendered it and this amount is being used to give LPG connections to women in BPL families,” he added. “The government has set aside a sum of Rs 2,000 crore in Union Budget 2016 to meet the initial cost of providing these LPG connections,” Pradhan said. According to him, the scheme will free women in rural areas from the curse of smoke while cooking and also will reduce the time spent on it. The scheme – ‘Christened Ujjwala’ provides a financial support of Rs 1,600 for each LPG connection to BPL households. The identification of eligible BPL families, as proposed in the Budget for 2016-17, will be made in consultation with the state. Terming the Budget announcement as historic, Pradhan said the scheme will not only have immense health benefits for women and their children by providing a clean cooking fuel but will also provide significant ecological dividends. Quoting World Heath Organisation estimates, Pradhan said, “About 5 lakh women die in the country due to unclean cooking fuels. Most of these premature deaths are due to non- communicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer.” “While providing the new connections to BPL households, priorities would be given to the uncovered states and pockets, particularly in the eastern region of the country. “This will benefit about 1.50 crore lakh households below the poverty line in 2016-17,” Pradhan added. (Asian Age 7/4/16)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

47. Increase in minimum wages of workers, Delhi govt hikes DA (14)

New Delhi, Apr 4 () Delhi government has raised the dearness allowance adjusting it with the increase in prices of goods and services. The minimum wages for unskilled workers such as security guards, peons will rise to Rs 9,568 from Rs 9,178 per month, which translates to Rs 368 per day. In case of semi-skilled workers like welders, the post-hike wage will be Rs 10,140 per month, Rs 407 a day. It was Rs 10,140 till March. Skilled workers like masons or drivers will be now entitled to Rs 11,622 per month as opposed to Rs 11,154 earlier. Rs 447 will be the per day rate. “These rates will be applicable in respect of unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled categories in all scheduled employments except employment in the establishments where the workers are given facilities of meals or lodging or both by the employees,” the government order said. Rates were also hiked for clerical and supervisory staffs in all scheduled employments including non-matric, matric and graduates. Non-matric staff will now get Rs 10,582 amounting to Rs 407 a day. Matric but non-graduates stand to earn a minimum of Rs 447 per day or Rs 11,622 per month while for graduates the rate is Rs 12,662 per month, or Rs 487 a day. “The government after adjustment of the average consumer price index of the period from July 2015 to December 2015 which is 266.83, an increase of 10.83 points, hereby declares the following DA which shall be payable for all categories from April 1,” the order said. The DA for employments, who are given lodging and meals twice a day or both, would be Rs 390, Rs 442 and Rs 468 respectively. The government had passed the Minimum Wages (Delhi) Amendment Bill, 2015 during the winter session of the Assembly, which stipulates stringent punishment like higher fines and imprisonment for violation of labour norms. Under the proposed amendments to the Act, companies will have to upload the data of their employees on website or web portal in the manner as may be prescribed by Delhi government.  (Times of India 4/4/16)

48. Unpaid salary bill of over Rs 8,000 crore set to hit MGNREGA (14)

New Delhi: Rural job guarantee scheme MGNREGA reported over Rs 8,000 crore in unpaid wages for the 2015-16 fiscal that ended on Thursday, the highest in recent years.Civil society activists said the huge liability will eat into the budgetary allocation of Rs 38,500 crore for the current fiscal, thus painting grim prospects for the UPA-era scheme that guarantees 100 days of work to people in rural areas. Other than unpaid wages of Rs 8,261 crore, government records show another Rs 3,686 crore as amount not paid for material used in 2015-16. “The combined total of Rs 12,000 crore as liability means the states will spend a large sum of the current allocation in paying dues for last year and after doing so they will be left with only Rs 26,500 crore for the entire year,” said Nikhil Dey of the Majdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, an NGO. West Bengal tops the list of states that has wage dues, with a Rs 2,400 crore burden. Uttar Pradesh with Rs 663 crore is a distant second, followed by Assam’s Rs 487 crore, Madhya Pradesh’s Rs 480 crore and Bihar’s Rs 454 crore. The job scheme, designed as a safety net to reduce migration of the rural poor by providing them with work and wages close to their homes, could be starved of funds when a lingering drought in several states might trigger a spurt in demand for work in the countryside, Dey said. He and other rural welfare campaigners had demanded a minimum of Rs 50,000 crore for the current financial year to meet the demand for work, which they predicted would be higher than 2015-16. In the previous fiscal, Rs 34,699 crore was allocated and it proved inadequate to meet the demand. As many as 12 states exhausted their funds by December, three months before the financial year closed. But the government could possibly take heart from predictions of a normal monsoon this June-September season as the country’s rain-driven agrarian economy may look up after a string of drought-like years. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), rechristened after Mahatma Gandhi, completed a decade this year since its launch at Bandlapalli village in Andhra Pradesh in 2006. (Hindustan Times 4/4/16)

49. Government to simplify labour inspection norms (14)

New Delhi: Government is simplifying the labour inspection process and will come out with a unified portal for online registration of units and reporting of inspections, Minister for Labour and Employment Bandaru Dattatreya said on April 5. “With an objective of simplifying business regulations and for bringing in transparency and accountability in labour inspections, the Ministry of Labour and Employment is revising the inspection scheme,” he said at an event here. The ministry is also developing a single unified portal for online registration of units, reporting of inspections, submissions of annual returns and redressal of grievances, he added. Besides, it is developing a webinar centre to increase reach to all stakeholders for imparting training and providing information pertaining to occupational safety and health, Dattatreya said. “The Ministry is also finalising the modalities for effective implementation of Building and Other Construction Workers’ Act, 1996 and Building and Other Construction Worker’ Welfare Cess Act, 1996,” he added. The Factories Act is also being amended and the Factories (amendment) Bill has been placed before Parliament approval, he said. “In India we have adopted humane laws regarding working conditions, health, and safety as part of of our plans of development,” Dattatreya said. On government’s ‘Make in India’ campaign, he said the purpose of the initiative is to enhance job creation, boost the economy and convert India to a self reliant country. “Our government has declared its vision to make India a global manufacturing hub by increasing the share of the manufacturing sector in GDP from the present 15 per cent to 25 per cent in next few years. The ‘Make in India’ campaign would facilitate this quantum jump in the manufacturing sector,” Dattatreya said. To facilitate growth, infrastructure is also being developed in the form of highways, expressways, rail corridors, airports and seaports, he added. “It would be our prime responsibility to ensure just and humane condition of work from providing training to develop required skill and competence in our workforce. We cannot prosper in this dynamic complex business environment without caring for safety and health,” he said. (Asian Age 5/4/16)

50.  “Implement GOs on construction workers’ welfare” (14)

VISAKHAPATNAM: The orders raising ex gratia for accidental death from Rs.2 lakh to Rs.5 lakh, for natural death from Rs. 30,000 to Rs. 6,0000, raising funeral expenses from Rs.10,000 to Rs. 20,000 and for medical treatment for minor problems from Rs. 1,500 to Rs. 3,000 should be implemented immediately, the A. P. Building and Construction Workers’ Union has demanded. Union State working president Padala Ramana said here on Thursday that the Chandrababu Naidu government was resorting to a big publicity campaign stating that these schemes were being implemented. He alleged Rs.2 crore was diverted from the welfare fund for the purpose. Though the A.P. Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Board had hundreds of crores as corpus the welfare benefits were not on par with those offered in Karnataka and Rajasthan, Mr. Ramana said. In those states, workers disabled due to accidents were being paid monthly pension ranging from Rs.1,000 to Rs.2,000 and Rs.1,000 to workers. Scholarships to aid education were being given from primary to PG level. He demanded that the registration be continued without any age limit, renewal restrictions be lifted and a pension of Rs.3,000 be paid to workers who crossed 60 years of age. District president Kota Sattibabu was present. (The Hindu 8/4/16)

RESERVATION

51. Jat group moves caveat in SC over quota issue (25)

NEW DELHI: Jat community representatives filed a caveat plea in the Supreme Court on Friday, saying they need to be heard first in case of a challenge to grant of reservation benefits to the community in Haryana. “In case of filing of petition for stay [of decision to grant reservation] on behalf of the respondent [Raj Kumar Saini], the caveator wants to appear and wants to bring to the notice of the honourable court the true and material facts of the case,” All India Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti said. The move comes in the wake of a reported statement made by Mr. Saini, a BJP MP from Kurukshetra, that he intends to challenge the grant of reservation benefits in the apex court. A Bill to provide quota to Jats and five other communities in government jobs and educational institutions was passed by the Haryana Assembly on March 29. (The Hindu 2/4/16)

52. False certificates render ST quota a charade (25)

HYDERABAD: Thousands of job-seekers from tribal communities are being robbed of their quota in the government employment, owing to false certificates issued by Revenue authorities without proper verification. The states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana together have over 2,000 such cases pending at various stages of enquiry, claim members of the Girijana Aikya Vedika who organised a State-wide protest against the bogus certificates on Monday. About 200 such appointments were made in Railways alone, they say. False certificates are especially rampant in East and West Godavari, Srikakulam and Vizianagaram districts. “There, ‘Kapus’ become ‘Konda Kapus’, ‘Rajus’ become ‘Kondadoras’ and SCs become ‘Valmiki’. ST certificates are claimed in the name of ‘Bentho Oriya’ community, natives of Orissa,” says E. Anjaneyulu, national president of the All India Scheduled Tribes Employees Association.Complaints lodged with the special cell in the Tribal Welfare Directorate remain futile and resorting to legal recourse means endless delay. The Andhra Pradesh (SC, ST, BC) Regulation of Issue of Community Certificates Act offers escape route to the offenders, by authorising ministerial stays on the district Collectors’ orders. Stating the latest case of Araku MP Kothapalli Geetha, who allegedly obtained false certificate as ‘Valmiki’, Mr. Anjaneyulu says she has been refusing to be present before the enquiry committee over repeated sittings. “The Collector’s report confirms that she is not an ST. In June 2015, responding to our petition, the High Court sought another enquiry report to be submitted in six months, which has not been done till now,” Mr. Anjaneyulu said. (The Hindu 5/4/16)

53. Reservation issue rocks Maharashtra Assembly (25)

MUMBAI: The Maharashtra Assembly on Tuesday had to be adjourned after four protesters entered the Visitors’ Gallery and raised anti-government slogans. The incident brought back the focus on reservation to the Dhangar community, a poll promise by the BJP that is yet to be fulfilled, The Opposition seized the opportunity to slam the government, which assured reservation for the community under the Scheduled Tribe (ST) quota at its first Cabinet meeting after assuming power. The Speaker had to intervene, directing the government to submit its statement on the status of the demand. Following Tuesday’s incident, the Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, warned the government of dire consequences if it failed to meet the expectations of the community. “Just like the Dhangar reservation issue, Marathas and Muslims too have been kept waiting,” said Mr. Patil. “We haven’t heard any government representative speaking on this issue. Have they forgotten it?” With no Cabinet minister from the BJP present in the house, it was left to party MLA Yogesh Sagar and Anil Gote to assure the House that the government would not back down from its promise, and the Dhangars would get reservation. (the Hindu 6/4/16)

54. Raise reservation limit, says Nitish Kumar (25)

Patna: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Saturday called for increasing reservation from 50 per cent, and said Dalit Muslims and Christians should be provided reservation. He sought reservation in the private sector too. Applauding Mr. Kumar, CPI national secretary D. Raja said Mr. Kumar should come to the national stage and provide leadership. “The limit of the reservation quota fixed by the Supreme Court should be increased … the Constitution can be amended to increase quota from 50 per cent … when population of Scheduled Castes will increase, reservation too should be increased … it has happened in Tamil Nadu where reservation is 69 per cent,” said Mr. Kumar after he was given the “K. Veeramani award for social justice” by the U.S.-based Periyar International organisation. Any law can be changed as per present requirement, he said. Mr. Kumar said that like Dalit Buddhists and Sikhs, “Dalit Muslims and Christians too should be given reservation. (The Hindu 10/4/16)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

55. NHRC issues notices to 6 states on rehab plans for child labourers (1)

New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission has issued notices to six states, including Delhi, for adopting ‘lackadaisical attitude’ in the rehabilitation of 740 bonded child labourers rescued from 2013 to 2014. These states include — Rajasthan, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. The Commission has sought reports from the six states within eight weeks. Seven hundred and forty child labourers – 610 from Bihar, and the rest 130 from Jharkhand, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Rajasthan – were rescued. “But release certificates were issued for only 456 children from Bihar. However, they were not given copies of the release certificates by the concerned authorities in Rajasthan,” the NHRC observed. Release certificates for 284 rescued bonded child labourers are yet to be issued. The certificates are essential to start the rehabilitation process in the respective states. “The issue of the rescue of child labourers is not merely an instance of employing a child in violation of laws.  It is rather more heinous in nature that children are being taken from one state to another, which cannot happen without the involvement of human/child traffickers,” said D Murugesan, member, NHRC.No report has been submitted by the state agencies regarding the action taken plan to curb child trafficking so far, said Murugesan. “Therefore, the allegation of the complainant that the human/child traffickers have not been dealt with in accordance with law, required to be investigated in an impartial and transparent manner.” The notices have been issued to the chief secretaries, police and labour commissioners of the state governments to submit the report.   (Deccan Herald 2/4/16)

56. Human rights body moved (1)

Chandigarh: A complaint was filed in the National Human Rights Commission on violation of human rights at Hindustan Machine Tools (HMT), Pinjore. The petitioner has sought Rs 10 lakh interim compensation each for the deceased employee families and Rs 1 lakh to each employee. Employees in the machine tool wing have not got their salary for around 11 months while those in the tractor division have not got their salaries for around 19 months. “Every employee has the right to earn his livelihood by working in a congenial and stress-free environment. There cannot be any undue pressure and coercion for the performance of his duties. The service conditions cannot be such that it results in untold harassment and ultimately loss of life. The Fundamental Rights guaranteed under the Constitution of India, to live with dignity are being denied to the employees of this PSU, due to the inaction and inefficiency of the ministry and management,” stated advocate Pankaj Chandgothia in his complaint. The complaint further mentioned, “The Ministry of Heavy Industries and PSE be directed to immediately take decision on the fate of thousands of employees, by undertaking a revival package for HMT and ensure livelihood to several thousand people of the area. The ministry be directed to form an anti-harassment committee to deal with complaints of employees being wrongly harassed by their seniors and the management.” Kanwaljeet Singh Nagi, Joint General Manager of HMT, which is on the brink of closure, ended his life by jumping off a water tank located inside the factory on the morning of March 28. He was among around 1,400 employees who had not got their salaries for the past many months. Two other employees died recently in the absence of any financial support from the factory. (The Tribune 4/4/16)

57. Arrest all accused in rape case: Rights body (1)

Jaipur: The Centre for Dalit Rights (CDR) has demanded immediate arrest of all the accused in the Dalit girl rape and murder case while also accusing police – on the basis of a fact-finding report – of not taking action against two other accused mentioned in the FIR. These two, sources informed, were allegedly involved in destroying the evidence. The fact finding committee comprising members of CDR and Dalit Mahila Manch (DMM) observed that although the main accused Vijendra Singh Jat has been arrested, two others including hostel warden Priya Shukla and owner of the institute Ishwar Chand Baid are still at large. “We want all the accused to be apprehended at the earliest. It is unfortunate that Priya and Ishwar are still free despite the fact that both of them were directly involved in the crime,” said members of the Fact Finding Committee in the report. The victim girl, who hailed from Trimohi village in Barmer district, was a second year student at Jain Adarsh Teacher Training Institute for girls at Nokha in Bikaner district. Sensation had prevailed after this Dalit girl’s body was found floating inside a water tank on the premises of the hostel of the college. Kin of the victim alleged that the accused raped and murdered the girl at her hostel and threw her body inside the water tank so as to make the heinous crime look like a suicide. The victim is said to have called her father before the incident and told him that she feared for her life. According to the FIR, hotel warden Priyanka Shukla had instructed the victim to go and clean accused Vijendra Singh’s room. The college authorities had forced both the victim and physical training instructor Vijendra Singh Jat to admit in a letter that they had been caught having ‘consensual sex’, said the FIR. Meanwhile, the members the fact finding committee have urged to extend full support to the family of the victim until all the accused in the case are brought to book.”We firmly believe that mere finding facts and staging dharnas to seek justice for the victim is not enough. As a matter of fact, the bereaved family needs support and confidence that the accused will not go unpunished. Strict action will instill a sense of confidence and protection into the minds of poor Dalit women,” the members of the committee said in the report. (Times of India 6/4/16)

58. Manhole deaths: NHRC notice to Doddaballapur TMC (1)

NEW DELHI: Taking “serious” note of the death of four persons in a manhole at Doddaballapur near Bengaluru, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Thursday issued notices to Karnataka government and Doddaballapur Town Municipal Council. The NHRC action came after four persons were suffocated to death in a manhole at Srinagar in Doddaballapur TMC limits on April 4. The notices have been issued to chief officer of Doddaballapur municipality and deputy commissioner of Bengaluru (Rural) district, asking them to submit their reports within eight weeks. “It has observed that in many such cases, necessary precautions are not taken and the workers are made to work without safety gear,” the NHRC said. A complaint was lodged with NHRC based on media reports. The two dead workers were employed by a Hyderabad-based construction company, which was given contact by Doddaballapur TMC. Two passersby, after hearing the cries of the labourers from inside the manhole, rushed to help them but they also fell into the manhole. All the four were choked to death. Locals alerted police as well as the Fire department, who reached there and launched a rescue operation. A trench was dug adjacent to the manhole in order to rescue the victims. But their efforts proved futile as the quartet had breathed their last. (Deccan Herald 8/4/16)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

59. Man to pay Rs 35,000 as monthly maintenance to estranged wife (19)

New Delhi, Apr 3 () A man, accused in a domestic violence case, has been directed to pay as monthly maintenance Rs 35,000 to his estranged wife, with a Delhi court dismissing his appeal saying the woman is entitled to live the status she was enjoying before parting ways. Additional Sessions Judge Lokesh Kumar Sharma upheld a magisterial court order while considering the socio-economic status of the parties and said the interim maintenance awarded to the woman was not on higher side. “Keeping in view the mandate of the superior courts, the purpose behind awarding interim maintenance is not only to save the wife from starvation and destitution, but also she is entitled to live of the status which she was enjoying before parting with the company of her spouse. “In my considered opinion, considering the socio-economic status of the parties, the interim maintenance as awarded by the trial court does not seem to be on a higher side,” the judge said. The court also noted that both the parties were yet to adduce their respective evidences on record in support of their rival claims. The man had filed an appeal against the magisterial court contending that his estranged wife, who had sought maintenance from him in the case, was financially secure and had hidden her actual income. The court, however, said, “If the appellant is able to adduce cogent evidence in support of his allegations, then, trial court shall definitely take the same into consideration while deciding the case finally and may even direct the woman to return the amount so received by her as an interim measure if the case is finally decided against her.” “As on date, there appears to be no illegality or infirmity in the impugned order passed by the trial court warranting any kind of interference of this court in the exercise of its appellate powers and jurisdiction,” it said. In his appeal, the man had contended he had aged parents to take care of and the court was not justified in awarding monetary relief to his estranged wife. The court, however, rejected his contention saying they are retired government servants, “hence, they cannot be considered as dependent on their son.” AG ZMN DIP (Times of India 3/4/16)

60. PIL challenges Bihar’s total ban on alcohol (19)

Patna: A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed today in the Patna High Court challenging the Bihar government’s decision to clamp total ban on sale and consumption of alcohol in the state. An ex-serviceman A. N. Singh filed the PIL in the Patna High Court, a day after the Nitish Kumar ministry declared Bihar a total dry state. The petition contended that the state government’s decision violated human rights of a citizen about what to eat and drink. The writ described the penal provision in the Amended Excise Act of Bihar, which was passed in the state Legislative Assembly on March 31 last, as “draconian, arbitrary and malafide” as it violated Article 14, 19, 21 and 22 of the Constitution. The date for hearing the petition has not yet been fixed. The petition came a day after Chief Minister Nitish Kumar announced the state cabinet’s decision to impose total ban on sale and consumption of liquor including Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) in the state with immediate effect. (The Hindu 6/4/16)

61. SC to Centre: Provide relief to drought-hit states immediately (19)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Wednesday urged the Centre to immediately provide relief to drought-hit states, pointing out that soaring temperature this summer would worsen the situation. A bench headed by Justice M B Lokur also expressed its displeasure over not releasing adequate funds to the states under rural employment scheme (MGNREGA) and asked the Centre to furnish expenditure details of drought-hit states. “If you are not releasing the funds, then no one will like to work. States will say they have no funds, so they can’t pay anyone for MGNREGA work. No state will make any commitment to the people… Relief has to be given immediately and not after one year. Temperature is soaring at 45 degree celsius, there is no drinking water, nothing is there. You have to do some thing and provide relief on time,” the bench said.The court underlined that as per government’s own figures, average workdays under MGNREGA is 48 days whereas the statute says it should be 100 days. “The argument holds substance that since you (Centre) are not releasing the funds, states are not willing to allocate works to people under MGNREGA and hence the average workdays will fall,” it observed while noting that 10 states have now been declared as drought-affected. (Indian Express 7/4/16)

62. Supreme Court judges plan court break with Madhya Pradesh retreat (19)

NEW DELHI: Retreats are generally popular with the corporate world. Of late, the practice has picked up in the top bureaucracy where senior officials, particularly from the finance ministry, take all-expenses paid holidays at some of the best resorts around Delhi after presentation of the Union Budget. But this time, all the Supreme Court judges have decided to take a three-day retreat in Madhya Pradesh, a break from mundane court procedures and “reflect on issues that directly or indirectly come during the delivery of justice”. This is the fourth retreat of SC judges, the last one being in 2009, according to a source. Starting April 14, the judges’ retreat, divided into eight sessions, is being organised at the National Judicial Academy spread across 63 acres in the outskirts of Bhopal where attendance of all the 25 apex court judges has been made compulsory. The campus boasts of recreational facilities including a fully-equipped gymnasium, swimming pool, sauna, tennis, billiards besides a 280-seater state- of-the-art auditorium and conference and seminar rooms. Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor Raghuram Rajan, national security adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval and experts from the fields of business and education are some of the speakers who will give the judges an overview of the world outside the judiciary. President Pranab Mukherjee is scheduled to address the concluding session on April 16.The top judiciary will have a closed-door session with NSA Doval on April 15 on national security and the threats of global terrorism, followed the next day by a session with Raghuram Rajan who will address economic growth and globalisation. There is a session also dedicated to climate change and key environmental challenges. Interestingly, the programme schedule has not been shared with all the brother judges of the SC. Chief Justice of India T S Thakur is believed to have formed a committee of four seniors – Justices J S Khehar, Madan B Lokur, Kurien Joseph and A K Sikri-to oversee the retreat programme. The court is on vacation during this period… (Times of India 8/4/16)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

63. 7 cops suspended, case against SHO, SI for custodial death (1)

Kanpur: SSP (Etawah) has suspended seven policemen for the alleged custodial death of a history-sheeter who was ‘arrested’ on March 30 from Achalda area of Auraiya district. The SSP also directed the police to register a murder case against Bakewar police station incharge and the sub-inspector (SI) posted at Achalda police station following a complaint lodged by father of the deceased. “A case under section 302 of IPC has been lodged against SHO Bakewar Brijendra Singh Yadav and SI Mahaveer Singh, and an inquiry is on”, said SSP Manzil Saini. According to sources, in a joint operation, Bakewar and Achalda police had arrested an alleged criminal Dharamveer alias Bhoorey, a native of Baidpur village in Etawah, from Achalda in Auraiya district on March 30 and allegedly thrashed him. Indal Singh, Dharamveer’s father, alleged that his son, who was in jail on charges of theft, was recently released. On March 31, the police claimed to recover his body near Pilkhana village of the district, alleged Indal Singh The kin created ruckus outside the police stationfollowing which senior police officials reached the spot and pacified the mob. A huge force was deployed to control law and order. The SSP suspended seven policemen including SHO Bakewar Brijendra Singh Yadav and six police constables besides writing to Auraiya SP for initiating action against SI Mahaveer Singh on Friday in this regard. The senior official claimed that a written complaint has been received from Dharamveer’s kin and initial level inquiry has been ordered. (Times of India 2/4/16)

64. National SC/ST commission to probe Bijapur rapes by security forces (1)

RAIPUR: With an aim to investigate atrocities against Adivasi women committed by Bastar police, a team of National SC/ST commission headed by commission’s president Rameshwar Urao visited Raipur here on Sunday. The team will visit Bijapur on Monday to meet the victims.”I will be visiting Bijapur tomorrow to know the status of the case. We will also meet the victims and record their versions,” said Urao while talking to TOI. The Commission notes that an offence has been committed under Section 3(1) and Section 3(2) of the SC/ST (POA) Act and recommended various steps for redress of the grievance. Security forces fighting against the Naxal menace allegedly involved in sexually assaulting and harassing the tribal women in the insurgency-hit Bastar division. More than 10 women including a minor girl were forcefully stripped and allegedly raped by the joint security forces in the Peddagellur, Budigicheru, Gudam areas of Bijapur between October 20-28, 2015 while the security forces were carrying out combing operation in the area. Taking cognizance of the atrocities against Adivasi women committed by Bastar police, the National Commission for the Scheduled Tribes has issued a notice to the Director- General of Police, Chhattisgarh, instructing him to lodge a formal complaint against the accused police officials under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities Act), 1989, in October last year. (Times of India 3/4/16)

65. I’m not a victim of AFSPA, but came out to protest the Act for humanity’s sake: Sharmila (1)

IMPHAL, April 5: “I’m not a victim of AFSPA, I came out to protest against this draconian act voluntarily for the sake of humanity” said anti-AFSPA crusader Irom Chanu Sharmila today. She said she has been protesting for the last 16 years demanding repeal of AFSPA because she cannot remain as a mute spectator to the Act. Sharmila was speaking to media persons as she came out from the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate Imphal West Lamkhanpau Tonsing at the Uripok Chirap Court complex where she was produced today. Sharmila further asked the people to support her movement and raised the slogan “Repeal AFSPA, release Sharmila, if AFSPA can be repealed from Tripura why not from Manipur?” The human rights activist who is also known as the Iron Lady said the Patiala Court Delhi has already acquitted her in a similar case of attempted suicide registered in 2006 against her protest in Jantar Mantar, New Delhi. Stating that her form of protest is based on Mahatma Gandhi’s principle of non-violence, she asked if she can be charged under attempting suicide, why was Gandhi not charged similarly? Sharmila was produced before the court in connection with the charge against her of trying to commit suicide by launching a fast unto death. Meanwhile, observing that Sharmila has submitted that she doesn’t want a legal counsel of her own and that she desired to defend herself in the case, the CJM I/W appointed L Rebeda Devi as her free legal aid counsel. The CJM also observed that the Sharmila has refused to sign any PR Bond and said the continued remand of Sharmila, who is produced from JN Hospital where she is being fed through a nasal tube, is in her and state interest. Sharmila was remanded to custody for another 15 days till April 19. (Kanglaonline 5/4/16)

66. SHO suspended, probe ordered over custodial torture of Delhi police constable (1)

Amroha: Amroha superintendent of police (SP) S Chinappa has suspended a station house officer (SHO) and ordered departmental inquiry against another after allegations of custodial torture of a Delhi police constable and his brother-in-law were levelled by the Jat community. On Saturday, BJP MP from Amroha, Kanwar Singh Tanwar visited the house of the constable, Gajender Singh, and met with members of the Jat community. “This is a very serious matter as police planted a countrymade weapon on Gajender and booked him for dacoity at the behest of minister Mehboob Ali. We will discuss the matter with Union home minister Rajnath Singh and will request him to arrange for Ganjender to be released,” said Tanwar, talking to TOI. “We will not allow chief minister Akhilesh Yadav to visit Nauganwa Sadaat on April 15 or address the public until the cases imposed on Gajender and his brother-in-law Harveer are withdrawn. The issue is causing unrest among members of the Jat community because the two men were tortured by police officials as well as Parvez Ali, the minister’s son and Istayqar Ali, his nephew, inside the police station, while the family members of the arrested men were pleading with the police not to torture them,” the MP alleged. Members of the Jat community demanded an FIR to be filed against Parvez, who is also an MLC, Istayqar and the SHOs of Gajrola and Dhanora. A panchayat was called by Jat leaders at Arifpur Mafi village, where they demanded that cases lodged against Gajender and his brother-in-law be withdrawn. The panchayat was addressed by influential Jat leader and Samajwadi Party leader Chaudhary Chandra Pal Singh, former Lok Sabha member from Amroha and cabinet minister. “The police can’t withdraw the case against Gajender Singh and his brother-in-law because it is not within their power to do so. It is up to the court to decide whether the sections of IPC which were imposed on them were genuine or not,” SP Shankar told TOI. “Based on the complaints of the family members of the arrested men and the members of the Jat community, action has been taken against Dhanora SHO Satyender Kumar, who has been suspended. A departmental inquiry has also been ordered against Gajrola SHO Upendra Yadav regarding custodial torture. If the allegations are found to be true, any police officer involved will be punished,” the SP added. Members of the Jat community, however, are still dissatisfied with the action against police officials. “Police have created a fake case against Gajender and Harveer at the behest of Mehboob Ali and his son Parvez. We have demanded an FIR on the custodial torture of the two men, which was witnessed by their families,” said Chaudhary Chandra Pal Singh. “Police officials are mounting pressure on the family and they have told us to arrive at a compromise with the minister, which we have turned down,” said Raghuvender Singh, younger brother of the arrested constable. On Monday evening, police had arrested Gajender and Harveer from Bhankpur railway gate on NH 24 after the constable’s car allegedly collided with that of Istayqar Ali. Police said they recovered a countrymade weapon from the constable, who was sent to jail under charges of attempt to murder and causing hurt during dacoity, beside sections of the Arms Act. Gajender and Harveer are currently lodged at Moradabad district jail. During their protest, Jats gave a 24-hour ultimatum to the police to withdraw the case. It was also announced that chief minister Akhilesh Yadav would be boycotted during his upcoming visit on April 15. (Times of India 8/4/16)

67. Violence in Bhind after custodial death, 3 cops suspended (1)

BHOPAL: Police had to fire in the air and burst tear gas shells on Sunday morning to disperse a violent mob protesting after death of a youth in police custody at Umri police station of Bhind on late Saturday night . Three cops including the SHO of the police station , Rambabu Yadav, have been suspended. Sunil Yadav,20, allegedly committed suicide in the police station. His father Avilav Yadav said that his son was arrested after allegations of theft. He was beaten by the police inside thana and he died on Saturday. After the postmortem, family of the deceased placed the body near thana and demanded registration of cases of murder against the cops. They started pelting stones on the police when the police dispersed the mob by firing in the air. Over a dozen policemen were injured in the stone pelting. (Times of India 10/4/16)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

68. Dalit scholar suicide: Activists ask tough questions (1)

Mumbai: Two months after the death of Hyderabad Central University’s research scholar Rohith Vemula, student and social activists gathered at Dadar’s Ambedkar Bhavan on Saturday to discuss the incident and ask the government some tough questions. The meeting was organised by members of the Joint Action Committee for Social Justice (JACSJ). “The birth of Telangana state depended hugely on university students, fighting for a free state. Today, the same government is against its own students and this is a huge question about the people running the state,” said civil rights activist Teesta Setalvad. Calling the existing government “proto-fascist” for using state resources to further its anti-constitutional ideology, Setalvad said the government is targeting research scholars. “What we see is a chain of command response system, where the HCU vice-chancellor is just one part of the chain, while the perpetrators are in the central government. While we demand HCU V-C’s suspension, we also need to question the government on its intent,” she said. Other speakers present at the convention included Arundhati Roy, Prakash Ambedkar, who heads JACSJ and SQR Ilyas, father of Jawaharlal Nehru University PhD student Umar Khalid, who called the on-going student protest a “new fight for independence”. “There’s an undeclared emergency in our country at present and if we don’t stand for our rights now, we will lose our freedom of speech forever,” said Ilyas. Roy said, “We are witnessing a war between those who know how to hate and those who know how to think. Here’s a government that can mass produce trolls on social networks, but can’t produce one thinker.” She highlighted how while much protests from different groups have gone unheard till date, a combined voice of groups has shaken the government. “Just like Vemula, various famer suicides are also institutional murders and we need to fight for them as well.” Prashant Dontha, secretary of the Ambedkar Students’ Association at HCU was also present at the event and demanded for the suspension of HCU V-C. (Hindustan Times 2/4/16)

69. Call for new law to protect privacy (1)

KOTTAYAM: With the new age media transgressing into the privacy and rights of individuals, new legal regulators are required to keep a harmonious ecosystem between the right of speech and expression and public interest, according to S. Sivakumar, Indian Law Institute, New Delhi. He was delivering Dr. Ambedkar Memorial Lecture on ‘Freedom of expression: autonomy and robust public debate,’ organised by the School of Indian Legal Thought (SILT). Cyber media clubbed with the electronic media were often seen infringing into the privacy of individuals with a hidden motive for sensationalisation and thereby to increase their viewership, he said. The articulate netizens had started impacting even the decisions of the governance. The present legal frame work were not capable to withstand the mounting pressure being exerted on them for harmonising the opposing interests. Balancing of the legitimate interest of individual in contrast to the maintenance of law and order was always a challenge in a democratic setup. The misuse of freedom of expression enjoyed through new age media needed to be regulated for which an appropriate mechanism had to be worked out through robust public debate, Prof. Sivakumar said. Mahatma Gandhi University Vice Chancellor Babu Sebastian inaugurated the lecture. Sheena Shukkur, Pro Vice Chancellor; George Joseph, director SILT; and others spoke. (The Hindu 3/4/16)

70. Activists vow to fight on for complete freedom of thought, speech )1)

New Delhi, April 8 (IANS) A number of academicians, writers, students and activists on Friday vowed at the Pratirodh forum here to keep resistance alive till there was complete freedom to think and speak freely. Among those who expressed their views were writers Krishna Sobti and Kancha Iliah, historian Harbans Mukhia, lawyer Vrinda Grover, social activist Gauhar Raza, journalists Siddharth Varadrajan and Shoma Chaudhury, and student leaders Kanhaiya Kumar, Shehla Rashid, Omar Khalid (all Jawaharlal Nehru University), Richa Singh from Allahabad University, Dontha Prashanth from Hyderabad University and Rakesh Shukla from Film and Television Institute of India, Pune. The speakers expressed concern over rising intolerance in the society, the suppression of dissent by the government and the increasing attempts at the saffronisation of education and educational institutions. “Dalits and other underprivileged students cannot go to Cambridge and Oxford. But they can go to Jawaharlal Nehru University and Hyderabad University, and we are producing intellectuals here,” said Dalit writer Ilaiah. Veteran journalist Varadrajan expressed concern over editors becoming opportunist and consequently certain important issues not finding a place a place in the media. “Many significant issues which need to be discussed are either relegated to inside pages or just do not appear in the media. And those journalists who try to raise these issues are pressurised in many ways,” he said. JNU Student Union president Kanhaiya Kumar and vice president Rashid dwelt on changing definitions of nationalism and constitution’s architect B.R. Ambedkar’s relevance in today’s politics and social structures. “If we want to challenge the politics of suppression and Hindu nationalism, we will have to move on the path of (Mahatma) Gandhi and Ambedkar and we would have to be on the same page,” Kanhaiya said. Rashid rued that Ambedkar was reduced to a mere Dalit icon though he was a “greater scholar than most savarnas of his time”.She also questioned the changing definition of nationalism and its relevance.Other student leaders including Richa Singh and Rakesh Shukla too called for keeping the resistance alive till “the mind was without fear”. (Times of India 8/4/16)

71. Sedition law should pass through various tests, says former additional solicitor general (1)

VIJAYAWADA: The law of sedition is widely interpreted in India, but it is supposed to pass through the globally acclaimed ‘clear and present danger’ test mooted by noted American jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes, and be bound by the Indian Constitutional tenets for the sake of proper implementation. Incitement against one’s own country either through speeches or writing is popularly perceived as an act of sedition that attracts stringent punishment. However, there are a lot of conditions that have to be satisfied to slap charges of sedition, and conviction on grounds, which may be bordering with that of defamation, said former additional solicitor-general of India L. Nageswara Rao.Addressing a seminar on ‘Law of sedition- Freedom of speech and citizens’ duties’ at Velagapudi Durgamba Siddhartha College of Law (VDSCL) here on Saturday, Mr. Nageswara Rao said Sec. 124-A of Indian Penal Code was misused on several occasions when it served as an instrument that stifled public opinion, mostly to meet political ends. He said the recent instances of Kanhaiya Kumar and Hardik Patel stirring up the public conscience on certain sensitive issues were to be examined in detail to get a grasp of the diverse situations in which people make speeches that are considered harmful to national integration. “We have the right to freedom of speech but it does not guarantee an individual an absolute right to say whatever he or she likes. There should be an element of responsibility to it”, said Mr. Nageswara Rao.Mr. Nageswara Rao found fault with the sensationalising of crime by the electronic media which, he asserted, would go unpunished for beaming disturbing stuff into our living rooms as long as the Press Council of India remains a ‘toothless tiger’. Exhortations to the media on self-regulation would not serve any purpose, he said, and added that the 1999 Delhi hit-and-run and Aarushi murder cases were classic examples of ‘trial by media’. Special Judge for ACB case A. Giridhar, VDSCL Principal Ch. Divakar Babu and others spoke. (The Hindu 10/4/16)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

72. BJP using caste, religion to create division in varsities: Medha Patkar (7)

Hyderabad: Activist Medha Patkar on Sunday alleged that the BJP government is using caste and communal factors to create division within universities by sending ‘pariwarik’ organisations like ABVP. Voicing concern over the ongoing unrest in universities, she termed it a serious situation for the country. “ABVP always had some space but they cannot dare try and occupy whole of the students’ movement space which is not going to happen because there are radically-thinking and ideologically-committed students who want true freedom, true development and a truly equitable and sustainable society in this country,” she told reporters. The activist was denied entry into University of Hyderabad where she wanted to address agitating students to express her solidarity. She termed as childish the ban on entry of activists, media and others in the university, lathi charge on students, closure of canteen and other measures taken by the university administration. Demanding immediate removal of P Appa Rao, she said bringing him back as the vice-chancellor was the worst move by the government. (Hindustan Times 4/4/16)

73. 30 acquitted in post-Godhra riot cases (7)

AHMEDABAD: In two cases related to the post Godhra riots in Gujarat, 30 persons accused of looting and arson were acquitted by a trial court in Banaskantha district on Monday. The court freed the accused on the ground of ‘lack of evidence’. According to reports, 20 shops and three dozen houses were burnt down in Thara village of Banaskantha on February 28, 2002 during a Gujarat bandh call given by the VHP and other outfits in two separate incidents. Following the incidents, two cases were registered against unknown persons but the police named 33 accused after the Gujarat High Court ordered a reinvestigation into the cases. During the trial that lasted almost a decade, three accused died while the remaining were out on bail and were acquitted by sessions judge NM Parmar, who held that ‘there was not enough evidence against the accused’. After the Godhra train torching incident in which 59 Hindu activists were charred to death near Godhra railway station, large-scale violence had broken out in the State in which more than 1,000 persons were massacred. (The Hindu 5/4/16)

74. Palwal violence: Punjab and Haryana HC seeks Haryana’s reply on constitution of SIT (7)

Chandigarh : The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Thursday directed the Haryana government’s counsel to take instructions on whether a Special Investigating Team (SIT) headed by Haryana Police Academy Director KK Sindhu could be constituted to probe the alleged incident of communal violence in Tikri Brahman village of Palwal district which broke out on July 5 last year . The directions came after petitioners’ counsel proposed Sindhu’s name to investigate the case. However, the state government’s counsel has submitted that the probe could be handed over to the state crime branch which is a separate wing, to which the petitioners’ counsel raised an objection. The court was hearing a petition filed by five Muslim villagers seeking CBI probe into the incident and deployment of central security forces to defuse tension between the Hindus and Muslims in the village. The petitioners have alleged that the state police were carrying out “biased and partisan investigation” with the sole motive of “shielding the real culprits.” The court has been informed that the case details make it clear that none of the 17 houses which were set ablaze belong to the majority community. However, the Haryana Police had taken a stand that no communal clash ever took place in the village. And that some miscreants engineered the unfortunate incident and projected it as a communal clash for their personal benefits. The police had informed the court that on the day of incident, 17 persons from both the sides were arrested and as many as 51 FIRs were registered . The case would now come up for hearing on April 22. (Indian Express 8/4/16)

75. Moral policemen now run riot in Mangaluru malls (7)

MANGALURU: Repeated incidents of moral policing in public places are sending out the signal that malls are not safe anymore. Last week, a boy from a minority community was allegedly thrashed after he was seen with a girl from another community in a plush mall here.Five persons belonging to a right-wing outfit, majority of them mall employees, were involved in the incident. They approached the couple sitting in the mall and asked them questions, mainly regarding their religion. As soon as the employees learnt that the duo were from different religions, they forced the girl to leave the mall and took the boy behind the mall and assaulted him. Last September, police arrested one person from a minority community who allegedly harassed a group of stu dents outside a mall near KS Rao Road. “Many such incidents are happening in malls, but go unreported as couples are afraid of filng complaints.We have brought this to the notice of the city’s top cop,” says Vidya Dinker, social activist and founder of Citizen Forum for Mangalore Development. Recently , forum members met police chief M Chandra Sekhar and submitted a memorandum to curb such goondaism in malls. “Whenever there is moral policing, mall managements wash their hands off the incident, claiming that persons involved in it are employed by private contractors. Mall management should be held responsible,” the forum said. In three malls on K S Rao Road, Pandeshwar and in Attavar, security services are managed by leader of a Hindu chauvinist group. “I’m aware that communal forces are operating in the malls,” Chandra Sekhar said. (Times of India 10/4/16)

COMMUNALISM

76. Discern the RSS and BJP’s two voices on Bharat Mata (26)

Mohan Bhagwat, the sarsanghchalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) astonished many people when he said that nobody should be forced to say ‘Bharat mata ki jai’ (BMKJ). On reflection, this was of a piece with the statement that provoked the controversy in the first place in which he had said that the time has come to teach people the importance of uttering the slogan. The departure Bhagwat made was significant. We, he said, presumably referring to the Sangh parivar rather than just the RSS, cannot force our ideology and thinking on people living in India. The reactions have so far been muted, but a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson clarified that the statement was in line with the RSS’s respect for the motherland, while his party remained committed to the view that the ‘debate on Bharat mata was non-negotiable’. That would, of course, be a reiteration of the position taken by the BJP at its recent national executive, where its president, Amit Shah, had said that refusal to utter the phrase was not an option.Clearly, Bhagwat’s views are diametrically opposed to those of the BJP and would appear to be a direct repudiation of the politics of compulsion that the ruling party is playing over this issue and others relating to the rights of those who do not subscribe to its majoritarian agenda. There are other fault lines. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has of late made statements that align closely with Bhagwat’s, but do not fit in with his party’s stated positions. Recently, in an address to the World Sufi Forum, he made a strong pitch for an inclusive politics. India, he said, had the space to accommodate minorities, believers and non-believers. There could be, he added for good measure, no compulsion in politics. At the BJP national executive meeting, too, he said something that many people have been waiting to hear for a while. Focus on the government’s professed development agenda he told BJP leaders, and do not get ambushed by worthless issues. The cleavage between the prime minister and his colleagues’ attitude is relatively easy to read. Clearly, the BJP has a two-pronged strategy. Thus, while Modi hammers home to one section of the party’s constituency the message of development, occasionally with a garnishing of ‘secular, liberal’ values, others in the party, and not necessarily just the ‘extremist fringe’, keep plugging away at the party’s majoritarian and exclusivist values to consolidate and expand the larger sections of its ‘core’ constituency. The RSS chief’s comments are more difficult to read. Clearly, one statement by Bhagwat cannot be seen as marking a departure from the organisation’s long-held and often restated ideological position which equates a certain territory with the timeless nation of Bharat, which is essentially Hindu. Fortunately, the nation-state is hostage to a document called the Indian Constitution, which lays down criteria for citizenship that take no note of religion, faith, community, race or culture and furthermore guarantees equally to all citizens a charter of rights. Bhagwat has, wisely, endorsed this. But an asymmetrical notion of rights and citizenship remains implicit in this endorsement. Thus, in Bhagwat’s universe the need to teach people the importance of the Bharat mata benediction remains intact — people should utter it, only voluntarily and with spontaneity. They should see the light, even though Bhagwat and his comrades (‘we’) cannot force their thinking on others. The question that remains unasked and, therefore, unanswered, is what happens to those who do not experience the epiphany. It appears that they are condemned to remain at the margins; legitimate targets of those who do not agree that one set of views cannot be imposed on the entire nation. (Hindustan Times 6/4/16)

77. Is India for Hindus only, HC asks Nagpur civic body (26)

Nagpur: Expressing anguish over the move to recite “Hanuman chalisa” at an AIDS awareness programme, the Bombay High Court has asked the BJP-ruled Nagpur Municipal Corporation if, according to it, “India is for Hindus only”.The Nagpur bench of the court, while hearing a PIL yesterday, asked NMC “whether India is for Hindus only” and expressed strong reservations over the plan to recite ‘Hanuman Chalisa’ at its AIDS awareness event, in association with Poddareshwar Ram Mandir Trust. The event is planned at Kasturchand Park ground here tomorrow. “Why only recital of Hanuman Chalisa and why not from Quran, the Bible or other religious literature? What is the nexus of AIDS awareness and Hanuman Chalisa recital? Is it only Hindus who contract AIDS? Is chanting of Hanuman Chalisa the only remedy for eradication of this deadly disease? the division bench of justices Bhushan Gavai and Swapna Joshi said. “If people can come for this event, they will also come for recitation of Quran and Bible,” they observed. The judges disposed of the PIL filed by former corporator Janardan Moon, after both the NMC and programme convener Dayashankar Tiwari, who is the ruling party’s leader in the civic body, agreed to disassociate with the two events (AIDS awareness and Hanuman Chalisa event), and pay the cost of stage and ground (used for the event) on pro-rata basis. The judges asked the respondents (NMC and the temple trust) to keep at least an hour’s gap between the AIDS awareness programme and the Hanuman Chalisa recitation, which over 1.5 lakh people are expected to attend. The court further directed to ensure that separate banners are put up backstage during both the programmes, with individual names of organisers. The NMC was also asked to give wide publicity to its AIDS awareness programme, without mentioning the Hanuman Chalisa event. “We dispose the PIL after accepting statements of NMC and Tiwari, that they would totally disassociate with Hanuman Chalisa recital and only hold AIDS programme,” the court said. The judges said that they were not against any religious programme, but only concerned with government agencies associating with it. (Deccan Herald 6/4/16)

78. Bajrang Dal activists beat up Muslim boy for going shopping with Hindu girl (26)

Mangaluru: A 21-year-old Muslim man, Arshad, was allegedly assaulted by 10 Bajrang Dal activists when he went shopping to Forum Fiza mall in Mangaluru with a Hindu female friend, last Sunday. According to a report in the Daily Mail, the two spent an hour in the mall and were in for a shock when they saw a gang of 10 youth waiting to confront them on their exit. On knowing the girl’s name, they asked her to head home and when she retaliated, they threatened her, saying if she did not obey she would have to face dire consequences. The group then bundled Arshad into a van and took him to an isolated place outside the city where he was threatened and warned to stay away from Hindu girls. The young woman lodged a compliant with the police and also gave a description of few members of the gang, basis which police arrested Chetan (22) from Kujathbail, Rakshit (23) from Sringeri, Sushanth Shetty (23) from Karkala, Sharat Kumar (20) and Ashwin Raj (21) from Mangaluru on Monday. Police is on the lookout for other five accused who are absconding and are believed to be hiding in Kerala. Arshad who works in a private firm in Dubai, befriended the girl on Facebook. He recently returned to Manguluru and met the girl, who hails from Maharashtra and is studying at a private college in Manipal. The police found out that four of the 10 accused worked in the mall as outsourced staff. When one of them noticed the duo shopping, he alerted his friends and the gang decided to teach the youth a lesson. (Asian Age 7/4/16)

79. UP Governor’s latest after ‘crow’ analogy:  … (26)

Lucknow: Governor Ram Naik on Thursday compared those not chanting the slogan ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ to “dumb” people. Addressing mediapersons in Pratapgarh, Naik said people, who oppose chanting ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ should be ignored as they are in the minority. “Just like dumb people who cannot sing, such people (who do not chant Bharat Mata Ki Jai) should also be ignored,” he said. “In 1950, Jana Gana Mana was made the National Anthem… there had been a tradition of singing the National Song (Vande Mataram) and the Anthem in Parliament… very few people are raking up such issues… Everyone has the freedom to speak in a democracy,” he said. Besides having academic knowledge, students should have knowledge of the country, he added. Read | Voices against ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ akin to cawing of crows: UP Governor Ram Naik When contacted, Naik told The Indian Express: “My point is that those opposing ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ are in small numbers… they are in minority. We know who they are and they should be better ignored.” “While both Vande Mataram and Jana Gana Mana were approved in 1950, I had raised the issue again in the Lok Sabha in 1992. The highest body in the country decided that both should be given equal respect,” he added. Asked about the comparison he made with “dumb people”, Naik said: “I was just making a reference that there are some dumb people who cannot sing. So, it is better to ignore them.” Last week, during a programme in Lucknow, Naik had labelled those opposing ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ slogan as “crows” whose “shrieking sound of chaen chaen (cawing)” should be “ignored”. His remark comes days after Darul Uloom Deoband issued a “fatwa” against reciting the slogan by Muslims. Meanwhile, Naik said he has written a letter to Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav in connection with the use of alleged unparliamentary remarks by senior minister Azam Khan against him. “I have written a letter to the chief minister with reference to the unparliamentary comments of the parliamentary affairs minister Azam Khan… Akhilesh Yadav is presently on a foreign trip. I will talk to him once he comes back,” Naik told mediapersons in Pratapgarh. In a CD handed over by the Assembly Speaker in connection with the matter, out of the 60 sentences of Khan, 20 have “unparliamentary comments”, although the Speaker says there is nothing undignified in it, the Governor said, adding he is set to meet the Speaker on April 9. Khan has been engaged in a war of words with Naik for quite some time, with the minister accusing the Governor of being a “karsevak” and “communally vitiating” the atmosphere in Uttar Pradesh at the “behest” of the Modi government at the Centre. In a stinging remark in the Assembly, Khan had accused the Governor of stalling several bills by not giving his assent and alleged it was giving an impression he was working under the “influence of a party”. (Indian Express 8/4/16)

80. RSS takes out marches, calls for ‘Hindu unity’

Meerut/Bijnor: To mark the Hindu New Year and the birthday of its founder KB Hedgewar, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) took out marches across several parts of Uttar Pradesh. RSS leaders called on Hindus to “forget distinctions of caste and unite”. A leader in Bijnor even said that “everyone except Muslims, Christians and Jews” was Hindu. Shivam Gupta, an RSS worker, said, “In Meerut city alone, we carried out marches in 15 different places. Scores of swayamsevaks participated in the marches. According to the Hindu calendar, the New Year started on April 8. That was also the first Navratra. April 1 was the birth anniversary of RSS founder KB Hedgewar. We decided to mark both occasions with a march on Sunday.” Several marches were held in Bijnor district in areas such as Bijnor city, Haldaur, Chandpur and Nangalsoti. Addressing close to 2,000 workers, RSS leader Padam Singh said, “This year, we will celebrate the birth anniversaries of Deen Dayal Upadhyay, Balasaheb Deoras and BR Ambedkar. Our aim is to bind Hindu society together. Everyone except Muslims, Christians and Jews are Hindus. The entire world is looking at Hindutva and India. That is why we should behave in a way that enables us to show the way to the rest of the world. We should spread the good things about the Hindu faith to different parts of the world. Hinduism believes that the world is one family.” (Times of India 10/4/16)

TERRORISM

81. China defends blocking India’s UN bid to ban Masood Azhar (12)

Beijing : China on Friday defended its decision to once again block India’s bid at the UN to ban Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) Chief and mastermind of the Pathankot terror attack Masood Azhar, saying that it acts on such issues based on facts and rules in an “objective and just manner”.Asked about China’s reported last minute move putting a technical hold on India’s submission which Indian officials say was armed with strong evidence of the JeM’s terror activities and its role in the Pathankot attack, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said here that China “supports UN playing a central and coordinating role in international cooperation against terrorism”.”We always deal with the listing issue (banning militant groups and their leaders) under the UNSC committee established under resolution 1267 based on facts and relevant rules of procedures in an objective and just manner,” he said. “The Chinese side has always been in communication with relevant parties on the listing issue,” he said hinting that China is also in touch with India on the issue. This is not the first time China has blocked India’s bid to get Pakistan-based militant groups and leaders proscribed by the UN. The UN had banned the JeM in 2001 but India’s efforts for a ban on Azhar after the 2008 Mumbai terror attack also did not fructify as China, one of the five permanent members of the UN group with veto powers, didn’t allow the ban apparently at the behest of Pakistan again. Last July, China had similarly halted India’s move in the UN to take action against Pakistan for its release of Mumbai terror attack mastermind Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, saying that its stand was “based on facts and in the spirit of objectiveness and fairness” with Beijing again claiming at the time that it was in touch with New Delhi. Stating that China is opposed to all forms of terrorism, Hong said: “China has also taken active part in international counter terrorism corporation”.To another question about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s comments at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington on Thursday that the world community should “drop the notion that terrorism is someone else’s problem and that ‘his’ terrorist is not ‘my’ terrorist,” Hong said “China opposes double standards on the issue of terrorism”.”We believe that all parties should enhance communication in a bid to forge counter-terrorism synergy to work together with entire international community including India to jointly fight against the threat of terrorism and safeguard peace and stability of the region and beyond,” he said. Answering another question, Hong took exception to a US organisation felicitating Dolkin Issa, Secretary-General of World Uyghur Congress with a human rights award, saying that it is “blasphemous” because he was wanted for terrorist activities in China. … (Business Standard 1/4/16)

82. NIA officer’s murder: Revenge for Yasin Bhatkal? (12)

Bengaluru : The National Investigation Agency (NIA) officer Tanzil Ahmad shot dead by two unidentified assailants in Bijnore in western Uttar Pradesh in the early hours of Sunday, was the man who tracked down and took part in the sensational arrest of Yasin Bhatkal – the co founder of the banned terrorist organization ‘Indian Mujahideen.’Mr. Tanzil, (45), who was on deputation from the Border Security Force (BSF) to the NIA since its inception in 2009 was largely responsible for gathering and coordinating actionable Intelligence with other Central Intelligence agencies which led to Yasin’s arrest from Raxaul in Bihar near the Indo-Nepal border in 2013. “An NIA team had closed in on Yasin much before he was arrested from his hideout in Nahar Chowk in Raxual with the help of local police. Mr. Tanzil was a key member of the team, that was co-ordinating with the Intelligence wing of the Sahastra Seema Bal (SSB), posted on the Indo-Nepal border,” a source said. “He was very sure about his moves and had mobilised the team, which ultimately led to the ultra’s arrest from his hideout. It was because of his proficiency in Urdu and expertise in gathering ground Intelligence that he was deputed to the NIA,” said an officer on condition of anonymity, adding that he was not part of the investigation in the Pathankot airbase terror attack as was being reported. Mr. Tanzil was fatally shot 24 times with a “sophisticated indigenous 9-mm bore pistol” near his house, when he was returning home after attending a family wedding. Yasin alias Mohammed Zarar Sidibapa is from Bhatkal in coastal Karnataka and was among the country’s top 10 most wanted fugitive-terrorists. He had unleashed terror in major cities in the country after his distant relatives and IM founder siblings Riyaz and Iqbal Shahbandari fled the country and sought shelter in Pakistan to escape arrest. (Asian Age 5/4/16)

83. Pathankot: NIA court issues arrest warrant against Jaish chief (12)

New Delhi: A special NIA court in Mohali on Friday issued an arrest warrant against Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar and three other operatives of the banned Pakistan-based terror group in the Pathankot attack case, an NIA official said. “In the Pathankot terror attack case, the honorable judge of special NIA court Mohali issued arrest warrants against the accused wanted in the case namely, Maulana Masood Azhar, Abdul Rauf, Kashif Jan and Shahid Latif,” National Investigation Agency (NIA) spokesperson Sanjeev Kumar Singh said. NIA is handling the Indian investigation of the January 2 terror attack at the Pathankot Indian Air Force (IAF) base, in which seven Indian security personnel were killed by suspected JeM militants. (Business Standard 8/4/16)

84. ‘Disrupting terror finance vital to counter-terrorism’ (12)

New Delhi: Disrupting communication and finance of terror outfits are vital to tackling terrorism as such acts succeed due to movement of “men, money, material and messages”, US-based terror expert Amit Kumar has said. “Communication by way of messages, flow of money or anything that has (monetary) value is required to spread terrorism. Terrorists succeed by moving men, money, materiel and messages. The effective counter-terrorism strategy could be to disrupt their communication and finance,” Kumar told IANS while on a visit here. Kumar, who is president of Washington-based AAA International Security Consultants LLC, said some measures have been taken for disrupting terrorist messages by working with social media sites like YouYube. “Arms embargoes, travel ban, freezing of assets and immigration checks are some other measures being taken worldwide,” said Kumar. “The next strategy to counter terrorism should be to unravel the nexus between terrorist finance and crime. Both organised and petty crime are known to intersect with terrorist financing activities,” he added. Kumar, who has studied public administration and philosophy, apart from international business, also mentioned the role of bitcoin — virtual currency — as a new phenomenon being used for transaction of money by terrorists and other criminals. Bitcoin is a digital asset and a payment system which helps users to transact money directly without an intermediary. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, owners of bitcoins can use various websites to trade them for physical currencies, such as dollars or euros, or can exchange them for goods and services from a number of vendors. Bitcoin relies on public-key cryptography, in which users have a public key that is available for everyone to see and a private key known only to their computers. Kumar gave the example of a 17-year-old tech-savvy youth, Ali Shukri Amin, a resident of Virginia, who was held by US agencies last year on charges of providing instructions to Islamic State supporters on using bitcoins to conceal financial donations. Kumar said that effective monitoring of bitcoins can be done, particularly by the banking system. “For example, if a bitcoin user buys a bitcoin, he does intersect the banking system by the way of PayPal (an American company operating a worldwide online payments system) or some kind of online intersectional inter-phase of a bank. “By monitoring, you can try to avert the potential use of bitcoin by a criminal or a terrorist. Otherwise the bitcoin transaction and usage becomes anonymous,” he explained. Kumar, who has worked previously with Al-Qaida/Taliban sanctions regime at the United Nations, also talked about measures like de-radicalisation of terrorists or would-be terrorists to counter terrorism. Kumar said AAA International Security Consultants LLC provides consulting, training and curriculum development, and research services in a range of areas, including counter terrorism, counter terrorist-financing and anti-money laundering. (Business Standard 10/4/16)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

85. 7 Maoists Show Up at Village, Asks People to Boycott Polls (12)

COIMBATORE: Seven armed Maoists including three women cadre reportedly came to a village in Coonoor and urged over 100 villagers to boycott the elections, before pasting placards on walls with similar insurrectionist messages. Police sources said that the Maoists had come to the Nedukkal Kambai near Kolakambai police station limits on Friday night. They addressed the villagers and promised to restore them rights to the forests. They also urged the villagers to join the armed struggle against the government. Police confirmed that a case had been registered against the Maoists under many Sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and The Arms Act. Combing operations are on. (New Indian Express 4/4/16)

86. Maoist couple used rebel money to buy land (12)

Kolkata: Kolkata Police Special Task Force (STF) that is interrogating Maoist leaders Bikash and Tara say the rebel leaders were sitting on a fortune that was being increasingly used to buy land in several districts of Bengal. Police say Sitaram Bhaiji alias Proloy is now handling Maoist activities in Bengal and are questioning Bikash and Tara for information on other rebel leaders like Madan Mahato and the squads led by Jayanto and Ranjit Pal. Sources said the joint forces have been alerted that these fugitives may be hiding in Burishole and Kashi jungles. Investigators say Bikash and Tara were not involved in any armed operation since 2011when they settled in Jharkhand close to the Bengal border. Since Bikash was in charge of the arms and ammunitions seized from security forces in earlier operations — virtually being the secretary of the Maoist state military commission — he kept visiting Bengal until a massive crackdown in Jharkhand’s Dalma region forced him and other Maoists to flee back to Bengal. Bikash had reportedly sought help of a Maoist leader based in Kolkata and another in Hooghly for two cottahs land near Mogra police station. It was here that he and his wife used to work — while Tara toiled as a labourer in a marble company, Bikash was employed as a stone crusher. They had introduced themselves as Sudip Tudu and Monika Tudu. Investigators are also trying to ascertain the exact number of cases in which Bikash and Tara were involved. “We have not yet charged them under UAPA but we will seek legal opinion once their police custody ends. At present, we are trying to ascertain the origin of the AK-47 rifle that was seized from his Hooghly residence,” said an officer. Police say they have proof that Bikash’s bike was used by Tara and her squad members to kidnap Sankrail officerin-charge Atindranath Dutta after killing two of his colleagues and looting the armoury in October 2009. The police officer was held hostage by Kishanji for over two days and released in exchange for the bail of 15 tribal women arrested for suspected Maoist links. Though Bikash is wanted in several cases — including attacks on central forces, police and villagers in Sankrail, Goaltore, Lalgarh and Sarenga — it is believed that the weapon could be one of the nine AK-47 and Insas rifles looted during the attack on Silda camp of Eastern Frontier Rifles in February 2010 in which 24 personnel were killed. Bikash is likely to be named as one of the main accused in that case, too. (Times of India 5/4/16)

87. Jawan killed, another hurt in Naxal attack in Bijapur (12)

Raipur: A police jawan was today killed and another injured after Naxals ambushed a team of security personnel who were deployed on a helipad in the dense forests of Chhattisgarh’s insurgency-hit Bijapur district. A group of Maoists opened fire on jawans guarding the helipad in a restive pocket of Pamed police station area, located around 500 km away from the state capital Raipur, Bijapur Superintendent of Police KL Dhruv said. Security forces were tasked with ensuring security to the helipad ahead of the landing of a helicopter meant to transport ration for them. After dropping the consignment, the chopper returned and security forces began marching back to its base, he said. “Meanwhile, a group of Maoists opened indiscriminate firing on them from behind leaving two constables –Baburam Markam belonging to the district force and Dinesh Ogre of Chhattisgarh Armed Force (CAF) – injured. However, rebels fled from the spot as security forces launched the retaliatory attack on them,” he added. Reinforcement was rushed to the spot and the injured were admitted to a local hospital, he added. “While Markam succumbed to his injuries during the treatment, Ogre was airlifted to Raipur for treatment,” he said. Meanwhile, security forces have launched a combing operation in the region to trace the attackers, the SP added. (The Hindu 8/4/16)

88. 122 Naxals give up violence in Sukma (12)

Raipur: In a major achievement for the Chhattisgarh Police, a record 122 Naxals, including their supporters, surrendered on Saturday with their arms in insurgency-riddled Sukma. The surrendered ultras include several hardcore Naxals whom police were trying to apprehend for years for their involvement in major attacks on police and civilians in sprawling Bastar region, Additional Superintendent of Police Sukma (ASP) Santosh Singh said. “They (surrendered Maoists) were strongly disappointed with Naxal ideology which propagates terror and wanted to return to mainstream of society,” he added. Out of the 122 surrendered ultras, ten of them carried cash rewards of `1 lakh each on their heads, police confirmed. Golapalli LOS member Ramesh, Polampalli LOS member Raja, Kistaram LGS member Badru, Dandakaranya Kisan Adivasi Majdoor Sangh (DKAMS) President of Kanger Ghati Pitvas alias Guddu, KMS member Raje, Janmilitia Commander Kosa and Hunga, Chetna Natya Mandali President Undam Bheema and Undam Joga carried cash reward of `1 lakh each on their heads. Likewise, DKAMS President of Katekalyan area committee Mahadev carrying reward of `1.05 lakh on his head also surrendered before the police. Apart from Naxals carrying reward of `1 lakh or more, 52 DKAMS members, 33 KMS members one CNM member, 12 GRD members, one Adivasi Balak Sangthan members, 3 militia deputy commander one from New Democratic Party (Telangana) and 4 Naxals supporters have left the path of violence, ASP Singh said. A Naxal school teacher, a militia member, a Jantana Sarkar member, a president of Naxal agriculture committee and a militia platoon member were also among surrendering persons, he added. According to police the surrendering ultras were residents of various Maoist stronghold villages like Kistaram, Jagargunda, Chintagufa, Tongapal, Dornapal, Maraiguda and Konta. They were provided with financial assistance of `10,000 each and will be rehabilitated according to the policy of State Government, the ASP said. (The Pioneer 10/4/16)

TRAFFICKING

89. More women are being trafficked from Bangladesh to Mumbai brothels: Charity (1)

Mumbai: The number of women being trafficked from Bangladesh into Mumbai brothels is rising as part of greater migration from India’s eastern neighbour, and police and social groups need to do more to rescue and repatriate them, a charity said on Thursday. The number of Bengali-speaking commercial sex workers in the city’s main red-light district of Kamathipura is at a record high, according to data compiled by Prerana, a non-profit focused on trafficking and sex workers. The total includes some women from India’s eastern state of West Bengal. “The increased numbers dovetail with increased migration from Bangladesh, and migrants are particularly vulnerable to traffickers,” said Priti Patkar, co-founder of Prerana. “They’re so desperate, they are easily lured by the promise of a job or a better life,” she said. Of the 213 children of sex workers enrolled at Prerana’s night care centre in Kamathipura from 2010-15, 128 had a Bengali-speaking mother, the data showed. Similar increases have been seen in other parts of the city, Patkar said. There were about a dozen each from the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. There are more than 3 million people of Bangladeshi origin in India, according to official data. Hundreds arrive undocumented every day, often crossing the 4,000 km (2,500 mile)border with a trafficker or “agent” who preys on poor, rural communities with promises of good jobs and a better life. Rising migration within Asia is putting growing numbers of migrants at risk of being trafficked and abused by human smuggling networks, the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in a report in 2015 on the criminal trade, which is worth $2 billion a year in Asia. South Asia is the fastest-growing region for human trafficking in the world, and the second-largest after Southeast Asia, according to the UNODC. More than 150,000 people are known to be trafficked within South Asia every year, but the trade is underground and the real number is likely to be much higher. The numbers are expected to rise as migration within Asia grows. Trafficked Bangladeshi women in Mumbai are often too afraid and ignorant of their rights to seek help, Patkar said. They are also reluctant to bring charges against their traffickers after being rescued from the brothels. India signed an agreement with Bangladesh in 2015 to strengthen cooperation and information sharing and ensure speedier investigations and prosecutions of traffickers. The agreement has made it easier to rescue and repatriate victims of trafficking, some of whom were previously treated as illegal immigrants. “Now, there is a clear process: we take their deposition, then hand them over to an NGO there, which takes responsibility for their rehabilitation,” a Mumbai police spokesman said. “This is a better outcome for the women.” This week, for the first time, a Bangladeshi trafficker was convicted on the strength of the victim’s testimony given over a video link from Dhaka, where she had been repatriated after her rescue from a brothel in Mumbai. Activists and lawyers say such depositions could help curb trafficking. (DNA 1/4/16)

90. 2 arrested for allegedly trafficking 10 girls (1)

Kanpur, Apr 2 (PTI) Ten girls, who were being taken to Delhi from Bhubaneswar to work as domestic workers, were rescued from a train and two youths were arrested in this connection, police said today. Acting on a tip off, the railway police conducted a raid on Samparkranti Express when it arrived at the Kanpur central railway station around 9:30 last night and rescued 10 girls, including four minors, GRP in-charge Nandji Yadav said. The two accused were taken to Government Railway Police station and are being interrogated while the girls were handed over to Childline India Foundation, Yadav said, adding that the family members of the girls have also been informed. Prima facie it appears to be a case of human trafficking but investigations are underway in this regard, he said. (India Today 2/4/16)

91. Two children go missing daily in Tamil Nadu, fears of trafficking: NHRC (1)

Chennai, April 2: At least two children go missing every day in Tamil Nadu, raising concerns they may be trafficked into prostitution, handed over to criminal gangs or sold for illegal adoption, the national human rights commission said. Alarmed by the disappearance of 271 children in Tamil Nadu in the first three months of 2016, the commission asked state authorities this week to account for the situation. “The mafia that controls begging and even those involved in child prostitution and adoption rackets could be behind these disappearances,” the commission said in a statement. The authorities say 2,711 children have disappeared in Tamil Nadu in the past 15 months. However, comparative figures were not immediately available. Rights groups say homeless children are particularly vulnerable to being exploited by traffickers, with many missing children sold on to unsuspecting adoptive parents or forced to beg by criminal gangs. “The poor have little resources and often hesitate to go to the police,” said Andrew Sesuraj from the Tamil Nadu Child Rights Observatory, a non-governmental organization. “Their children are very vulnerable, lying in the open, their exhausted parents fast asleep nearby.” India’s women and child development ministry has introduced a scheme to track missing children across the country, CHILDLINE India Foundation, another child rights charity, said more needed to be done. “This will work only if there is a countrywide hook-up between the police and agencies working with children. Unless the details of missing children are immediately put out, the chances of finding them reduce,” said Anuradha Vidyasankar, the head of CHILDLINE’s office in Chennai. “A missing child is not just missing but actually getting into bigger trouble. The time factor is crucial because in a matter of two days the child can be taken out of the country,” she said. A Tamil Nadu state official said about a third of children reported missing to the police are eventually traced. (India Tribune 2/4/16)

92. The missing girls of Bangladesh (1)

 “It was my uncle who sold me to a trafficker who brought me to India,” Hamida Akhtar from Satkhira, Bangladesh, said when we were sitting in a softly lit room in a government-run shelter home in Liluah in Howrah district of West Bengal. With a deadpan expression, she continued: “The CID [Criminal Investigation Department] caught the trafficker and I was brought to a shelter home.” The 20-year-old is among the 38 Bangladeshi girls I interviewed in three shelter homes in January this year. Of them, 12, all of them poor, were trafficked from different districts in Bangladesh and brought to West Bengal. Several were lured with the promise of jobs. But once both victim and trafficker crossed the border, gone was the promise of a job and the girl suddenly found herself in a brothel in the new country, or sold to a stranger. West Bengal also acts as a transit point for human trafficking. Khalida Khatoon, for instance, said she was brought across the porous border from her hometown Barisal, but travelled the breadth of the country to Mumbai, where the trafficker sent her. There, the 16-year-old was rescued by the police and sent back to West Bengal’s Nadia district where she was in a shelter home for two years. From there she moved into another shelter home in Kolkata, run by an NGO called Sanlaap, where she has been patiently awaiting repatriation for five months. West Bengal is the hub of internal and cross-border human trafficking in India. It shares approximately 2,220 km of land border and 259 km of riverine border with Bangladesh, most of which is unfenced, making cross-border trafficking in persons, drugs, and fake currency seamless. The districts in the State which are most vulnerable to cross-border human trafficking include North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas, Murshidabad, North Dinajpur, South Dinajpur, Nadia, Malda, and Cooch Behar. The State serves as a source, transit point (girls are sent to Hyderabad and Bengaluru, according to a local activist), and destination for trafficking in persons. … (The Hindu 6/4/16)

93. Poll campaigners overlooked the issue of child trafficking in Assam (1)

A study by Unicef, the results of which were published last year, identifies Assam as the country’s second highest trafficking zone in the country. It mentions the BTAD districts of Kokrajhar, Baksa, Udalguri and Chirang as well as Sonitpur, Dhemaji, Lakhimpur and Kamrup as the most vulnerable districts for trafficking. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime ranks Assam as one out of eight Indian states where child trafficking is rampant. According to the report, 5,023 girls and 2,765 boys went missing from Assam, mostly from the BTAD, between 2009 and 2014. Of them, 2,305 girls and 1,264 boys were traced. A total of 281 traffickers were arrested between July 2011 and April 2014. A published report of the Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights says 4,754 children, who went missing in the state between 2012 and October 2014, have remained untraced. According to data available with the CID, Assam police rescued 422 victims of human trafficking, mostly minors, and arrested 281 offenders between July 2011 and April 2014. According to official records, of the 93 trafficking victims rescued in 2011, 36 were minors of whom 28 were girls. The number of victims went up to 188 in 2013, 94 of whom were below 18 years. Anti-trafficking activists said over the years, Assam has become a source area for trafficking of children who are forced to work as domestic help in metros like Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. They are often exploited, abused and even pushed into the flesh trade or simply remain untraced. The activists have been pitching for a parliamentary committee and a legislation to regulate placement agencies in Assam in a bid to fight human trafficking. Digambar Narzary, chairperson of Nedan Foundation, a Kokrajhar-based NGO working in this area, said they had approached some regional parties to mention the issue in their manifestos but did not get any positive response. He said many districts in Assam, especially Kokrajhar, Baksa, Chirang and Udalguri in the BTAD and neighbouring Sonitpur, had become a hotbed of trafficking. Since 2004, the NGO has rescued over 500 victims, mostly minors and young women, with the help of police, student unions and other organisations working in this field. Of them, 146 were minors and 352 adults. The NGO has also helped the police arrest 14 traffickers, Narzary added. Nedan recently carried out a wall-poster campaign in Kokrajhar district against child trafficking and also launched Childline Kokrajhar, a free telephone service to help children in need of care and support. Any child under the age of 18 or a concerned citizen can call the toll-free number – 1098 – for help and advice. Childline was first initiated in Mumbai in 1996 as a pilot project and is now operational in 282 cities across 31 states/Union Territories of India. Narzary said the new government should form a parliamentary committee to fight human trafficking, which he termed “modern slavery”, and establish a separate department to deal with cases related to human trafficking. “Repatriated victims of human trafficking should have proper access to justice and rehabilitation through government-run shelter homes and livelihood support services,” he said. “Protecting trafficked children requires timely identification of victims, placing them in a safe environment, providing them with social services, healthcare, psychosocial support and reintegration with family and community, if it is proven to be in their best interest,” he added. The chairperson of Child Welfare Committee (CWC), Kokrajhar, Moloya Deka, also stressed on the need for a strong legislation to regulate placement agencies in Assam. “Dispur should take a cue from Chhattisgarh, which was the first state in the country to enact a legislation last year to rein in private placement agencies involved in trafficking of women and children to the metros, and bring such an act as soon as possible,” he said. …  (The Telegraph 10/4/16)

CORRUPTION

94. Protect those exposing corruption: activists (5)

MANGALURU: The National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information has written to the State government seeking implementation of the Whistleblowers Protection Act to protect those exposing corruption and wrongdoings. The letter is in the backdrop of the alleged murder of Right to Information activist Vinayak Baliga on March 21. Those who have signed the letter include Anjali Bharadwaj, Nikhil Dey, Venkatesh Nayak, Bhaskar Prabhu, Rakesh Dubuddu and Joykumar Wahengbam. On Saturday, Nikhil Shenoy, a member of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, and an associate of NCPRI, visited the house of aliga and met his father and other family members. The city police are still searching for a prominent activist of the NaMo Yuva Brigade in Mangaluru, who is said to have involved in the murder. The police have so far arrested two of the three persons who allegedly hacked Baliga to death. A senior police official overseeing the investigation said that the evidence gathered so far indicated the involvement of the activist in the murder. The reason for the murder seems to be the petition Baliga filed before a city court questioning the audit of the funds of Venkataramana Temple at Car Street. The senior officer said a team of city police had been deputed to search the activist. The police are yet to find Shiva (20) of Panjimogaru, who is said to be among the three persons who allegedly attacked Baliga. They are also searching for Shrikant (40) of Kavoor, who is said to be a close associate of the activist. The Police Commissioner has issued a look-out notice asking people to give information on their whereabouts. (The Hindu 3/4/16)

95. Babus asked to declare assets by Apr 15 (5)

New Delhi, All central government employees have been asked to mandatorily file details of their assets and liabilities, including those of their spouse and dependent children, for past two years by April 15, as required under the Lokpal Act. The declarations under the Lokpal law are in addition to similar ones filed by the employees under various services rules. An employee has to give details of deposits in foreign bank accounts, expensive paintings, antiques, furnitures, electronic equipments, movable assets, insurance, bonds, shares and mutual funds, among others, in the declaration. The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has recently written to secretaries of all central government ministries to ensure that the employees working under them declare details of their assets. “The declarations and returns for the years 2014 and 2015 are required to be filed by all public servants by April 15, 2016 mandatorily,” the DoPT said in a communique. For 2016, they have to file another return of their assets by July 31, this year, it said.An investment above Rs 2 lakh has to be reported individually. Investments below Rs 2 lakh may be reported together. “Details of deposits in foreign bank(s)(have) to be given separately,” the DoPT said. Employees have to give details like cash in hand, bank deposits, investment in bonds, debentures, shares and units in companies or mutual funds, insurance policies, provident fund, personal loans and advance given to any person or entity, among others. They also have to declare expensive furniture, fixtures, antiques, paintings and electronic equipment also if the total current value of any particular asset in any particular category (e.g. furniture, fixtures, electronic equipments) exceeds two months’ basic pay or Rs one lakh, it said. The DoPT has already made it clear that there will be no extension in the last date of filing the returns. (Deccan Herald 4/4/16)

96. Enforcement Directorate attaches Rs. 122 crore assets in lottery scam (5)

NEW DELHI: The Enforcement Directorate has attached the assets, worth over Rs.122 crore, of four Coimbatore-based companies for alleged involvement in a multi-crore lottery scam. The main accused in the case ran lottery business in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and north-eastern States. According to the ED, the money laundering investigation against main accused Santiago Martin and his firms was initiated after the Central Bureau of Investigation filed a charge sheet against him and others at Kochi in Kerala. The agency said the accused persons caused a loss of Rs. 4,500 crore to the Sikkim government, in conspiracy with some officials of the Sikkim Lottery Department. The ED probe purportedly established that various manipulations by partnership firm M.J. Associates, in which Martin and co-accused N. Jayamurughan were partners, resulted in unlawful financial gain to its partners. “The assets of Daison Land & Development, Charles Realtors, Martin Multi Projects and Daison Luxury Villas belonging to Martin have been provisionally attached pending confirmation from adjudicating authority,” said an ED official. It is alleged that Martin ran a Rs. 7000-crore lottery business in different parts of the country. In Karnataka, he and his associates face allegations of illegal lottery operations using chits instead of printed tickets to evade detection. Martin — who faced over 30 cases in Kerala — allegedly ran the business in conspiracy with several police officers. Martin’s former employee Pari Ranjan was arrested by the Karnataka Police last May for running a single-digit lottery business despite a ban since 2007. (The Hindu 9/4/16)

97. State to sanction prosecution of corrupt officials (5)

Ranchi: Chief secretary Rajbala Verma on Saturday said the government will soon sanction the prosecution of officials facing charges of corruption to create a corruption free climate in Jharkhand. The state’s anti-corruption bureau has sought sanction to prosecute many class II officials among 20 officials and start preliminary enquiry against a few class I officials.. “All the departments have been instructed to sanction prosecution of officials belonging to their departments and facing charges of corruption,” she said after a reviewing ACB on Saturday. Many among the 20 cases involve officials belonging to the prestigious Jharkhand Administrative Services. To prosecute a class I and class II official the ACB needs sanction from the department – it does not need any sanction to prosecute employees of government’s lower formations. Verma instructed the ACB authorities to fast-track 118 cases currently at preliminary enquiry level. She directed Dhanbad DC to take legal action against officials facing corruption charges in three cases of land acquisition. It is likely that the ACB will hold a regular review meeting with officials of different departments to fast-track cases of corruption in the government. The chief secretary instructed the ACB officials to hold the review meeting on every Monday of the week. A great emphasis was laid on the publicity of the ACB and its contact details. Verma instructed the officials to distribute handbills and pamphlets in district headquarters to increase the level of people’s awareness about ACB. “This will go a long way in encouraging people to resist corruption and get the corrupt punished,” she said. The ACB suffers from lack of manpower, infrastructure in the headquarters and also in its divisional offices. It does not have office space in Jamshedpur and Hazaribag. “The issues were also discussed in the review meeting,” ACB IG M L Meena said. (Times of India 10/4/16)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

98. Need new technologies for climate change goals: TERI (9)

Kolkata, April 1 : India needs to ensure the introduction and promotion of new technologies at an affordable cost to keep its commitment to the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) on climate change, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) Director General Ajay Mathur said here on Friday. “We will need to ensure that new technologies keep flowing in, that their penetration is increased and they are accepted. They reach prices that we are willing to pay. So one of the major challenges is to reduce capital costs,” Mathur said in his address on ‘CoP 21: Impact on India’ organised by the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Mathur was the spokesperson for the Indian delegation at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris (CoP 21). Listing the priorities, Mathur stressed on the creation of markets for balancing electricity. “As we get more renewables, distribution companies will wonder ‘how do I provide electricity when the sun is not shining and wind is not blowing’,” Mathur said. “We need to have what is called as ‘balancing power’ (balancing electricity) at affordable cost. We need to have markets for balancing electricity,” he said. The third factor, he said, is bringing in a business model, “to promote more and more efficient technologies to come”. (New Kerala 1/4/16)

99. ‘New rules to ensure disposal of hazardous waste in environmentally sound manner: Javadekar

New Delhi, Apr. 3 (ANI): Minister of State (Independent Charge) of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar on Sunday released the Hazardous Waste Rules 2016 to distinguish hazardous waste from other wastes. Speaking on the occasion, Javadekar said, “The new rules will ensure resource recovery and disposal of hazardous waste in environmentally sound manner. The rules are environment and industry- friendly.” “The provisions of the new rules are in line with this Government’s priority for Ease of Doing Business and Make in India, but with responsible concerns for sustainable development,” said Javadekar. The Hazardous and Other Wastes (Management and Transboundary Movement) Rules 2016 includes other waste as well; waste management hierarchy in the sequence of priority of prevention, minimisation, reuse, recycling, recovery, co-processing; and safe disposal. Under the rule all forms for permission, import/export, filing of annual returns, transportation, etc. have been revised significantly, indicating the stringent approach for management of such hazardous and other wastes with simultaneous simplification of procedure. The basic necessity of infrastructure to safeguard the health and environment from waste processing industry has been prescribed as Standard Operating Procedure (SOPs), specific to waste type, which has to be complied by the stakeholders and ensured by SPCB/PCC while granting such authorisation. Procedure has been simplified to merge all the approvals as a single window clearance for setting up of hazardous waste disposal facility and import of other wastes. Co-processing as preferential mechanism over disposal for use of waste as supplementary resource, or for recovery of energy has been provided. The approval process for co-processing of hazardous waste to recover energy has been streamlined and put on emission norms basis rather than on trial basis, while the process of import/export of waste under the rules has been streamlined by simplifying the document-based procedure and by revising the list of waste regulated for import/export. The import of metal scrap, paper waste and various categories of electrical and electronic equipments for re-use purpose have been exempted from the need of obtaining the ministry’s permission. The basic necessity of infrastructure to safeguard the health and environment from waste processing industry has been prescribed as Standard Operating Procedure (SOPs) specific to waste type. Responsibilities of State Governments for environmentally sound management of hazardous and other wastes have been introduced, which includes setting up/ allotting industrial space or sheds for recycling, pre-processing and other utilisation of hazardous or other waste; to register the workers involved in recycling, pre-processing and other utilisation activities; to form groups of workers to facilitate setting up such facilities; and to undertake industrial skill development activities and ensure safety and health of workers. … (Times of India 4/4/16)

100. Climate change may threaten $2.5 trillion in assets: Study (9)

Paris: Trillions of dollars’ worth of financial assets may be under threat from global warming’s effects by 2100, climate economists warned on today. If warming reaches 2.5 degrees Celsius (4.5 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels by 2100, investments worth some $2.5 trillion may be in danger, a team reported. This was equal to half the current estimated stock market value of fossil-fuel companies. But even if the 2 C warming agreed by the world’s nations in Paris last December is achieved, the value of assets at risk would be $1.7 trillion, they wrote in the journal Nature Climate Change. Climate change can destroy assets directly through sea-level rise for example, by depreciating their value, or by disrupting economic activities lower down the chain through drought or freak storms. A lot of research has focused on the oil, coal and gas investments that will be lost if the world turns its back on fossil fuels in favour of sustainable energy in line with the 2 C target. The new study attempts to break new ground with the first-ever estimate of a direct impact of climate change on the value of financial assets themselves. The projections, using mathematical models, were based on an estimated value of $143.3 trillion for global non-bank financial assets in 2013, as determined by the Financial Stability Board watchdog, the team said. At warming of 2.5 C, they wrote, some 1.8 percent of global financial assets could be at risk. But this could rise to as much as $24 trillion in worst-case-scenario warming. Scientists estimate we are on course for warming of about 4 C or more based on current greenhouse gas emission trends, or about 3 C if nations meet the emissions-curbing pledges they filed to back up the Paris climate agreement. “When we take into account the financial impacts of efforts to cut emissions, we still find the expected value of financial assets is higher in a world that limits warming to 2 C,” said co-author Simon Dietz of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change. “This means risk-neutral investors would choose to cut emissions, and risk-averse investors would be even more keen to do so.” (Business Standard 5/4/16)

101. Over 130 countries likely to sign Paris pact on climate change (9)

New Delhi, Apr 8 () A UN body today said that more than 130 countries are expected to sign the “historic” Paris climate agreement during a high-level signature ceremony convened by the UN Secretary General later this month in New York. The signing ceremony will mark the first step toward ensuring that the Paris Agreement enters into force as early as possible. The agreement will enter into force 30 days after at least 55 countries, accounting for 55 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, deposit their instruments of ratification or acceptance with the Secretary-General. “A record number of countries are expected to sign the historic climate agreement adopted last December in Paris at a signing ceremony hosted by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on April 22. “More than 130 countries have confirmed that they will sign the Paris Agreement on 22 April, the first day that the agreement will be open for signature. “This would surpass the previous record of 119 signatures for an opening day signing for an international agreement, set by the Law of the Sea in Montego Bay in 1994,” a United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) statement today said. It said that many countries have informally indicated that they will sign the agreement, with the numbers increasing rapidly each week. Over 60 Heads of State and Government will attend the ceremony, including French President Francois Hollande. More than 190 nations adopted the Paris Agreement in December last year, which aims at limiting average global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius. (Times of India 8/4/16)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

102. Provide Details of Farmers’ Suicides: Hyderabad HC (20)

HYDERABAD:  A division bench of Hyderabad HC on Thursday asked the petitioners to submit details to the governments of TS and AP regarding the farmers who have committed suicide after failing to repay their agriculture loans due to crop loss. The bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Dilip B Bhosale and Justice P Naveen Rao was dealing with the PIL cases filed separately by Vyavasaya Jana Chaitanya Samithi, Pakala Srihari Rao and others challenging the inaction of both TS and AP governments in curbing farmers’ suicides. Telangana Vidyavanthula Vedika and Telangana Rythu JAC were also made party to the case. One of petitioner’s counsel complained that both state governments have failed to take steps to set up the state level farmers’ commission. Reacting to the submission, the bench said it is easy for anyone to approach the court and blame the governments. The bench asked S Sharath Kumar, special government pleader of TS, to tell whether the families of farmers who committed suicide due to crop failure are receiving the benefits or not? The government counsel said the petitioners have submitted list of farmers who have committed suicide due to crop failure and district collectors are examining the cases. But in some cases the family members have admitted that suicides were not due to crop failure. Steps have been taken to summarise the details and to place, he added and urged the court to grant some time to place the details of cases. Following the request, the bench adjourned the case for two weeks. (New Indian Express 1/4/16)

103. 91 farmers ended their lives in the last one year (21)

Mysuru: As many as 91 farmers committed suicide in the last one year (April 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016) in Mysuru district. As many as 20 farmers committed suicide each in K.R. Nagar and Piriyapatna taluks in this period. While 21 farmers in Hunsuru had ended their lives, 12 farmers in H.D. Kote taluk, four each in Mysuru and T. Narasipura taluks and 10 farmers in Nanjangud taluk committed suicide during the last financial year. Of the 91 farmers, cases of 60 farmers were accepted by the committees headed by the Assistant Commissioners and families of all the 60 deceased farmers were given compensation of Rs. 5 lakh each. As many as 12 cases were rejected as the deceased farmers had not availed loans from any banks, financial institutions or from any registered pawn brokers. Also, those who ended their lives for reasons other than financial crisis were not considered by the committees. Three such cases in Hunsuru and Nanjangud taluks and two cases each in H.D. Kote, K.R. Nagar and Mysuru taluks have not been considered for compensation. However, the government has simplified the procedure for compensation. Accordingly, a deceased farmer need not have the land in his or her name for his or her family to avail compensation. The farmer’s family is eligible for compensation if the land is in the name of any of the family members. Also, farmers who were cultivating land on contract or lease basis are also eligible for compensation. The district administration, at the behest of the State government, had taken all measures to provide free education to children of the farmers who had committed suicide in government schools. Also, hostels have been asked to compulsorily provide accommodation for the children without charging a penny. Wives of deceased farmers were also being selected as beneficiaries under the Pashu Bhagya scheme under which they would be given cows and sheep. M. Mahanteshappa, Joint Director of Agriculture, told The Hindu that a committee led by the Deputy Commissioner has been keeping a constant vigil on pawn brokers and private financiers to prevent them from putting pressure on the farmers to repay the loan. The committee is also taking steps to ensure that exorbitant interest would not be collected from the farmers. Nationalised banks have also been asked not to insist farmers to repay the loans and they have been instructed to convert short or medium term loans into long term loans in the wake of drought last year. (The Hindu 6/4/16)

104. Supreme Court pulls up Centre over plight of drought-hit people (20)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday pulled up the Centre for not taking action to provide relief to those affected by drought which forced many farmers to commit suicide and directed the government to place before it the amount to be released to states under social welfare schemes to handle the situation. A bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and N V Ramana questioned the Centre for releasing funds under MNREGA to state governments and and its claim that it was taking all necessary steps for providing relief to the drought-affected. “There is a problem and you cannot neglect it. You must realise that there is a problem and eight to nine states are suffering from drought,” the bench said. Additional solicitor general Pinky Anand tried to convince the bench that the government is very serious towards the issue and all possible steps are being taken to handle the crisis. She told the bench that Rs 7983 crore will be released by the Centre in a couple of days towards wage liability, while Rs 2723 crore will be cleared in June.The bench, however, said social welfare schemes like MNREGA were not being implemented in true spirit and wages not being paid on time to workers due to late release of funds by the Centre. “Unless you release the money on time, it is not going to benefit the workers. How can you ask people to work without paying them,” the bench said. The court said framing policy on paper for relief to drought-hit farmers was not sufficient enough. It was hearing a PIL filed by NGO Swaraj Abh (Times of India 7/4/16)

105. Farmer suicides decline in Yavatmal: Official (20)

Yavatmal: The farmer suicides in first three months of the year in the district have reduced as compared to corresponding period last year, a senior official said. “While 96 farmers had committed suicide between January and March last year, the number has dropped to 48 this year,” Yavatmal District Collector Sachindra Pratap Singh said. “It is certainly a good sign and if the downward trend continues unabated for the next 12 months, the (Maharashtra) Chief Minister’s assurance of converting Yavatmal and Osmanabad into suicide free districts will be possible,” he added. The district administration had launched awareness programme ‘Baliraja Chetana Abhiyan’ in July last year to curb farmer suicides. The response from the public for the programme is overwhelming, the Collector claimed. Singh appealed to farmers not to get disheartened over the prevailing drought situation. (Zee News 9/4/16)

 LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

106. Hand over commission report to MP government, SC tells HC (4)

Jabalpur (Madhya Pradesh) : The Supreme Court has directed the Madhya Pradesh High Court not to even open the commission report on relief and rehabilitation work undertaken by the state government with regard to the Sardar Sarovar Narmada project. The high court should instead hand over the voluminous report of the Justice S.S. Jha Commission – which the high court appointed in 2008 – to the Madhya Pradesh government within 10 days, the apex court’s March 30 directive said. The apex court said the state government should act upon the report in case it finds wrong-doings during the relief and rehabilitation task and submit an action-taken report to the Supreme Court within six weeks. Thereafter, the case will proceed in the apex court. The Supreme Court directions in the case came on a petition filed by the state government to seek custody of the Jha Commission report submitted recently to the high court. The Madhya Pradesh government did not challenge the setting up of the commission by the high court following a petition by the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), which has been fighting for the livelihood rights of the people affected by the project. The commission probed the serious corruption charges, which the NBA levelled in its original petition, during relief to and rehabilitation of thousands of people facing submergence of their habitats and property due to the multi-state Sardar Sarovar project. On February 16, the high court rejected the Madhya Pradesh government’s demand to hand over the commission report for placing it before the assembly. The high court instead ordered that the report should be given to all parties concerned, including the NBA, maintaining that it (high court) had constituted the commission of inquiry directly and would now initiate further action in the case. It was also not the case that the high court had directed the government to appoint an inquiry panel into the alleged massive scam in the rehabilitation work. The high court said that a notification on the commission’s appointment dated October 8, 2008, was issued “in compliance of the High Court’s order as well as Section 3 of the (Commissions of Inquiry) Act”.On February 19, the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government moved an application in the high court that the report be not given to anyone since it had impugned the high court order before the Supreme Court and that it (government) be given one month’s time. The high court allowed the application and fixed the next hearing for March 30. However, the Supreme Court heard the Madhya Pradesh government’s plea on March 30, and not the high court, and upheld the government’s stand. (Business Standard 1/4/16)

107.  ‘Delhi pays Rs. 3 crore per acre for farmland’ (4)

NEW DELHI: After institutionalising compensation for farmers affected by inclement weather, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Saturday claimed that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government had succeeded in showing the way forward on acquisition of land for infrastructure projects by State governments. Mr. Kejriwal took to Twitter to announce that his government had, well before the conclusion of the last fiscal, disbursed the highest per acre compensation to residents of Siraspur, a northwest Delhi village whose land was to be acquired by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), even before the actual process of acquisition began. “Last month, Delhi govt gave highest compensation ever given for land acquisition in the country to the farmers – Rs. 3 crore per acre,” the Chief Minister tweeted on the eve of being felicitated by farmers at a Dhanyawad Sabha organised in Narela. Ajesh Yadav, AAP legislator from Badli, who spearheaded a local movement demanding compensation in accordance with the provisions of the Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (2013) over three years, said the matter had first been brought to the notice of the Chief Minister during the AAP’s 49-day stint at the helm of the Delhi government in 2014. “Earlier, compensation was being given according to old circle rates which would have translated into around Rs. 58 lakh per acre as the provisions of the new Act were being overlooked on which I and a contingent of local residents met Mr. Kejriwal,” Mr. Yadav told The Hindu. “We met him again after the formation of the government in February last year and the Chief Minister tasked a team of government officials under the area’s ADM who, after more than six months of a dedicated exercise, arrived at a compensation sum of Rs. 3.7 crore per acre,” Mr. Yadav said, adding that compensation cheques had already been disbursed to families whose land was to be acquired. Sources said the DMRC had, on previous occasions, paid more than the circle rate to acquire land to ensure speedy implementation of its projects. (The Hindu 3/4/16)

108. Vamsadhara project-displaced: Naidu for quick settlement of cases (4)

SRIKAKULAM: Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu has directed the Srikakulam district administration to settle the grievances of persons displaced in Vamsadhara project on a war-footing. The displaced had been seeking fair compensation for their properties, which were dismantled for the construction of reservoir for Vamsadhara Phase-2 project. Patapatnam MLA Kalamata Venkata Ramana, who recently joined the Telugu Desam Party from the YSRC, brought their issues to the notice of the Chief Minister who in turn directed the district administration to submit a detailed report over the status of compensation for the displaced persons. According to Mr. Ramana, over 10,000 displaced persons of Hiramandalam, Kotturu and L.N. Peta had been going round Irrigation and Revenue Departments for the legitimate compensation. They are strongly objected to the compensation which was fixed 10 years ago. Srikakulam Collector P. Lakshmi Narasimham and Joint Collector Vivek Yadav recently took the help of Lok Adalat for the permanent settlement of the cases.However, only 10 per cent cases were reportedly settled through Lok Adalat and 90 per cent of the people are yet to be convinced for the permanent settlement. Both the senior officials are planning to organise a massive Lok Adalat camp in Srikakulam this month so that others would also come forward to take the compensation fixed by the judges. However, the Left parties are strongly opposing the move saying that the compensation had to be paid under Land Acquisition Act-2013. The district administration says it was not possible since majority of the displaced persons had already taken the compensation long ago and payment under new Act would lead to new trouble. The district administration wanted to settle the issues in an amicable manner as per the directive of the Chief Minister’s office which was very keen on early completion of Vamsadhara Phase-2 Project which is expected to provide irrigation facility to over 2 lakh acres in the backward district. The phase-2 could overcome all the inter-State water dispute hurdles recently, thanks to favourable orders from the Vamsadhara Water Dispute Tribunal. (The Hindu 5/4/16)

109. Rajasthan govt does it again, ushers in crucial land reforms (4)

New Delhi:    Rajasthan becomes the first state in India to clear land title Bill Rajasthan resurgent summit starts today amid challenges What should Vasundhara Raje do now? Resurgent Rajasthan sees proposals worth Rs 3.3 lakh cr Rajasthan clears Bill for govt to set up townships in DMIC Five days ago in a meeting with the Rajasthan government, traders and industrialists had asked for the land to expand the footwear industry beyond Jaipur and its surrounding areas. The state government readily offered land in Dholpur and Bharatpur districts, but the traders were unimpressed. They did not want to go beyond Jaipur and its surrounding areas because of scarcity of water, underdeveloped land and legal issues. Such issues are common in the state and had restricted the industry from expansion for years. It appears that the new dispensation under chief minister Vasundhara Raje has decided to change the perception first with a series of industry and labour reforms and now with land reforms, impressing both industry and her critics. Raje’s government has managed to pass the Rajasthan Investment Region Bill, 2016, the Rajasthan Land Pooling Scheme Bill, 2016, and the Rajasthan Urban Land (Certification of Titles) Bill, 2016, in the Assembly in the last four days. “The Rajasthan Urban Land (Certification of Titles) Bill is a futuristic Bill. It will help in ease of business as buyers will not have to go into the entire chain of documents. The state will provide an ownership guarantee certificate and will stand by it,” said Ashok Jain, additional secretary, urban development and housing, in the Rajasthan government. “It will also reduce litigation and add revenue to the state government,” he said. Through the first such Bill in the country, owners in urban areas can seek a certificate of ownership of their land by paying a nominal fee to the government. The state government will set up an authority, akin to the transport authority that issues driving licences. The authority will be headed by an Indian Administrative Officer and will seek all the documents from the landowners to verify them against records held by the state. The authority will first issue a provisional certificate, for which the state will not stand guarantee. If there are no objections, the authority will issue a certificate and a map to the owner with a guarantee. Currently it is voluntary for owners to apply for this certificate. The state government has set the application fee at 0.5 per cent of the land rate determined by a district level committee to encourage more people to join this scheme. Through the Bill the state government has given itself the power to enter into any property or premise for the purpose of survey by giving its owner prior notice. Alongside the Rajasthan Urban Land (Certification of Titles) Bill, the state government also passed the much pending Rajasthan Land Pooling Scheme Bill. Pradeep Kapoor, senior town planner in the Rajasthan government, said the Land Pooling Bill was a win-win situation for everyone. “Land acquisition is a tedious process and often faces legal hurdles. Through the Land Pooling Bill the process will be faster as neither the development authority will pay any compensation nor will it make an initial investment.” …. (Business Standard 9/4/16)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

110. WHO urges nations to intensify efforts on universal health coverage (3)

New Delhi:  The WHO on Thursday urged the Southeast Asian nations to intensify efforts to make the Universal Health Coverage a reality, and ensure that no individual is left out. Among the initiatives needed to be taken care of include access to enhancement of quality frontline healthcare and creation of a well trained, highly motivated health workforce. “Universal Health Coverage means that all people, however rich or poor, and wherever they live, are able to access the healthcare they need without incurring financial hardship. We must make UHC a reality and ensure that no one is left behind,” said Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director for World Health Organisation (WHO) Southeast Asia. A three-day meeting on “Health, SDGs and the role of Universal Health Coverage” began on March 30, where health ministers and experts from across the region are discussing ways to accelerate health coverage and attain the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of ensuring healthy lives and promoting the well being for all at all ages. According to WHO, an estimated 130 million people in WHO Southeast Asia region lack access to essential health services and over 50 million people are pushed into poverty every year because of healthcare costs. Khetrapal said they were emphasising on the reduction of out-of-pocket payments of poor people. “At present, out-of-pocket expenditures in the region account for as much as 70 percent of all healthcare spending. This represents a tremendous financial burden for individuals and their families. For many of the poorest it means healthcare is simply inaccessible,” she said. Khetrapal said countries must monitor who is not getting access to care and who is being impoverished as a result of healthcare costs. She said enhancing coverage will help reduce maternal, newborn and child deaths, help end the epidemics of AIDS, TB and malaria as well as hepatitis and other communicable diseases, and enhance access to sexual and reproductive health care services. “It will also help tackle new areas of focus in the region, including alarming rise in non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, as well as multi-sectoral issues such as antimicrobial resistance,” said Khetrapal. (Business Standard 1/4/16)

111. India sacks some foreign-funded consultants; health programmes may suffer (3)

NEW DELHI: India is firing dozens of foreign-funded health experts working inside the government, seen as part of a broader clampdown to reduce the influence of non-government organisations (NGOs) on policy. The loss of these professionals, most of whom are Indian nationals, has raised concerns that signature programmes to combat HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis may suffer just as they face funding shortages due to slow bureaucracy. A shortage of technical experts has for years forced India to turn to the World Health Organization (WHO) and aid groups like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to manage large-scale public health schemes. Of the nearly 140 people who run India’s HIV/AIDS programme, 112 are consultants seconded from foreign organisations. Some are engaged in planning and monitoring of prevention activities in high-risk Indian states. Last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government ordered 45 of them to be removed from service by June as they had served more than three years, according to health ministry officials and a document seen by Reuters. By December, 70 of these experts will leave, while others, who have worked for less than three years, face a government screening committee to decide whether they are needed. “It’s like questioning our integrity just because we are foreign funded,” said an HIV/AIDS consultant who worked in the health department for three years and is now looking for a job. The programme has won global acclaim for sharply reducing annual new HIV infections, but the rate of decline has slowed in recent years. India recorded 86,000 new infections last year. S. Selvakumar, a joint secretary in the finance ministry who signed off on clarifications to the new policy rules in January, said he did not know why consultants working in the government were being removed. He said the finance ministry received a request from the cabinet secretariat to compile a list of government consultants last May. Two other finance ministry officials said the move was driven by fears that foreign agencies could use their consultants to influence policy in New Delhi. “Their loyalties would be divided,” said one. The security of information was also a concern, the other officer said. More than 500 consultants work across the Indian government, about half in the health sector alone. Some are from Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the United Nations’ UNICEF. A spokeswoman for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation did not comment on the government’s decision, but said it would adhere to the directive. A DFID spokesman said the department had “not received any complaints from the government of India about data theft or undue influence on policies.” …. (Times of India 2/4/16)

112. Decline in number of patients visiting government hospitals (3)

Patna: The year 2016 has brought a shocker for the state on the healthcare front. CM Nitish Kumar had repeatedly said that the number of patients going to government hospitals has steadily increased during his regime, but the status presented in the state’s Economic Survey 2015-16 shows a reversal of the trend. So is the case of institutional delivery in the state, which showed decline after constant increase in last several years. The survey states that the monthly average number of patients visiting government hospitals declined by 5.8% in 2014, the last year for which the stats have been presented. From 2011 to 2013, the figure showed a constant rise. Experts attribute it primarily to non-availability of drugs in government facilities. Besides drugs, the patients also have to incur huge costs on pathological services, a point underlined by the CAG report for 2014-15. “Pathology (facility) was available in 54% referral hospitals (RHs) and 31% primary health centres (PHCs). Thus, health care units in the state did not have the required diagnostic facilities,” the report says. Similarly, sonography facility was available in 14% referral hospitals and nine per cent PHCs. Dr Shakeel, the Bihar representative of People’s Health Movement, said “When patient has to spend so much out of his pocket on drugs and diagnostics, he finds no point in visiting government hospitals.” So far as institutional delivery is concerned, the survey shows that for the first time in eight years, it declined by 6.1 per cent in 2014-15, after going up from 2006 to 2014. While the economic survey is silent about the reasons, experts say one could be non-disbursal of claims under Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY). Under the scheme, all pregnant women who deliver in health centres are eligible for a cash incentive of Rs 1400 and Rs 1,000 in rural and urban areas, respectively. The CAG report presented this year also substantiates the claim. It says payment was made to only 66% beneficiaries of institutional delivery. “It was also observed that payments to 6,027 beneficiaries of JSY amounting to Rs 82.35 lakh pertaining to 27 test-checked RHs/PHCs was entered in cash book but the cheques remained undelivered to beneficiaries as on date of audit (June-July 2015).” … (Times of India 7/4/16)

113. Poor, needy patients suffered most due to doctors’ strike: Bombay HC (3)

MUMBAI: Observing that it is mostly poor patients who approach government hospitals, and that 13 reportedly died in JJ hospital alone in three days since resident doctors struck work, a special holiday bench of the Bombay high court ticked off doctors and asked them to immediately call off the indefinite strike they were on from April 3 and resume work. The strike was to protest against the JJ hospital dean, Dr T P Lahane and by its fourth day had spread across the state. The HC said, “The poor and needy patients are not being attended and suffering the most because of the strike resorted to by the doctors.” The HC accepted a suggestion by Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) to reconstitute a grievance redressal committee after they complained that the existing committee comprised of the very Dean who the doctors had grievances about. The association which on Friday lent its muscle and support to the strike, then made a statement that it would withdraw the strike, with immediate effect. A specially constituted holiday bench of the HC on Saturday, a court holiday—heard a plea by an activist to stay the doctors’ strike. Afak Mandaviya, an RTI activist moved the HC through his lawyer Datta Mane on Thursday to seek action against the striking doctors. The bench was constituted keeping in mind the “grave urgency” of the situation as Mane said 4000 resident doctors had joined the strike. Mane argued that from April 4 to April 6, 13 died in the state-run JJ Hospital alone. He also said that in one day between 8am on April 8 to 8am next day, 11 patients died in Aurangabad, four in Nanded, eight in Ambejogai, four in Yeotmal and one in Sangli taking the toll to 41 in four days. (Timwes of India 9/4/16)

HIV/AIDS

114. MGM runs out of HIV pills (3)

Some 5,000 people who are living with HIV in Kolhan – the twin Singhbhums and Seraikela-Kharsawan – and who depend on MGM Medical College and Hospital in Sakchi, Jamshedpur, for their daily oral medication, are in dire straits. Since Monday, the antiretroviral therapy (ART) centre at the state-run hospital has run out of stock of the medicines that every HIV-positive patient must consume daily to help their immune systems work. Those who can afford it, can buy their monthly stocks from the open market at prohibitive rates of Rs 3,500 (for stage I) and Rs 12,000 (for stage II). Kits to determine the CD4 count of suspected HIV-positive patients have also run out. V.K. Shukla, a key functionary of Jamshedpur District Level Network for People Living With HIV-AIDS, an outfit which looks after the welfare of HIV-positive patients, said patients from the poorer sections of society depended on the free medicines distributed from the ART centre of the MGM hospital. “Over 90 per cent of HIV-positive people can’t afford to buy these expensive medicines. And, even those who can, won’t get the medicines easily as normal pharmacies in Jamshedpur hardly stock them,” Shukla said. “Since Monday, over 60 patients have gone home empty-handed without medicines. Every HIV-positive patient must take their required dosage every day. In their condition, even a day’s gap will lead to a sharp fall in their powers of resistance.” The stock of medicines for HIV-positive people had started exhausting from Saturday. Then, ART authorities had distributed patients 15-day stocks. From Monday, there was nothing to give. “I was scheduled to get my monthly medicine from the centre today (Wednesday), but I am returning home empty-handed. God knows what will happen to me now,” a tearful 45-year-old HIV-positive woman told The Telegraph . A source at the ART centre at MGM hospital said medicines for HIV-positive patients come from National AIDS Control Organisation (Naco) in New Delhi and are routed to 22 ART centres in the state through Jharkhand State AIDS Control Society (JSACS). The ART centre at MGM is one of the 22. A JSACS official said Naco in 2015 April gave a stock of medicines to Jharkhand for a year keeping the volume of HIV-positive patients in view, but the medicines ran out as patient numbers seemed to have gone up beyond estimates. CST (care, support and treatment) officer at JSACS in Ranchi, U.P. Jaiswal said they are aware of the crisis at the ART centre at MGM in Jamshedpur. “We are aware that the stock of medicines has exhausted at the ART centre in Jamshedpur. We are trying our best to provide fresh stock to the centre at the earliest,” said Jaiswal, who is responsible for the supply of medicines to ART centres across Jharkhand. (The Telegraph 1/4/16)

115. Soon, HIV cure that snips out virus (3)

Washington D.C, Apr 4 : A cure for HIV has come closer to reality after a team of researchers succeeded in cutting the virus out of infected cells, eradicating it permanently. The Temple University scientists believe that a gene editing technique, known as Crispr/Cas9, could pave the way for an injection to cure sufferers. Kamel Khalili, who led the research, said that the findings are important on multiple levels as they demonstrate the effectiveness of the gene editing system in eliminating HIV from the DNA of CD4 T-cells and by introducing mutations in the viral genome, permanently inactivating its replication. Khalili added that the study shows that the system can protect cells from reinfection and that the technology is safe for the cells, with no toxic effects. He noted that these experiments had not been performed previously to this extent, but the questions they address are critical and the results allow them to move ahead with this technology. While the experiments have so far only been carried out in human cells in the lab, clinical trials on humans could begin within three years, The Telegraph reported. The study is published online in the Nature journal, Scientific Reports. (New Kerala 4/4/16)

116. Delhi runs out of HIV testing kits, patients turned away (3)

NEW DELHI: Since March this year, testing centres, even at premier hospitals such as Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital and the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), have been forced to turn away patients as the kits are not available, the Delhi State AIDS Control Society (DSACS) said. Tenders floated for the supply of fresh kits “fell through” because of issues with the suppliers, leading to hospitals in Delhi running out of this essential item, the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) said. “There was a shortage because the tenders fell through but we are addressing it,” NACO Additional Secretary N.S. Kang said. Mr. Kang, however, said matters had been sorted out and that supply would resume in the next 10 days. “The supply of one testing kit will resume this week and the second kit should start coming in the next 10 days,” he said. In all, Delhi has 98 HIV testing centres, called Integrated Counselling and Testing Centres (ICTC). Earlier, the Delhi Network of Positive Persons (DNP+) had approached the DSACS and the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) to resolve the matter, said Paul Lhungdim, a patient activist with the DNP+. We have written to the DSACS and met the Delhi Chief Minister regarding the same. A break in the supply chain has serious ripple effects on HIV positive persons. If the treatment is interrupted and patients don’t know their viral load, it has long-term consequences on their health,” Mr. Lhungdim said. While nationally, the incidence of HIV among ante natal clinic attendees has declined, in Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha and Punjab, there has been a rise, according to a technical paper in NACO’s HIV Sentinel Surveillance of 2012-13. (The Hindu 8/4/16)

117. HC seeks aid for kids of HIV-affected couple (3)

NEW DELHI: : Providing succour to two children of an HIV-affected couple, the Delhi High Court has directed the Aam Aadmi Party government to grant admission to them in a senior secondary school in the vicinity of Aya Nagar. The kids were at the risk of being abused and neglected if left to fend for themselves.Justice Manmohan of the High Court passed the direction last week on a writ petition moved by the couple stating that they could not look after their business of plying of truck after they were tested positive for HIV. The petitioners sought direction to the financier to take back the commercial vehicle in full and final settlement of the loan sanctioned to them. They also sought a direction to the government to provide financial and educational assistance for upbringing of their children in accordance with the National Child Policy and Article 21 (right to life) of the Constitution. The petitioners’ dispute with the financier was amicably settled during the pendency of the writ petition. However, they were unable to continue sending their kids to the school, as a significant amount of their income was spent on treatment. The court then directed the Delhi government to grant admission to the children in a school and gave liberty to the petitioners to file an application before the Child Welfare Committee. seeking monetary assistance. (The Hindu 10/4/16)

Posted by admin at 11 April 2016

Category: Uncategorized

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

One more witness turns hostile in Dalit priest suicide case (2)

DINDIGUL: Another witness produced by the police in the Dalit priest suicide case also turned hostile here on Tuesday. He is the third witness to turn hostile in the case so far. However, other four witnesses gave their statements. Examining the second batch of eye witnesses commenced at the Principal District and Sessions Court. The Thenkarai police produced eight out of 22 witnesses for the trial. All the accused including O. Raja, brother of Finance Minister O. Paneerselvam, were present. Reacting to a series of questions raised by the Public Prosecutor B. Mohan, Ram Senthil of Periyakulam gave contradictory statements that did not match the statement recorded by the police. After hearing the statement of Ram, the court accepted him as hostile witness. Later, other witnesses – Chinna Raj, relative of Subbu Raj, former school head master Manoharan of Periyakulam, Siva of Kallipatti and Kathir alias Vincent Raj — were examined by the public prosecutor and cross examined by defence counsel M. Kannappan. Later, Principal District Judge R. Poornima adjourned the case to Wednesday. She had already informed that that trial would be conducted continuously till March 24. First batch of eye witnesses was completed on Tuesday. (The Hindu 23/3/16)

TN: Activists protest against ‘mysterious death’ of Dalit leader (2)

The family members and activists from Dalit outfits protested on Monday, alleging “foul play” in the death of a 45-year-old Dalit leader whose body was found in a well in Tamil Nadu and demanded a thorough probe. A day after the body of Chinnasamy, leader of ‘Dalit Viduthalai Katchi’, was found in the well in Chellampalayam, his family observed a fast at Dasampudur village demanding a probe into his ‘mysterious death’ and registration of a murder case. Activists of a Dalit outfit staged a demonstration in front of the Head Post office in Erode, Tamil Nadu. According to the police, some people had picked up a quarrel with a group of Dalits who were allegedly consuming liquor near a well in Dasampudur village, where a local temple festival was held on Saturday. An upper caste person had reportedly “abused” a 19-year- old Dalit boy by his caste name following which Chinnasamy intervened and objected. Chinnasamy had reportedly said his community members would not visit Dasampudur and render their regular help to the upper caste people, police said. Chinnasamy’s body was found floating in a well in Chellampalayam on Sunday and was brought to the government hospital for a post-mortem. (Hindustan Times 23/3/16)

Dalits thrashed, abused on Holi for asking upper caste men to play drums outside their homes

Bareilly: Bringing to the fore the caste bias still prevalent in the rural areas, four persons refused to play drums outside the house of people belonging to Dalit community during Holi despite several requests, and also passed casteist remarks against them in Bithri Chainpur town of the district. Police have registered a case against the four persons under the SC/ST Act on a complaint. In his complaint to the police, Manohar Lal, a Dalit and a resident of Maheshpura village, alleged that he was celebrating Holi with some members of his community outside his house on March 24, when he saw some local drummers including Omkar, Yogendra, Rajiv and Triloki near his house. Seeing them, Lal and his friends requested them to take some time off and play drums outside their house also and take their fee. However, instead of obliging them, the four, who belonged to upper caste, became furious and came to the house of complainant and attacked them besides passing casteist remarks, Lal alleged in his complaint. On Saturday, Lal and some other people of his community, approached police and got an FIR registered against the accused at Bithri Chainpur police station. Talking to TOI, inspector of Bithri Chainpur police station, Rajvir Singh said, “Prima facie it appears that the victim has been humiliated and beaten up by the upper caste for daring to seek such a favour from them. We have filed a case under the SC and SC (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 against the four accused.” No arrest has been made so far. (Times of India 27/3/16)

10 villagers injured as Dalits, Patels clash over water in Chhattarpur (2)

Bhopal: Ten people were injured in a clash in Chhattarpur’s Burha village after people from Patel caste allegedly denied two Dalit girls to draw water from a public hand pump. But police denied the Dalits’ claims. This is the second such incident in a fortnight in the parched Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh. One of the two girls, identified as 19-year-old Rajni, alleged that men from Patel caste allegedly slapped them while they were drawing water on Tuesday. A day later, when Dalit people took up the issue with the Patels, a clash ensued between them. Three of the injured people were admitted at the Chhattarpur district hospital. The Chhattarpur police said none of the girls or their families have in the complaint alleged they were denied water from hand pump on caste lines. The two girls were quarrelling among themselves over who draws water first when a man from the other caste intervened to resolve the matter, the police said. “Cases of breach of peace and assault have been lodged against each other by both groups at Civil Lines police station,” Chhattarpur additional SP Neeraj Pandey told Hindustan Times on Sunday. Members of the Patel community have been booked under the SC/ST Act on the complaint of the other group. Earlier this month, a nine-year-old Class 3 Dalit student, Veeran Ahirwar, drowned while drawing water from a well after he was denied access to water from a hand pump in his school in Khamariya Kalan village of Tendukheda block of Damoh district. A head master and head mistress of the school were suspended by the local authorities in the matter.19-year-old Rajni alleged that men from Patel caste allegedly slapped them while they were drawing water from a public hand pump in Chhattarpur’s Burha villageA day later, when Dalit people took up the issue with the Patels, a clash ensued between them. (Hindustan Times 28/3/16)

Dalit youth harassed for falling in love with caste Hindu girl (2)

MADURAI/TIRUCHI: A Dalit youth from Kolakudi village in Tiruchi district has alleged that he and his family are being subjected to continuous harassment and violence by the family of a caste Hindu girl, whom he reportedly married last December but were immediately separated and the girl was married off to another person. The youth, T Balaji (29), the first graduate from his family working as a teacher in a private school near Namakkal for two years, claimed that the girl’s family had also taken away his educational certificates. Speaking to The Hindu at the office of Madurai-based NGO Evidence, which is presently assisting him, Mr. Balaji alleged that no action had been taken despite repeated complaints made at Thathaiyengarpettai police station, Musiri Deputy Superintendent of Police office and with the Tiruchi District Collector. According to Mr. Balaji, he and a 19-year-old girl from neighbouring Valasiramani village belonging to an intermediate caste were in love. Though the girl’s family rebuked her many times, their relationship continued as the school, where Mr. Balaji worked, and the college where the girl studied were close by. Meanwhile, as the girl became pregnant, Mr. Balaji said that they decided to get married on December 6, 2015. “We met the night before near a temple outside Valasiramani. I knew that her family and their men were searching for us. So I tied the thali immediately,” he said. However, according to him, the couple was caught and beaten up by the girl’s family, who allegedly removed her thali and made one of their relatives tie the knot on the same night. “They beat me up severely,” he alleged. The family also took away the couple’s educational certificates and some cash, which they had with them while eloping. While the girl had now separated from her relative, Mr. Balaji claimed that the girl’s family was hounding him and his family for the past three months. “They want us to leave the village,” he said. Showing medical records, Mr. Balaji said he was beaten up by her family on March 15 after which he underwent treatment at the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Government Hospital in Tiruchi for 12 days. “Even then police did not take action,” he alleged. However, police sources in Tiruchi claimed a CSR (community service register) had been issued on the complaint from the youth. But when enquiries were conducted with the girl, she had given a written statement stating that she did not know the youth and his claims were false, a police officer of the Musiri sub-division said. (The Hindu 30/3/16)

TRIBALS

Soni Sori’s kin alleges harassment, writes to President (6)

RAIPUR: AAP leader and tribal rights activist Soni Sori’s nephew Lingaram Kodopi has sought the President’s intervention in alleged police atrocities against tribals in Bastar, Chhattisgarh, on pretext of anti-Maoist operations. In an open letter on Monday, he has also sought an appointment with President Pranab Mukherjee. Expressing extreme disappointment over continuous harassment against him and Sori, Linga had earlier threatened to end his life on March 23. He has not scaled down his allegations, however he will not take the extreme step on the mentioned date. Linga who’s in New Delhi, cited a recent attack on Sori when a chemical was smeared on her face. He alleged, despite recording his statement before the SIT, police was creating pressure on him and have threatened to kill him in an encounter. In the letter to the President, Linga alleged that his relatives were randomly picked and beaten black and blue by police for 36 hours, when they had gone to record their statements. “Police are trying to frame me as an accused behind the attack on Sori. In the name of investigation they asked me to state that the attack on her was either due to personal dispute or orchestrated by Sori herself to gain sympathy,” he claimed.”Bastar is under immense threat. Innocent tribals are being killed and targeted. Claiming that they were Maoists, security forces rape and molest women in villages and loot their houses. While complaints have been lodged in all these cases, tribals get stuck into legal proceedings for years and people in Bastar remain vulnerable every day,” Linga wrote in his letter. “It’s because we are fighting for tribal rights, we are being attacked and threatened. I have already suffered torture when I was in jail in 2009 and a rod dipped in chilly was inserted into my anus. I am still undergoing treatment for this and surviving on medicines.” He was arrested on suspicion of helping Maoists and later released. Bastar IG SRP Kalluri had refuted all allegations of harassment. He said that Sori’s relatives were being called for recording their statement which is a part of scientific investigation. “Because we had some clues police are trying to connect all dots to reveal the conspiracy,” he added. (Times of India 21/3/16)

Tribals stage protest seeking rehabilitation (6)

Mysuru: Tribals from different parts of Mysuru district staged a demonstration in the city on Tuesday seeking their rehabilitation besides upgrading tribal ashram schools. The protesters said the population of adivasis, who were dependent on forest produce, was nearly 3.5 lakh. The tribals said they were victims of forest policies and were uprooted repeatedly from their homes and were denied benefits of economic development. Though the Centre had promulgated the Forest Rights Act, there are about 6,000 tribal families in the Mysuru district who have been denied those rights. There are 118 tribal hamlets spread across H.D. Kote, and despite assurances by successive governments their living conditions had not changed, the agitators said. Though the then Chief Minister S.M. Krishna held a mini Cabinet meeting at Hosahalli in 2001 and announced several measures for the rehabilitation of the tribals, including transfer of land, it is yet to be implemented, they said. Underlining the low standards of education in schools meant for tribal students, the activists said they are not affiliated to the Education Department, and hence the standards had fallen over the years while there was no permanent teachers. The tribals raised a slew of demands, including shoring up standards of ashram schools, confering forest rights to tribals evicted from Nagarahole and Bandipur, declare forest hamlets as revenue villages, and implementing recommendations of Prof. Muzaffar Assadi on rehabilitation. (The Hindu 23/3/16)

Displaced tribals lay bare DVC jobs scam, demand CBI inquiry (6)

Sindri: Members of Adivasi Ghatwar Mahasabha from Jharkhand and West Bengal went semi-nude and took to fasting and staged a demonstration at Simpathar village in Sindri on Thursday demanding employment to the villagers displaced by Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) and a CBI probe into 9,000 employments given to fake persons in the name of displacement. More than 4,000 villagers, including men and women, from Dhanbad and Jamtara districts of the state and Purulia and Burdwan districts of neighbouring West Bengal converged at Simpathar to express their solidarity with the members of the Mahasabha who have been on a dharna since March 1. “The land and houses of nearly 1670 of villagers of Simpathar was acquired by DVC in 1953-54, but none of them were provided employment,” alleged Ramashray Singh, adviser of the Mahasabha. He added that of the 1700 villagers displaced from Telkuppi village of Purulia district, only 500 villagers got appointment and the DVC management provided employment to fake persons in the pretext of displacement. He said members of Ghatwar Adivasi Mahasabha have held protests and been on fast 150 times in the last 10 years, even in Delhi and Kolkata. Though the DVC management has signed 34 agreements with the Mahasabha so far, he said, adding none of them have been implemented. Despite assurances of prompt action from the offices of the Prime Minister and state chief minister, the DVC authorities continue to ignore their directives, he alleged. JMM MP (Rajya Sabha) Sanjiv Kumar was there all along to lend support to the agitators, who were demanding that the Centre order a CBI probe into the appointment muddle. (Times of India 25/3/16)

Tribal ryots seek right to cultivate on forest land (6)

KHAMMAM: Tribal farmers from four hamlets under Raja Lingala gram panchayat in Enkoor mandal knocked the doors of the district administration seeking intervention of the higher authorities to ensure protection of rights enshrined in the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act. The aggrieved tribal farmers belonging to Mulapocharam, Rangapuram, Nemalipuri, Rampuram Tanda represented their grievances to the higher officials here on Monday. They submitted a memorandum to the higher-ups alleging that they were being prevented from cultivating the lands in their respective hamlets despite possessing RoFR pattas. Displaying the copies of the pattas in support of their claim, the tribal farmers alleged that the local Forest Department disallowed them from carrying out agricultural operations in the lands for which they were given “RoFR pattas” by the then government in 2008. They further charged the forest staff with creating hurdles to their agricultural operations by digging trenches around their lands citing the afforestation programme. They sought the intervention of the district authorities to safeguard their livelihood and legitimate rights as envisaged by the RoFR Act. Responding to their plea, the higher officials reportedly asked the Forest officials concerned to immediately look into the matter and verify the facts. (The Hindu 29/3/16)

Girijan sisters allege land grabbing (6)

VISAKHAPATNAM: Two sisters belonging to the Gadaba, a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group, complained to the Joint Collector and the Revenue Divisional Officer, Visakhapatnam that their land was being usurped by non-tribal land mafia with the active support of a Tahsildar. The complaint filed by Chinni Jogulamma and Nalli Erukulamma of Dukulampadu a tribal village under Cheemalapadu Gram Panchayat in Ravikamatam mandal in Narsipatnam Revenue Division, reveals how these innocent and illiterate women had been duped. It is shocking that a non-tribal is trying to project their land as his surplus land and would surrender it under the Land Ceiling Act in lieu of 11 acres of land in Anandapuram mandal (which is costlier several times). He is reportedly assisted by the Revenue officials. He could catch hold of a person from Dukulampadu village with the same name as of the sisters’ grandfather and made him “sell” the land and got the sale documents registered at Chodavaram Sub-Registrar’s office instead of at Narsipatnam Sub-Registrar’s Office after the Narsipatnam office rejected the registration as the “seller” could not produce his pattadar passbook. The online adangal (1B record) was also allegedly tampered with after the complaint was lodged. The two sisters and their elder sister Chinni Rajulamma, who passed away later, inherited 43 acres of land from their grandfather and are the only living heirs. During 2006 they had sold 25.9 acres to the Government under the Indira Kranti Padhakam and received Rs. 15,000 per acre. They were left with 15.74 acres after 1.38 acres was exempted under Grama Kantham. While this is the case, one Korada Sadhu Jagannadha Rao had to surrender 11.14 acres of land under the Land Ceiling Act and he offered the land of same extent at Dikulampadu to the Government and the sisters alleged that he, with the help of Tahsildar of Ravikamatam P. Umamaheswara Rao, Surveyor, VRO and RI got the details of their land changed in the online records. According to the changed records the land belonged to one Eedala Jogiraju and the land was registered in the name of Korada Sadhu Jagannada Rao and his wife Jayalakshmi. But the sisters say that Eedala Jogiraju was not having any piece of land in the past and was given 30 cents of land under his wife’s name. This piece of land was part of the land the government purchased from the sisters. The sisters wonder how Eedala Jogiraju suddenly became owner of several acres of land. When they brought this to the notice of higher officials, including the JC, RDO, CCLA, and Commissioner and IG of Stamps and Registration, the Collector invoked the SC and ST Atrocities Prevention Act, and with the help of A.P. Vyayasaya Vrittidarula Union leader P.S. Ajay Kumar, the online record was blocked. There was no response from the officials when they were approached. (The Hindu 30/3/16)

WOMEN

Dowry harassment: two women commit suicide (8)

Bengaluru: A 27-year-old housewife Hemalatha, married for two years, hanged herself to death allegedly over dowry harassment at her residence in Okalipuram on Sunday night. She took the drastic step after a bitter tiff with her husband. The police have arrested her husband Chandrashekhar, a teacher in an international school. Police said that Hemalatha’s parents, in their inquest statement, alleged that Chandrashekhar was harassing their daughter for not having a child and wanted to marry again. He had allegedly been demanding dowry to desist from another marriage.

In another case, a mathematics lecturer in an engineering college hanged herself to death over alleged dowry harassment. The deceased Manjula (31), was married to Surendra two-and-a-half years ago. They have a one-year-old toddler. Manjula was found hanging from the ceiling fan in her house in SVM Layout, Mathikere on Sunday night. A woman caught in a debt trap due to losses suffered while running a chit fund ended her life at her residence in Subramanya Nagar on Sunday morning, police said. The deceased Kusuma (44) was the wife of a bank manager. She had been running a saree business apart from a chit fund from her residence for more than five years. She was found hanging by her son Ritesh on Sunday morning when he returned from the gym. Police have registered a case. (The Hindu 22/3/16)

‘Set up trauma centres for sexual assault victims’ (8)

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Tuesday directed the State government to install trauma centres across the State for victims of sexual assault and acid attacks. A division bench of Justice Naresh Patil and Justice A M Badar was hearing two petitions, one of a four-year-old girl who, in 2012, was sexually assaulted so brutally that she had to undergo third-degree vaginal construction surgery, the other of a 15-yearold girl who was raped in 2013, then forced to marry her rapist, who abandoned her and her child. Neither victim has received any compensation from the State. Advocate Wesley Menezes, appearing for the victims, sought compensation for them under two state policies — the Manodhariya scheme. notified in October 2013, for victims of sexual assault, rape and acid attacks; and the Victim Compensation Scheme, notified in April 2014 — and also informed the court that the victims could be compensated under an amendment brought about in the Code of Criminal Procedure in 2009. Mr Menezes also informed the court that other states had one only such scheme, to Maharashtra’s two. And he said that as per a Supreme Court order, the victim was to be treated as physically handicapped and given special benefits. The court raised several questions in response. One, whether the State could be compelled to compensate victims with retrospective effect, since the cut off-dates of these policies was after the attacks in consideration. Two, if such cases are considered, how could it find pain, suffering and torture and not provide compensation to other such cases. And if the legal system were to go back, then how far back should it go. According to current compensation procedure, after a victim registers a FIR, a trauma team constituted of women counsellors must counsel the victim, but after investigating this, it was learnt that no such team exists. So, after an FIR is filed, the victim now has to approach the ‘high powered committee’ which looks into the complaint and decides on compensation.. (The Hindu 23/3/16)

Seminar on sexual harassment at workplace (8)

MUMBAI: As part of the initiatives taken for the benefit and awareness of hoteliers and restaurateurs, the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Western India (HRAWI) has organized a special seminar that will address the Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal on sexual harassment of women at workplace. The seminar will be organized at The Waterstones hotel, Mumbai, on March 29th. Vishal Kedia, an eminent authority on the subject will address the audience. “The law on the subject fits with the pledge of commitment towards ‘code of conduct for safe and honorable tourism’ signed by every hotelier for obtaining requisite licenses. We are keen to create awareness about the law amongst our member hotels. Compliance with the law not only helps female tourists and employees feel safer in India, but also fits with the concept of ‘atithi devo bhava’,” says Bharat Malkani, President, HRAWI. “Hospitality as an industry employs a sizeable number of women, and it is a figure that is growing. As the apex body of a progressive industry, we feel it is imperative upon us to facilitate a safe and secure work atmosphere for all our employees through constant training and information sessions,” concludes Malkani. (Times of India 25/3/16)

Marital rape, heinous as any other form of rape (8)

Responding to a question in the Rajya Sabha regarding the government’s stand on criminalising marital rape, Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi stated that marital rape laws cannot be “suitably applied in the Indian context”. The minister cited various factors such as “level of education/ illiteracy, poverty, myriad social customs and values, religious beliefs, mindset of the society to treat the marriage as a sacrament, etc” as justification for continued immunity to perpetrators of marital rape. This statement raises certain rather disconcerting questions – why is marital rape different from other forms of rape? How can the prevalence of poverty or illiteracy be perceived as valid grounds of defending rape offenders? Does marital rape occur only in poor and illiterate households? More importantly, how does marriage become a licence to rape? Marital rape occurs when one spouse has non-consensual sexual intercourse with the other, or where consent is extorted by threats or fear of bodily harm. Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that deals with rape, exempts marital rape from its purview by stating that “sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape”. The foundation of this archaic sentiment can be traced back to the 17th century English laws which established that once married, the wife does not have the right to refuse sex to her husband. The wife is thus perceived as a property of the husband and marriage contract is taken as an entitlement to sex. Although the UK criminalised marital rape in 1991, India continues to defend this form of ‘legalised’ sexual slavery. What is further disturbing is that while on the one hand the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act makes age of consent for marriage 18 for girls, women above 15 can be raped by their husbands with legal impunity. It is feared that criminalising marital rape will threaten the sanctity of marriage and will lead to the breakdown of the family. This fear stems from a patriarchal and misogynistic morality that legitimises violence against women. Does the sanctity of marriage not break the moment one spouse physically, sexually, or mentally abuses the other? But in the name of tradition, culture and sacredness of marriage rituals, women are expected to silently bear such abuse in a marriage. Evidence has shown that marital rape is one of the most common forms of sexual violence in India. The 2005-06 National Family and Health Survey (NFHS-3) records that 10% currently married women in the age group of 15-49 have experienced sexual violence and the vast majority of them have experienced such violence at the hands of their husbands. … (Deccan Herald 28/3/16)

Widespread sexual harassment still persists in Delhi: study (8)

Washington/New Delhi: Sexual harassment remains a pervasive problem in Delhi despite tougher laws being enacted after the gruesome Nirbhaya rape and murder case in 2012, according to a new study that found 40 per cent of female respondents were sexually harassed in the past year. About 40 per cent of women surveyed in Delhi said they have been sexually harassed in a public place such as a bus or park in the past year, with most of the crimes occurring in the daytime, researchers said. Further, 33 per cent of women have stopped going out in public and 17 per cent have quit their jobs rather than face harassment in public places. “What this means is that women, despite Nirbhaya, are still afraid,” said Mahesh Nalla, from the Michigan State University in US. Nirbhaya became the pseudonym given to the gang rape victim whose death in 2012 brought worldwide attention to violence against women. “Women in India do not feel safe being in public spaces, which is clearly a human rights issue,” Nalla said. While sexual harassment is a problem experienced by women worldwide, it may be more prevalent in emerging democracies such as India and other countries in South Asia where women are becoming more involved in the workforce, said Nalla. “The problem is intensified by the existence of a cramped, inadequate public transportation system, massive youth migration to urban areas and the fact that India is a traditional patriarchal society where many still believe a woman’s place is in the home,” he said. Nalla and Manish Madan, assistant professor at Stockton University, surveyed about 1,400 men and women in the capital city of New Delhi on a host of issues including perceptions and history of sexual harassment, use of public transportation, safety in public spaces and police effectiveness in dealing with these concerns. Researchers found that 40 per cent of female respondents were sexually harassed in the past year and 58 per cent were sexually harassed at least once during their lifetime. Respondents were asked to gauge the seriousness of sexual incidents ranging from whistling to asking a woman for sexual favours to patting her buttocks or squeezing her breasts. While both men and women generally considered all incidents serious, men considered them considerably less serious, illustrating “a disjunction between how males and females think,” Nalla said. Sexual harassment of women in public spaces in India and elsewhere in South Asia – known as “Eve teasing” – has long been a common occurrence, particularly by groups of young male perpetrators, he said. The December 16, 2012 rape and murder of Nirbhaya by a group of men on a moving bus in Delhi brought about new laws for rape and criminalised voyeurism and stalking. However, despite these efforts, sexual harassment continues on a broad scale, the study suggests (Deccan Herald 30/3/16)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

Rescue kids from the clutches of bonded labour (14)

According to the 2011 census, India has 4.35 million child labourers. Of these, about 3,50,000 are bonded labourers. “The government does not want to recognise these kids as bonded labourers and give them that certificate. This will not support the narrative of a ‘Shining India’,” says Ajay Pandit, who founded Synergy Sansthan with his friends in 2006. Located in Madhya Pradesh, this non-governmental organisation is trying to rescue kids in Harda district from the clutches of bonded labour. Ajay says that these are adivasi and dalit kids from the area who are coerced into working for farmers, at construction sites or brick-making factories in exchange for some food grains or money. Even their parents are given money to allow this. Owing to the abject poverty these families suffer from, the employers justify themselves saying that at least they provide them with food and accommodation. With their parents, they don’t know where their next meal is coming from. In due time, these girls and boys, who start working as soon as they turn 7 or 8 years old lose all their aspirations and even forget to dream. Their life is limited to taking orders from their masters. Though the government does provide some money in cases where the kids are identified, Ajay wonders how that would compensate for their lost childhood. With the money raised on Ketto, Synergy Sansthan is working towards creating a model to rehabilitate these kids after rescuing them. They want to build a community college that works on their skill enhancement. Providing them assistance to pursue entrepreneurship and help with the acquisition of jobs to ensure sustainable livelihood is also Synergy Sansthan’s modus operandi. “We want to start working on their dreams through the journey of ‘self to society’. We want to awaken their spirit,” shares the 32-year-old Ajay. (DNA 21/3/16)

Child Rights Commission not in favour of amendment (14)

Vijayapura: Expressing reservation over the Union government’s proposed amendments to the Child Labour Act to allow children aged less than 14 to work in non-hazardous places such as homes, Krupa Alva, chairperson, Karnataka State Child Rights Commission, has said that the commission has conveyed its opinion to the Union Ministry of Law and Women and Child Welfare. Addressing presspersons here on Monday after holding a review meeting with officials, she said that the amendment, if implemented, could be misused by people who will make children work as domestic helps and thereby deprive them of schooling. She said that the amendment should not be implemented, as it would have an adverse impact on students. “We are strongly in favour of retaining the original Act without bringing in the proposed amendments,” Ms. Alva added. Expressing concern about children dropping out of schools, Ms. Alva said that the commission has decided to involve various organisations to increase enrolment in schools. She said that so far, it was only the Department of Education which had this responsibility, but now, the commission wishes to involve various non-government organisations, the Legal Services Authority, various women’s group and other volunteers to increase enrolment in schools.“Awareness on the importance of sending children to schools would be created. We understand that poverty is one of the main reasons for parents not sending their children to school. However, we should convey to them that despite poverty, they can send their children to school to ensure a good career for them,” Ms. Alva said. Vanita Torvi, member of the commission, said that from June this year, the commission would start a pilot project in Vijayapura, Bagalkot and Belagavi to spread awareness against child marriage. She said that during their visit to various parts of the district, they rescued five children working in brick kilns and restaurants. Ms. Torvi said that people can call 1098 or the commission on (080) 22115291 to register complaints related to child abuse. (The Hindu 23/3/16)

Child rights panel for ban on schools that violate rules (14)

Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights has directed the Secretary of General Education and Director to ensure that from the next academic year, no school in the State functions in violation of the provisions of the Right to Education Act. A Division Bench of the Commission, including Chairperson Shobha Koshy and member J. Sandhya, ordered that appropriate instructions be given to the Deputy Directors of Education, District Education Officers and Sub-District Education Officers. The Commission also recommended that the government make use of the media to convince parents and stop them from admitting their children to schools with no mandatory recognition. The General Education Secretary and the Director have been asked to make available to all local bodies, the list of schools without recognition under its jurisdiction for the public to scrutinise. The Commission issued the order in response to a complaint that the functioning of an unrecognised school in Kottayam was in violation of the Right to Education Act. As it has become amply clear that the said school has no recognition going by Section 18 of the Right to Education Act, the authorities should conduct an extensive investigation and take necessary action. (The Hindu 27/3/16)

Childline rescues 78 kids from Indore railway station (14)

Indore: Over 78 children were rescued by GRP and Childline volunteers at the Indore Railway Station on Tuesday as they were brought to the city on Patna-Indore express train. An unidentified caller on Monday evening informed Childline about these children being transported to Indore in the train following which they were rescued. The children are believed to be hailing from Bihar and other parts of north India. Childline volunteers entered the train at Dewas junction to trace the children. After this, the children were rescued at the Indore Railway station by Childine volunteers and GRP. However, no one was found accompanying these children during operation. “We received a call on helpline number 1098 on Monday evening, the caller informed us about a bunch of children who were being brought to Indore in the general compartment of Indore-Patna express,” said Childline city coordinator Brijesh Dhakad. Out of 78 children, 38 children are under-18 years while the rest 40 are above 18 years. Children have been sent to different shelter homes according to their age category, Dhakad added. Meanwhile, official complaint will be registered after counselling of these rescued children tomorrow. Childline volunteers claimed that this incident can be linked to the rescue operation held in a bag making factory at Moti Tabela area in the city earlier this month. Over 19 children were rescued from this bag factory on March 2. “A case of human trafficking will be registered after the children are counselled on Wednesday. The children are very scared,” said the volunteers. (Times of India 30/3/16)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

Petition to minority panel against VHP (7)

MEERUT: Two days after the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) announced that they would form squads to “protect Hindu girls from Love Jihad” this Holi, a Delhi-based minority rights activist has filed a petition with the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) against the saffron outfit’s “vigilantism”. A copy of the petition has also been sent to the ministry of home affairs, chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and the director general of UP Police. “As per a Times of India report Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal announced that they would form teams of 10-15 “youngsters” to check incidents of eve-teasing of Hindu girls and prevent attempts of “love jihad” this Holi. According to a VHP functionary, these groups would be active in at least 400 villages in Meerut district and they would “not back down from a fight” if the “honour of Hindu daughters and sisters” was threatened. The above statement is in flagrant violation of section 153A, 295(A), 505 (2) of the Indian Penal Code and amounts to deliberately, intentionally and maliciously outraging the religious feelings, inciting hatred and ill-will amongst communities. It is an eminent threat to law and order in the state of UP. We have seen how Hindutva vigilante groups have been targeting Muslims in the name of cow protection in Dadri, Latehar (Jharkhand) and MP. Now, they intend to use ‘Love Jihad’ to mobilize mobs against minorities,” the petition from minority-rights activist and lawyer Shehzaad Poonawala reads. He adds, “It is to be noted that the entire bogey of Love Jihad is based on complete and utter falsehoods and there has not been a single proven case. Before elections, leaders of the BJP and Sangh Parivar cite fabricated stories to communalize and polarize the situation. For instance BJP MP Yogi Adityanath raised this bogey before the UP by polls in September 2014. Similar false claims on Love Jihad were made by BJP leader from Indore Usha Thakur and BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj. Reports in leading dailies busted the hateful lie and myth propagated by Yogi Adityanath and his ilk in the BJP on the Meerut Love Jihad case. As you are aware, a BJP leader gave Rs 25000 to spread this false lie about Love Jihad and was caught red handed.” The VHP on Sunday had announced the setting up of squads to “protect Hindu girls” during Holi. When asked if this amounted to vigilantism, a VHP functionary had said, “VHP karyakartaon ko kanoon haath mein lene ki shiksha nahi di jaati. Lekin behen-betiyon ke bachav mein agar ladai hoti hai toh usse peeche hatna theek nahi hai. (VHP workers are not taught to take the law into their own hands. However, it is not prudent to back down from a fight if it breaks out while protecting our sisters and daughters).” (Times of India 22/3/16)

Centre drastically cuts grant for minority scholarship in Gujarat (7)

Gandhinagar: The Centre has drastically cut the scholarship amount for minorities in Gujarat in the last one year, which was Tuesday revealed in two written replies of Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Ramanlal Vora in the Assembly to two starred questions by Congress MLA from Danilimda constituency Shailesh Parmar. According to the details given by Vora to one of Parmar’s questions, in 2014-15, the Gujarat government had sought a total grant of Rs 12334.52 lakh (or Rs 123.3 crore) from the central government for pre-matric, post-matric and merit-cum-Means scholarships for minorities. Against this, the central government had granted Rs 8600.86 lakh (Rs 86 crore). However, the grant for the same three categories went down drastically for 2015-16. For this period, the Gujarat government sought a grant of Rs 4780.42 lakh (Rs 47.8 crore) from the Centre, but it received only Rs 51.08 lakh. Later in a press statement, Parmar said: “On the one hand, the government is talking of minorities’ education, and on the other hand, due to non-allotment of scholarship grants, the education of minority communities was being hampered.” (Indian Express 23/3/16)

Pope Urges Better Security for Religious Minorities in Pakistan (7)

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis on Monday appealed to Pakistani authorities to step up security for religious minorities after the “abhorrent” suicide bombing targeting Christians which killed scores in Lahore. “Yesterday in Pakistan, Holy Easter was bloodied by an abhorrent attack,” the pontiff told a crowd gathered in St Peter’s Square in his Angelus blessing on Easter Monday. “Once again, violence and heinous murder lead only to suffering and destruction.” “I appeal to the civil authorities and to all the social constituents of this nation to do everything in their power to restore safety and serenity to the population, particularly the most vulnerable religious minorities”, he said. More than 70 people were killed on Sunday in the suicide bombing near a children’s play area in a park in Lahore, where many had gathered to celebrate Easter. The Taliban claimed responsibility and said the attack had targeted Christians. The Vatican on Sunday had condemned the attack as “fanatical violence against Christian minorities”. (New Indian Express 28/3/16)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

Alleviate sense of fear among Muslims due to riots: Sufi outfit tells Modi govt (7)

A charter of demands unveiled during the World Sufi Forum organised by the All India Ulama and Mashaikh Board (AIUMB) has asked the government to alleviate the “sense of fear” among Muslims over riots and urged PM Narendra Modi to rectify “historical blunders” in India that brought in extremist ideologies. “There is a sense of fear among Muslims due to riots. The government should alleviate this fear and Union Home Ministry should spell out what steps have been taken with regard to all small or big communal incidents and riots that have taken place so far in different parts of the country,” the AIUMB said in the 25-point charter, which was released on the concluding day of the event at a packed Ramlila Maidan Sunday.Speaking at the venue, AIUMB founder president Syed Muhammad Ashraf said: “We are hopeful that the government will pay heed to our requests and keep in mind the interests of Indian Muslims…. Over the last few decades, there have been concerted efforts to weaken Sufism in India and replace it with an extremist and radical ideology. This recent phenomenon is dangerous not just for the Muslim community, but also for the country itself. We now request our honourable Prime Minister to rectify these historical blunders and kindly meet the demands of millions of Sufi followers in India.” The charter called for establishing a central Sufi centre in Delhi and in all other capital cities. It also demanded establishment of a Khwaja Garib Nawaz University, creation of “Sufi Corridors”, a review of the Waqf Amendment Bill and a decision to set up a national corporation for development of Waqf properties. (Indian Express 21/3/16)

‘Gau rakshaks’ in Gurgaon hold Muslim migrants to ransom over beef (7)

Gurgaon: Haryana’s beef ban is depriving Gurgaon’s Muslim migrants of buffalo meat, one of their most preferred and cheapest sources of protein. The reason: cow protection activists are allegedly targeting migrants and meat-sellers over suspicion of dealing in beef. Meat-sellers say vigilante groups have become more assertive after the BJP government in the state last year introduced a stringent law that invites rigorous imprisonment up to 10 years and a fine of Rs 1 lakh for cow slaughter. Last year, at least eight cases of violence by vigilante groups were reported to police though many incidents are believed to have gone unreported for fear for persecution. In the first two months this year, one case of cow slaughter was registered. Though there is no ban on sale of buffalo meet in Haryana, sources said the assaults by cow activists are creating a fear psychosis among the migrant population. Gurgaon, one of the most affluent cities in India, has a large Muslim migrant population engaged as domestic helps, drivers, helpers, guards and mechanics, most of them staying in slum clusters at sectors 56 and 57. This low-income group prefers buffalo as it is the cheapest among all meats, costing between Rs 80-100 per kg. In contrast, chicken costs Rs 180-200 per kg and mutton Rs 450 per kg. Beef consumption has become a controversial issue in the country after fringe groups and self-styled protection groups started targeting people they accuse of slaughtering cow, considered sacred by Hindus. In September, a 55-year-old Muslim man was lynched and his son seriously injured by a mob over allegations of cow slaughter at Bisada village in Uttar Pradesh’s Dadri area, sparking a nationwide debate on religious intolerance since the BJP came to power in 2014. Last week, two Muslim cattle-traders including a minor were hanged from a tree in Jharkhand’s Balumath. One among the five arrested over the incident is a member of a cow protection group. “Few days ago, I was assaulted by ‘gau rakshaks’ (cow protectors) on Sohna road while I was supplying buffalo meat for a marriage party…Since that incident I have stopped visiting Mewat (from where buffalo meat is sourced),” said Muhammad Noor Hasan, who runs a meat shop in Ghata, a south Gurgaon locality. Besides Mewat, most of the buffalo meat for Gurgaon comes from Faridabad. Rita Hussain, a domestic help working in DLF City Phase-4, said they cannot afford goat meat as it is very expensive. “And we do not find it (mutton) tasty compared to buffalo meat. It is (also) a tradition to cook buffalo meat during marriages and other important family functions,” she added. Bhani Ram Mangala, chairman of the Haryana Gau Sewa Ayog, a state government body, sided with the activists saying that meat sellers or buyers who transport in bulk should get a certificate from a veterinary doctor. …  (Hindustan Times 23/3/16)

‘Dropout rate in Raj maximum among Muslims’ (7)

Jaipur: Muslim students have recorded highest percentage of out of school students in Rajasthan. Data drawn from the 2011 Census 2011 and HRD ministry by Muslim organisations states that 23% of the community’s students were out of school from Class I to XII in 2014-15. Figures of other religious communities states that their share in enrolment is almost equivalent to their share in population of the state. As per the HRD figures, the share of Muslim students in total enrolment was 7% whereas their share in the total population of the state, according to the Census 2011 report, was 9.02%. The mismatch in enrolment and actual population percentage is further explained by the fact that the state’s total enrolment in 2014-15 was 1.30 crore in both private and government schools against 9.10 lakh for Muslims.”Ideally, the share of Muslim students according to their share in the total population should have been 11.72 lakh. It means that 2.62 lakh Muslim students in Classes I to XII were out of school. This is an alarming number and it will have a widespread impact on the development of the community,” said Muzaffar Bharti, a social activist working on education of socially underprivileged communities. The community’s condition in primary education is even more pitiable. The District Information System for Education (DISE) data says that the share of Muslim students in primary classes was 7.89% against their share of 10% in the age group of 0-9 years population group. The situation of girls is even worse. For every 100 Muslim boys, state has only 81 Muslim girls enrolled in schools. Placing partial blame on the community, Mujahid Naqvi of Milli Council said, “Figures are indeed shocking. The community has to collectively come forward and ensure that in the upcoming academic session children in the age group of 4-7 years, who were never admitted to school, should be in school.” Targeting the government, Naqvi said the grim picture raises questions on the state government’s schemes and policies. (Times of India 28/3/16)

Madrassa boys thrashed for not saying ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ (7)

NEW DELHI: Three madrassa students have alleged that they were beaten up by a group of men in outer Delhi’s Ramesh Enclave for refusing to chant ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’.One of the victims, Mohammad Dilkash, 18, said his arm was broken in the attack as five men, who had been drinking in a public park, beat them with sticks on Saturday evening after demanding that the students chant the slogan. The victims study at a local madrassa and had gone to the park during a break. Police registered an FIR in the case on Tuesday night. They had earlier recorded the victims’ statements and said they were verifying certain details. Cops said the victims had initially told them that they were asked to chant ‘Jai Mata ki’. The students have identified two of the attackers as Pintu and Sahil, who live in the neighbourhood. (Times of India 30/3/16)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

Bangladesh: Christian convert hacked to death (7)

Dhaka: Unidentified attackers hacked a Christian convert to death in northern Bangladesh on Tuesday, amid growing attacks on religious minorities by suspected Islamist militants in the Muslim-majority country. The police said at least two attackers stopped Hossain Ali while the 68-year-old was taking his regular morning walk in the town of Kurigram and then lunged at his neck with sharp weapons. “He died on the spot. The attackers exploded a molotov cocktail to create panic and left the scene on a motorcycle,” Kurigram district police chief Tobarak Ullah told AFP. Mr Ullah said Ali had converted to Christianity from Islam in 1999 but he was not sure whether the deadly attack was carried out by Islamists or if there was another motive. “He was not a pastor or reputed Christian. Also there were some disputes over his family properties,” Mr Ullah said. Nobody has claimed responsibility for the killing. But in recent months militants claiming to be soldiers of the Islamic State group have claimed responsibility for a series of attacks on converts and minorities including Shias, Sufi and Ahmadi Muslims, Christians and Hindus. Last week the IS said it killed a Shia convert from Sunni Islam in the south-western town of Kaliganj. In January an alleged Christian convert was also murdered by the same group. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government denies that Islamic State has a presence in Bangladesh. It blames the banned home-grown militant group Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh for the upsurge in deadly violence. (Asin Age 23/3/16)

Fears priest ‘kidnapped by Isis’ may be crucified on Good Friday (7)

Fears are growing for an Indian priest believed to have been kidnapped by Isis after rumours circulated online suggesting he may be crucified on Good Friday. Tom Uzhunnalil is believed to have been taken from a retirement home in Yemen during an attack by Islamic extremists on 4 March. The group shot 16 people – including four nuns – during the incident at the home in Aden, which is run by missionaries, the International Business Times India said. Father Uzhannalil has not been heard from since, but the Franciscan Sisters of Siessen posted a message on their Facebook page on Sunday claiming they had been informed of his torture, and said they believed he will be crucified on Good Friday. “This calls for serious concerted prayers from all of us,” the Sisters said.However, a member of Bangalore’s Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco, Bangalore, of which Father Uzhunnalil was previously a part, told the International Business Times India: “There is no information about the whereabouts of Father Tom. We are only praying for him.” No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, and officials in Yemen are said to have blamed Isis, although al-Qaeda are also present in the area. A handwritten account of the incident from a nun who was at the home at the time, published on Christian website Aleteian, claims five young Ethiopian Christian men ran to the sisters to tell them Isis were coming to kill them. It describes the brutal killing of many people at the home, and also appears to confirm Father Uzhannalil’s kidnap. “A neighbour saw them put Father Tom in their car. They did not find a trace of Father anywhere,” it said. (Times of India 25/3/16)

Making all efforts to secure Father Tom’s release in Yemen: Sushma Swaraj (7)

The Indian government on Saturday confirmed the capture of Father Tom Uzhunnalil, the Indian priest from Bangalore, who was kidnapped by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) in Yemen and said that efforts were underway to ensure that he is released. “Fr Tom Uzhunnallil – an Indian national from Kerala was abducted by a terror group in Yemen. We r making all efforts to secure his release,” External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted. Her reaction comes after a growing alarm among the Christian community following an ominous report by the terror outfit to crucify him around EasterTom Unzhunnalil was kidnapped from the Missionaries of Charity’s home for the elderly in Aden where he serves as a chaplain on March 4. It’s believed that ISIS had kidnapped him but A spokesman for the Bangalore province of the Salesians was quoted saying that no group has taken any responsibility yet. A post on the group’s South Africa page has been taken down. Earlier, the Yemen authorities blamed ISIL for the attack on March 4. The External Affairs Ministry had said only one Indian nurse was killed in the terrorist attack in strife-torn Yemen’s Aden city. 16 people were killed in Aden when a group of terrorists stormed an elderly care home run by a Kolkata-based Missionaries of Charity and sprayed bullets at the residents. There are around 80 residents living at the home, which is run by Missionaries of Charity, an organisation established by Mother Teresa.Missionaries of Charity nuns also came under attack in Yemen in 1998 when gunmen killed three nuns in the Red Sea port city of Hodeida. (DNA 26/3/16)

Manipuri: Hindus clash with Christians over ‘attempt to convert’ Dalits (7)

Lucknow: WORKERS OF Bajrang Dal and Hindu Jagran Manch (HJM) clashed with a group of converted Christians in Auchha area of Mainpuri district on Sunday over allegedly holding a function to convert 40 Dalits to Christianity. The clash took place when members of the Hindu outfits went to the house of a Dalit, to protest against the alleged conversion. Mainpuri’s Bajrang Dal district convenor Sushil Yadav and HJM district vice-president Rajesh Tiwari, general secretary Arun Mishra and worker Santosh Kumar sustained serious injuries in the clash. The police have lodged cross FIRs on the complaints of Raj Kumari Jatav, a Dalit, and Santosh Kumar at Auchha police station. No arrest has been made so far. “Preliminary investigation has found that a group of people – who originally belonged to the SC category but had converted to Christianity years ago – were celebrating Easter at Nagla Ram Singh village on Sunday. A function was organised by one Sanjay Jatav, who had converted to Christianity and lives in Ludhiana. The function was organised at the house of his aunt Ram Lali, a Dalit,” Auchha Station House Officer Umesh Nath Mishra said. “Over 20 people belonging to the SC community had come from adjoining districts like Etah and Firozabad to attend the function, which was organised with the help of Raj Kumari Jatav,” he added. HJM worker Santosh Kumar has told police that Bajrang Dal’s Sushil Yadav had received information on Sunday morning that a few persons were forcibly converting Dalits to Christianity. Around a dozen Bajrang Dal and HJM workers reached Nagla Ram Singh to verify the news, he said, adding that after meeting village pradhan Shailendra Yadav, they reached Ram Lali’s house. “We asked the owner of the house to come outside… Ajay (Raj Kumari Jatav’s husband) came outside with several youths. We asked them if a function was being held to convert people… The youths entered into a heated argument and asked us to leave. As we told them not to threaten us, they attacked us with sticks and started pelting stones. They were joined by more people who hit us with sticks, rods and stones,” claimed Santosh. “Hearing about the clash, a police team rushed to the spot. But those celebrating Easter escaped soon after the team arrived,” said the SHO. Following this, Santosh Kumar got an FIR lodged alleging that when they tried to stop forced conversion, Sanjay Jatav, along with his 20 aides, attacked them. The other FIR was lodged on Raj Kumari Jatav’s complaint against Sushil Yadav, Arun Mishra, Rajesh Tiwari, Shyama Charan and five others under sections 295-A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious feelings), 452 (house-trespass after preparation for hurt) of the IPC and the SC/ST Act. (Indian Express 29/3/16)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

Refugee’s family on fast (13)

CHENNAI: A family of three refugees, including a child, is on an indefinite fast seeking release amidst fear of getting deported to Sri Lanka. Dayanraj (35) lodged in the Special Refugees Camp at Tiruchi,his wife Udayakala (32) and daughter Dhilsiya (4) housed in Mandapam refugees camp are on fast since Thursday. The family is demanding the release of Dayanraj, who has been in the special camp for about a year, police sources said on Sunday.According to a senior police official, Dayanraj is likely to be deported to Sri Lanka where he is wanted in a few criminal cases. “If released from the special camp, he is likely to escape from the purview of law-enforcing agencies,” he said, parrying questions on whether Dayanraj was a former cadre of the banned Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). It is believed that as many as one lakh Sri Lankan Tamil refugees are living in camps or outside in the State. At least 19 refugees are lodged in the special camp at Tiruchi charges of specific offences. Besides, a large number of refugees who managed to reach Tamil Nadu through various means are living in various locations without registering with the competent authority. They constantly make attempts, along with registered refugees, to reach countries like Australia, France, Canada and Switzerland, the sources added. Refuting allegations of some rights organisations that refugees were detained in special camps on fake cases only to sustain the operations of the ‘Q’ Branch CID of the Tamil Nadu police, the official said all special camps were closed, except the one in Tiruchi. (The Hindu 21/3/16)

Sri Lankan Tamil refugee’s family released (13)

CHENNAI: In a late-evening development on Tuesday, the State government ordered the release of Sri Lankan Tamil refugee K. Dhayabararaj’s family from the special quarantine detention camp at Mandapam in Ramanathapuram district. As the indefinite fast of the family demanding release entered the sixth day, the authorities released Udayakala and her three children amid allegations that their detention was unlawful, police sources said. Mr. Dhayabararaj, who is held at the Tiruchi special camp, had alleged that his family was being illegally detained in the special quarantine camp that lacked basic amenities. He claimed that the health condition of his wife who required an emergency surgery was declining. Since no dole (financial aid of Rs. 100 per day) was paid, his family had to starve for several days. On Thursday, they decided to launch a fast-unto-death agitation demanding justice. “On release, a local church pastor agreed to give them food and shelter. My wife is in a state of shock…she was under treatment for depression for sometime. The authorities have to explain why my family was detained in the quarantine camp for so long without any assistance,” Mr. Dhayabararaj told The Hindu on Tuesday. He said the family was arrested on arrival by boat in 2014. After being convicted in the Passport Act case, the family served a one year sentence. “We were detained again in special camps. I was separated from my wife and children and lodged at the Tiruchi special camp. There is no case against us. In the last six months, I sent several petitions to the Home Secretary seeking my release but there was no response,” he said. Police sources maintained that the process was on to repatriate Dhayabararaj and his family to Sri Lanka. “We have information that he is involved in a financial fraud case in Sri Lanka. During the process of repatriation, it is required to keep him custody. There is a possibility that he might abscond if released,” a senior police official said on condition of anonymity. People’s Union for Civil Liberties national general secretary V. Suresh said the Tamil Nadu government should respond with a humanitarian gesture and release Dhayabararaj from the special camp. “Instead of sticking to technicalities, they must release him. His wife and children need him as much as he needs them for their collective well being,” he said. In a related development, at least 90 cadres of the Makkal Nala Kootani staged a demonstrated in front of the Tiruchi camp demanding its closure. They were arrested and released in the evening. (The Hindu 23/3/16)

Pope slams ‘rejection’ of migrants, refugees in Easter message (13)

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis on Sunday spoke out against the “rejection” of migrants and refugees during his Easter message as Europe struggles with its biggest migration crisis since World War II.”The Easter message of the risen Christ… invites us not to forget those men and women seeking a better future, an ever more numerous throng of migrants and refugees… fleeing from war, hunger, poverty and social injustice.  “All too often, these brothers and sisters of ours meet along the way with death or, in any event, rejection by those who could offer them welcome and assistance.” The pontiff referred to Syria’s “lengthy conflict, with its sad wake of destruction, death, contempt for humanitarian law”, stressing his hope for peace talks set to resume next month between the government and opposition forces. “Good will and the cooperation of all will bear fruit in peace and initiate the building of a fraternal society,” he said to the crowds gathered below the central balcony of St Peter’s Basilica. (Times of India 27/3/16)

UN chief visits Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, meets Middle Eastern leaders in capital (13)

New York, Mar 28 : United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon continued his trip to the Middle East on Sunday with a visit to Jordan alongside World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, where they met with refugees from the Zaatari camp, as well as with senior government officials from Palestine, Turkey and Jordan, including King Abdullah II. I was here at the beginning of the establishment of Zaatari camp and I saw a lot of difference: first of all, much more people, unfortunately, are there without being able to return, Ban told reporters at a press conference about his second visit to the camp since it opened in 2012. I saw lots of activities, signs of life. I could find everything which you may have in the centre of Amman city. Even a theatre was there, not to mention shopping centres and restaurants and sports centres. However nice all those facilities may be, it is not the same as what they could enjoy home in Syria, he added. The Secretary-Generals activities also included an open dialogue with youth in the capital, Amman, at the University of Jordan. He said thanks to its strong institutions, he is confident the country will continue to play a principled role in the region and the world. Young people are not just the leaders of tomorrow; they are the leaders of on Sunday. And you are part of the biggest generation of young people in history, he told them. In meetings earlier on Sunday, Ban expressed his appreciation to Jordan for hosting Syrian refugees, and applauded the increased support by the international community to the countries most impacted by the Syrian crisis. An international conference was recently convened in London by the UN, the United Kingdom, Germany, Norway and Kuwait, where $5.5 billion in funding was mobilized for this year. Ban said it was the most successful one but believes the global community needs to do much more. That is why we are going to convene this World Humanitarian Summit, which will be the first-ever in the history of the United Nations, to discuss and to bring out some predictable sustainable framework to provide humanitarian assistance to more than 120 million people around the world, including Syrian refugees, including many helpless, defenseless people around the world, he underlined, referring to the upcoming meeting on 23 and 24 May in Istanbul. In addition, he commended the Jordanian Government for launching the Jordan 2025 development strategy, based on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Secretary-General and King Abdullah II also discussed the Middle East Peace Process, stressing the importance of a return to negotiations for a two-State solution. The Secretary-General thanked Jordan for its important role as custodian of the Jerusalem holy sites, the readout further indicated. Meanwhile, in a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the UN chief reiterated his deep concern over the ongoing violence and the need for both sides to diffuse tensions. The Secretary-General further underscored the need for making progress on Palestinian unity and for greater leadership on the Gaza reconstruction. They also discussed the Middle East Peace Process, including the role of the Quartet, said the readout. Later with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, the UN chief commended Turkey for hosting Syrian refugees and took note of its recent framework agreement with the European Union in this regard. (New Kerala 28/3/16)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

RTI activist seeks action against MP (1)

Mumbai: Right to Information activist Anil Galgali has filed an application seeking that former Mumbai Police Commissioner and current Member of Parliament Satyapal Singh be stripped of his membership of Parliament. The application, which was filed before the office of the Election Commissioner, the Lok Sabha speaker, and the Prime Minister’s Office, states that Mr Singh has not followed election rules. The matter pertains to a flat that Mr Singh owns in the Patliputra Society in Andheri, which had brought the MP in the eye of the proverbial storm after a flesh trade racket was busted in it by the Mumbai Police’s Social Service Branch in June 2014. The former top cop had escaped unscathed at the time, as the racket was being run by the person who he had rented the flat to. According to Mr Galgali, he obtained information under the RTI Act last week that Mr Singh had failed to pay a fine of Rs 48,420 imposed by the Collector, Mumbai suburbs, for renting out the flat without proper permission from the collector. (The Hindu 21/3/16)

Police checking RTI pleas of activist (1)

MANGALURU: The police are going through the right to information applications filed by Vinayak Baliga as part of the investigation into his alleged murder here on Monday. The 51-year-old Mr. Baliga, an electrical contractor, was allegedly hacked to death by unknown assailants near his house in Car Street on Monday morning. According to a police official, Baliga had filed many RTI applications in the last three years. It includes on electrical issues, on building violations and some pertaining to temples. “We are going through these applications to find leads to the perpetrators,” the officer said. Mr. Baliga was attacked by the assailants a few meters away from his house when he was going towards Tajmahal Hotel. The police could not gather much information from the images of CCTVs installed near the place of murder. (The Hindu 23/3/16)

Can’t disclose legal assistance offered to RAW agents: Govt (1)

New Delhi: Government has refused to give details of rules and regulations regarding the extent of legal protection that is provided to officers and employees of the Research and Analysis Wing operatives abroad The Cabinet Secretariat has refused to give these details under the Right to Information Act saying Research and Analysis Wing which functions under it is exempted from any disclosures under the law except allegations of human rights violations and corruption. The issue becomes important in the light of Pakistan’s allegations that they have arrested a purported spy of RAW. Ministry of External Affairs has refuted the allegations saying the arrested person has no links with the Indian Government. “There is no information in public domain about what must be done if, heaven forbid, an Indian intelligence operative is murdered abroad. “This is a concern that is very much valid even though it must not be taken as a comment on the latest incident of the apprehension of an Indian national in Pakistan,” RTI applicant Venkatesh Nayak told PTI. Nayak categorically told RAW in his RTI application that he was not seeking details of the manner in which its officers involved in overseas intelligence operations are trained to protect themselves against legal or illegal action by law enforcement agencies in foreign countries. “The purpose of including this clarification was to reassure them that I was not seeking information that would expose the training and other measures that India’s R&AW officers and other intelligence operatives are instructed to undertake to protect themselves as such disclosure would most likely endanger them and would not be in the public interest at this stage,” Nayak, who is with Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, said. (Business Standard 27/3/16)

CIC sends notice to Intelligence Bureau over Chaturvedi report (1)

New Delhi: The Central Information Commission has issued a notice to Intelligence Bureau, an organisation exempted from transparency laws except in some cases, asking it to explain why its report on alleged harassment of whistleblower IFoS officer Sanjiv Chaturvedi by officials be not made public. “The Intelligence Bureau is one of the organisations specified in Second Schedule to the RTI Act u/s 24, exempting it from purview of RTI Act except when CIC considered that the information sought is either related to corruption or violation of human rights by that organisation,” information commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu said. He noted that the applicant has stated that the information sought is relating to alleged violation of human rights. Mr Acharyulu said even if IB had objected to sharing of its report, gist of which is already in public domain, the ministry of environment and forest could have given a copy of it to Sanjiv Chaturvedi. “Even though the organisation/IB is totally exempted under section 24, this kind of information could be furnished by IB. As per second proviso to section 24, the information shall only be provided after the approval of the Central Information Commission. Hence the applicant approached the commission seeking approval,” he noted. Mr Chaturvedi, who exposed alleged forestry scam in Haryana, had sought the copy of IB report, which was sent to Cabinet Secretary and the ministry of environment and forests in August, 2014, on the issue of allegedly “foisting false cases against him in retaliation of his investigation and reports against major corruption in the state.” (Asian Age 30/3/16)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

Right to Education Act Remarkable Achievement: Ansari (11)

NEW DELHI: The Right to Education Act was a “remarkable achievement” despite its shortcomings, Vice President Hamid Ansari said on Monday, even as he lamented that government financing for education was insufficient. “Despite the shortcomings in its implementation, the Right to Education Act remains a remarkable achievement,” Ansari said addressing the National Stocktaking Convention organised by the Right to Education Forum. “While concerns regarding privatisation of education remain, the Act offers a first step towards an educational system in India that provides access, equity and inclusion for all children,” he said. He also expressed concern over the decline in state funding of education. “The decline in state funding in the key social sector programmes, including education, is of particular concern. Public services like education are the key to nurture participatory growth. Financing for Right to Education remains inadequate,” Ansari said. “Total public expenditure for education, at less than 3.5 percent of GDP, is well below the 6 percent commitment made in the National Education Policies,” he said. Ansari said that at 52 percent, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) received more than half the money under school education allocation in the latest budget, but over the last five years, the SSA budget has declined by 6 percent, from Rs.23,873 crore ($4.4 billion) in 2012-13 to Rs.22,500 crore ($3.3 billion) for 2016-17. He also pointed out that large gaps remain in implementing the scheme. “Critical appraisal of the functioning of the Right to Education reveals that large gaps exist in its implementation. “Even with the increasing primary enrolment rates, India has the largest number of out-of-school children in the world which is more than the out-of-school children in whole of sub-Saharan Africa. “There is a huge disparity between the urban and rural education and rich and poor children have radically different schooling experiences,” he said. (New Indian Express 21/3/16)

Experts ask for uniform pre-school curriculum (11)

Mumbai: Disparity in the quality of early childhood care and education is growing in India, feel experts. They have called for government action to bring in uniformity and certification in the sector. “At present the quality of early childhood care and education imparted whether in private pre-school or our anganwadis is uneven and varies from a minimalist approach to a mushrooming of accelerated academic programmes. There is inadequate understanding of the concepts, its philosophy and importance among all stakeholders,” said Swati Popat Vats, the president of the Early Childhood Association. Vats was speaking at the fourth international Early Childhood conference in the city which saw more than 120 pre-schools and 200 early childhood teachers participate from across the country. The association demands that early childhood education must be a separate ministry. “Early childhood care has been caught up between the women and child welfare ministry, the education department and human resource ministry. It is high time there is a dedicated ministry which takes care of young minds, who are the country’s future,” said Vats. (Times of India 21/3/16)

Fee relief sought for kids of farmers hit by crop failure (11)

New Delhi: In a measure of relief to children of farmers who have been affected by crop failure, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has proposed that their fees be waived for a year. The commission has written to the HRD ministry to make a special provision for fee waiver of children studying in private and government schools if their farmer parents have been financially impacted. The move could prevent children from dropping out of school. Section 12 of the Right to Education (RTE) Act mandates 25% reservation of seats in all schools for children from weaker sections or disadvantaged backgrounds. The commission has recommended that this provision be extended to children who are impacted by natural calamities like droughts.”In our recent interactions, we found that the chances of children dropping out of school become very high if the crop fails. We have suggested that the school fees for those children should be waived off for a year,” NCPCR member Priyank Kanoonga said. The waiver can be extended to those farmers who have been recognised by the district as impacted by 50% crop failure and receiving compensation from the district authorities. (Times of India 24/3/16)

Free education for girls till Class XII in government schools (11)

Gurgaon: The district administration has decided to provide free education to girl students from Class IX to XII. The initiative ‘Meri Lado Kare Padhai’ will be funded by several companies and NGOs under their CSR initiatives. Education is free for all girl students till Class VIII under the Right To Education (RTE) Act. Through this initiative, the district administration aims to impart free education to underprivileged girl students, who generally drop out of school after Class VIII. Besides corporates, the district administration also plans to rope panchayats into the initiative. “This initiative is an extension of the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao programme. We’ve already started work on it,” district education officer Manoj Kaushik told TOI. According to the education department, around Rs 1.35 crore will be spent on the scheme. The money will be raised through various schemes and stakeholders. Along with corporates and NGOs, several volunteers and teachers have come forward to make it successful. There are about 18,000 girl students in the district. The monthly education expense per student is Rs 750 on an average.”Though the fee is nominal, it might still not be affordable for some. We want to ensure every girl in the district can avail education without worrying about expenses,” said Kaushik. (Times of India 28/3/16)

Only 6% dropouts back to schools (11)

Indore: In what seems to be a major dampener for School Chalo Abhiyan in Indore, the education department officials were able to lead only 6% of children they identified as out-of-school children (OOSC) to regular classes in 2015-16. Surprisingly, 42.5% of the children identified as OOSC hailed from urban area of Indore, right under the nose of district administration. Out of 6,044 total children, 3,280 are boys and are 2,764 girls. The state education department records suggest that of 6,044 children identified as OOSC, only 385 children were motivated to attend classes. Former joint director school education KK Pandey claimed that the records suggest that the education department and the district administration have lost the focus. “This is gross negligence on part of the authorities,” he said, claiming that the campaign should be a sustained one to prevent drop-outs and add new students to schools. The School Chalo Abhiyan aims at 100% enrolment of children in the age group of 6-14 years, who are entitled to free and compulsory education under the Right To Education Act. The government had planned door-to-door campaign to motivate the parents to send their children to schools. The state government survey in 2015-16 covered 5 blocks of the district including Indore urban, Indore rural, Mhow, Sanwer and Depalpur. It found that a number of these OOSC are work for daily wages or are kept at home by their parents to take care of their younger brothers and sisters. District collector P Narahari admitted that the campaign was not fruitful last academic year. “There are shortcomings. We have started various campaigns including Bachpan Bachao campaign against begging to identify and motivate children to study in schools.” He said that it is a continuous process. “We are roping in NGOs to identify and motivate parents of the children to send them to school. We are making constant efforts,” he added. (Times of India 29/3/16)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

21 states to implement National Food Security Act by April 1 (21)

Ahmedabad, Mar 21 () The National Food Security Act (NFSA) will be implemented in 10 more states from April 1 this year, taking the total number of states implementing NFSA to 21, Union Minister of Food and Public Distribution Ram Vilas Paswan said today. “When I became minister, only 11 states had implemented the National Food Security Act and that too they had not implemented totally…today we are happy to say that the number of states has increased from 11 to 21, including Gujarat, which will implement it by April 1, 2016,” Paswan told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting organised here with Food Corporation of India (FCI) officials of Gujarat.  He said unlike earlier, the NFSA will be implemented by fulfilling conditions required in the Act such as digitisation, linkage of ration cards to Aadhar cards, computerisation of supply chain, end-to-end computerisation and installation of ‘point of sale’ devices across fair price shops, among others. The minister lauded the efforts of Gujarat government in implementing the Act. “A month ago we had received information that Gujarat will also implement the Act from April 1 as ration for the same has been allocated. In fact, Gujarat has done more than what is required in the Act in terms of computerisation of point of sale. Computer will say how many persons are there in a beneficiary’s family, how much grains are required to be allocated,” he said. As many as 3,83,44,000 beneficiaries have been identified in Gujarat to whom a total 21 lakh tonne food grains will be distributed annually under the programme. Paswan said Gujarat has prepared the allocation list before hand for a possible rise in the number of beneficiaries, as the current calculation of beneficiaries is based on the 2011 census. Also, Gujarat has a storage capacity for 6.89 lakh food grains which will be sufficient to hold food for 3-4 months, he said. He further said that out of 24,18,50,000 ration cards in the country, 99.9 per cent has been digitised, while 48 per cent have been linked to Aadhar cards, as required in the Act. All states going to implement the NFSA have made provisions for online allocation of food grains, he said. “Point of sale devices have been set up in 1 lakh out of 5,29,496 fair price shops across the country, and in 3 lakh it will be set up by 2017. We will cover all the shops by 2019,” he said. KA PD GK RG (Times of India 21/3/16)

Agriculture has to grow fastest to eradicate poverty, Arun Jaitley says (21)

MUMBAI: Union finance minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday laid bare the priority of the government, saying agriculture will have to grow “fastest” for the country to get rid of poverty and push the overall GDP expansion. “If India is to grow and get rid of poverty, the agriculture sector has to grow the fastest … agriculture is critical to the economy,” Jaitley said at a seminar on the recently-announced Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) at Nabard here. With two successive bad monsoons, the finance minister said a poor rainfall this year will put the “system to test”. The scheme has the potential to reduce distress in the farm sector and “end the scar of farmer suicides” affecting parts of the country. (Times of India 22/3/16)

Social protection is the key to tackle ‘inequality trap’ (21)

Rising inequality threatens to derail, from the start, the successful implementation of the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the Asia-Pacific region. Stronger, more equitable social protection will be critical in overcoming these challenges. New research by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) indicates that inequality, related to both outcomes and opportunities, is on the rise in the countries of Asia and the Pacific – and where it has not risen it has remained unacceptably high. This is having an adverse impact on sustainable development. Growing disparities in income and wealth, as well as unequal opportunities, reinforce each other, creating an “inequality trap” that disproportionately affects women and the most vulnerable members of society, including the poor, youth, persons with disabilities, migrants and older persons. This stands in sharp contrast to both the shared growth that defined the rise of the “Asian Tigers” in the 1960s, and more recent trends in other parts of the developing world, in particular Latin America, where income inequality has been decreasing over in recent decades. Over the past 20 years, the rich in Asia and the Pacific have grown richer, at the expense of the poor. Inequalities in regional opportunities also abound, with nearly 80 per cent of the population lacking access to affordable healthcare, and as many as 18 million children out of school. Access to these basic social services is considerably lower among low-income groups and rural communities. Economically, inequality threatens regional dynamism, is destructive to the sustainability of growth, and makes it more difficult to reduce poverty through growth. Had Asia-Pacific inequality not increased, an additional almost 200 million people would have been lifted out of poverty in the three largest countries in the region over the last two decades. Inequality undermines social cohesion and solidarity. A growing divide between the rich and the poor is often a factor in rising levels of crime and social unrest, undermining trust and weakening bonds of solidarity. In extreme cases, especially where inequality manifests along ethnic lines, it can lead to polarisation, radicalisation and even failure of the state. Environmental sustainability is also hampered by inequalities, which create resentments and disincentives and, in turn, generate pervasive free-riding and overuse of resources, with unsustainable environmental outcomes. For instance, evidence from India and Nepal suggests that inequalities in local rural communities actually intensify deforestation. This is why tackling inequality must be central to the sustainable development agenda. Perfect equality of wealth and income is not attainable but, when it comes to inequalities of opportunity, such as access to health and education, Asia-Pacific governments should not settle for less than a perfectly “level playing field”. It is encouraging to see that, in addition to traditional cash transfers, Asia-Pacific countries are introducing innovative measures to reduce inequalities, such as health equity funds, impact investing in education, universal health coverage and expanding access to old-age pensions. Building on this momentum, countries could also develop sets of complementary policies to tackle inequality in all its forms: First, national taxation systems could be strengthened. There is ample room to expanding the tax base and strengthen compliance frameworks across the region. This is an effective way of broadening fiscal space to finance re-distributive mechanisms, while building solidarity across socio-economic groups and generations. .. (Asian Age 22/3/16)

Poor State of the Poverty-stricken (21)

NEW DELHI: “In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of,” said Chinese politician and philosopher Confucius circa 520 BC. In India’s 68 years of democratic rule, Raisina Hill may have witnessed government of all hues, but what has remained consistent is the promise of gareebi hatao. When they say that poverty often hides her charms behind an ugly mask, the government appears to be doing just the same when it comes to the poor and hungry. Successive governments spent Rs 2,13,000 crore through seven flagship schemes in the last five years to eradicate poverty which, according to Niti Aayog’s erstwhile avtar, the Planning Commission, is 25.7 per cent in rural areas and 13.7 per cent in urban areas. What the masked figure will not tell you is that 15 per cent of the population still sleeps hungry at the end of the day, and that the bureaucratic system has delayed many schemes to uplift the poor. Did they meet the targets while utilising lakhs of crores of rupees? Perhaps not, as has been revealed by an  analysis of some of the schemes. The poverty alleviation project National Rural Livelihood Mission barely reached half of its target of social mobilisation of self help groups (SHGs). The idea of this scheme is to organise the poor into SHGs and make them capable of self-employment. Government data shows that the target of SHGs in 2013-14 was 3,13,427, but it achieved only 1,94,162. In 2014-15, the target was 279,707, but the progress report noted just 187,076 social mobilisation of SHGs. The target for providing community investment funds to SHGs was 75,814 in 2014-15, but it could achieve only 48,920. Similarly, the Deen Dayal Upadhyay Antyodaya Yojana (DAY) for helping the poor by providing skill training is lagging behind. DAY was repackaged by the Narendra Modi government to enhance livelihood opportunities for the rural and urban poor. As per government data, in 2014-15, DAY helped set up 35,449 individual and group micro enterprises against the target of 60,000. Moreover, only 182,037 poor people were provided training against the target of 5,00,000. The dismal performance was repeated in 2015-16 with just 155,360 trained against the target of 300,622. (New Indian Express 25/3/16)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

Centre amends Atal Pension Yojana (14)

New Delhi, Mar. 22 : Following the feedback received from various quarters, the Government has decided to give an option to the spouse of the subscriber to continue contributing to the Atal Pension Yojana account of the subscriber, for the remaining vesting period. The contribution can continue till the original subscriber would have attained the age of 60 years instead of present provision of handing-over lump-sum amount to spouse on the premature death (death before 60 years of age) of the subscriber. The feedback received from various quarters indicated that the present provision APY of handing-over lump sum amount to spouse on premature death of the subscriber is not preferred by many subscribers. It has also highlighted the fact that there is growing demand to give an option to the spouse to continue contribution after the death of subscriber to enable him / her to draw pension when the deceased subscriber would have turned 60 years of age. The spouse of the subscriber shall be entitled to receive the same pension amount as that of the subscriber until the death of the spouse. After the death of both the subscriber and the spouse, the nominee of the subscriber shall be entitled to receive the pension wealth, as accumulated till age of 60 years of the subscriber. Earlier, to address the longevity risks among the workers in unorganised sector and to encourage the workers in unorganised sector to voluntarily save for their retirement, the Government had launched a new initiative called Atal Pension Yojana with effect from 1st June, 2015. Under APY, each subscriber, on completion of 60 years of age, will get the guaranteed minimum monthly pension, or higher monthly pension, if the investment returns are higher than the assumed returns for minimum guaranteed pension, over the period of contribution. After the subscriber’s death, the spouse of the subscriber shall be entitled to receive the same pension amount as that of the subscriber until the death of the spouse. After the death of both the subscriber and the spouse, the nominee of the subscriber shall be entitled to receive the pension wealth, as accumulated till age of 60 years of the subscriber. In exceptional circumstances, that is, in the event of the death of beneficiary or specified illness, as mentioned in the PFRDA (Exit and withdrawals under the National Pension System) Regulations, 2015, before the age of 60 years, the accumulated pension wealth till date would be given to the nominee or the subscriber as the case may be. (New Kerala 22/3/16)

Low wages, staff crunch affects MGNREGA implementation (14)

Udupi: Low wages and shortage of workers are among the major deterrents in the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Generation Act (MNREGA) scheme in Udupi district. According to the information provided by the zilla panchayat here, the district ranks 16th in the State in the implementation of the scheme, which began in the year 2008-09. The expenditure under the scheme in the district was Rs. 87.98 lakh in 2008-09, Rs. 7.62 crore in 2009-10, Rs. 2.54 crore in 2010-11, Rs. 2.62 crore in 2011-12, Rs. 2.94 crore in 2012-13, Rs. 4.26 crore in 2013-14, Rs. 5.2 crore in 2014-15 and Rs. 5.43 crore in 2015-16 (till March 22). There are about 51,000 job card holders under the scheme in the district. According to Birti Rajesh Shetty, member of Varamballi gram panchayat, the wage given per day under the Scheme was Rs. 214. “But men workers get over Rs. 450 per day and free food and snacks if they worked elsewhere. This is the major reason why people do not work under the scheme,” he said. Since most men in villages work in Mumbai, Bengaluru and other places, there is a shortage of workers. According to Mr. Shetty, only the job-card holders can be given employment under the scheme. “We are motivating women for the community works as they get lesser wages than men,” Priyanka Mary Francis, CEO of the zilla panchayat, said. (The Hindu 28/3/16)

 “No mechanism to implement worker welfare schemes” (14)

JAMMU: Accusing the central government of “desperately” trying to undermine the rights of workers, the Jammu and Kashmir unit of the CPI(M) on Sunday said a proper mechanism was lacking for implementation of welfare schemes for them in the State. “Even the unorganized Workers Social Security Act, 2008 is not being implemented and the constitution of Social Security Board is still awaited both at the centre and the state,” CPI(M) leader and MLA Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami said. He said complexities have been created in the implementation of the Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Act at various stages, especially in the registration process. “The delay is creating room for corruption which is against the interests of the workforce,” he said. No advisory council has been put in place to guide and supplement the functioning of Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board, besides, the Board was devoid of representation from the unions of the working class, the MLA said. He alleged the Central government was trying to undermine the rights of the workers and disintegrating their strength through divisive politics. “The working class shall have to unite and withstand this onslaught and safeguard the rights guaranteed to them. “There is nothing substantial coming from this dispensation except tall claims, long promises and rhetoric to offer to this deprived and neglected section of our population,” Mr Tarigami said. The condition of the workforce especially in unorganized sector like these engaged in construction projects, roads and buildings was “pitiable” as they were being deprived of social security benefits, he added. – PTI (The Hindu 28/3/16)

Starving MGNREGA (14)

As India faces the onslaught of another severe drought, and water, food, and employment dry up, the government will claim that it is doing its best to cope with the adversity. But, given the facts, that will be a patently false statement. The cynical attitude towards the MGNREGA is an example of how policymakers are deliberately and knowingly — by squeezing funds and subverting the legal mandate of the law — causing immeasurable misery and suffering to people. Through the fund squeeze, the government has consciously crippled the MGNREGA’s ability to help people facing drought. Officially, the drought has affected over a third of the country — nine out of the 29 states, 248 out of 660 districts, 2,327 out of 6,800 blocks, and 96,954 out of 2,57,000 panchayats. Unlike natural disasters, such as floods and earthquakes, which destroy ecosystems in a few moments, droughts take hold slowly and provide clear warnings to policymakers, thus giving them a chance to plan and execute effective drought management strategy. Yet, once it settles in, a mismanaged drought can wipe out economic progress made over decades, pushing an entire generation back into abject poverty. The MGNREGA was inspired by the Maharashtra Employment Guarantee Act, passed in 1977, wherein policymakers found wage employment as the best way to empower people against drought. The funding for the state scheme came from four taxes, imposed on those less affected by the drought. The money so received went into a fund dedicated to the scheme. However, the MGNREGA hasn’t been as fortunate. Despite its proven success, the scheme is itself facing a monetary drought. Some facts: A whopping Rs 10,588 crore is currently pending in payment delays. In other words, nine crore workers in 25 states are facing illegal delays in wage payments. More than half of this amount is in drought-affected states. The saddest part is that notwithstanding the government’s grand announcement — increasing the number of workdays to 150 in the nine drought-affected states — all these states have a negative cash balance. It’s hardly surprising then that only 5 per cent households have completed 150 days of work. This is conclusive proof that the government is ignoring the two most important legal requirements of the MGNREGA — work on demand, and full and timely payment of wages. .. (Indian Express 30/3/16)

RESERVATION

Quota for dalits, SCs, STs in pvt jobs can help control Naxalism: Ram Vilas Paswan (25)

NEW DELHI: Union minister and Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan on Tuesday asked the industry to voluntarily give reservation to the weaker sections, particularly Dalits, SCs and STs, claiming that it will help curb issues like Naxalism. He said at least jobs falling under Class-III and Class-IV categories could be reserved for these sections by the industries that get benefits from the government. Paswan said he is not asking the industry to reserve jobs falling under Class-I and Class-II categories. “Are not SCs and STs capable of doing the job of even a peon? Do we want to say that children of Dalits have not learnt computers even as some of them are clearing all-India services?” he asked. Talking to media on the sidelines of an event, Paswan said, “Why are youths drifting towards Naxalism? It is happening because they are not getting opportunities.” The minister said reservation in private jobs will help cool down anger among vulnerable youths from SCs and STs, who are are taking to the extremist ideology. He said the industry does not seem to be bothered about the backward sections of society. Responding to whether the government will take it up with the industry, he said, “Our party maintains that there should be reservation in private jobs. It is a different matter whether this is done through law or companies do it through their affirmative action. I feel the industry should come forward on its own and play an affirmative role.” (Times of India 23/3/16)

Review OBC quota based on 2011 census: Swaraj Abhiyan leader (25)

Gurgaon: Swaraj Abhiyan leader Yogendra Yadav on Friday urged the Haryana government to review the reservation given under the Other Backward Classes quota as per the 2011 Census. Yadav, the national convener of Jai Kisan Andolan and a former Aam Aadmi Party leader, in an open letter to Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar suggested that the state government should review the OBC status on the 2011 Census basis (including social, economic status and castes) and prepare new lists according to the facts. He said that not only Jats but other castes should be included in the OBC list if they really deserve it. Supporters of Yadav and another former AAP leader Prashant Bhushan recently launched ‘Sadbhavna Manch’ to conduct a survey in the state after the Jat’s violent agitation from February 14 to 23 in Haryana. Yadav said the recent stir by the Jats to demand job quota in the OBC category had badly hit communal harmony among various castes since one side was demanding quota while others were opposing it. The state government had agreed to provide special backward class (SBC) status for the Jats in Haryana but the community is demanding OBC quota. Yadav said if the Jats were given reservation after their violent agitation, it would send a wrong message to one and all. (Business Standard 25/3/16)

Haryana cabinet clears 10% quota for Jats, 4 other castes (25)

Chandigarh: A little more than a month after the Jat stir for quota in Haryana turned violent, the state government on Monday decided to give 10% reservation to the community and four other castes in government jobs and educational institutions. The decision was taken during a cabinet meeting, but a bill to convert the decision into a law is yet to be tabled in the assembly. This, however, is not new as the previous Congress government under Bhupinder Singh Hooda had followed the same model, only to find the proposal stayed by the Punjab and Haryana high court in 2015. Undeterred, the BJP government of Manohar Lal Khattar has gone ahead and increased the quota in recruitment of class I and II officers by 1% for not only Jats but also existing categories of backward classes (BCs). Hooda had created special backward classes (SBC) to give reservation to five castes —Jat, Jat Sikh, Tyagi, Bishnoi and Ror — while the current BJP government has named its new category BC-C. Without disclosing details, Khattar said after the cabinet meeting that a bill will be tabled in the state assembly during the ongoing session which will end on March 31. Once implemented, reservation in Haryana will cross the ceiling of 50% fixed by the Supreme Court. Effectively, reserved post in government jobs will be 67% and is bound to face a legal challenge. Sources say that to prevent this, the government has decided to constitute the Haryana Backward Classes Commission where people can raise their objections and give suggestions instead of approaching the courts. “The commission has been set up more than two decades after the Supreme Court asked states to do the same,” said state education minister Ram Bilas Sharma. Another government official said, “The Hooda government had also set up a commission but it was just a temporary one. Now, we have decided to make it a statutory body. Also, this is the first time that the state will make a law to give reservation to Jats and four other castes. The Hooda government had given reservation to five castes but it was only a cabinet decision.” The decision has been taken at a time when Jat organizations are threatening to resume their agitation if the government fails to bring a law by March 31. As many as 30 persons were killed and more than 300 people were injured during the violence between February 19 and 22. There are already two categories of backward classes — BC-A and BC-B which enjoy 27% reservation in government jobs and educational institutions. “The provision of Haryana’s bill is subject to challenge, as the reservation has crossed the limit of 50 percent, as a nine judges bench of the apex court in Indira Sawhney verdict has already made it clear that reservation cannot be provided beyond 50 %. However, it can continue only, if not challenged before any court of law,” said, N S Bhindar, former additional director (prosecution), Haryana. “Legislature is within its right to pass such bills considering the special demand of the people of its state and even several states in our country have reservations in their states beyond 50 %. I believe that if legislature decides considering special circumstances in the state, it can make provisions for reservation beyond 50 %. Even if its challenged before the court on account of SC verdicts, government have the right to defend it,” KS Dhaliwal, senior advocate, Punjab and Haryana high court. (Times of India 29/3/16)

Haryana passes Jat quota bill (25)

CHANDIGARH: A day after the controversial Jat reservation bill was cleared by the Haryana government, the state assembly on Tuesday unanimously passed the legislation providing quota to the community under a newly carved out Backward Class (C) category. Five other communities – Jat Sikh, Muslim Jat, Bishnoi, Ror and Tyagi – have also been included in the new category and they would be entitled for 10% reservation in government services and admission in educational institutions. The bill – Haryana Backward Classes (reservation in services and admission in educational institutions) Bill 2016 – was passed within a few minutes after it was presented in the House. Given the controversy over the quota issue in Haryana, the new bill is likely to be challenged in the high court after the governor signs it. Legal experts believe the decision would come under judicial scanner as Haryana has already exceeded the 50% ceiling for reservation fixed by the Supreme Court. The BJP government, led by Manohar Lal Khattar, also passed a resolution urging the Centre to place the new bill in the 9th Schedule of the Constitution to shield it from legal scrutiny. After Tamil Nadu, Haryana has become the second state in the country to have more than 50% reservation in jobs and admission in educational institutions.Soon after the Haryana assembly passed the Bill providing quota for Jats and five other castes on Tuesday, BJP MP from Kurukshetra Rajkumar Saini declared that he would move the Supreme Court against the legislation. “It is murder of democracy,” Saini said. The MP, who is also president of the All India OBC Brigade, said, “We did not get justice at home (in Haryana). An atrocity has been committed on us. Now, I would approach the SC on this matter. If I don’t get justice at home or in the court, I will quit home and politics.” (Times of India 30/3/16)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

NHRC makes UP govt pay Rs 33 lakh compensation for victims of electrocution (1)

LUCKNOW: Setting an example for the erring electricity departments in the country, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) ensured that in a case of electrocution due to the carelessness of UP Power Corporation Limited, Rs 33.4 were paid by the UP government as monetary relief to the victims and their families. This included, 28 lakh rupees to the next of kin of 14 deceased and five lakh 40 thousand rupees to those, who suffered injuries in an incident in 2012. The incident happened when a bus, carrying victims, came in contact with an unguarded low lying high tension line while parking at the Amauli road bus stand in Jahanabad area of Fatehpur, UP, on October 23, 2012. In the beginning, in response to the notices of the Commission, UP government through had maintained that the line was drawn in accordance with the prescribed standards. Not satisfied with this response, the Commission asked Chief Electrical Inspector, UP, to probe the matter.Subsequently, the director of Electrical Security, UP government, in his report, revealed that the height of the overhead transmission line was less than the standard height prescribed under the rules, i.e., 5.8 meters. Thus, there was contravention of Rule 77 (2) of the Indian Electricity Rules, 1956. It was also found that the overhead transmission line was not properly guarded as is required by Rule 29 (1) of the Indian Electricity Rules. The inquiry officer held the area junior engineer responsible for the incident and concluded that victims were entitled to compensation. It was also reported that an amount of Rs one lakh each was being paid to the next of kin of the deceased and Rs 20,000 each to the injured. The Commission observed that Rs one lakh was grossly inadequate for the loss of human life and issued a show cause notice to the UP government on December 29, 2014, why an additional amount of relief to should not be paid to victims. However, having received no response to this show cause notice and even a reminder to it during the interim period, the Commission, on September 9, 2015, issued a summon to the chief secretary of the UP government to appear before it on January 18, 2016, and submit the compliance report along with the proof of payment. Chief secretary was also asked to explain the delay. The Commission, however, also said that chief secretary will be exempted from personal appearance if the requisite reports were submitted by January 11, 2016. This time Chief secretary acted swiftly and submitted the reports along with the proof of payment on January 6, 2016. (Times of India 21/3/16)

Human rights of students were never violated: HCU to APSHRC (1)

Hyderabad, Mar 26 () The Hyderabad Central University today told the Andhra Pradesh State Human Rights Commission that human rights of the students were not violated during the developments at the varsity this week. P L Vishweshwar Rao, spokesperson of Aam Aadmi Party’s Telangana unit, had filed a petition before the APSHRC, alleging that HCU authorities closed the hostels and denied food, water, electricity and internet to the students following protests over resumption of duty by the Vice Chancellor Appa Rao Podile on March 22. On Thursday, the Commission had sought a report from the VC. HCU registrar M Sudhakar in his report before the APSHRC today termed the complaint against the VC as “false, motivated” and not reflecting the facts. None of the hostels were closed and not a single student was evicted from hostel, he said. “While the VC is sparing no effort to restore normalcy on the campus, rumours, as mentioned in the complaint, are being spread to cause unrest in the University,” the report said. Demonstration by non-teaching staff led to the closure of messes on March 22, which were reopened by March 24. Water supply and internet facility were never disconnected but there was “temporary” disruption, the HCU report said. As to the incidents of March 22, (the day the VC resumed his duty) a note submitted before the APSHRC said that after conclusion of recording of depositions of various stakeholders by the Commission of Inquriy appointed by the HRD Ministry on March 21, the VC rejoined on March 22. “When the VC was holding a meeting with the local members of the Executive Council at the VC’s Lodge (his official residence), a mob vandalised the personal property of the VC and that of the University besides manhandling and roughing up the security staff,” it said. (Times of India 26/3/16)

‘Justice For Vemula’ gets global support at UN human rights council meet (1)

Hyderabad: The issue of “justice for Rohith Vemula” was raised in a United Nations human rights council meet on Saturday. Also, over 300 activists, academicians and writers from various countries have in an open letter condemned police action against protesting students of the University of Hyderabad (UOH). The UOH scholar’s suicide led to a political storm with allegations that it was a result of discrimination against Dalit students. The police have now arrested several protesting students and faculty members. Nitin Gangurde from the Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advisory raised the issue during the UN meet urging the UN chief to secure the rights of minorities in India. “Vemula committed suicide against an ugly caste system in India. It shows the treatment being meted out to Dalits in educational institutes and other fields of daily life,” he said. Many including Noam Chomsky, Michael Davis, Barbara Harris-White have expressed their dismay over “the brutality” at the UoH. “The highest administrative authorities in the university have allowed the silencing of debate and dissent. We are disturbed by the pattern of growing nexus between student vigilante groups, youth wing of the ruling party, state and university authorities in colleges and university campuses across the country in order to mobilize the state machinery against vulnerable students,” their statement reads. Scholars from the United Kingdom have also expressed their solidarity as they demanded the police to leave the campus. “As scholars who admire the work of many academic colleagues and alumni at the UOH, we are concerned that the university seems to be fast descending into a campus of unrestrained repression of dissenting voices among students and staff. We urge the Vice Chancellor and other University authorities to get rid of the police on campus,” read a statement issued by UK-based scholars. During a two-week “justice for Rohith” agitation in January, various students and faculty members from many countries had expressed their solidarity with the family of the deceased and four other suspended Dalit scholars. (Times of India 28/3/16)

Ensure justice for murdered Muslims, CPI-M tells NHRC (1)

New Delhi, March 28 (IANS) CPI-M leader Brinda Karat on Monday urged the NHRC to ensure justice to the families of two Muslims lynched in Jharkhand. In a letter to National Human Rights Commission chairperson Justice H.L. Dattu (retd) and other members, Karat said no action has been taken against the killers of Imtiyaz Khan, 12, and Majlum, 32, a cattle trader. She said their bodies, “with marks which are witness to the terrible beatings they received, were found hanging from a tree” on March 18. They were taking cattle to a cattle fair when they were waylaid. Eight people have been arrested for the double murder. Karat said that after a CPI-M delegation met the Jharkhand chief minister, he announced a compensation of Rs.1 lakh to the two families. This, the CPI-M leader said, was like “adding insult to injury”.”Clearly the government must ensure adequate compensation and employment to at least one parent of Imtiyaz and to the wife of Majlum if they are not to become destitute,” the letter said. “It is a case not just of two persons being hanged to death by a lynch mob, but the Constitution of India itself that is being hanged. “This is a case which requires the direct intervention of the NHRC,” Karat added. (Times of India 28/3/16)

Why Chhattisgarh wants this researcher out (1)

NEW DELHI: There is a good reason the Chhattisgarh government wants human rights activist and social researcher Bela Bhatia to move out of the State. Ms Bhatia has been in the crosshairs of the Chhattisgarh administration ever since she helped tribal women register an FIR against security personnel for gang rape and grievous sexual assault last November. No arrests have been made so far, yet the three FIRs, registered over a period of two months, have the potential to hurt the forces and embarrass Chief Minister Raman Singh. Bela’s legal friends tell her that it is the first time security personnel have been accused of rape under the new, stringent anti-rape law or the Criminal Law Amendment Act (2013). “When I was living in the Parpa village of Jagdalpur town, my landlord who is a tailor and sews uniforms for the CRPF, asked me to vacate the place without as much as a notice. I didn’t think much of it then, but now as I see the house lying vacant, I can imagine why he wanted me out. I had paid the rent for the entire year,” says Ms Bhatia. She has since moved out and is living in a hamlet close to Bastar. But ever since the first FIR was lodged on November 1 in the Peddagalur village of Bijapur district, following inquiry and investigations by the Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) into a gang rape, pressure has been brought on Ms Bhatia, who was the main complainant in the FIR. The first FIR was based on the testimonies of women that was videographed and submitted to the collector. Though the activist was told that investigations were under way, news of another gang rape by security forces became public. This time, eight women of Bellamlendra village of Sukhna district came forward to testify, following the intervention of women’s groups, and an FIR was lodged on January 21, according to Ms Bhatia. A third case of sexual assault on six women in Sukhna district led to the third FIR being filed towards the end of January. “We were helping the tribals with the legal processes, along with human rights activists. Three rapes involving sexual assault and beating by security personnel and the police, with the testimonies of the women have been submitted to the collector,” says Ms Bhatia. … (The Hindu 30/3/16)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

HC to decide if ED court can try IAS officer (19)

Hyderabad: Justice Raja Elango of the Hyderabad High Court has said that the court would soon determine whether the Enforcement Directorate’s special court which tries cases under prevention of money laundering Act (PMLA) is bound by the rejection of permission by the state to prosecute an IAS officer. The judge was dealing with a petition filed by IAS officer B P Acharya who was made an accused in the Hetero and Aurobindo pharmacies episode of YS Jaganmohan Reddy assets case. CBI which filed its charge sheet in the case charged Acharya with undue price fixation for 150 acres allotted to the pharma companies and urged the court to punish him under IPC provisions like cheating and criminal conspiracy and also under the provisions of the prevention of corruption (PC) Act.Acharya claimed that the state had rejected permission to prosecute him under PC Act and hence the ED court too should exempt him from the case. ED’s counsel PSP Suresh Kumar opposed this and said that ED court need not be bound by the proceedings before CBI court which is dealing with the PC Act. ED deals with the case from PMLA angle and has no link with PC Act. We do not need any one’s sanction for proceeding further, he said. The judge however said that this aspect needs to be examined and directed the ED to file its counter and posted the case to April 26. The judge stayed the trial proceedings in respect of Acharya till then. (Times of India 25/3/16)

Judiciary goes solar, ready to share power with states (19)

New Delhi: Independence-sensitive judiciary never shares power with other organs of governance but when it came to electricity, the judiciary has taken a decision to become self-sufficient by generating power using solar panels and even started sharing power with state electricity boards. Leading the march for self-sufficiency in power generation are two states – Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. Justice Madan Lokur, heading the Supreme Court-mentored eCourts Project, told TOI that the district court complex in Khunti in Jharkhand met its entire demand for electricity, including running of air conditioners, from solar energy generated within the premises. “In fact, there is some surplus electricity, which is being given to the state electricity boards. The district court expects to recover the cost of setting up the solar panels in the next 8 to 10 years,” he said. Success of the Khunti experiment made the Jharkhand high court repeat the project in three more district court complexes where demand for electricity is completely met through solar energy. Chhattisgarh HC at Bilaspur has replicated the exercise of meeting power demands through clean energy. The electricity demand of the HC, excluding the running of air conditioners, is met through solar energy. The HC has informed the eCommittee that it expects to recover the cost of installation of solar panels in the next 10 years.Justice Lokur said: “Phase-II of the eCourts Project requires that 5% of the court complexes under the jurisdiction of each HC should generate electricity through solar energy. The target seems easily achievable given the experience in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.” He appeared hopeful of 10% of the court complexes switching over completely to solar energy by the end of this year. The SC’s eCommittee has requested chief justices of every HC to identify 10% of the court complexes under their jurisdiction for achieving power self-sufficiency through solar energy. (Times of India 26/3/16)

Calling of names can form a ground for divorce: HC (19)

NEW DELHI: Calling of names and taunting a partner in a marriage can be treated as mental cruelty and form a ground for divorce, the Delhi high court said in a recent verdict. Upholding a trial court order granting divorce to a man, HC enumerated several incidents of cruelty by his estranged wife including hurling of abuses such as ‘Hathi’, ‘Mota Hathi’ and ‘Mota Elephant’ for failing to satisfy her sexually blaming his heavy weight for it.Justice Vipin Sanghi said such abusive behaviour directed at the husband “even if he was overweight, is bound to strike at his self-respect” and noted that the wife also physically injured his private parts, repeatedly slapped him, prohibited him from meeting their minor child and misbehaved with the husband’s family. “It has come on record that she taunted the respondent for not being able to satiate her sexual desire on account of his being heavy weight. It has also come on record that she not only slapped the respondent but asked him to leave the house. She also caught hold of kerosene can and opened its lid threatening the respondent that she would immolate herself and implicate the respondent and his family in a dowry case,” HC observed, finding merit in the decision of trial court to grant divorce to the husband. While the wife claimed the allegations made by her husband are vague, the HC dismissed her appeal and said her behaviour “naturally gives rise to a bonafide and genuine belief and apprehension in the mind of the husband it is not safe for him to peacefully and mentally continue the relationship” as these constitute mental cruelty in law. New Delhi: Calling of names and taunts to a partner in a marriage can be treated as mental cruelty and form a ground for divorce, the Delhi High Court has said in a recent verdict. Upholding a trial court order granting divorce to a man, HC enumerated ten acts/incidents of cruelty by his estranged wife including hurling of abuses such as ‘Hathi’, ‘Mota Hathi’ and ‘Mota Elephant’ for failing to satisfy her sexually blaming his heavy weight for it. Justice Vipin Sanghi said such abusive behaviour directed at the husband “even if he was overweight, is bound to strike at his self respect and self esteem” and noted that the wife also physically injured his private parts, threatened to commit suicide, repeatedly slapped him, prohibited him from meeting their minor child and misbehaved with the husband’s family. “It has come on record that she taunted the respondent for not being able to satiate her sexual desire on account of his being heavy weight. It has also come on record that she not only slapped the respondent but asked him to leave the house. She also caught hold of kerosene can and opened its lid threatening the respondent that she would immolate herself and implicate the respondent and his family in a dowry case,” HC observed, finding merit in the decision of trial court to grant divorce to the husband. While the wife claimed allegations made by the estranged husband are vague, HC factored in another serious incident to conclude the husband suffered mental cruelty at her hands. It recorded that in 2006 the wife’s parents and other people from Ghaziabad came and fought with him. They also abused and assaulted him, HC noted, adding that each of these acts “are grave and weighty matrimonial offences/misconducts by the wife, clearly destructive of the matrimonial bond.” Dismissing the wife’s appeal HC said her behaviour ” naturally gives rise to a bonafide and genuine belief and apprehension in the mind of the husband it is not safe for him to peacefully and mentally continue the relationship” as these constitute mental cruelty in law. (Times of India 27/3/16)

Bihar to Provide for Death Penalty to Enforce Liquor Ban (19)

PATNA: Ahead of phased ban on manufacture and sale of liquor in the state, the Bihar government has decided to bring an amendment bill in the assembly on Wednesday to provide for death penalty for people found violating it. “The state government will bring an amendment bill to include provision of death penalty for manufacturing illicit country liquor after ban comes into effect in the state from April 1,” Bihar Excise and Prohibition Minister Abdul Jalil Mastan told media here on Tuesday. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar last week announced the government in the ongoing budget session of the assembly would amend law to include provision of death penalty for manufacturing and sale of illegal liquor. Mastan said in the first phase, manufacture and sale of country and spiced liquor would be banned followed by Indian-made foreign liquor later this year. Last year, during campaigning for the 2015 Bihar assembly elections, Nitish Kumar announced an alcohol ban to be implemented from April 1. The state minister said the poorest of the poor were consuming liquor, leading to family problems, domestic violence and affecting their children’s education. “Women are suffering more than anyone else due to increasing liquor consumption.” According to officials, the ban decision was expected to impact the state government’s financial health. Bihar earns an annual revenue of around Rs.3,650 crore from liquor sale. To provide the livelihood of those involved in the liquor business, the government has offered them to sell products of the state-run Bihar State Milk Cooperative Federation Ltd. under the brand name “Sudha Dairy”. (New Indian Express 29/3/16)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

20 Percent of Police Force Criminals: SHRC Chief (1)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:  “Twenty per cent of the police force in the state are goons and criminals,”State Human Rights Commission chairman J B Koshy has said. He was speaking after inaugurating the three-day international seminar on human rights and policing at Government Law College, here, on Monday. “Though state police force is one of the best forces in the country, 20 per cent of personnel are working to execute their ‘political agenda’. This 20 per cent create a wrong perception about the entire force in the minds of people,” Koshy said. “Of the 12,300 cases that I had attended last year, 4,500 were against the police ranging from custodial torture to death,” he said. Koshy also said that the policemen are facing various issues. “The police men are human beings and they need leisure time amid the hectic duty hours. In necessary circumstances, policemen can approach the commission for filing complaints against senior officers,” he said. Delivering the keynote address, Russian Professor Vesselin Popovski , vice-dean of Jindal Global Law School said human rights has a global significance and it’s wrong to perceive it as a ‘western’ concept. “Human rights are universal, not western. In every village and town in the world, human rights has its significance.  Infact, the human rights became universal post the World War II. The age-old epics and myths in India had discussed the importance of human rights. Therefore human rights have more value in this country”, Popovski said. He also emphasised the need of professionalism in the police force in order to enforce the law effectively. N R Madhava Menon, Chancellor, Guru Ghasidas University, Chattisgarh, presented a paper on ‘Liberty Vs Security’- Constitutional balancing. ADGP (intelligence) A Hemachandran, Adv Rajesh Munjal, Justice Narayana Kurup, chairman police complaint authority and college principal K R Reghunathan spoke .   (New Indian Express 22/3/16)

Prisoner dies, custodial torture alleged (1)

KOCHI: In an instance that has raised allegations of custodial torture, a 32-year-old man from Elamakkara here, who had been awarded 30 days’ imprisonment for creating public nuisance under the influence of alcohol, died at the Thrissur Medical College hospital on Sunday. The deceased has been identified as Vineesh Venugopal, son of Venu, from Thannikkal near Elamakkara. Vineesh was arrested by the Elamakkara police on March 11 and had two warrants issued against him by the court for creating public nuisance. He was first sent to the Aluva sub jail after he refused to pay a fine for the offence under Section 118 (a) of Kerala Police Act. From there, he was shifted to Viyyur Central Prison. The prison authorities moved Vineesh to the Government Mental Health Centre in Thrissur after he showed withdrawal symptoms and uneasiness. He was later admitted to the Thrissur Medical College hospital. Officials maintained that Vineesh’s family was informed twice about his hospitalisation. “Though we informed them on Saturday about his deteriorating physical health, they did not care to visit him,” the officials said. The body will be handed over to his family after post-mortem examination. (The Hindu 22/3/16)

HC directs govt. to provide details of 137 custodial deaths (1)

CHENNAI: The Madras High Court on Thursday directed the State government to put forth all the materials relating to 137 custodial deaths reported in 2012-13 to the Tamil Nadu State Legal Services Authority (TNSLA), which would examine the issue and submit a report. A public interest litigation petition was filed by K. Kesavan, alleging that several prisoners died “unnatural” deaths for want of medical attention because of “gross negligence” on the part of the prison administration. During the hearing, the High Court ordered an interim compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the families of the deceased. The government filed an affidavit before the First Bench of Chief Justice S.K. Kaul and Justice M.M. Sundresh, submitting that out of the 137 cases, compensation was sanctioned in three cases, disciplinary proceeding initiated in two and 22 cases had been dropped from further action. “In the remaining 109 cases, complete inquiry reports along with the medical reports on the deaths of prisoners are awaited from the District Collectors in 74 cases. CB-CID inquiry reports are awaited in two cases and 33 cases are under examination by the government,” the Government Pleader said. Perusing the affidavit, the Bench observed that report shows a shocking state of affairs, “We are dealing with the issue of 137 custodial deaths, which are more than three and two years old. Only in three cases compensation has been sanctioned…,” the Bench said. The judges noted that the authorities have not understood the purport of section 176 (1-A) (enquiry by magistrate into cause of custodial death) of Cr.PC and the law enunciated by the judgement of a single judge of this court in R. Kasthuri vs State. “The crux of the matter is that in addition to the investigation held by the police, an enquiry has to be held by a Judicial Magistrate. As to what is the situation, which is prevalent in respect of these 109 cases, seems to be still hanging for consideration, this is an unacceptable position,” the Bench noted. The court posted the PIL to June 3 for filing reports. (The Hindu 25/3/16)

61 custodial deaths in Gujarat in 2011-12: report (1)

AHMEDABAD: There were a total 61 custodial deaths in Gujarat in the year 2011-12, according to a report submitted by the State Human Rights Commission (GSHRC) in Legislative Assembly. Of the total deaths in police or judicial custody, 51 were cases of natural deaths, while seven were suicides and three were unnatural or doubtful deaths, GSHRC said in its annual report for 2011-12 which was tabled in the House on Tuesday. Eight of the total deaths were reported in police custody, while 53 were reported in judicial custody, it said. 24 of the deaths were reported in Ahmedabad alone. One death out of the 24 has been shown as unnatural or doubtful in the State Human Rights Commission’s annual report. Vadodara stood second with 10 custodial deaths. However, no unnatural death was recorded in that city. In Junagadh, four custodial deaths were recorded. Apart from Ahmedabad, where one unnatural death was recorded, the other two unnatural or doubtful deaths in police custody took place in Rajkot and Dahod. Seven cases of suicides in custody were recorded one each in Ahmedabad rural, Mehasana, Rajkot rural, Junagadh, Amreli, Valsad, and Navsari districts. The report is silent on the steps taken by the commission on unnatural or doubtful deaths. The report said 2,989 petition were received seeking SHRC’s intervention in the year 2011-12 against 3,077 in 2010-11, and 2,992 petitions in 2009-10. The report lists many cases where due to its intervention, authorities have acted in favour of petitioners and resolved their problems. The report also lists cases where SHRC had taken suo motu action based on newspaper reports. (Times of India 26/3/16)

Another researcher harassed in Bastar, termed ‘Naxal agent’ (1)

RAIPUR: Yet another social activist and independent researcher, based in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh, has alleged that she was being “hounded and troubled” by self-styled vigilante groups. Ms. Bela Bhatia, a former visiting faculty at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, stays at a village eight kilometers from Jagdalpur, the district headquarters of Bastar. “At around 4 p.m. on Saturday, a large group of agitated people came to the village where I live, in my absence. According to my neighbours, they came in four vehicles, five autos and one jeep. The group included men and women as well as the men of the police force in plain clothes. Some of them were armed. The group was carrying a banner and asked questions about me to my house-owner and neighbours. They asked why a ‘Naxalite Aatankawadi’ had been allowed to rent a room in the village and advised my landlady to evict me,” Ms. Bhatia said in a statement. “Then they took out a rally in the hamlet, shouting slogans against me including ‘Bela Bhatia Murdabad’ and distributed leaflets. The leaflet accused me of being a ‘Naxal Dalal (Maoist agent) from outside and ends with the slogan ‘ Bastar Chhodo’ (Leave Bastar). The leaflet did not bear anyone’s name or any details of any printer,” claimed the researcher who has been documenting police excesses in the name of anti-Maoist operations in Bastar for over a year now. The sloganeering and leaflet campaign against Ms. Bhatia comes after the recent arrest of four journalists in Bastar and the eviction and attacks on free legal aid groups, journalists and tribal activist Soni Sori. Bastar Superintendent of Police (SP) Mr. R.N. Das and Inspector General (IG) of Police S.R.P. Kalluri were unavailable for their reaction to the incident.The Chhattisgarh state unit of the Congress has termed Bastar police head Mr. Kalluri a “dictator” after the arrest of four journalists in Bastar in last six months. “S.R.P. Kalluri has become a dictator of Bastar because of the free hand given to him by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. Common people, journalists, political workers and almost everyone is on the police target in Bastar now,” State Congress spokesperson Shailesh Nitin Trivedi said in a press statement on Sunday. (The Hindu 28/3/16)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

Freedom of expression gives no right to destroy nation, says Arun Jaitley (1)

NEW DELHI: With the debate on nationalism coming to the fore, the BJP on Sunday said freedom of expression does not give a right to seek the country’s destruction, as the issue found the pride of place in the political resolution adopted at its national executive meeting here. The issue of nationalism continued to take the centrestage in the deliberations at the two-day meet after party chief Amit Shah set the tone in his inaugural address on Saturday saying the BJP will not tolerate any attack on the nation. “Freedom of expression and nationalism do necessarily coexist” and the Constitution gives full freedom for expressing dissent and disagreement, but not the country’s destruction, Union minister Arun Jaitley said while briefing reporters on the meeting. “The ideology of nationalism guides our beliefs and philosophy,” he asserted as the meeting saw the dominant mood among party leaders to put the Congress on the mat over the recent JNU-related developments. Asked whether the executive also discussed the row over the slogan ‘Bharat mata ki jai’, Jaitley said the party believes it is an issue over which there should be no debate. People have no problem with this slogan and “we saw this in Kolkata yesterday”, he said as he sought to buttress his point by referring to the spectators raising the slogan after India’s win in the cricket match with Pakistan. The finance minister, a key party strategist, also targeted Congress over its political strength, saying the main opposition party had “lowered” its stature and was “content to be a tail-ender of any alliance” in states like Bihar, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu.Though issues of government formation in Uttarakhand where Congress government is facing a rebellion in its ranks, and Jammu & Kashmir did not come up for discussion at the meeting, Jaitley said the resolution emphasized the party’s commitment to the ‘agenda of governance’ in J&K. Talks between BJP and PDP to revive their coalition government in J & K have fallen through but the saffron party has insisted that its doors are not shut on its former partner which will however have to stop putting more conditions.”There was a time when the country was being governed without any sense of direction. There was uncertainty and lack of purpose. Now we have a government with a determined leadership, nationalist policies and progressive governance,” Jaitley said. The resolution also dealt with economically and socially inclusive policies of the government, good governance and its thrust on infrastructure development, he said. (Times of India 20/3/16)

IJU protests questioning of reporters by AP police (1)

HYDERABAD: The Indian Journalists Union (IJU) condemned the move of Andhra Pradesh police who summoned reporters and journalists of Sakshi daily in Krishna and Guntur districts. The police had summoned the journalists and questioned them regarding the source of their information on the alleged land dealings in the proposed Amaravati capital region. In a statement, IJU president S N Sinha, vice-president Ambati Anjaneyulu, secretary-general Amar Devulapalli and Press Council of India (PCI) member K Amarnath said that the action of the police amounts to attack on freedom. “The police have no business to summon reporters and desk journalists to the police station and question them on the source of the news stories published or broadcast. We urge the upon the police to desist from such illegal activities,” the statement read. They appealed to Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu to immediately intervene and instruct the police not to intimidate the media. The DSP had summoned reporters and desk journalists of the Sakhi Vijawada edition and Sakshi television to Mangalagiri and questioned them and claimed to be conducting an inquiry into some complaints filed with them. (The Hindu 22/3/16)

Will visit Pune in April, fight for rights: Kanhaiya Kumar (1)

As the Fergusson College and Ranade Institute campuses return to normalcy after the clashes that erupted over the visit of Jawaharlal Nehru University’s ABVP unit president Alok Singh here, Kanhaiya Kumar, president of JNU students’ union who was arrested on charges of sedition, is preparing to visit Pune. Kumar spoke to mediapersons over a phone call during a press conference organised by All India Students Federation (AISF) in the city and said he would visit cities where his presence was needed. “It is a very serious situation that we are facing in India, right now. An attempt is being made to take away the rights of the students by the government. Our freedom is being snatched away. This fight is not restricted to one student or one college, but is of the entire nation. We all have to unite to fight for the cause of the students, for education and employment. And wherever there will be such a movement to protect democracy, I will take part in it as a foot soldier,” he said.On March 22, Alok Singh visited many college campuses in Pune where he spoke on the topic ‘Truth of JNU’ and tried to explain ABVP’s version of the February 9 incident in JNU and Kumar’s role in the entire episode. At Fergusson College, his event was disrupted by Ambedkarite students who shouted pro-Rohit Vemula and pro-Kumar slogans. Later in the evening, Singh had to face tough questions from media students at Ranade Institute. The issue soon escalated as other political parties jumped in the fracas. Later the Pune university officials asked for police protection when students said members of Bhartiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) had threatened them with physical harm if Kanhaiya Kumar was invited to the campus for any event. Even as Vice-Chancellor Wasudeo Gade had asked students not to organise any such event, three student groups together extended an invite to Kumar to visit Pune. “Two student groups from Pune have extended the invite, besides invitations received from other cities. Hence in April, Kanhaiya Kumar is likely to visit various cities like Pune, Mumbai, Kolhapur, Beed, Amravati and Aurangabad. In Pune, there will be a massive rally. Currently, we are still finalising the dates and other details,” said Girish Fonde, member of All India Youth Federation (AIYF) at the press conference. Asked about the threat from BJYM, Kumar said he was not surprised by it. “Whether it is BJYM or ABVP, they are sections of RSS who don’t allow people to speak the truth and point out their wrong. These people are against democracy and the judicial system, but we have to continue on our path. We know that without fighting we won’t get anything. Instead of getting scared, we will fight for our rights,” said Kumar. Meanwhile at the Fergusson College campus, there was a heavy police presence. Only a few students were seen on campus, owing to the impending exams. At Ranade institute too, things seemed to have returned to normalcy. (Indian Express 28/3/16)

Congress, BJP spar over arrest of Bastar journalists (1)

RAIPUR: The arrest of two journalists in Chhattisgarh’s restive Bastar region last week rocked the State Assembly on Monday. The Congress moved an adjournment motion after Question Hour over the arrest of journalists Prabhat Singh and Deepak Jaiswal by the police on “fraudulent charges.” “Chhattisgarh,” it said, “is witnessing excessive police control these days as a result of which journalists are being targeted in the State. Especially in Bastar region of the State, the journalists are being harassed and threatened with false police and court cases. Journalist Prabhat Singh was arrested from Dantewada district on March 21 and tortured in police custody. On March 26, journalist Deepak Jaiswal was arrested for exposing irregularities during an exam at a school in Geedam town.” The Congress also drew attention to how journalist Malini Subramaniam was evicted from Bastar in February. The press, it said, was being barred from doing independent reporting. Responding to the Congress’s allegations, State Home Minister Ajay Chandrakar said the government was committed to ensuring that journalists in the State work in a “free and fearless atmosphere.” “It is wrong to say that false cases are being slapped on journalists in Bastar. In the case of Prabhat Singh, the police were not the complainant. A person named Santosh Tiwari filed a complaint against him under the IT Act for writing an objectionable message on WhatsApp. He was arrested and produced before the court. The same procedure was followed in the case of. Deepak Jaiswal. In the case of the attack on Malini Subramaniam’s house, a complaint was registered against unknown persons and a probe is on.” (The Hindu 29/3/16)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

Tension at Bhainsa (7)

ADILABAD: An alert police on Saturday averted what could have been a communal incident at the communally sensitive town of Bhainsa in Adilabad district. A visit to the town by Hyderabad Member of Parliament Asaduddin Owaisi sparked off a protest by activists of the Hindu Vahini who pelted stones at the convoy of the MP, though they missed the vehicles. According to information reaching here, Mr. Owaisi arrived in Bhainsa to inaugurate a jewellery shop of a party worker. The Hindu Vahini activists took out a rally protesting the MP’s stand on ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ slogan. About 100 activists took out a rally from Narsimha temple to the Tahsildar office to submit a memorandum. The timing coincided with the arrival of the MP in a cavalcade of cars. The alert police confined the protesters to the Tahsildar’s office. However, the latter managed to pelt stones at the vehicles but missed them. As tension grew in town, the market closed impromptu and soon police pickets were also set up. The presence of police, contingents of which had been roped in from Nizamabad, Adilabad and Nirmal towns prevented any untoward incident. Meanwhile, the police provided escort to Mr. Owaisi who inaugurated the shop half-an-hour before the scheduled time and left for Hyderabad. (The Hindu 20/3/16)

Communal clash in Akota, four arrested (7)

Vadodara: Tension prevailed in Akota after clash between groups of two different communities over a petty issue late on Sunday night. Four person were arrested on Monday for rioting and damaging property. The mobs had pelted stones at eachother after ruckus over alleged harassment of a girl. The cops lobbed two teargas shells to disperse the rioters. Those arrested include Rohit Kahaar (20), Dhaka Sonwane (24), Hemant Gaekwad (20) and Vijay Shardul (20). While Rohit and Dhaka are residents of Warisya and Akota, both Hemant and Vijay are residents of Maharaja Nagar. The Gotri police registered an offence of rioting against 15 persons from both the communities including the four arrested. According to the police, trouble began when Shashikant Sonar a resident of Maharaja Nagar locality was attacked by Irfan Khan Pathan and two others after he allegedly harassed a girl at around 11.45 pm. “Sonar was sitting on the bridge when Pathan and two others and a girl were walking by. When Sonar looked at the girl, Pathan got furious and attacked him along with two others. Pathan, who was wearing a knuckle duster, punched Sonar in his private parts,” said Gotri police inspector M D Puwar. A group from Sonar’s locality in Maharaja Nagar under the Akota-Dandia Bazaar bridge rushed to the spot and clashed with those who attacked him. While a part of the group clashed on the bridge, another groups clashed under the bridge. “There were nearly 100 persons from both the groups. The four accused arrested will be produced before a local court for remand,” said another official from the Gotri police. “The situation was brought under control by the police in about half an hour,” said DCP north Leena Patil. While the police maintains that an episode of eve-teasing triggered the clashes between the communities, sources said that the youth got into fight over a brawl on Saturday night during the Indian-Pakistan T20 cricket (Times of India 22/3/16

Vikaspuri murder: Kejriwal accuses BJP and RSS of trying to ‘communalise’ incident (7)

New Delhi: Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal Saturday accused the BJP and the RSS of giving a communal colour to the murder of Pankaj Narang, a dentist in Vikaspuri who was beaten to death by a mob Wednesday. “Utterly shameful n disgusting dat BJP/RSS tryng 2 communlise unfortunate murder of Dr Narang. Ppl want peace, not hatrd (sic),” Kejriwal tweeted. He also retweeted a Twitter post by Dilip Pandey, in which the AAP leader said he had returned from the condolence meeting held for Narang. “Parivar BJP/RSS/VHP ke gundon se pareshaan hai jinhone parivar ko pichle 36 ghante se gher rakha hai (The family is harrowed by BJP/RSS/VHP goons who have surrounded them for the last 36 hours),” said Pandey. In a statement, Kejriwal’s party also slammed the “desperate attempt” to find a communal angle in the incident. “The AAP strongly condemns the attempts by the BJP and the affiliates of the Sangh Parivar to communalise this entire incident. The individuals associated with fringe right-wing organisations, that had earlier also tried to create trouble in the heart of Delhi, are making desperate attempts to give a communal colour to this criminal act,” the party said. BJP’s Delhi unit president Satish Upadhyay said the party had nothing to do with messages that had alleged a communal angle behind the murder. “I am not sure what kind of people are circulating it (messages) on social media. I have not got any such message. It was a tragic incident. A few anti-social elements from the JJ colony committed the crime. We agree a few of them are Muslims but we never gave it a communal colour,” said Upadhyay. AAP also attacked the Delhi Police, saying the “systematic politicisation of the Delhi Police by the Modi government has turned it into an ineffective force.” “It has been reported that the deceased doctor tried to call up the police control room van following his reported argument with two men on a motorcycle. The entire sequence which led to the gruesome incident clearly highlights lack of proper police patrolling, particularly at night. Increasing stress levels, coupled with lack of local level interactions and complete failure of the police to perform its basic duties led to this gruesome incident,” the party said. However, AAP lauded Additional Deputy Commissioner (west) Monika Bharadwaj for “coming forward in an upright manner to quell all rumours which could have created communal tension in the area.” The party demanded that those “spreading rumors to vitiate the peaceful atmosphere through the use of social media platforms and word of mouth” should be immediately booked for trying to create communal tension. Meanwhile, Congress spokesperson Sharmistha Mukherjee also condemned the incident. “Under no considerations can such a murder be condoned,” she said. She also said incidents of crimes by youth were rising and it was up to the government to find a way to channelise their energy in a positive direction. (Indian Express 27/3/16)

2002 Guj riots and 1984 Sikh riots are different: Kanhaiya (7)

New Delhi, Mar 28 () JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar today compared the alleged onslaught on varsities with Gujarat riots alleging both of them were carried out “with support” from state machinery even as he stressed that there is a fundamental difference between “emergency” and “fascism”.Asserting that there is a difference between 2002 riots and 1984 Sikh massacre Kanhaiya alleged that Gujarat violence was carried out through state machinery while the other was caused due to mob frenzy. “There is difference between emergency and fascism. During emergency, goons of only one party were engaged into goondaism, in this (fascism) entire state machinery is resorting to goondaism. There is difference between riots of 2002 and 1984 Sikh riots. “There is a fundamental difference between a mob killing a common man and massacring people through state machinery. Therefore, the threat of communal fascism we are faced with today, there is an attack being launched on universities, because like Hitler, Modi ji doesn’t have support from intellectuals in India. No intellectual is defending Modi regime,” he added. Noting the present time is an era of “Islamophobia” , Kanhaiya underscored a need for understanding history first before reaching a conclusion on any issue. “Today it’s an era of Islamophobia. Leave aside the words of terrorism and terrorist. The moment these words will come to your mind, imprints of face of a Muslim person will be there in your mind. This is Islamophobia. “Connotations, meaning of a word change. Hence, it is important for us to understand history before we reach to conclusion on anything,” he said. Kanhaiya was addressing the gathering during a panel discussion on “Voices of Azaadi” during the “Jashne-e-azaadi” festival which was organised to celebrate the birth anniversary of the late historian Professor Bipan Chandra. The celebration comes at a time when JNU students have kick started a “nationalism and azaadi debate” across the country after it came under attack for an event on campus against the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru during which anti-national slogans were allegedly raised. (Times of India 28/3/16)

COMMUNALISM

Togadia wants PM to bring legislation for Ram temple (26)

KARIMNAGAR: Senior Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Pravin Togadia today appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to bring in a legislation in Parliament for construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya. “I am confident that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will fulfil his promise as well as his party’s resolution for construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya and that he will immediately prepare a Central legislation in Parliament to this effect,” the VHP international working president told reporters. He was here to participate in a meeting of VHP volunteers. “Somnath temple (in Gujarat) was built on initiative of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and with the consent of Muslims apart from a court verdict and wishes of the common people and then government,” he said. He said the BJP had passed a resolution and made a promise for construction of Ram temple way back in 1997. “The BJP has majority now and I hope Prime Minister will work for it (construction of temple)” he said. He said VHP and the RSS are not working for strengthening Hindutva. “Hindutva lies in hearts of all Hindus,” he added. Togadia said his organisation is working to eradicate untouchability. “A toll free number (18602333666) is put up. Poor Hindus can call this number and they will be provided with free consultation and treatment by private doctors in Hyderabad city the next day (of calling),” Togadia said. Meanwhile, Togadia evaded a direct reply to a query on remarks made by AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi wherein he refused to say “Bharat Mata ki Jai”. “We will react on it at the right time,” he said. Telangana state unit president of VHP Rama Raju and other leaders were present at the meet. (Times of India 20/3/16)

Everyone must chant ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’, amend law: Baba Ramdev (26)

Vadodara: A country-wide ban on cow slaughter is necessary to prevent sectarian clashes and foster communal harmony, yoga guru Ramdev said today while also suggesting that the law should be amended to make everyone chant ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’. In the wake of the row kicked up by AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi with the remark that he would not say ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’, Ramdev said the Centre should bring an amendment to promote the chanting of the slogan. “Even though it is not written in the Constitution that one should say ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’, there should be no problem in chanting it… Therefore, an amendment should be made in the law so that everyone says it,” he said. Talking to reporters at the city airport here before leaving for a religious function nearby, the yoga guru said, “It is my humble appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to enforce a total ban on cow slaughter across the country. I am hopeful to get a positive response from the PM.” “I believe that a country-wide ban would bring harmony between various communities and reduce communal clashes.” He claimed there was no cow slaughter in India till the 18th century and “even Mughal emperor Aurangzeb had imposed a total ban on this activity”. “Uttar Pradesh, which is a highly-sensitive state, has imposed a ban on cow slaughter too,” he said. Ramdev also slammed Congress MP and former Union minister Shashi Tharoor for comparing JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar, who is facing sedition charges, with freedom fighter Bhagat Singh. “This is an insult to the martyrs who laid down their lives fighting for the freedom of our country,” he said. (The Indian Express 24/3/16)

VHP gives dentist murder communal colour (26)

New Delhi: Even as the Delhi Police on Saturday ruled out any communal angle in the murder of Vikaspuri dentist Pankaj Narang, stating that no Bangladeshis were involved and that the mob had both Hindus and Muslims, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) kept the Bangladeshi migrant pot boiling. The Right-wing outfit said in a statement on Sunday that “illegal Bangladeshi immigrants are responsible for the murder of the doctor”. “Just because Dr. Narang was a Hindu, no pseudo-secularists are visiting his family, whereas politicians lined up at Akhlaq’s residence in Dadri,” said VHP national convenor Vinod Bansal. Mohammed Akhlaq was lynched to death following rumours of consuming beef. (The Hindu 28/3/16)

Mehbooba Mufti should raise ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ slogan before taking oath as J&K CM: Shiv Sena

New Delhi: After Aam Aadmi Party and National Conference, the Shiv Sena has also taunted BJP asking whether PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti will raise ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ slogan. An editorial in party mouthpiece ‘Saamna’ said that given the ‘nationalist’ sentiment in the country, Mehnooba Mufti should raise Bharat Matai Ki Jai slogan before assuming power as the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir. Referring to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s statement that efforts should be made to establish the salutation of `Bharat Mata ki Jai`across the globe, party spokesperson Sanjay Raut added that the mission should start from Kashmir. “This feeling comes from within,” he said, adding that if Mehbooba Mufti has changed her mind after joining hands with the BJP then she should raise the slogans before she takes oath as CM. The Sena leader also alleged that Mehbooba has been sympathetic to Afzal Guru and maintains relationship with the separatists. Earlier, AAP leader and Delhi minister Kapil Mishra had posed a similar query to BJP president Amit Shah. “Does Mehbooba Mufti believe in Bharat Mata ki Jai? If not, will the BJP form government with her? Will she raise slogans saying Afzal Guru was a terrorist? If not, then what is the Former J&K CM Omar Abdullah had also tweeted on the topic. “Is Mehbooba Mufti also going to be asked to chant #BharatMataKiJai as a condition for Govt formation in J&K?” Omar had asked in a tweet. (Zee News 28/3/16)

RSS wants govt to ‘protect’ tribals with law against conversion (26)

New Delhi: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is pushing the government to come up with an anti-conversion law to “protect”  tribal communities. The RSS has submitted a 90-page vision document suggesting a comprehensive roadmap for the empowerment and protection of the tribal communities and believes that a national anti-conversion law will also help curb conversions in the country. After Narendra Modi became prime minister in 2014, the RSS had sought a national anti-conversion law to check religious conversion and had organised ghar-wapsi programmes which invited hue and cry across the country. Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, a wing of the RSS that works among the tribals,  has also mooted in its vision statement adoption of a national tribal policy that defines time bound action against atrocities unleashed on them,  restricting intrusion into forests to protect their livelihood, apart from other welfare programmes. It also suggests constituting a tribal welfare cell in every governor’s office and implementation of laws to preserve their religion and culture which is fading.DH News Service (Deccan Herald 27/3/16)

TERRORISM

South Kashmir fertile ground for terrorists (12)

Anantnag (Kashmir): Considered a highly politically sensitive area of the Valley, South Kashmir is fast turning into a virtual breeding ground for militants with many youths joining their rank and file or becoming their sympathisers. Better intelligence network of terrorists, assistance of people to local terrorists, heavy turnouts at the funerals of militants and stone-pelting on security forces even during encounters have become a routine affair in the region. Comprising four districts — Anantnag, Kulgam, Pulwama and Shopian — South Kashmir has been on the boil ever since Chief Commander of banned Lashker-e-Taiba (LeT) group Abu Qassim was gunned down in a fierce encounter in November last year. Driving past the dusty roads of this area dotted with many tourist spots, one can see slogans favouring ‘independence’, support to terror groups and glorification of militants killed in encounters with the security forces. Senior security officials in this area are cautious of the new developments which include firings in air as a “salute to the killed terrorists”, prominent militants attending the funeral of killed ultras, with the police and security forces remaining mere spectators. Last year, out of the 90 youths, who had joined militant groups, 80 per cent of them hailed from various districts of South Kashmir alone. While figures for this year were being collated, intelligence reports suggest that 17 youths from some villages of Kulgam, Pulwama and Tral areas had disappeared quietly and joined militant ranks. The worst-hit areas are Heff-Shrimal in Shopian district, Samboora, Lillahar, Pulwama town and Tral of Pulwama district, Qaimooh and Redhwani in Kulgam district and Redhwani in Anantnag district. These are the areas which are dotted with apple orchards and lead to dense forests where militants are holed up, the officials said, adding that in case the Army mounts pressure on one side, they escape and mingle with the local population on the other. The intelligence network of the militant groups, which had ended in mid-1990s, is understood to have revived again and the terrorists come to know about the advancement of security forces, giving them an advantage to flee the area, the officials said. – PTI (The Hindu 21/3/16)

Around 35 killed in ISIS attacks in Belgium (12)

Brussels: Around 35 people were killed and over 200 injured today in a series of explosions that ripped through Brussels airport and a metro train, the latest attacks claimed by Islamic State militant group to rock Europe. Security was tightened across the jittery continent and transport links paralysed after the bombings that Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel branded “blind, violent and cowardly”.”This is a day of tragedy, a black day,” Michel said on national television. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks. Foreign Minister Didier Reynders warned that authorities fear suspects could still be at large in the city that is home to both NATO and the European Union. The bloodshed came just four days after the dramatic arrest in Brussels of Salah Abdeslam — the prime suspect in the Paris terror attacks claimed by the Islamic State group — after four months on the run. Belgian authorities had been on alert after Abdeslam, Europe’s most wanted man, told investigators he had been planning an attack on Brussels. Two blasts shattered the main hall of Zaventem Airport at around 8:00am (1330 IST), with prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw saying there was probably at least one suicide bomber. A third hit a train at Maalbeek metro station in the heart of the city’s EU quarter, just as commuters were making their way to work in rush hour. Pierre Meys, spokesman for the Brussels fire brigade, told AFP at least 14 people had been killed at the airport, while Brussels mayor Yvan Mayeur said “around 20″ died in the underground blast. More than 200 people have been wounded, several critically. Witnesses said victims lay in pools of blood at the airport, their limbs blown off. There were chaotic scenes as passengers fled in panic, with a thick plume of smoke rising from the main terminal building. “A man shouted a few words in Arabic and then I heard a huge blast,” airport baggage security officer Alphonse Lyoura told AFP, his hands bloodied. “A lot of people lost limbs. One man had lost both legs and there was a policeman with a totally mangled leg.” An army team later blew up a suspect package at the shuttered airport, with media reporting police had found an unexploded suicide vest. At Maalbeek station, paramedics tended to commuters with bloodied faces as the streets filled with the wailing of sirens. At least two Polish nationals and a Briton were confirmed among the injured in a city that is the EU’s symbolic capital. The bombings triggered a transport shutdown, with flights halted and metro, tram and bus services all suspended. Airports across Europe swiftly announced they were boosting security, including in London, Paris, and Frankfurt. Across the Atlantic, New York and Washington ordered extra counter-terror officers to crowded areas and train stations. (Deccan Herald 23/3/16)

US Condemns ‘Cowardly Attack’ in Pakistan’s Lahore (12)

WASHINGTON: The United States condemned as “cowardly” an apparent suicide attack on a crowded park in Lahore that killed at least 65 people today, vowing to work with Pakistan to defeat those sowing terror in the country. Children were among the dead and more than 200 people wounded when the apparent suicide bomb ripped through the parking lot of the popular park where Christians were celebrating Easter. “The United States condemns in the strongest terms today’s appalling terrorist attack in Lahore, Pakistan,” National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said in a White House statement. “This cowardly act in what has long been a scenic and placid park has killed dozens of innocent civilians and left scores injured.” Pakistan has been battling a homegrown Islamist insurgency since 2004, with groups such as the Pakistani Taliban routinely carrying out attacks as part of their struggle to overthrow the government. But Lahore, Pakistan’s cultural capital that lies on the country’s eastern border with India, has been relatively more peaceful in recent years. “We will continue to work with our partners in Pakistan and across the region, as together we will be unyielding in our efforts to root out the scourge of terrorism,” added Price. (New Indian Express 28/3/16)

Indian Priest Thomas Uzhunnalil’s Crucifixion By ISIS Not Confirmed: Report (12)

Bengaluru: A Salesian order Catholic priest said on Tuesday that there is no confirmed news about the “crucifixion” of Indian priest, Father Thomas Uzhunnalil, by ISIS terrorists in Yemen. “There is no confirmed news till date about Fr. Tom. Don’t be carried away by the rumours on the social media,” Father Vincent Matthew told news agency IANS. The priest said that efforts are still underway at all levels to secure his release. “This is the information I can share for the moment,” added Father Matthew. Efforts to reach the head of Catholic church in Bengaluru, Metropolitan Archbishop Bernard Moras, were not successful as he was not at his residence. The social media and some news reports have disseminated news on the crucifixion of Mr Uzhunnalil by ISIS terrorists on Good Friday, March 25, after they kidnapped him from a home for the elderly in Aden, Yemen. The Indian priest was kidnapped on March 4 after ISIS terrorists barged into the care home for the elderly set up by Mother Teresa in Aden in 1992, and shot dead many people, including four nuns of the Missionaries of Charity, one of them from India. Mr Uzhunnalil’s ancestral home in Ramapuram in Kottayam district is currently closed as two of his brothers live abroad, while another lives in Gujarat. The brother from Gujarat has reached Ramapuram after hearing the news of the kidnapping. His relatives said they were in contact with Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy who regularly keeps in touch with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the Salesian Order of priesthood was founded by Saint Francis de Sales in Italy to save the rising generations from the disastrous consequences of false and atheistical philosophical teachings introduced at the time of the French Revolution. (NDTV 30/3/16)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

A lottery that no one wants to win — new Maoist strategy to recruit children (12)

Ranchi: With dwindling forces and unwilling parents, Maoists in Jharkhand have found a new recruitment strategy for child soldiers — a lottery system. Though the outlawed organisation has previously claimed that it does not recruit children below 16, the outfit however has boasted its ‘bal dastas’ or child soldiers, whom it claims have been ‘gifted’ by parents after being motivated by the organisation’s friendly approach, said a report in Hindustan Times. In the past, the recruited children were majorly occupied in non-combat roles and were trained in computer and imparted other technical skills. But falling numbers of the armed group has forced them to introduce children in more risky situations, following which parents have become sceptical in ‘gifting’ their children to the insurgents. Sexual exploitation of girls is also prominent. The insurgents thus resort to other strategies to beef up their numbers including kidnapping and the lottery system, which they claim is a ‘less biased’ system of recruitment. In the ‘lottery system’ children are recruited through a lucky draw, where their names are written down in small bits of paper and are drawn in random. Families with more than one child is usually forced to ‘gift’ one child to the ‘cause’. The tactics has created an environment of fear and insecurity in Naxal held areas and parents send their children away to distant relatives. So, there is virtually no teenager in Naxal areas. And once a Maoist foot soldier, it is never easy to get back into the mainstream. People who wish to put the combat life behind are accused of being police informants and are killed. Elaborating on his daughter’s plight who was forcibly taken away when she was 11, 38-year-old Fandu Munda said, “Six years later when she abandoned the rebel outfit to start life afresh, they accused her of being a police informer and killed her.” The lack of access to police stations in the Maoist stronghold makes it impossible to file police complaints, resulting in no records with regards to abducted and forced child combatants. While NGOs and state government make impassioned appeal to leave the children alone, villagers buckle under their own helplessness. “Police come like guests and go. We are left at the mercy of the Maoists. Challenging their decision invites punishment, hence I have driven my husband and children away to a nearby town and stay alone here,” said a government teacher. (Deccan Chronicle 21/3/16)

Gadchiroli villagers face police wrath after Naxals kill cop (12)

Nagpur: People in Reknar village in Etapalli taluka were at the receiving end of the police wrath on March 13 when a Crack-60 team of Hedri police post thrashed them in retaliation of murder of constable Deepak Sedmake two days earlier by Naxalites. A minor, force fed with chilli powder that had also been inserted in his anus, was among several to be tortured on the suspicion of having helped Naxalite team that gunned down Sedmake. State chief minister Devendra Fadnavis in his last tour in the Naxal-affected district had sought to win heart with his development mantra. State director general of police Praveen Dixit had also appealed to the people to join hands with the security agencies ‘police mitra’ to dent the mass base of the rebels. Against the backdrop of government and police’s own citizen-friendly approach, the high-handedness of C-60 squad left many people shocked. The squad stormed into the Reknar village, around five kilometers from Hedri, early morning dragging out people from their homes. The villagers were assembled at the Ghotul or community centre before the commandos started raining blows on them mercilessly using hands and also canes. Several women were also beaten in their home as the menfolk were dragged out. Ranu Pungati, in his teens, was the worst victim when red chilli powder was thrust down his throat. Unconfirmed sources also claimed that Pungati, who worked at family owned farm, had to be rushed to hospital when some chilli powder was also smeared and pushed into his anus. Dasrath Usendi, a local farmer, said four villagers bore the brunt of police atrocity while others were slapped and kicked. “After having vented their wrath, police also whisked away four people to their post but released them in the evening,” he said “A day later, villagers lodged protest before tehsildar and sub-divisional police officer (SDPO) but nothing happened,” he said. Earlier, sources from Hedri said police had rounded up several traders from the weekly market where the constable was killed. The traders were also thrashed at the camp. According to a source, two traders sustained fractures due to beating. A local source in Etapalli said the injury reports of the traders were later fudged under police pressure too to show they had suffered a fall from tree. Inspector general of police, Nagpur and Naxal range, Ravindra Kadam condemned the thrashing stating such incidents only pushed back the initiatives several years behind. “We have already called for explanation from the post in-charge and commander of the force at Hedri holding them responsible for the high-handedness. Actions would follow after the explanations are received,” said Kadam. (Times of India 23/3/16)

Another researcher harassed in Bastar, termed ‘Naxal agent’ (12)

RAIPUR: Yet another social activist and independent researcher, based in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh, has alleged that she was being “hounded and troubled” by self-styled vigilante groups. Ms. Bela Bhatia, a former visiting faculty at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, stays at a village eight kilometers from Jagdalpur, the district headquarters of Bastar. “At around 4 p.m. on Saturday, a large group of agitated people came to the village where I live, in my absence. According to my neighbours, they came in four vehicles, five autos and one jeep. The group included men and women as well as the men of the police force in plain clothes. Some of them were armed. The group was carrying a banner and asked questions about me to my house-owner and neighbours. They asked why a ‘Naxalite Aatankawadi’ had been allowed to rent a room in the village and advised my landlady to evict me,” Ms. Bhatia said in a statement. “Then they took out a rally in the hamlet, shouting slogans against me including ‘Bela Bhatia Murdabad’ and distributed leaflets. The leaflet accused me of being a ‘Naxal Dalal (Maoist agent) from outside and ends with the slogan ‘ Bastar Chhodo’ (Leave Bastar). The leaflet did not bear anyone’s name or any details of any printer,” claimed the researcher who has been documenting police excesses in the name of anti-Maoist operations in Bastar for over a year now. The sloganeering and leaflet campaign against Ms. Bhatia comes after the recent arrest of four journalists in Bastar and the eviction and attacks on free legal aid groups, journalists and tribal activist Soni Sori. Bastar Superintendent of Police (SP) Mr. R.N. Das and Inspector General (IG) of Police S.R.P. Kalluri were unavailable for their reaction to the incident. IG is a dictator: Cong The Chhattisgarh state unit of the Congress has termed Bastar police head Mr. Kalluri a “dictator” after the arrest of four journalists in Bastar in last six months. “S.R.P. Kalluri has become a dictator of Bastar because of the free hand given to him by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. Common people, journalists, political workers and almost everyone is on the police target in Bastar now,” State Congress spokesperson Shailesh Nitin Trivedi said in a press statement on Sunday. (The Hindu 28/3/16)

TRAFFICKING

Too few FIRs for missing children (1)

At a time Jharkhand is celebrating a seemingly more vigilant era to curb child trafficking, Hazaribagh NGO Jan Vikas Kendra, at its daylong symposium on woman and child trafficking in XISS, Ranchi, on Monday, presented facts to show the scenario was grim. “For missing children, FIRs are rarely lodged,” coordinator Rajiv Kumar of Jan Vikas Kendra said, citing a sample survey in Jharkhand across 2,400 households to show how, for the 44 children who went missing between April 2015 and March 20, 2016, only two FIRs were lodged and four minor girls traced. He blamed local police stations from where children go missing for the poor number of FIRs, saying policemen did not show interest even if parents approached them. “We approached the CID, Jharkhand department, to help us rescue children under Operation Smile 2 launched in January 2016,” Kumar said at the meet, which in which over 100 representatives of social organisations working on human trafficking took part from five districts, Hazaribagh, Chatra, Koderma, Bokaro, Ramgarh and Ranchi. Chief guest Mahua Maji, chairperson of Jharkhand State Commission for Women, drew attention to too few shelter homes. “Rescued children need shelter homes. Often, if girls are victims of trafficking and are willing to return home, their parents do not accept them due to strong social stigma,” she said. “In Jharkhand, trafficking has been discussed in symposiums. But how far has it been effective? There is lack of coordination between various departments like social welfare and education,” she said. She also accused the Centre of not properly utilising Rs 3,000 crore in the Nirbhaya fund, which includes lending financial support to NGOs working for women’s safety. Rajni Kumari, a member of child welfare committee (CWC), Hazaribagh, stressed setting up committees in each district so that rescued children could be produced there after his or her verification formalities. “The child should be reunited with parents or kept in a shelter home. I am aware that FIRs are at times not even lodged after a month, violating the Supreme Court ruling of 2013.” She also appealed NGO representatives to carefully go through provisions of Juvenile Justice Act 2006 and POCSO Act 2012 to rehabilitate rescued children. Maji also asked the state government to reactivate the Mamta Vahan service. (The Hindu 22/3/16)

5 children go missing every day in TN: Report (1)

CHENNAI: At least five children go missing every day in Tamil Nadu on average. In 2016 so far, 450 children have gone missing across the state. However, almost one third of the missing children have been rescued. According to statistics, at least 145 children were rescued with the help of police.The data is from the National Tracking System for Missing and Vulnerable Children (NTM&VC), which works under the Ministry of Women and Child Development. According to the NTM&VC, on Tuesday (March 22) alone, at least 21 children went missing in Tamil Nadu, while three of them were rescued with the help of police. The statistics also show that in the past one month, at least 171 children went missing in the state, while 55 were traced by police. The State Crime Record Bureau (SCRB) statistics differ from the data available in NTM&VC. According to the SCRB, as many as 656 children, aged between 0 and 15, went missing from Tamil Nadu in 2015, compared to 441 cases in 2014. The data available in the NTM&VC shows that at least 2,741 children have gone missing from the state in 2015 and 2016 up to March, of whom at least 1,555 children were rescued. As per the SCRB data, at least 114 children have gone missing from Chennai in 2014. The number increased to 149 in 2015. At least 58 children were reported missing in the city in the year 2016. Police said the children are often targeted by the begging mafia and child trafficking agents. “Some organized racketeers are controlling the begging, child prostitution and adoption scams in the state,” a police officer said. The scamsters mostly target pavement dwellers and slum residents. (Times of India 23/3/16)

Trafficking gang busted, 3 foreigners arrested (1)

NEW DELHI: A human trafficking gang has been busted with the arrest of three foreigners-two Kenyan men and a Tanzanian woman-in the city. They allegedly helped foreigners carrying incomplete documents leave India by arranging fake documents and immigrations stamps. Police said the two men used to charge a hefty amount for the fake documents and the charges varied on the basis of the destination and the documents required. The fraud came to light when the woman, Joanitha Kanyika Kasimkole, holding an emergency document issued by the Tanzanian high commission and an exit permit cleared by the SSP and Foreigner Regional Registration Office, Lucknow, tried to leave for Kenya. When she reached the immigration counter to take a Doha flight, officials suspected that the documents were fake and stopped her to check the documents. “It was found that her exit permit and the stamp of FRRO Lucknow were fake. During questioning, she revealed that she had paid a hefty amount to the two Kenyans for arranging the documents,” said Dinesh Kumar Gupta, DCP, IGI. After Kasimkole identified them as Dishon Masila Musyoka and Amayo Mboya, she was asked to take police to the duo who had cheated her of lakhs of rupees. They were arrested after a team led by inspector Satish Malik, IGI station house officer, raided their hideouts at south Delhi’s Malviya Nagar and north Delhi’s Majnu ka Tila. Several fake immigration stamps of various airports were also found. Police are also investigating if any immigration staff was involved in the racket. (Times of India 27/3/16)

CORRUPTION

Money laundering: ED attaches Chhagan Bhujbal’s sugar mill, land worth crores (5)

Mumbai: Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Monday attached a sugar mill and acres of prime land in  Nashik district of Maharashtra in connection with a money laundering probe against NCP member Chhagan Bhujbal.  According to a report republished in Time of India, the agency issued a provisional attachment order, under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), against the two assets which are owned by Bhujbal’s firm. The two assets have been estimated to be at Rs 55 crore. One of the Enforcement Directorate officials confirmed the report and told TOI that the prohibitory orders has been put on the factory, identified as Girna Sugar mill, and the land located adjacent to it. Chhagan is being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in several cases of money laundering. Series of raids have been conducted at the properties owned by Bhujbal and his family across Maharashtra in the last one and a half years. Investigating agencies are also looking into alleged corruption in the award of contracts during his tenure as Maharashtra’s PWD minister. (Zee News 22/3/16)

CBI arrests 4 in connection with 2 bribery cases (5)

Mumbai: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has arrested a deputy general manager and an engineer of Hindustan Insecticides Ltd, and a senior section engineer of Central Railway (CR) and a sub-inspector of RPF in two separate cases of bribery on Monday. In one case, the CBI on Monday arrested a deputy general manager (finance & accounts) and an engineer/ manager of Hindustan Insecticides Ltd., Rasayani, Panvel, District Raigad (Maharashtra) for demanding and accepting a bribe of Rs 25,000 from the complainant. HIL is a Government of India enterprise, under the department of chemicals and petrochemicals, ministry of chemicals & fertilisers, Government of India. Sources said a CBI team got a tip-off about the deputy general manager’s activities after which they laid a trap. A private contractor had completed his work but the deputy general manager (finance & accounts) and engineer/ manager of HIL did not release his payment. They kept him waiting for a year after which they demanded a bribe of Rs 50,000 from him for release of his payment. The frustrated contractor later informed CBI officials about the same and both accused were caught red-handed while accepting a bribe of Rs 25,000 as first installment. Later, searches were conducted at the residence and office of both accused and incriminating documents related to the case and certain property documents were recovered. Both arrested accused are being produced today in the competent Court, Alibaug (Maharashtra), said CBI officials. In the other case, CBI arrested a senior section engineer, Manmad, CR, for demanding and accepting a bribe of Rs 5,000 from the complainant. Sources said the complainant was working in the Railway Protection Force itself and wanted a transfer to Manmad for personal reasons. He alleged that the senior RPF officer, Manmad, CR, demanded Rs 20,000 from him for his transfer from Nashik to Manmad. CBI laid a trap and caught red handed the Senior Section Engineer for demanding and accepting a bribe of Rs 5,000 as first half payment. The house of the accused was searched leading to the recovery of Rs 1.5 lakh in cash and incriminating documents, said CBI officials. (Asian Age 23/3/16)

Bribery case – High court relief for corporation lawyer (5)

PUNE: The Bombay high court on Wednesday granted bail to an empanelled lawyer from the Pune Municipal Corporation legal advisor’s office. Vilas Hole was convicted by a special court here on Monday in a bribery case. The bench of Justice Sadhana S Jadhav ordered that the substantive sentence imposed on Hole is su on Hole is suspended and it may not be construed as a suspension of the conviction. Pune special judge for anticorruption bureau N G Gimekar had sentenced Hole to four years rigorous imprisonment (RI) and imposed a fine of Rs 5,000 for criminal misconduct by a public servant and three years RI and Rs 3,000 fine for securing illegal gratification. Soon after the ruling, Hole was ta ken into custody and sent to ja il. His bail, granted during the trial, was cancelled.Hole moved the high court through his lawyer Aniket Ujj wal Nikam, challenging his conviction and also filed an application for bail after con viction, which was heard on Wednesday . On March 5, 2015, ACB sle uths trapped Hole in his office for allegedly demanding and accepting Rs 10,000 bribe from Prashant Borde of old Sangvi for giving a favou rable opinion to the PMC on a TDR proposal. In the high court, Nikam argued that Hole deserved an extension of the bail relief he had got during the pendency of trial before the special court. The bench allowed the plea subject to conditions that Hole furnishes fresh bail bonds and submits the bond within four weeks. (Times of India 25/3/16)

Coal scam: one down, 51 to go (5)

NEW DELHI: The first set of convictions in the coal block allocation scam came on Monday, within 14 months of the court taking cognisance of the charge-sheet filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation. There are 51 more cases pending in various stages of investigation or trial in the infamous coal scam. BJP leaders and now Union Ministers, Prakash Javadekar and Hansraj Ahir, had first filed a complaint with the Central Vigilance Commission seeking investigations into coal block allocations during the UPA regime. Subsequently, the CBI initiated investigations. In August 2012, the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) had pegged the loss to the exchequer at Rs. 1.86 lakh crore due to irregularities in the allocation of coal blocks. The report stated that till March 2011, the government had allocated 194 blocks for captive mining, of which 142 were unexplored. A month later, the CBI booked the first set of five cases against the companies on allegations of conspiracy to secure allocation of coal blocks. Congress MP Vijay Darda was named as an accused in one of the cases. Since then, the agency has registered 52 cases pertaining to the coal block allocations scam. Among the other prominent accused in these cases were former Minister of State for Coal Dasari Narayan Rao, industrialist Naveen Jindal, former Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda. In the course of its investigations, the CBI also recorded former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement. (The Hindu 29/3/16)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

Shut the dump, residents come on streets to protest (9)

MUMBAI: Residents living in areas around the Deonar dump continued to breathe smoke even three days after a fire broke out at the Deonar dumping ground. The angry residents came out on Tuesday to stage a protest at Azad Maidan in Mumbai alleging complete apathy on the part of the BMC authorities to tackle the city’s waste. Wearing black clothes as a mark of protest many of the citizens were seen carrying placards which read, ‘Smoke chokes’, ‘Shut toxic dump’, ‘Breathing Methane and Choking-Save our children’. Chembur resident and activist R.K. Sharma said, “The fire this time is even worse than January 28. The BMC does not seem to be coming up with solutions even despite them knowing the situation on ground fully well. We are hoping that a protest of such a kind will at least put adequate pressure on the authorities,” said Sharma. Many Navi Mumbai residents also were seen joining in the protest considering smoke coming out of the dump is known to travel till the satellite city. Ram Kanwar-chairman of the Navi Mumbai citizen’s welfare association said fire fighting operations at the dump need to get more sophisticated. “The BMC should try to install sprinklers in the Deonar dump which can be immediately started when there is a fire,” said Kanwar. Several residents said that they were amazed that a civic body having a budget as enormous as Rs. 37,052 crores is not in a position to tackle its solid waste. Ramesh. M. a resident of Deonar said, “There is no dearth of money for the civic body and yet they are not able to put a system in place to deal with the solid waste of Mumbai.” Kala Suresh, another resident pointed out that several times BMC officials and corporators are seen going overseas on tax payers money to study the solid waste of different cities but even so many years later they have not arrived at any concrete measures. Chembur resident Ashwin Pai said that while the BMC keeps talking of segregation and despite us even attempting to segregate wet and dry garbage it is finally seen going into the same compactor coming to collect the garbage which then demotivates us to segregate the waste further. (Times of India 22/3/16)

‘Green cover crucial to fight global warming’ (9)

COIMBATORE: The forest department and Nature Conservation Society jointly organised the World Forest Day and World Water Day celebrations at Shakthi Engineering College on Tuesday with a focus on the need to protect rainforests. Regional passport officer S Sasikumar, who was the chief guest at the function, told students that 13 million hectares of rainforest area was getting destroyed every year. “Before 1980, conservation of animals was the only issue. But today, conservation of forest itself is a big issue. There is a need to plant trees inside and outside forests to bring about environmental sustainability,” said Sasikumar, adding, “Planting more trees will enrich the green over, which is crucial for fighting global warming.” Speaking on the issue of global warming, president of the Nature Conservation Society (Coimbatore), N I Jalaluddin advised students to “notice the long term temperature changes in different areas, which are usually the first signs of global warming and ozone depletion.” The college chairman, S Thangavelu, who delivered the presidential address, requested students not to spoil the soil’s fertility and pollute it with artificial substances that contain chemicals. (Times of India 23/3/16)

Sunita Narain: Environment needs politics (9)

Some fortnights ago, I had discussed the issue of poverty and environment. I had then said that the question today is not whether the poor are responsible for environmental degradation but whether environmental management works if it does not address inequality and poverty. Why? Take air pollution in our cities. Today, a minuscule number of people in Delhi and other cities of the emerging world drive a car. In Delhi, the estimate is that only 15 per cent commute by car. But air pollution is high and congestion is crippling. Can these cities combat air pollution, given that more and more people will drive? Is it possible to plan for the remaining 80-85 per cent? Is there space on the road, or space in the air? Clearly, it is not possible. Our research has pointed out that unless we reinvent mobility at a scale not seen before, we cannot have clean air. A few years ago, in a landmark judgement the Delhi High Court had ruled that roads need to be planned taking into account “equity of use”-those who use more, should get more space. Today, the bulk of our cities’ population walks, cycles or takes a bus. It does so because it is poor. But we need to take the bus, cycle and walk when we are rich, and not wait till cars have occupied all the roads. Therefore, unless the strategy to combat air pollution moves from fixing the tail-pipe emissions of each car to planning for affordable and inclusive mobility, we will not get clean air. This will not be easy. But one thing is clear – that the solutions must work for the poor, for them to work for the rich. Take water pollution. Indian rivers are increasingly polluted, but again the question is whether we can clean them when a large number of people do not have access to sanitation and clean water. Our report, Excreta Matters, showed why policy had to change. The current system of water and waste management is capital-intensive and it creates a division between the rich and the poor. The state has limited resources and can only invest in providing for some-invariably the rich and not the poor. But if only a part of the city has access to clean water and underground sewerage, pollution control will not work. The reason is simple: the treated waste of a few will be mixed with the untreated waste of many. The end result will be pollution. It is also clear that the greater the pollution, the higher the cost of cleaning water. Even the rich in our cities cannot afford the current costs of delivering water, then taking back waste and treating it before disposal into rivers. So, either water is not supplied to all or sewage is not treated. The solution has to be to invest in affordable solutions for water and waste that meet the needs of all. Only then can we have clean rivers. .. (Business Standard 27/3/16)

Green penalty may go up from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5 crore (9)

New Delhi: Seeking to impose a serious and effective deterrent to prevent violation of environmental laws, the Centre plans to introduce an amendment bill proposing to scale up the fine to a minimum of Rs 5 crore up from Rs 1 lakh and imprisonment up to seven years for causing ‘substantial’ environmental damage. The bill will be introduced during the second half of the budget session between April 25 and May 13. The bill sets the the upper limit of fine as high as Rs 20 crore and imprisonment may be extended to a life term. If the damage has been unabated over a period of time, violators may have to pay additional Rs 1 crore a day. While the government has moved to ease what has been described as “green tape” and make clearances faster and more transparent, it expects industries to adhere to the law or face stiff penalties if caught violating regulations. “The law ministry has already cleared the draft of the Environment Laws (Amendment) Bill – meant to amend the existing Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 – and sent it back to the environment ministry. It will now go to the Cabinet and will be introduced in the Parliament after the recess”, said an official. The proposed amendment suggests that the penalty amount will be used for remediation and reclamation of polluted sites and improvement of environment – measures that also seem intended to counter criticism that the government has been keen to cater to big business. At present, a violator has to pay a fine of Rs 1 lakh and faces imprisonment up to five years (can be extended to seven years in certain cases) on conviction. In case the violation continues, the offender has to pay additional fine up to Rs 5,000 a day during which the contravention continues. (Times of India 28/3/16)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

2,000 crore increase in allocation for farm sector (20)

Chandigarh: In an attempt to de-stress the distressed rural sector and enable it to meet the economic challenges, the Haryana budget has enhanced allocation for the agriculture and allied sectors by 13.71%. Finance minister Captain Abhimanyu has allotted Rs 13,494 crore for 2016-17 in the budget in comparison to Rs 11,444.41 crore for 2015-16. The announcement has come at a time when the farmers in Haryana are facing severe crisis following crop failures because of heavy rains coupled with hailstorms. The state had also witnessed suicides by several farmers after the crop failure in 2015. Presenting his budget proposals in the state assembly on Monday, Capt Abhimanyu said that the outlay for agriculture had been hiked to realize the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who aimed to double the farmers’ income within five years. Haryana also increased its share by 54% for various central government schemes like Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, National Food Security Mission, National Mission on Agriculture Expansion and Technology, National Oil Seed and Oil Palm Mission. The allocation under the Centre’s schemes of National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture and the Soil Health Card Scheme has also been increased from Rs 4.56 crore to Rs 15.02 crore. For different schemes to promote the horticulture sector, the allocation has been upped to Rs 378 crore from Rs 239.45 crore of 2015-16. Welcoming the launch of the new farm insurance scheme ‘Pradhanmantri Fasal Bima Yojana’, he said it would go a long way in providing financial support to the farmers in the event of failure of notified crops because of natural calamities, pests and diseases. A sum of Rs 300 crore has been proposed for the scheme. Capt Abhimanyu has proposed Rs 50 crore in the first instance for setting up a horticultural university in Karnal. The grant-in-aid for the Haryana Agricultural University has also been increased. “The Haryana government not only enhanced the compensation rate per acre but also widened the scope for coverage of the crops damaged due to floods, standing water, fire, electric sparking, heavy rains, hailstorm, dust storm and whilefly attack,” said the minister. (Times of India 22/3/16)

Kisan sabha to oppose river linking project (20)

BERHAMPUR: The Odisha unit of peasants’ organisation All-India Kisan Mazdoor Sabha (AIKMS) has decided to oppose Mahanadi-Godavari river linking project as well as over-promotion of ground water use for agriculture in the State. It was decided at the two-day State level conference of the organisation that concluded in Berhampur on Tuesday. Speaking to newsmen, organisation national general secretary Sushant Jha and State president Natabar Pradhan claimed that river linking project and over-tapping of ground water would be a major bane for environment and agriculture. The AIKMS claimed that although Odisha had ample amount of surface water and adequate rainfall, due to lack of proper water management its farmers were suffering drought-like situation regularly. They criticised the government for over-promotion of bore wells for irrigation purposes, which, according to them, would be a major reason of ground water depletion in near future. They wanted scientific environment-friendly small projects to tap water of traditional sources for irrigation. “We are opposed to large irrigation projects and want irrigated land of Odisha to be increased at least 50 per cent through small barrages on rivers or streams,” said Mr Pradhan. The State government has shown positive attitude towards the Centre’s river linking project. However, the AIKMS opposes the proposal saying that it would be a major danger for environment and displace thousands of peasants. Mr. Jha had on Monday said that the rate of suicide of peasants in the country has increased to 52 per day in first few months of 2016 in comparison to 42 suicides per day in 2015. He claimed that agriculture and farmers were being neglected by both the State and Central governments. “Our aim is to make micro level analysis of problems being faced by farmers and possible remedial measures through discussions,” said national committee member of AIKMS Bhala Chandra Sarangi. Mr. Natabar Sarangi was sceptical about the second green revolution being promoted by the NDA government in eastern India, including Odisha. (The Hindu 23/3/16)

Unable to repay loans, 2 more farmers end lives (20)

Mansa: Reeling under debt, two farmers ended their lives by gulping poison in Mansa district. With this, the suicide count has risen to 14 in less than three months in the district.Jang Singh, 60, of Tandian village, committed suicide late on Holi night by consuming a poisonous substance. “His cotton crop sown on five acres was damaged due to whitefly attack. Now his wheat crop too had been hit due to untimely rains. He owed Rs 2 lakh to the village cooperative society and Rs 5 lakh to a moneylender,” said Tandian sarpanch Shinder Kaur. Jang’s wife Amarjit Kaur said, “The cooperative society had sent notice to repay the loan in coming month and he was upset for not able to make the payment. He committed suicide on Thursday night.” Balbir Singh, 42, of Autanwali village, had only one acre of land and had taken four acres on lease. He owed Rs 1.5 lakh to a moneylender. Autanwali sarpanch Gurmail Singh said, “Balbir had two daughters, who are nearly 20 years of age. With no return from small land holding he was worried about marrying them off and committed suicide on Thursday night.” As per a survey conducted by Punjabi University at Patiala, the farmers of the state were reeling under debt of nearly Rs 69,000 crore which included Rs 56,000 crore institutional and nearly Rs 13,000 non-institutional debt. (Times of India 26/3/16)

Opp blames govt for farmer’s suicide opp Mantralaya (20)

Mumbai, Mar 28 () The ruling and opposition parties today had a heated discussion in Maharashtra Legislative Council over suicide by a farmer opposite the Mantralaya (state secretariat) here last week. The Opposition demanded that a murder case be registered against “errant officials”.However, state Agriculture Minister Eknath Khadse said the state government had done all it could, and that the farmer had received drought aid over a month back. Madhav Kadam, a farmer from Nanded district, had attempted suicide by consuming an insecticide opposite the state secretariat here on March 23, allegedly because of not receiving drought compensation despite his crop failure. He later died in an hospital on March 26. As the House assembled for the day, Leader of Opposition Dhananjay Munde, via an adjournment motion, said a government which believes in communicating through social media cannot respond to the cries of farmers. “This suicide incident has happened because the government excluded farmers sowing cotton from getting compensation for crop failure. This is a government that believes in communicating through social media. But, why does it not hear the cries of farmers?” he asked. He said the farmer had met a few ministers, tehsildar and Collector asking for help, but did not receive any. Jayant Patil (of PWP) said it is the first time in the history of the state that a farmer has committed suicide in front of Mantralaya. “(Eknath) Khadse, while he was in the Opposition, had many a times demanded that a murder case be lodged against officials when a farmer committed suicide. Now, the district collector should be charged under IPC section 302,” he said. (MORE) MM GK PVI (Times of India 28/3/16)

Farmers’ group organises protest in Nashik (20)

Nashik: Demanding remunerative prices for farm produce and farmland for the adivasi community, the leftist organisation Kisan Sabha staged a massive state-level morcha and agitation in Nashik on Tuesday. Communist Party of India (Marxist) national general secretary MP Sitaram Yechury, Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha general secretary Hunnan Maula, senior journalist P. Sainath, veteran trade union leader Dr D.L. Karad and other leaders addressed the rally. Mr Yechury criticised the union and state governments for their inaction on farmers and adivasi issues. “The government waives off the loans of capitalists but not of farmers. The Maharashtra government has no scheme to waive off the debts of farmers,” he charged. “The current rate of wheat is Rs 1,150 per quintal while the production cost is Rs 1,800. The government should stop importing wheat and should give a remunerative price of Rs 2,400 per quintal for wheat,” he said. Mr Yechury stated that 99 per cent adivasis in Mizoram had got farms. “In Maharashtra too, the adivasis should get their land,” he asserted. Mr Yechury said that the voice of the youth was being stifled and enmity was being promoted between two communities. The major demands are complete waiver of all loans and electricity bills of farmers, remunerative prices for farm produce, water, fodder and work in drought areas, minimum `50,000 per acre compensation for crop losses, among others. Nashik was chosen as the venue because in Mumbai, there are several morchas daily and a particular morcha is not highlighted. Moreover, given the number of agitators, an expected one lakh, Nashik was a better choice, sources said. The morcha began late evening, though the time given was in the afternoon. Traffic was stalled for a while, as the morcha began from Golf Club and marched to the Collectorate. (Asian Age 30/3/16)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

Gaya Airport land: stalemate continues (4)

GAYA: With Bishunganj villagers refusing to accept the compensation amount for the acquisition of 70.2 acres of land for the expansion of the Gaya airport runway to facilitate bigger passenger and cargo plane landing/take off, stalemate on the issue continues. Though the acquisition formalities were completed between 2009-2011 and land owners were offered compensation as per the provisions of law prevailing at the time of acquisition, the farmers now demand compensation as per the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act 2013 that guarantees compensation four times the market value of the land. A few weeks back, Gaya District Magistrate Kumar Ravi, through an official letter addressed to the Principal Secretary Land Revenue, apprised the senior official about the problems being faced in the smooth execution of the airport development plan. The DM also sought guidelines from the Principal Secretary Revenue on the issue. Gaya airport spread over 971 acres needs 100 acres more land to expand the length of the runway from the existing 2286 meters to 2886 meters. The present runway can at best accommodate Airbus 320 with an all economy class passenger capacity of 180. As of now, planes bigger in size than Airbus 320 with an all economy class passenger capacity of 180 cannot land/take off from Gaya. The A320 fleet of Air India has grown old with most of the planes older than 25 years, the planes suffering from metal fatigue and other operational hazards, generally carry a lower than permissible load.The break up of land acquired for runway expansion and other purposes says that 6 acre land has been acquired in Hario village, 16 acres in Dubhal village, 70.2 acres in Bishunganj village and 7.8 acres in Charoba village. Villagers of Hario, Charoba and Dubhal have received the compensation money while Bishunganj villagers want higher compensation and job. When contacted Gaya DM Kumar Ravi said that he was awaiting Revenue Dept’s response on the issue of compensation amount. The matter will be expedited once he received the necessary guidelines from the government, said the DM.Sources in the Revenue department say that the department referred the matter to the Law department for opinion as it involved legal issues including the possibility of retrospective compliance of the Land Acquisition Act 2013. Sources also say that the Law department has opined that since the land was acquired much before the enactment of Land Acquisition Act 2013 mandating high compensation rate to the land owners, the compensation amount cannot be enhanced. Meanwhile, the land owners have approached the Civil Court for higher compensation. As the civil dispute was time consuming, officials see no hurdle in going ahead with runway expansion on the condition that the government would be paying the compensation at the rate fixed by the court. (Times of India 21/3/16)

14 Jajpur villagers held for opposing land acquisition (4)

KENDRAPARA: Police arrested 14 persons of Baliapala and Dhanjayapore villages in Jajpur district on Tuesday on charges of opposing land acquisition for the proposed Angul-Sukinda railway line. “Our land is acquired for the railway line. We want proper compensation. The government instead of solving our problems sent police and arrested people, who were protesting peacefully,” said Dabar Samal of Baliapala village. Kalinganagar police station IIC Rajib Lochan Panda said police arrested the protesters under Section 151 (Arrest to prevent the commission of cognizable offences) of CrPC as they were trying to break law and order. Security has been tightened, he said. “The ecology of our village will be destroyed if the authorities build railway line. The railway line construction company has been illegally lifting earth from our village causing problems us. The authorities have no right to acquire land without paying us proper compensation,” said Bikram Jena of Dhanjayapore village. “The 102-km Anugul-Sukinda railway line will connect coalfields in Talcher to Banspani-Sukinda line. It will facilitate movement of coal and iron ore in two directions. The railway line will be a reliable, economic and faster alternative for passenger transport. It will benefit Angul, Jajpur and Dhenkanal districts,” said collector (Jajpur) S K Mallick. Some villagers with an ulterior motive are trying to oppose the railway line construction work, he said. “After paying proper compensation to the state government, the company acquired the land for railway line project. The villagers have no right over the land as the railway authorities are building the line over government land,” said Mallick. (Times of India 23/3/16)

Displaced tribals lay bare DVC jobs scam, demand CBI inquiry (4)

Sindri: Members of Adivasi Ghatwar Mahasabha from Jharkhand and West Bengal went semi-nude and took to fasting and staged a demonstration at Simpathar village in Sindri on Thursday demanding employment to the villagers displaced by Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) and a CBI probe into 9,000 employments given to fake persons in the name of displacement. More than 4,000 villagers, including men and women, from Dhanbad and Jamtara districts of the state and Purulia and Burdwan districts of neighbouring West Bengal converged at Simpathar to express their solidarity with the members of the Mahasabha who have been on a dharna since March 1. “The land and houses of nearly 1670 of villagers of Simpathar was acquired by DVC in 1953-54, but none of them were provided employment,” alleged Ramashray Singh, adviser of the Mahasabha. He added that of the 1700 villagers displaced from Telkuppi village of Purulia district, only 500 villagers got appointment and the DVC management provided employment to fake persons in the pretext of displacement. He said members of Ghatwar Adivasi Mahasabha have held protests and been on fast 150 times in the last 10 years, even in Delhi and Kolkata. Though the DVC management has signed 34 agreements with the Mahasabha so far, he said, adding none of them have been implemented. Despite assurances of prompt action from the offices of the Prime Minister and state chief minister, the DVC authorities continue to ignore their directives, he alleged. JMM MP (Rajya Sabha) Sanjiv Kumar was there all along to lend support to the agitators, who were demanding that the Centre order a CBI probe into the appointment muddle. (Times of India 25/3/16)

LA Act provisions diluted to acquire land (4)

HYDERABAD: A series of orders issued by the Telangana government over a period of six months have diluted the spirit of the Land Acquisition Act, 2013, by doing away with the required procedures and rehabilitation and resettlement clauses while procuring land for various projects. The first order in the series in June 2015 enunciated the ‘Telangana State Policy for Acquisition of Land through Agreement’, formulated by a three-member official committee. It cited Section 108 of the Act, which allowed acquisition through agreement if the compensation was higher than that stipulated by the Act. As per the policy, the land for each project cannot exceed 75 acres in any case. District-level negotiation committees were to be formed under the chairmanship of the district collector to negotiate for enhanced compensation. However, another order issued in less than two months mentioned neither the Act nor the first GO nor the negotiation committees, but spoke about the district level land procurement committee in which registrar of the district too was included as a member. The monetary consideration under the GO included the value of land and property, perceived loss of livelihood, and costs of rehabilitation and resettlement, in return for an affidavit by the land owner that he or she was forgoing rights on the land. “As per a clause in the affidavit, the land owner cannot even approach the court of law challenging the acquisition,” says S. Jeevan Kumar, Chairperson of the Human Rights Forum. The subsequent two orders with amendments came in October and November respectively, the first reducing the time frame for claims and objections to seven days from 15, and the latter doing away with payment of the rehabilitation and resettlement costs. Notable fact is that the Act mandates 30 days for objections. Activists and social groups are accusing the government of sabotaging the provisions of the Act taking advantage of the change of the government at the Centre, and the ordinance passed for amendments to the Act. Policy Watch Group, which has been closely monitoring the issue, calls the orders “illegal” and accuses the government of sabotaging the Act. It highlights that the government is bypassing all the mandatory procedures of social impact assessment, preliminary notification, rehabilitation and resettlement award and special provisions for SCs and STs. The group also mentions pressure from the ruling party members, and lower price than that stipulated by the Act. Besides, there is no mention of other dependents such as agricultural labourers. “People are made to believe that it’s the best price, and if they refuse, the money will be deposited in court. They are also being promised jobs, but no such provision is mentioned in the order. The government has already acquired close to 10,000 acres of land through the order. Daily targets of acquisition are being set for officials and public representatives,” says Ch. Ravi Kumar, advocate and member of the group. (The Hindu 26/3/16)

Land acquisition for NH to be simplified (4)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The State government will resort to acquisition of missing plots from bulk land acquisition through consent for the development of National Highways to avoid delay in the handover of sites to concessionaires and to curb contractual claims of contractors. The consent path will be chosen if additional land is required for road work owing to alteration of alignment at the implementation stage. However, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MORTH) says that land acquisition through consent should be resorted to only in exceptional circumstances, preferably up to 10 per cent of the total land acquisition in a construction package. Through this, MORTH hopes to put an end to land acquisition through negotiations. The Ministry is now planning to take possession of land at once for implementing the project. The delay and litigations challenging land acquisition can thus be avoided. The lump sum award can be straight away given. “Stakeholders have been asked to ensure that the determination of compensation for land acquisition under the NH Act are in consonance with the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, and the State government’s land laws,” MORTH Director said in a communication to secretaries of the Public Works Department (PWD) of all States and Union Territories. The Ministry has also put in place a protective mechanism in respect of rates to be fixed and establishing the rightful ownership. The proof of legal ownership of plots should be obtained from revenue officials not below the rank of tahsildar. After receiving the approval, a formal consent of the individual title-holder will have to be recorded on a stamp paper and notorised. The land acquired needs to be mutated in the name of the Union government, and it should be kept as a separate record. (The Hindu 28/3/16)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

WHO calls for direct engagement to end tuberculosis (3)

New Delhi, Mar 21 () Ahead of World Tuberculosis Day on March 24, WHO today pitched for a direct engagement with communities for case detection, treatment completion and addressing out-of-pocket expenditures and stressed on addressing its social determinants to end the disease. “To end TB, there is a need to reach out to and engage with communities directly for case detection, treatment completion and addressing out-of-pocket expenditures. “Forging partnerships with civil society groups and between public and private care providers will likewise ensure that present gaps are closed and that a society-wide movement to end TB develops,” Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region, said. Singh was speaking at an event ‘Unite to End TB: Fast Tracking access to quality diagnosis and treatment’ organised by Health Ministry and WHO. Singh also stressed on addressing the social determinants of tuberculosis as it still remains a disease of the poor and the marginalized, with a disproportionate number of cases found among people living with HIV, migrants, refugees and prisoners. “Addressing poverty and other determinants will have a dramatic effect on the disease’s burden. Policies in this regard could include increasing access to safe housing and providing viable social security among other options. “TB isn’t only a health problem. Therefore, its solutions must also encompass the full range of multi-sectoral dimensions and multi-stakeholder engagement. It is one of those diseases that require health in all policies, coupled with strengthening the full spectrum of human rights that guarantee a TB patient the right to the best treatment possible,” she said. Universal health coverage means unreached and marginalised populations can access TB screening, and, if infected, can receive the care they need. With approximately 1 million missing cases in the region, increased screening and treatment will also prove critical to stopping TB transmission, particularly of the disease’s drug-resistant strains, she said. “Also, political commitment at the highest level, must be reinforced. The mission-like zeal with which polio and HIV/AIDS have been fought must be reproduced in the battle against TB and must lead to organisational and programming shifts,” she said. (Times of India 21/3/16)

Undetected cases of TB a health hazard: experts (3)

Kannur: Despite the awareness campaign and aggressive measures by the Health Department, and the highly effective method of providing DOTS (directly observed treatment, short-course), to eradicate tuberculosis by 2035, many cases of the disease go undetected posing new challenges, say officials. “It is estimated that every day nearly 5000 new cases of TB are reported in India and also two TB deaths in every three minutes, which shows the gravity of the situation,” said district medical officer (DMO) Baby P K, addressing a press conference here on Tuesday in connection with observing the World TB Day which falls on Wednesday.Though 135 people among one lakh get the infection every year in the country, which is more or less the same in the State too, thus incurring a financial loss of Rs 13000 crore to the national exchequer, people are still hesitant to go to the doctor when they have the symptom, he said. As per the national average, there should be around 3200 new cases reported in the district every year, but only 1524 patients came for treatment in 2015, which means many patients are still there who do not avail treatment and they are the biggest challenge to the mission to eradicate TB, said the DMO, adding that a lung TB patient who does not get treatment spreads it to 15 new people every year. Incidentally, 25 percent of the TB patients in Kerala are diabetics, which points to the fact that diabetes patients are more prone to the infection, said Bindu K M, district TB officer. In Kannur also, 23 percent of the diagnosed TB patients are diabetics and there are 21 HIV infected people too, she said, adding that both the HIV infected people and the diabetics have equal chance of getting TB infection. What is alarming today in Kerala is the increased instances of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) and Single Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis (SDR-TB), which is caused due to improper use of the drugs, said the district TB officer urging the patients not to discontinue medicine without the doctor’s approval. (Times of India 23/3/16)

First indigenous rotavirus vaccine to be unveiled today (3)

New Delhi: In its effort to bring down the infant mortality rate (IMR), the government will on Saturday introduce the first-ever indigenous rotavirus vaccine in its routine immunisation for protecting children from diarrhoea. Union health minister J.P. Nadda will launch the vaccine in Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. Manufactured by Bharat Biotech, the vaccine is expected to reduce more than a lakh deaths per year from diarrhoea. “It’s a great move. The vaccine will drastically reduce the infant mortality rate by saving lives of children,” C.K. Mishra, additional secretary in the health ministry, said. An estimated 8.53 lakh children under the age of one will be administered the vaccine annually at 6, 10 and 14 weeks. Rotavirus is the primary cause of moderate to severe diarrhoea morbidity and mortality among children less than five years of age. According to government data, rotavirus alone is responsible for up to 40% of all cases of severe diarrhoea in India. Of the overall child mortality in India, diarrhoea is responsible for 10% burden. About 78,000 children died due to rotavirus in 2014 and about 8.7 lakh hospitalisations were reported due to the virus. A recent study published in the Lancet claimed that a “single episode of diarrhoea increases the risk of death of a child by 8 times”. Severe dehydration caused by rotavirus can cause death among young children. Importantly, so far 80 countries have introduced a rotavirus vaccine in their national immunisation programmes, which includes many low-income countries in Africa too. In fact, the introduction of vaccine has helped many countries bring down deaths in children. Significantly, Mexico recorded a 46% drop in diarrhoea-related deaths in children under the age of 5 after the introduction of the vaccine in 2007. Also, in Brazil, a 22% drop in deaths was recorded after the introduction of vaccine. Once launched, the vaccine will be available at all government health facilities for free. However, as of now, it is also available in over a 100 countries in the private market, including India. In 2011, the Indian Academy of Paediatrics included the rotavirus vaccine in its recommended immunisation schedule. The vaccine is available in the private sector at about Rs 3,000 for a full course. The vaccine also provides “herd immunity” by reducing transmission of rotavirus. (Asianage 26/3/16)

In rural health, Gujarat among BIMARU states (3)

Gujarat is 3rd in shortfall of doctors at PHCs, while Bihar and Rajasthan have surplus.Gujarat is 3rd in shortfall of doctors at PHCs, while Bihar and Rajasthan have surplus. Although the Gujarat government claims to be giving incentives to doctors working in remote areas, the state is facing a shortage of specialists like gynecologists and paediatricians, to the extent that even BIMARU states -Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh -are better off with regard to healthcare facilities and infrastructure. This specialist shortfall particularly affects the health of mothers and children, which is apparent with the so called developed state, reporting a maternal mortality rate (MMR) of 127 and an infant mortality rate (IMR) of 36 according to the figures last released in 2013. MMR is the number of mothers dying per 1,00,000 live births. IMR is the number of infants dying in their first year for every 1,000 live births. Gujarat has the fifth highest shortfall of specialists including surgeons, gynecologists, physicians and paediatricians among 36 states and Union Territories in terms of numbers. It 1,206 specialists short at community health centres (CHCs). According to the figures from the Union health department, states like Bihar and Madhya Pradesh are ahead Gujarat in terms of total number of specialists at CHCs. Shockingly, the shortfall of specialists persists because the state government has not sanctioned recruitment to fill these vacancies. There is an acute dearth of surgeons at CHCs in Gujarat, which has just 32 surgeons in place against the required strength of 320.Gujarat ranks 5th in the shortfall of surgeons, while states like Bihar and Madhya Pradesh doing slightly better with deficits of 49 and 283 surgeons respectively. The position is similarly pathetic at primary health centres (PHCs) and sub centres. Gujarat has the second highest shortfall in terms of numbers of health workers at sub centres and PHCs. Against the required strength of 9,310 health workers, there are just 6,938 workers at various sub centres and PHCs, a shortfall of 2,372. Shockingly, 247 sub centres in rural areas are without s single health worker. Gujarat ranks third in shortfall of doctors at PHCs, with states like Bihar and Rajasthan enjoying a surplus. Only two states, UP and Chhattisgarh, have bigger deficits of doctors, 1,288 and 424 respectively. … (Times of India 30/3/16)

HIV/AIDS

HIV infected Rampur Jail prisoners sent for treatment (3)

Rampur: The eight prisoners of Rampur Jail who were detected with HIV during a health checkup drive were shifted to the district hospital at Moradabad for treatment under anti retrovirus therapy (ART) before being sent back to the prison. According to jail authorities, the inmates were detected with HIV during a drive organized by Uttar Pradesh Aids Control Society in collaboration with the state jail authorities on February 26. All 887 prisoners of the jail were medically examined during the programme inside the jail by doctors. Their blood samples were also sent to laboratories to check for diseases like tuberculosis and AIDS. The reports confirmed that eight of the prisoners were infected with HIV. Authorities ordered a probe to find out how this had happened andf since when they had contracted the virus. “All the HIV-infected prisoners have been sent for ART therapy and counselling. Doctors at the ART centre will give them the medicines and they will be counselled by volunteers of the Uttar Pradesh AIDS Control Society,” said Dr Pradeep Varshnay of Rampur district hospital, talking to TOI. “The inmates were infected with HIV in their cells, where they might have engaged in high-risk behaviours or were unaware of available prevention and treatment and resources. HIV testing can identify inmates with the virus before they are released. Early diagnosis and treatment can potentially reduce the spread of HIV in the communities to which the inmates return after their release,” Varshney added. “After completing the sessions and checkups, the inmates were sent back to the jail,” said Aditya Kumar, jail superintendent. (Times of India 20/3/16)

3.82 Lakh People in Karnataka are HIV-Affected: Health Minister (3)

BENGALURU:  “As many as 3.82 lakh people in Karnataka are suffering from HIV,” said Health Minister UT Khader in response to MLC Narayanaswamy, at the council on Monday. Minister Khader said, of 3.82 lakh HIV affected, 2.83 lakh have registered at Anti-Retro-viral Therapy centres (ART centres) located in various the districts. “Among them, only 1.27 people are taking the treatment. Of them, 63,635 are women, 55,181 are men, 8,117 are children and 223 are sexual minorities,” he said. Explaining further, Khader said 33,000 HIV affected are beneficiaries of Anna Antyodaya scheme and they get 35 kilos of various grains; 12,805 affected children are getting Rs 650 to Rs 750 every month; 96,000 are provided with free travel to ART centres, 611 children were admitted to schools under Right to Education Act and 60 were admitted to Pre University course, he said. (New Indian Express 22/3/16)

School throws out 8-yr-old HIV positive child in Uttar Pradesh (3)

Luckniw: Notwithstanding the efforts by the government as well as by the voluntary organizations to spread awareness about AIDS, the misconceptions about the disease remain firmly entrenched in the society. DH file photo for representation purpose Notwithstanding the efforts by the government as well as by the voluntary organizations to spread awareness about AIDS, the misconceptions about the disease remain firmly entrenched in the society. An indication of the same was visible in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghazipur district, about 350 km from here, when an eight-year-old HIV positive child was expelled from the school by the management on the ground that other children might contract the dreaded disease. Compounding the agony of the child and his parents, who are also HIV positive, even their family members and relatives have shunned them and have been socially boycotting them and thrown them out of the house. District officials in Ghazipur said that the matter was brought to their notice by a voluntary organisation. “We are taking steps to provide assistance to the family…we will also speak to the school management”, said an official in Ghazipur. Sources said that the mother of the child had contracted the disease after she had been given an injection at a private clinic while being treated, when she was pregnant. The disease was transmitted to her husband and to her son. Incidentally the couple was physically challenged also. “We will stage a dharna in front of the school with the parents, the child and other social activists,” said Braj Bhushan  Dubey, the president of the voluntary organisation, who had taken up the matter with the district administration. “The school can not do it…there is no law that bars the HIV positive kids from receiving education at a normal school”, he said. Speaking to DH from Ghazipur over telephone on Sunday Dubey said that his organisation would also hold a community feast in the village to spread the message that “AIDS does not spread by touching and eating with the infected people”. (Deccan Herald 27/3/16)

Enzyme may cut heart disease risk caused by HIV drug (3)

NewYork: Researchers have identified an enzyme that is likely to lower the risk of heart related diseases caused by antiviral medicines used for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Approximately 37 million people are living with HIV, according to the World Health Organisation. Antiviral medications are used to control HIV and prevent its progression to acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). “The use of antivirals in HIV patients is very important to control the virus, suppress symptoms and improve quality of life,” said lead author William Durante, professor at the University of Missouri in the US. However, these antivirals are linked to the development of metabolic disorders such as diabetes and obesity, and they are also known to increase the risk of heart diseases. The study, published in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine, focused on protease inhibitors — a common antiviral used to treat HIV, which disrupts HIV’s ability to replicate and infect cells. But, this inhibitor causes malfunctioning in the endothelial cells, which make up the inner lining of blood vessels, and can lead to cardiovascular disease. Using a cell-based model of cultured human endothelial cells, the team increased the amount of the enzyme heme oxygenase-1, or HO-1 within the cells. “Increasing the presence of HO-1 in our model before exposing it to a protease inhibitor allowed the medication to do its job without causing endothelial dysfunction,” Durante noted. “HO-1 shows great promise as a defender of endothelial cells in patients being treated for HIV,” he added. More research is needed to verify that HO-1 will prevent endothelial cell dysfunction with all antiviral medications, the researchers maintained. (Business Standard 29/3/16)

 

Posted by admin at 1 April 2016

Category: Uncategorized

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

JNU professor calls Dalit, Muslim teachers anti-nationals (2)

NEW DELHI: A JNU professor has kicked up a storm by allegedly calling “Dalit and Muslim teachers” in the campus “anti-nationals”.The alleged comments of the faculty member pertain to an interview published by a website. If true, they may escalate the tensions that have brimmed over after the arrest and release of Kanhaiya Kumar, and the continuing debate over “anti-national slogans” in JNU. Taking cognisance of the comments, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes on March 8 issued a notice to the JNU vice-chancellor and the Delhi Police commissioner, asking them to report on the episode in five days. “We have suggested that the issue is serious, meriting an FIR. Now, the police will tell us about their findings,” NCSC chairman P L Punia told TOI. When asked “how many teachers and students in JNU are anti-national”, the professor reportedly said, “Teachers are hardly 10 but they portray as if everybody is with them. You think a teacher in an institution like JNU would be so stupid as to back anti-national slogans? These are just five or six persons and they are Dalits and Muslims. They have their grudges.” The comments attributed to the professor border on the sensational if they are a verbatim account of the interview as the website has claimed. Interestingly, the website has also uploaded an audio conversation. The faculty member talks about anti-national activities in JNU, the family background of students’ union president Kanhaiya and another student Umar Khalid. The teacher has spoken about foreign funding to anti-nationals while claiming that Bijnore, from where one of the arrested JNU student hails, is a den of terrorism and Islamic State. According to the professor, one student still in custody believes in “strong Kashmiriyat”.The claim over the presence of “anti-nationals” and branding around six “anti-national” faculty members with two communities, has created a sensation. NCSC chairman Punia’s letter indicates the issue may not die down soon. If the said professor stands by the interview, it would create a piquant situation even for those targeting JNU for sheltering “anti-national” thought as few would want to be accused of anti-Dalit mindset. That makes it politically tricky, university officials said.All eyes are now on Delhi Police whose findings will decide the fate of the allegations. Punia informed that NCSC has received two complaints. (Times of India 12/3/16

Dalits beaten for touching Brahmin: Three booked, two questioned in case (2)

Agra: Two days after TOI reported that a Valmiki Dalit family was thrashed for accidentally touching the hand of a Brahmin man, Agra police have booked three men and detained two others for questioning in the matter. On Friday afternoon, a Dalit family, including a pregnant woman, was allegedly beaten with sticks because one of them accidentally touched the hand of a Brahmin man. The incident reportedly occurred in the remote village of Kyuri near Pinhat town. Pinhat station in-charge Satyendar Singh told TOI: “The accused, identified as Anil Sharma, Pramod and Papu, have been booked under sections 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace), 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation), 452 (house-trespass alter preparation for hurt, assault or wrongful restraint) of the Indian Penal Code and sections 3\10 of SC\ST act.” “We have detained Anil and Pramod for questioning on the matter, but no arrests have been made yet,” added the policeman. Meanwhile, representatives of Valmiki community have demanded that National Secuirty Act (NSA) be slapped on the accused. They have also protested against the police for trying to sweep the matter under the carpet and not taking action until TOI reported the incident.Senior member of the UP Valmiki Panchayat Kamal Singh Valmiki praised TOI for bringing the matter to light. “Had TOI not reported the matter, nobody could had known the atrocity faced by the family in Kyuri village. The police tried it best to suppress the matter,” said Kamal Singh Valmiki, who is also the vice president of BJP’s Agra unit. “It is disappointing that even after more than six decades of Independence, Dalits are being treated like animals. Those men who attacked the Dalit family have tried to stirred the hornet nest, which can flare communal violence threatening the integrity of nation. The accused should be booked under NSA or we will stage a massive protest,” he warned. Meanwhile, UP Valmiki Panchayat president Jhilu Ram Valmiki said, “We will file a case in court against SSP, and other police officers, who did not lead their men to safeguard the marginalized. Police must take action against the officers who did not pay heed to complaints of the victims, or the entire sanitary force which works day and night to clean the city will go on massive strike.” A delegation of Valimiki representatives will meet the family from Kyuri soon. (Times of India 13/3/16)

Dalits face disparity in Ambedkar’s native state (2)

Bhopal: A Dalit boy in Damoh district of Madhya Pradesh was drowned in a well while trying to fetch water after he was denied access to school hand pump to quench his thirst on March 8. A recent survey by Dalit Adhikar Abhiyan, Madhya Pradesh, in collaboration with Action AID, states 92% of 30 villages surveyed don’t allow dalit students in schools to drink water on their own. And this happens in a state, where dalit icon Ambedkar was born. Not just students, 70-79% villages do not allow dalits in their village to drink or fill water from public water source like handpumps or wells. “Discrimination against dalits under 70 heads are covered by the survey,” said Swati Kaithwas, project officer, Action AID. In case of school students, 57% families admitted their children can only quench their thirst when non-dalit children serves them water from a distance. At least 28% parents said their children come to home to drink water and 15% parents say their children stay thirsty till school gets over. Students in age-group of 6-14 from 380 families and their parents were covered in the survey. In classroom, 79% dalit students sit in last row and 14 in middle and 42% families admitted their children are called by caste-based names by teachers. They are also not allowed to touch food and are served from a distance at midday meal sessions. Also, their plates are marked. And 52% parents said their children refuse to go to school. (Times of India 16/3/16)

Dalit’s murder: In Tamil Nadu, caste is above God, ‘honour’ above life (2)

Bengaluru: On March 14, a self-proclaimed advocate in Tamil Nadu, TS Arunkumar Villupuram, put up an unusual Facebook post. “Don’t worry if you have committed an honour killing. Come to me and I will take up your case and see that you are saved. There is no crime called honour killing,” the post read with the advocate’s email address included. “In fact the killing is a punishment for having violated honour. Parents have the right to punish the ‘killing’ of honour.” Chennai-based activist Geetha Narayanan immediately shared the post and tagged Chennai police commissioner. In two days the post was taken down and the account closed after a Chennai lawyer sent him a notice. But Arunkumar was only one of hundreds of such accounts, many of whom congratulated the killers of Sankar, a young Dalit man who was killed allegedly by the family of his upper-caste wife, Kausalya, last week. Since June 2013, Tamil Nadu has seen the murder of 80 young men and women who dared to marry or fall in love in violation of strict caste rules but not a single conviction. Most victims are girls, often killed in public or forced into suicide by their own families for daring to love and marry a Dalit man. The reason for the lack of convictions is that the families –the perpetrators of violence — hush it up in cooperation with the administration and police. If a Dalit man is murdered, his family usually follows up the case in court. “Is caste more important than your daughter’s life, I asked a father whose daughter had been killed,” says Kathir, the Madurai-based founder of Evidence, an NGO documenting atrocities against Dalits. “Yes, he replied. Caste is more important than God. Because caste is what makes God.” Ramdoss, leader of the Pattali Makkal Katchi, a Vanniyar-based political party, walked out of a press conference when asked to respond to Sankar’s killing. PMK activists are known to have mobilised against Dalits in the wake of love affairs between Vanniyars and Dalits. Only Vaiko, the founder of MDMK, called for an end to such practices. But how does casteism persist in a state known for the Dravidian movement? “The values of the non-brahmin movement were implicitly anti-Dalit and explicitly anti-Brahmin,” says C Lakshmanan, a Dalit scholar at the Madras Institute of Development Studies. “While the non-Brahmin middle-level castes grew stronger, they too acquired feudal, hierarchical values and continued to discriminate against Dalits.” Read | TN: Dalit victim’s father-in-law surrenders, denies role in attack According to a policy note on the police department, the number of murders due to caste was 12 in 2012, 7 in 2013 and 18 in 2014. The number of murders over love affairs or sexual causes was 321 in 2012, 351 in 2013 and 320 in 2015. The cases multiply in certain districts in west, south and central Tamil Nadu, where these castes dominate the administration, courts, police, political parties and the economy. But in spite of overwhelming evidence, the state government remains in denial. In 2012, Tamil Nadu was one of a handful of states who didn’t send details of honour killing cases to the Supreme Court. “Films glorifying regressive feudal traditions of certain castes, who dominate both the film industry and politics contribute to this mindset,” says Narayanan. In July 2015 Gokulraj, a Dalit man was murdered for talking to a woman from the dominant Gounder caste. Yuvaraj, the founder of a Gounder youth group and accused in the killing, evaded arrest for six months and then engineered a surrender drama with hundreds of his supporters, embarrassing the police. “The dominant political and social status of the castes concerned – usually Vanniyars, Gounders and Thevars – is the main reason for the persistence and the official denial of these deaths,” says Prabhakar, an activist. (Hindustan Times 20/3/16)

TRIBALS

Jhabua tribals fall back on Halma to beat govt apathy (6)

Indore: Tribals are digging a pond in a parched Jhabua district with sun beating down hard in summers. Most do not know each other or the person for whom they have assembled to work, but they pool in labour for a cause — help their fellow community members. This age-old tradition of lending a helping hand to the needy called as Halma, is now a case study for researchers across the country. Experts of Tata Institute Social Sciences (TISS) and premier Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) are studying the practice to suggest ways to improvise it and possibly promote it to be replicated elsewhere. Failing to get government support for basic necessities, tribals of Jhabua district have fallen back on Halma to support each other. Halma prompts tribals to help each other, irrespective of the fact whether they have any acquaintance with them. As a part of the tradition, tribals work collectively to carry out works local government is expected to do. Works include improving farm land for agriculture purpose, digging of well for drinking water, water conservation activities on the farm, ponds and others. Halma has caught the attention of experts from premier institutes as tribals have constructed nearly 28 ponds in different villages, recharged 250 hand-pumps in 350 villages, built hundreds of meters of trenches for water conservation and recharged 350 wells in last eight years after failing to get a response to repeated pleas and memoranda to government officials. Now, as summer approaches, 10,000 tribals of nearly 350 villages of Jhabua district will gather at Hathi Pawa hillock on March 14 and 15 to build trenches for proper water conservation in a pond, which will be a source of irrigation and water for several villagers. Social worker Harsh Chouhan, who is working with tribals, said, “These tribals do not sit in air-conditioned rooms to attend workshops and plan development activities. They are more practical and decide and work after discussing collectively a problem. The tradition has revived after people faced climate change problems.”Another social worker Mahesh Sharma said tribals have set an example for experts from TISS, Mumbai, and IIT, Roorkee and Kanpur who are studying their work and would suggest ways to improve their work. “Global warming problem cannot be solved through discussions. There are social problems like water scarcity, which tribals have decided to address through ‘Halma’. We may be living in internet age and these tribals are beating planners sitting in AC rooms with practical solutions to problems,” Sharma said. All this happen without any government funding. Few villagers donate funds and others take care of physical labour to make it happen. The good thing is pond constructed by them costs one fifth of what costs a government project. ‘Halma’, has not only solved social problems of tribals in last few years, but has strengthened bonding between people. “People of more than 300 villages work for common cause and it has brought them closer. They feel more connected and ready to help each other in their every problem,” said Sharma. (Times of India 12/3/16)

Tribal people against leasing out commercial complex (6)

Tribal community has urged the State government to take steps so that the commercial complex in Chinna Kalvarayan Hills in Karumandurai meant for promoting skills among the tribals is not leased out to non-tribals. In a letter to Archana Kalyani, Director of Tribal Welfare, Chennai, Tribal People’s council chairman K.A. Gunasekaran said that the government had promised to utilise the complex in Karumandurai for the benefit of the tribals. The area also comes under the Integrated Tribal Development Project (ITDP) and the funds for the development is being released by the Central government through the Tribal Sub Plan (TSP).. The fund under TSP is meant for family oriented income generating activities mainly through small industries. About 50 tribal youths had been imparted skilled training in photography in the complex recently. The commercial complex in the area is the only source for promoting skill training for the tribals and is also fast developing as the hub of business activities. But, some vested interest groups are aiming to lease out to non-tribals. Local people gathered and raised their voice against this act. Hence, the council demanded the intervention of the department so as to render justice by entrusting the entire commercial complex to tribals. (The Hindu 12/3/16)

HC restrains Maharashtra govt from evicting Aarey Colony tribals (6)

MUMBAI: Bombay High Court on Friday restrained the State government from evicting tribals living in 27 adivasi padas/ hamlets inside the Aarey Milk Colony at Goregaon (east). A bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Prakash Naik heard a public interest litigation by NGO Manav Vikas Prakalp which works among tribals who received notices in February of a survey to assess their eligibility for a slum rehabilitation scheme.Senior advocate Gayatri Singh, appearing for the petitioners, said though the notice is only for the purpose of carrying out survey but the apprehension is that SRA will be implemented resulting in displacing tribals. The bench said in view of the interim orders of the High Court and National Green Tribunal, SRS cannot be implemented in Aarey Colony area. It clarified that though the survey may proceed, the occupants of 27 padas will not be evicted without seeking the court’s permission. The bench has also directed a copy of 2003 survey of the Tribal Research and Training Institute, Pune, to be placed at the next hearing which had identified total 72 padas in Mumbai out of which 27 were from Aarey and 2 from IIT. “If necessary we can direct the same institute to carry out a survey again,” said Justice Oka. Admitting the petition for final hearing, the judges posted the next hearing on April 27 to pass directions on interim relief. (Times of India 18/3/16)

500 Tribal Families Get Set to Leave Kali Reserve (6)

T he long pending demand of the 3,000 families living in Kali Tiger Reserve has finally been met. For long, the people have been demanding for either basic facilities or relocation. The Kali Tiger Reserve has finally initiated the process to relocate the families. Several non government organisations and locals have joined hands with the Forest Department and so far, 65 families have moved outside the forest in the last six months. Another 500 families now await relocation. Unlike other tribal settlements in Mysuru and Chamarajanagar districts, those in Kali are small. For instance, some of the hamlets or villages in the reserve have only two or four houses. Wildlife experts point out that relocating the small hamlets is more economical for the government than constructing roads and providing other facilities inside the forest. K Sreenivasulu, Director of Kali Tiger Reserve said, “Many families are unable to take up agriculture because their safety is risked due to movement of tigers and elephants. “Since there are no medical facilities available here, elderly and pregnant women are carried all the way to the nearest hospital. The people are now changing their perspective and are ready to move. “We are trying to relocate them to places such as Joyda, Karwar and Yellapur where agricultural land can be given to them.” Tiger biologist K Ullas Karanth said, “Large scale relocations on the lines of Bhadra and Nagarhole forests is the need of the hour in Kali Tiger Reserve. We need a comprehensive proposal from Dandeli to the National Tiger Conservation Authority so that a large chunk of people who are willing to move out are facilitated.” (New Indian Express 20/3/16)

WOMEN

More women now report gender crimes (8)

NEW DELHI: There has been a gradual increase in number of women reporting crimes against them, including domestic violence and child marriage, data from the last three years suggests. An increasing trend can be seen as in 2012, 2.44 lakh cases of gender-based crime were reported, in 2013 there were 3.09 lakh cases and in 2014 there were 3.37 lakh cases, women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi told Parliament. Out of these, cases against child marriage reported in the last three years rose from 169 in 2012 to 222 in 2013 and 280 cases in 2014. Gandhi said special laws such as the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986 and the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 and Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, have been enacted to help out women. “The ministry has made some schematic interventions to address the issue of violence against women such as one stop centre, universalisation of women helpline scheme and ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ scheme. The one stop centre was implemented from April 1, 2015 in states/UTs with the objective of providing medical and legal aid, police assistance, psychosocial counselling to the affected women,” Gandhi said. (Times of India 12/3/16)

Poverty, child marriage, violence decline when women own land: World Bank (8)

NEW YORK: Can land rights for women drive down child marriage and domestic violence?  ”Yes and more”, says an international group of land and property rights specialists who are due in Washington this week to discuss how improved land management can reduce global poverty and foster development. When women have rights to land, argues Klaus Deininger, a lead economist and organizer of this week’s World Bank conference, children’s health and education improves, household resources increase and there are fewer child brides as daughters do not need to be married off young for financial reasons. Equally, women with land rights tend to have savings accounts, a factor that reduces domestic violence. “If women have stronger bargaining power, they actually can resist. Their husbands will think twice before beating them because they can move out and take their money with them,” Deininger said. Organizers say the conference will focus on women and property with particular emphasis on gender equality and land rights which are key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The goals, adopted by the United Nations last September, provide the foundations for an ambitious plan to tackle the world’s most troubling problems over the next 15 years. Land and property rights experts say when women are included in a nation’s land ownership, there can be far reaching impacts. In sub-Saharan Africa, women make up more than half of the agricultural workforce, yet fewer than one in five own farms, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). But if women farmers had the same access to resources as men, the number of hungry in the world could be reduced by up to 150 million, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) says. According to Rodney Schmidt of the Rights and Resources Initiative, a global coalition that works on forest and land policy reform, more than half the world’s land is still held under age-old customary arrangements often arranged by gender.Traditionally, women are most often engaged in producing and collecting food, and as such, women do play a major role in how land is used, he said. When foreign companies enter the picture, buying land from local governments, they can find themselves on a collision course with resident communities, he added.”These women and their families and men are watching their livelihoods disappear,” Schmidt said. “You have the seeds there of major social conflict.” Some 1,400 delegates representing governments, the private sector, academia and non-governmental organisations are expected at the World Bank land and poverty conference from March 14-18, organizers said. (Times of India 13/3/16)

Two Women Burnt for Dowry in UP, One Dead Another Critical (8)

BULANDSHAHR: In two separate dowry related incidents, a woman was burnt to death, while another suffered serious burn injuries in the district, police said today. The first incident took place in Maulabad village under Sikandrabad Police Station here, in which a woman Vaishali (20) was set afire, allegedly by her in-laws last night. Her charred body was recovered later. An FIR was registered under sections 498(A) (Domestic violence), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence) and 302 (punishment for murder). Father-in-law Rajveer (50) and mother-in-law of the deceased were arrested on the basis of information provided by the locals. Vaishali was married for seven months to Rajveer’s son Indrajeet who is absconding, Ram Mohan Singh, SP City, said. In second incident, at Jahangirabad town here, Kamlesh (27) was set on fire last night, allegedly by her husband and in-laws. She was allegedly tortured for giving birth to three girls in a row, one of whom was born recently, they said. According to SP (Rural) Pankaj Pandey, all three accused including husband, father-in-law and mother-in-law are absconding and a case under the Dowry Act has been registered. Kamlesh, who was admitted to district hospital with severe burns, has been referred to Meerut for further treatment and where her condition is stated to be critical, said SP Pandey. (New Indian Express 16/3/16)

UP to prioritise jobs for acid attack survivors (8)

Lucknow:     Uttar Pradesh’s biggest travel and tourism exhibition begins Uttar Pradesh joins Centre’s ‘UDAY’ scheme Cold wave tightens grip in Uttar Pradesh’s Lucknow President to visit Uttar Pradesh on Sunday Uttar Pradesh rakes up RS.3.95 crore fine from vehiclesUttar Pradesh is set to prioritise government jobs for acid attack survivors, an official said on Saturday. As a pilot project, the victims would be given priority in the Women’s Welfare department. They will be given jobs at Rani Laxmibai Aasha Jyoti Centres. “The idea is to assimilate these victims by providing them better job opportunities,” said principal secretary (Women Welfare) Renuka Kumar. The state government has opened 11 Rani Laxmi Bai Aasha Jyoti Centres in the state and efforts are underway to get 28 posts created in each centre. The centres operating in Lucknow, Agra, Bareilly, Gorakhpur, Meerut, Allahabad, Ghaziabad, Noida, Kanpur, Varanasi and Kannauj are likely to have counsellors, store keepers, computer operators and other staff. In these posts, the victims would be given priority as per their educational qualifications. (Business Standard 19/3/16)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

22 child marriages stopped in Chittoor dt. on March 7 (14)

CHITTOOR: The combined efforts of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), Rural Organisation for Poverty Eradication Services (ROPES), district police and revenue officials led to the stopping of as many as 22 child marriages on Maha Sivaratri day, March 7, in Srikalahasti and Moghili temples in Chittoor district. ROPES chairman K. Dhanasekaran told The Hindu that an awareness campaign against child marriages was undertaken in the vulnerable mandals of Srikalahasti, Thottambedu, Yerpedu, B.N. Kandriga and KVB Puram in the eastern mandals; and Palamaner, Bangarupalem, Gangavaram, Baireddipalle and Peddapanjani mandals in the western side of Chittoor district a week prior to Maha Sivaratri. Surveillance teams were posted in the vicinity of the temples of Lord Vayulingeswara at Srikalahasti, and at Moghileeswara temple at Moghili. He said that special teams of the ROPES Childline along with the ICDS and police personnel made a thorough scrutiny of the flow of devotees, identifying the families sneaking into the temple zones for performing child marriages, he said. ICDS Project Officer S. Lakshmi said that all the girls rescued from the child marriages were in the age group of 12-15 years, hailing from poor families. “Counselling was conducted for the parents of both girls and boys near the temples, besides taking undertakings from them that they would not perform child marriages and send the girls to schools,” the official said.The Childline India Foundation NGO partner HELP stopped the marriage of a 13-year-old girl with a 25-year-old man at Chilamkuru village, near Marripudi, in Prakasam district on Friday. The child bride herself got in touch with child helpline 1098 urging them to stop the marriage. (The Hindu 13/3/16)

Child labour can disrupt ‘Make in India’, Satyarthi tells Modi (14)

KOLKATA: Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi feels that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ programme will prove to be a “big disaster” if child labour laws are not strengthened. In a letter to the Prime Minister, Satyarthi has said, “If investors are coming from foreign countries to manufacture in India and if your laws are so weak in child labour in comparison to international standards then it will become a big disaster”.He says that the ‘Make in India’ programme is a great move, but it also exposes a serious weakness of the country. “Make in India” cannot be successful on the toil, miseries and abuses of young children in the manufacturing sector,” the 62-year-old founder of ‘Bachpan Bachao Andolan’ told PTI. Giving the example of Apple, he said the US-based company faced a lot of criticism after allegations that child labour in China was being used to manufacture their products.”In India, child labour is working because your law allows it. These big brands will be dependent on local producers who are free to employ children. But the international media and human rights organisations are not going to spare us,” said the child rights activist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 along with Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai. He was in Kolkata to support the Rotary India Literacy Mission. (Times of India 13/3/16)

Number of child workers declined 60 percent in 10 years: Labour minister (14)

NEW DELHI: The number of child labourers aged 14 or below in India dropped to 45 lakh in 2011 from 1.26 crore a decade before, said the country’s labour minister, urging lawmakers to approve planned changes to existing legislation to curb the problem. Labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya told India’s lower house of parliament on Monday the government will amend a three-decade-old child labour prohibition law, and called on both houses of parliament to support its passage. “I gave a notice in the winter session, but it could not be passed. This session too, it could not be passed though I gave notice,” Dattatreya said. The amendments to the current law are scheduled to be presented during this session of parliament which ends on May 8, with a recess between March 21 and April 19. Dattatreya’s figure, which is from India’s 2011 census, shows the number of child workers dropped by 64 percent over 10 years. A February 2015 report by the International Labour Organization puts the number of child workers in India aged between five and 17 at 57 lakh, out of 16.8 crore globally. More than half work in agriculture, toiling in cotton, sugarcane and rice paddy fields where they are often exposed to pesticides and risk injury from sharp tools and heavy equipment. At least a quarter work in manufacturing, often confined to poorly lit, barely ventilated rooms, embroidering clothes, weaving carpets, making matchsticks or rolling beedi cigarettes. Many help their parents in brick kilns or mines. Children also work in the services sector, in shops, restaurants and hotels, washing dishes and chopping vegetables, or in middle-class homes, cleaning and looking after younger children. The government wants to change the current law, which bans children under 14 from working in only 18 hazardous occupations and 65 processes, such as mining, gem cutting and cement manufacturing. If passed by parliament, the changes will outlaw child labour below 14 in all sectors and include a new category for those aged between 15 and 18 years old. The amendments also double jail time for employing children to a maximum of two years and increase the fine up to 50,000 rupees from 20,000 rupees currently. But child rights activists, including Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi, have voiced concern over two exceptions. Children who help their family in family businesses can work outside school hours and holidays, and those in entertainment or sports can work provided it does not affect their education.Satyarthi, whose charity Bachpan Bachao Andolan is credited with rescuing more than 80,000 enslaved children, said the exemptions are “regressive” and wants a total ban on all forms of child labour. (Times of India 15/3/16)

Call to make Krishna child labour-free district (14)

VIJAYAWADA: Officials of various government departments are of the view that more teeth should be given to bureaucrats working for child rights and against child labour. Separate fund should be allocated in the budget for children, they say. United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), in association with the Labour Department, organised a workshop on ‘Elimination of child labour’ in the city on Saturday. Krishna District Deputy Commissioner of Labour (DCL) N. Suryanarayana, who chaired the meeting, said that NGOs and other government departments should be aware of laws and Acts relating to child labour, rights, literacy, rescue and rehabilitation. “The Labour Department rescued 62 domestic child labour and 920 child labour during raids, and settled 177 cases by conducting open courts in the last four years. Raids were conducted on houses, hotels, factories, restaurants, cinema theatres, shops and other establishments,” the DCL said. National Child Labour Project (NCLP) Krishna District In-charge Project Director D. Anjaneya Reddy said the lives of many children were spoiled without education as they were engaged for work at a tender age. He called upon the NGOs to work in coordination with the government to make Krishna district child labour-free. “NCLP is running 10 schools in the district and about 500 children are studying in these institutions. Nearly, 600 students who were rescued during raids were mainstreamed through NCLP schools,” Mr. Reddy explained. Officials of Juvenile Welfare, Police, Women Development and Child Welfare, and Factories departments, NCLP, and Rajiv Vidya Mission participated in the programme, Deputy Chief Inspector of Factories K. Keshavulu, District Probation Officer of Juvenile Welfare Department K. Bhaskar Rao, District Child Protection Officer Ch. Vijay Kumar, Childline Coordinator A. Ramesh, and representatives of various NGOs spoke. Later, children who were rescued and being rehabilitated in different homes shared their experiences and sought an end to child labour. They performed cultural shows on the occasion. (The Hindu 20/3/16)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

Declare Your Government’s Policy Towards Minorities: Maulana Syed Arshad Madani To PM

New Delhi:  An outfit representing Muslims on Saturday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of remaining silent when ruling party MPs were “spewing fire” against minorities and asked him to declare his government’s policy towards them. Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind also attacked the Prime Minister on the issue of alleged stifling of freedom of expression in universities and likened reports of Modi’s emotional response to HCU research scholar Rohith Vemula’s suicide to “shedding crocodile tears”.Jamiat president Maulana Syed Arshad Madani also alleged that minorities, including Muslims and Christians, and Dalits were being attacked during the NDA rule and asked secular forces to join hands to spread the message of “love and peace” in the fight against communalism. “Why not declare what your policy is? What kind of policy is this that they (BJP MPs) are spewing fire and he is keeping quiet? Come out in the open and declare that it is not our policy. “Their talk of ‘sab ka saath sab ka vikas’(inclusive growth) is all lie. Is this ‘sab ka saath sab ka vikas’? If your views were right, we would have been with you,” Maulana Madani said addressing “National Integration Conference” organised by his outfit in New Delhi. He asked the government to control the motor mouths and make it clear that what the ruling party MPs were saying was “its own line or someone else’s”.Maulana Madani also claimed that minorities will not feel safe in the country if the right wing party gets majority in Lok Sabha as well as in Rajya Sabha. “Situation today is very grim. ‘Ghar wapsi’ is being done. If anyone wants to make India a Hindu state, we will not allow it, we will spill last drop of our blood (to foil such attempt),” he said. Urging those present at the conference to join the efforts to keep alive secularism, he said any minority community can feel protected only in a secular state. “Communalism cannot be doused by communalism. We will need to spread love and peace to douse this fire of communalism,” he added. On the issue of universities, Maulana Madani lauded JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar for being firm on his views and said freedom of expression cannot be “snatched”.”If any (Dalit) child commits suicide while seeking his right, then the Prime Minister cries on stage. But I feel, in the given circumstances, this is like shedding crocodile tears,” he said referring to the Prime Minister’s emotional response to Rohith Vemula case. The conference was addressed also by senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, CPI(M) politburo member Mohammed Salim, Justice Kolse-Patil, other Muslim clerics and leaders from Christian, Buddhist and Sikh community. Without naming any party, Maulana Madani claimed communal forces in the country want to throw Dalits to the era when they were deprived of their rights. Maulana Madani also batted for ensuring minority institution tag for Aligarh Muslim University and elaborated how the Jamiat fought for similar status for Jamia Milia Islamia University during UPA rule. He also sought to underscore the role Jamiat played during freedom struggle and in ensuring India took shape as a “secular state” post-independence. During the event, some of the speakers also expressed apprehensions that voting rights of minorities may be taken away. The event was also attended by SQR Ilyas, father of JNU student Umar Khalid, who is facing sedition charge in connection with February 9 event at the varsity in which “anti-national” slogans were allegedly raised. The Jamiat expressed hope that Khalid, currently in jail, will be released. Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar, party’s candidate for 2014 Lok Sabha polls from UP’s Sambhal constituency Acharya Pramod Krishnam and human rights activist John Dayal were also present. (NDTV 13/3/16)

95% cut in central grants for Gujarat’s minorities (7)

Gandhinagar: Despite claims by the central government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the state BJP government led by chief minister Anandiben Patel, of showing ‘sadbhavana’ with the minority community, in reality both Union and state governments have reduced allocations for minority welfare. In a written response to senior Congress MLA Balwantsinh Rajput, social justice and empowerment minister Raman Vora said that in 2014-15, the Union government allocated Rs 53.19 crore to the state government as minority welfare grants, which it reduced by almost 95% to Rs 2.51 crore in 2015-16. Even with this major reduction in central grants, the Gujarat government has failed to utilize these funds for minority welfare. In 2014-15, a total of Rs 53.62 crore was spent while in 2015-16 only Rs 1.37 crore was spent from the grants. The Gujarat government failed to utilize a hefty Rs 36.49 crore of grants for minority welfare. In the 2014-15 budget, the social justice and empowerment department earmarked Rs 118.16 crore of grants for welfare schemes for minorities, of which it utilized only Rs 73.71 crore. Some Rs 36.49 crore went unutilized. Compared to the 2014-15 budgetary allocation of Rs 118.16 crore, in the 2016-17 budget, the state government reduced allocation for minority welfare to Rs 97.98 crore. This is just 6.37% of the Rs 1,538.38 crore budget of the social justice department. In 2015-16, 9.54% of the social justice department budget was allocated to minority welfare which was cut to 7.57% in the revised estimates of 2015-16. In the 2016-17 budget estimates, it has been further reduced to 6.37%. (Times of India 16/3/16)

In Gujarat, 94.4% of those seeking to convert are Hindu (7)

Gandhinagar: In five years, the state government received 1,838 applications from people of various religions to convert to another religion. Of them, 1,735 applications (94.4%) were filed by Hindus who wanted to renounce the religion of their birth to embrace some other creed. The state’s anti-conversion law – Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act mandates that a citizen obtain prior approval from the district authority for conversion. The state government has not approved half of these applicants, only 878 persons got permission to convert. Apart from 1,735 Hindus, 57 Muslims, 42 Christians and 4 Parsis have applied for permission to convert. No one from the Sikh or Buddhist religions have sought such permission. Experts believe that marriage is the reason for some applicants, to convert to the religion of their spouse. Applications received from Hindus were slightly higher than the proportion of the Hindu population in the state. These applications were received mainly from Surat, Rajkot, Porbandar, Ahmedabad, Jamnagar and Junagadh. Still, experts believe the administration does not take all applications on record. Gujarat Dalit Sangathan’s president Jayant Mankandia said, “If government records reveal only 1,735 applications from Hindus, it is clear that the authorities do not take all applications on record. The figure of Hindu applicants would have been nearly 50,000, if the correct data was presented.” He cited a programme in Junagadh a couple of years ago, where nearly one lakh persons from dalit communities took diksha into Buddhism.Mankadia further said, “During such conversion programmes, we collect applications for conversion and submit them to the concerned district collector. Unfortunately, our volunteers do not follow up and ascertain if these applications are entertained by authorities.” For former national fellow of Indian Council of Social Science Research, Ghanshyam Shah, the question is “who among the Hindus want to convert?” He believes, “There is dissatisfaction among dalits and other suppressed classes and some of them convert to Buddhism. But Census data does not reveal this due to mistakes by enumerators. My hunch is that enumerators on their own mention ‘Hindu’ as the religion of such newly converted Buddhists. The government does not have any issue with conversion to Buddhism. But there will be a hue and cry, if people embrace Christianity.”According to Vishwa Hindu Parishad general secretary Ranchhod Bharwad, conversion activity is the handiwork of anti-national elements. “Such people don’t have any right to live in this country because they convert people by temptation and pressure. Even Buddhists have lured Hindus to convert to their fold in Junagadh.” (Times of India 16/3/16)

Pakistan to declare Holi, Diwali, Easter as holidays (7)

The Pakistan National Assembly on Tuesday passed a resolution to take steps to declare Holi, Diwali and Easter as holidays for minorities in the country. “This house is of the opinion that government should take steps to declare Holi, Diwali and Easter as closed holidays for minorities,” read the resolution moved by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz lawmaker Ramesh Kumar Vankwani. The interior ministry has already given permission to heads of federal organisations, departments, and institutions to grant leave to minorities on their religious festivals, State Minister for Religious Affairs Pir Aminul Hasnat Shah told the house. If the government adheres to the resolution – which it is expected to – the interior ministry will issue a notification declaring the holidays. Meanwhile, Federal Minister for Laws and Justice Pervaiz Rashid said that although he was not opposing the resolution, the number of holidays in Pakistan are more than any other country and the resolution should be reconsidered. (Indan Express 17/3/16)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

Ayush minister rejects RTI response of no-Muslim hire policy (7)

New Delhi: The ministry of AYUSH has denied stating in a right to information reply that it has a policy not to hire Muslim yoga teachers. A freelance journalist working for Milli Gazette, India’s oldest Muslim community journal, had published a story based on a right-to-information question regarding recruitment of yoga teachers for postings abroad. The reply, according to the journal’s story, said 3,481 Muslim candidates applied for the job but none was selected because “as per government policy – no Muslim candidate was invited, selected or sent abroad”. The minister in charge of AYUSH, Sripad Naik, called the story “bogus” and an “attempt to defame us”.The alleged admission by the ministry – formed to promote ayurveda, yoga, naturopathy, unani, siddha and homeopathy – came in response to a series of RTI applications by journalist Pushp Sharma who had sought the number of Muslim yoga teachers and trainers hired for foreign assignments during the first World Yoga Day on June 21, 2015. “As per government policy – No Muslim candidate was invited, selected or sent abroad,” the ministry was quoted as purportedly saying. The online version of the Milli Gazette report also carried images of the RTI replies. HT could not independently verify the authenticity of the documents. The ministry said that 711 Muslims had applied for the short-term overseas assignment as yoga trainers though none was selected. A list of 26 selected trainers, all Hindus, was also provided by the ministry. The ministry also rejected till October, 2015 the applications of 3,841 Muslim candidates who had applied to be yoga trainers, apart from the yoga day assignments outside the country. After the United Nations declared June 21 as the World Yoga Day, Modi said that the recognition was proof that “the world is curious to know about India and we must tell the world about our culture, we have to be proud of our culture.” In stinging comments at the end of the report, the Milli Gazette said, “Here we have for the first time in the life of this government, a written, blunt RTI reply in our hands which unashamedly says that it’s Modi government policy to not recruit Muslims in government jobs”. The Opposition accuses the Modi of pursuing an overtly anti-minority agenda and of failing to reign in fringe groups from targeting minority institutions. (Hindustan Times 13/3/16)

In last 2 yrs, Muslims got only 2% of 6 PSBs’ priority sector loans: RTI (7)

MUMBAI: If there were any doubts about low lending by banks to Muslims – one of the reasons for the community’s financial exclusion – an RTI disclosure conclusively lays them to rest. Answers received through Right To Information applications to half-a- dozen banks by Mumbai-based activist M A Khalid show that of all priority sector loans, Muslims got a little over 2% in both 2014-15 and till September 30 in 2015-16. The revelation may strengthen the feeling within the community that it is getting further marginalised under the NDA dispensation. Although there are no specific guidelines about granting loans to Muslims, the banks agreed that 15% of the total priority sector loans should go to the minority community. Muslims constituted 14.2% or 17.22 crore (as per the 2011 census) of India’s population of 121.09 crore and scholars and community representatives feel their share in bank loans should be much higher. Among the six public sector banks – Punjab & Sind Bank, Allahabad Bank, Corporation Bank, Bank of Maharashtra, Vijaya Bank and Andhra Bank – from which Khalid got information, only Allahabad Bank showed an encouraging trend. It said the share of Muslims in priority sector credit of the bank was 7.07% as on March 31, 2015, which increased to 7.19% on September 30. The bank showing the lowest disbursal of loans to Muslims was Corporation Bank – 1.90% (as on March 31, 2015) and 1.95% (as on September 30, 2015).”The data clearly shows no extra efforts are being made to increase Muslims’ share in loans for minorities under the priority sector. It exposes the hollowness of PM Narendra Modi’s ‘sabka saath sabka vikas’ slogan,” said Khalid. TOI sent email queries seeking clarifications to Punjab & Sind Bank, Allahabad Bank, Bank of Maharashtra and Andhra Bank. None replied. However, an official from BoM said over phone that “we are increasing our presence in Muslim pockets by opening more branches”.Dr Abdul Shaban, deputy director, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, said: “In a survey done a couple of years ago it was found that one of the reasons for Muslims’ financial exclusion is the negligible presence of banks in Muslim-concentrated areas.” The Sachar Report had observed that many Muslim-concentrated areas were marked by some banks as ‘negative’ or ‘red’ zones where they were reluctant to give loans. Since the panel also found that many Muslims are self-employed, an increase in loans to the community will help them become financially strong. (Times of India 14/3/16)

MIM MLA won’t say ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’, suspended (7)

Mumbai: The Maharashtra Vidhan Sabha on Wednesday suspended a member of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), Waris Pathan, after he made aggressive gestures and proclaimed that he would never say ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ even if he were to die. A first-time legislator, Mr Pathan, became aggressive after a BJP member, Ram Kadam, referred to his colleague, Imtiaz Jalil’s remarks, and asked whether he would say ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’. Mr Jalil had taken objection to the government’s decision to spend hundreds of crores of rupees on a memorial of Chhatrapati Shivaji in the Arabian Sea. “When you don’t have money for farmers, it is not good to spend tax payers’ money on the memorial,” he said. Referring to intolerance over the slogan, ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’, Mr Jalil said that the issue had been deliberately raked up for the past three to four days, and such things had increased since BJP came to power at the Centre and in the state. He further said that Vijay Mallya, who duped banks of Rs 9,000 crore, would have willingly said, ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ as he flew from India because such things were allowed only in India. Mr Jalil alleged that they were being forced to say ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ to prove their patriotism. “India is our country and we love it, but we will not shout slogans under pressure from the Sangh (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh),” he said. Disrupting Mr Jalil, BJP legislator Mr Kadam asked whether he would say ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’. To this, not Mr Jalil, but Mr Pathan stood up and said he would not say the slogan. “I will never say ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ even if my life is at stake,” said Mr Pathan. His remark led to a ruckus and verbal abuse by angered members of all parties. BJP’s Ashish Shelar and Shiv Sena’s Gulabrao Patil called Mr Pathan anti-national. “You must say Bharat mata ki jai if you want to live here. Mr Pathan has insulted not only the national figures but also lakhs of freedom fighters. He should be suspended immediately,” urged Mr Patil. Congress’ Abdul Sattar echoed Mr Patil saying, “He (Mr Pathan) should be suspended. Muslims in the state will have to face the heat because of his statement.” Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse said, “Earlier, anti-national elements used to create trouble outside. Now, they have entered the Vidhan Sabha.” Mr Khadse proposed that Mr Pathan be suspended for the remaining period of the session. Minister of State for Legislative Affairs, Ranjit Patil, moved a motion in this regard. Speaker Haribhau Bagde announced that the motion had been unanimously adopted and the suspension would be in place till the budget session of the legislature concluded on April 13. Later, Mr Jalil told reporters that his party was not anti-national. “We say Jai Hind but we can’t be forced to shout a slogan under pressure from the Sangh. We shouldn’t be branded as anti-national just because we are not saying a specific slogan,” he said. “We were not allowed to speak in the House, but nobody could stop us from raising our voice in public outside the House,” he said, adding that the secularism of Congress and NCP was fake. (Asian Age 17/3/16)

2 Muslims herding buffaloes thrashed, hanged in Jharkhand (7)

RANCHI/DALTONGANJ: In an incident reminiscent of the Dadri lynching, two Muslim men herding eight buffaloes on their way to a Friday market were beaten up and hanged to death from a tree by suspected cattle-protection vigilantes in Balumath forests in Latehar district, 100km from the state capital, early on Friday. The deceased, Muhammad Majloom, 35, and Azad Khan alias Ibrahim, 15, were cattle traders and related to each other. Their bodies were strung up with their hands tried behind their backs and their mouths stuffed with cloth. “The manner of their hanging showed that the assailants were led by extreme hatred,” said Latehar SP Anoop Birthary. Local MLA from the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) Prakash Ram claimed that Hindu radicals were behind the killings. Reports said villagers who protested the deaths claimed the victims were targeted as they were cattle traders. Birthary, however, did not identify the assailants. “We are gathering leads to verify whether personal or business enmity led to the murder or it was due to some other motive. The buffaloes were freed. It is yet to be known if the buffaloes were taken away by the assailants or they strayed into the forest,” Birthary said. The hanging sparked protests by people in Jhabbar village that turned violent when police tried to take down the bodies. The situation poses a serious political and law and order challenge for the BJP government in Jharkhand. In the case of Dadri case when a Muslim man was killed over rumours of beef eating, BJP had said law and order was under the SP government.But in the Jharkhand incident, the buck stops with the state and central leadership. SDO Kamleshwar Narayan and six cops were injured when villagers threw stones at officials who arrived in the morning to manage the situation and ensure that it did not take a communal turn. Injuries to senior officials forced police to fire in the air and lathi charge the villagers. Sources said protesting villagers have periodically claimed that assailants have targeted them in the past because they are engaged in cattle trade. “Four months ago, a group of men tried to kill a cattle trader in Gomia village of Balumath. The man managed to escape,” Latehar MLA Prakash Ram said.Local MLA Prakash Ram from the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) party led by former BJP member Babulal Marandi alleged a group of Hindu radicals was responsible for the attack on the cattle traders. “They are supported by the police who do not act against them,” Ram said. The MLA’s claims appeared to tally with statements of villagers who blocked Latehar-Chatra National Highway after the killings. An FIR was lodged against unknown persons for the murder and another FIR was lodged against unknown persons. (Times of India 19/3/16)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

Dalit Christians protest for SC status (7)

New Delhi: In a show of strength, Dalit Christians from across the country came together here on Thursday demanding that the Scheduled Caste status be extended to both them and Dalit Muslims. The rally, held at Jantar Mantar, saw participation by dozens of Christian religious heads, who appealed to the government to end discrimination based on religion. Bishop Neethinathan, the chairperson of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, said: “Even after 65 years of Independence, we are struggling for our rights. Sikhs first were included into the Act and later Buddhists were also given the status. Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims have been demanding SC status since, but to no avail.” The matter is with the Supreme Court but the case was supposed to be heard by a Higher Bench, which has not been done, he added. Samuel Jeyakumar, the executive secretary of the National Council of Churches in India, said: “We demand that paragraph III of the Constitution (Scheduled Caste) Order, 1950, which excludes Dalits among Christians and Muslims from its purview, be scrapped.” The rally was organised by the National Coordination Committee for Dalit Christians. (The Hindu 11/3/16)

‘Mother was already a saint for us’ (7)

New Delhi:  Mother Teresa to be declared saint next year Mother Teresa made a Saint, canonisation in September 2016 Vatican: Would be nice if Mother Teresa made saint in 2016 Saint-Gobain Sekurit slips after shutting Bhosari plant Saint-Gobain Sekurit India reports standalone net loss of Rs 2.58 crore in the December 2015 quarterExpressing delight over the Pope’s announcement regarding the canonisation of Mother Teresa, the Catholic Christian community here on Tuesday said she was already a saint to them. “I am delighted that Mother Teresa’s canonisation has been fixed. She was already a saint for all of us, but the final official seal was something that most of us had desired,” John Dayal, a former president of the All India Catholic Union, told IANS. “Her canonisation underscores the importance of love for the marginalised, the victims of disease, the destitute and the homeless. This will give a fillip to social work by not only the Church but also by people of all faiths,” he added. Father P. Sahayaraj, deputy secretary, Regional Bishop Conference (North), said the Mother’s canonisation was “great news”.”It feels very great after hearing that Mother Teresa is being granted sainthood. It should have come much earlier. We all are excited, waiting for the day,” Sahayaraj said. “It will be a boost to the Indian church because we are celebrating the year of mercy called by Pope Francis. Mercy will have much more meaning now,” he added. (Business Standard 15/3/16)

Raipur church attack: Seven people surrender before police (7)

RAIPUR: Seven more people have been arrested in connection with a church being vandalised and its parishioners thrashed and assaulted in Chhattisgarh, after they came ahead and surrendered to the police. This arrest brings up the total to seventeen as ten people had been arrested earlier. The arrests were made after the victims had identified the attackers, who were all local men.The Centre had earlier sought a report from the Chhattisgarh Government over the matter as Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said that the police have already taken necessary action and the guilty will not be spared. According to the footage released by the Chhattisgarh Christian Forum, men were seen barging into a church and vandalizing furniture, musical instruments and mocking the devotees. “Members of the Bajrang Dal chanting ‘Jai Sri Ram’ charged into the church. They attacked woman, ripped their clothes off and also thrashed infants. They began alleging that people were being converted here. The police came here and seized the vehicles the attackers came here. They desecrated the Bible and some of the pictures that were hung on the wall,” Chhattisgarh Christian Forum President Arun Pannalal told ANI. The Chhattisgarh Christian Association has demanded stern action against the vandals. (Times of India 16/3/16)

Telangana: Unknown Miscreants Burn Down Makeshift Chapel in Nizamabad (7)

NIZAMABAD: A makeshift prayer hall belonging to the Christian community in Gopanpally village of Nizamabad in Telangana was burnt down by unknown people. The Nizamabad Superintendent of Police said that the village Panchayat had objected to the construction of the prayer hall, following which unknown people burnt down the hall late at night on Friday. The police is yet to make an arrest but a case has been registered. According to reports, earlier a local pastor and members of his congregation in Nizamabad were beaten by a mob of 40 Hindu radicals after they allegedly tried to convert Hindus to Christianity. The attack, which occurred during a prayer gathering, resulted in the hospitalisation of six persons, including a four-year-old girl whose leg was broken, according to locals. “It was a very scary scene. They tore my cassock and I received blows, punches, kicks from all directions as I was their prime target. Bibles were snatched from us and were tore and trampled. Believers ran to all directions as they were chased by the mob,” Pastor Nitin Kumar said. Last Sunday a Pentecostal church in the Chhattisgarh state was also attacked during prayer services by a mob, believed to have been a part of the Bajrang Dal organisation. (Indian Express 20/3/16)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

Thousands flee fighting in Myanmar’s Shan State (13)

Yangon: Thousands of civilians have fled their homes in northeastern Myanmar after a recent upswing in fighting between ethnic minority rebels and the Army, combatants and witnesses said on Sunday. The recent flare up in Myanmar’s Shan State comes as an outgoing military-backed government prepares to hand over power to a civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy. Shan, a large and hilly province on Myanmar’s eastern border, has hosted multiple insurgencies over the decades by ethnic minorities fighting for greater autonomy or independence. The latest fighting has pitted the military against the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA). “Fighting has been breaking out about four times a day and there are about 8,000 people at the (refugee) camps,” Mai Myo Aung, from a local Ta’ang student body helping the displaced, said.The TNLA are one of a handful of rebel groups who have yet to sign up to a broad ceasefire agreement that the military has been pushing. Ms Suu Kyi has said that bringing peace to Myanmar’s border areas, where a variety of ethnic minority rebels have long fought insurgencies against central government rule, will be a priority of her new administration. Witnesses described how they had fled Myanmar’s military. “We ran away as Myanmar’s Tatmadaw (Army) came into our village and started shooting with heavy weapons. Some are fleeing to the forest nearby. They are still there,” Arr Hla (35) from Mone La village told AFP on phone from a monastery where about 150 refugees are staying in Kutkhaing township. Meanwhile, Myanmar’s military released 46 child soldiers from service, state media reported on Sunday, the latest move towards ending a scourge that has long beset the nation. The military are committed to ending the recruitment and use of children in its “Tatmadaw” Army following a June 2012 pact with the UN. But progress has been slow. The 46 children were handed over to their families at a ceremony in Yangon on Saturday, the Global New Light of Myanmar reported. (Asian Age 14/3/16)

Thousands flee fighting in Myanmar’s Shan State (13)

Yangon: Thousands of civilians have fled their homes in northeastern Myanmar after a recent upswing in fighting between ethnic minority rebels and the Army, combatants and witnesses said on Sunday. The recent flare up in Myanmar’s Shan State comes as an outgoing military-backed government prepares to hand over power to a civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy. Shan, a large and hilly province on Myanmar’s eastern border, has hosted multiple insurgencies over the decades by ethnic minorities fighting for greater autonomy or independence. The latest fighting has pitted the military against the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA). “Fighting has been breaking out about four times a day and there are about 8,000 people at the (refugee) camps,” Mai Myo Aung, from a local Ta’ang student body helping the displaced, said. The TNLA are one of a handful of rebel groups who have yet to sign up to a broad ceasefire agreement that the military has been pushing. Ms Suu Kyi has said that bringing peace to Myanmar’s border areas, where a variety of ethnic minority rebels have long fought insurgencies against central government rule, will be a priority of her new administration. Witnesses described how they had fled Myanmar’s military. “We ran away as Myanmar’s Tatmadaw (Army) came into our village and started shooting with heavy weapons. Some are fleeing to the forest nearby. They are still there,” Arr Hla (35) from Mone La village told AFP on phone from a monastery where about 150 refugees are staying in Kutkhaing township. Meanwhile, Myanmar’s military released 46 child soldiers from service, state media reported on Sunday, the latest move towards ending a scourge that has long beset the nation. The military are committed to ending the recruitment and use of children in its “Tatmadaw” Army following a June 2012 pact with the UN. But progress has been slow. The 46 children were handed over to their families at a ceremony in Yangon on Saturday, the Global New Light of Myanmar reported. (Asian Age 14/3/16)

ATS keeping tabs on Kashmiris in Goa: CM (13)

Panaji, March 16 : The Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) of Goa Police has been instructed to conduct door-to-door checks of tenements inhabited by people from Jammu and Kashmir, Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar said on Wednesday. In a written reply to Dabolim legislator Mauvin Godinho on migrants involved in crimes, Parsekar, who also holds the home portfolio, said: “One copy of such tenant verification form filed is forwarded to the native district superintendent of police of the tenant/migrant for verification of criminal records/antecedents. “In addition to the above, Anti-Terrorist Squad – Goa also does door-to-door checking of migrants and J and K individuals.” Apart from the ATS, Parsekar also said beat staff of police stations “regularly visits their respective jurisdiction and ensures that the details of the migrants or tenants are filled in ‘tenant verification forms’ and submitted to the police station by the owner or tenant”.Asked if there were measures being taken by the state government to stop immigration in order to curb crime, Parsekar said: “No. Migration is a universal process.” (New Indian Express 16/3/16)

Sri Lankan refugees baffled over NGO questionnaire (13)

CHENNAI: In a discreet move, Sri Lankan Tamil refugees living in Tamil Nadu have been served a questionnaire that seeks to know their antecedents, passport details and future plans. An NGO is believed to be involved in the survey though refugees apprehend that some other external agency might have initiated the process. According to a couple of refugees, the three-page questionnaire was delivered at their doorstep with an instruction that it be filled and returned on the spot. Volunteers engaged in the work reportedly claimed that the State police were aware of the exercise and even supported them. Several thousands of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees are settled inside and outside camps in Tamil Nadu. A sizable number of them are believed to be living without registering with the competent authority and their existence in Tamil Nadu is not on record anywhere. The issue of repatriating refugees came into focus after the ethnic war ended in Sri Lanka and a new government came to power there, police sources said. “The refugees fear that there is a move to forcibly repatriate them. Attempts to migrate to countries like Canada, Australia and some European countries have of late become difficult. Their future in Tamil Nadu is bleak as they have no work permit and live on with the paltry dole,” V. Suresh, national general secretary of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), said. Many countries refuse to give visa to Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in Tamil Nadu thinking that India has already granted them asylum status here. “But the fact remains that the Government of India has only allowed them to stay here, nothing else. They have not been given a chance to lawfully work live with dignity. Many refugees are exploited and engaged as cheap labour,” Mr. Suresh said. After the devastating floods swept Chennai and its adjoining districts, the same NGO representatives visited Sri Lankan Tamil refugees and offered to help. “They gave us forms to fill up details of our address, contact numbers, loss of property in floods etc…but no relief came to us later. Perhaps they used that data to reach us now with these forms,” a refugee told The Hindu on Thursday. One of the questions in the form sought to know whether the refugees had an Aadhar Card. There is another pointed question which asks the refugees whether they wanted to remain in India, go back home (Sri Lanka) or migrate to some other country. When contacted, senior police officials in the State said they were not aware of such a survey being conducted. No such activity was brought to the notice of the police. “There is no question of the police permitting any agency to meet and gather sensitive information from Sri Lankan Tamil refugees,” a police official said. (The Hindu 18/3/16)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

Maharashtra govt paid Rs 798 crore for closure of toll plazas: RTI (1)

Mumbai: Of the 38 toll plazas managed by the PWD, 11 were closed and Rs 226.51 crore paid to contractor as full and final payment.- PTIOf the 38 toll plazas managed by the PWD, 11 were closed and Rs 226.51 crore paid to contractor as full and final payment.- PTIGovt closed down 12 toll plazas and waived off charge on light vehicles like private cars at 53 check points. Maharashtra government paid Rs 798.44 crore as compensation to contractors for shutting down 12 toll plazas and waiving off charge on light vehicles like private cars at 53 check points, according to an RTI reply. Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) and the Public Work Development (PWD) had to pay Rs 798.44 crore as “compensation and return” to toll plaza contractors, as per the information obtained by RTI activist Anil Galgali. “Of the 38 toll plazas managed by the PWD, 11 were closed and Rs 226.51 crore paid to contractor as full and final payment,” Galgali said quoting the information provided by Under Secretary and Public Information Officer, PWD, Shailendra Borse. Of the 53 plazas maintained by the MSRDC, only one was closed for which the full and final payment return amounted to Rs 168 crore, he said. Towards exemption on light vehicles at 27 toll plazas, PWD paid the contractors Rs 179.69 crore. MSRDC paid the contractors Rs 224.24 crore towards exemption on light vehicles at 26 toll points. A committee was formed by the state government last year to explore the possibility of giving relief to people from the five entry points of Mumbai as well as Mumbai-Pune Expressway. Despite the retirement of additional chief secretary (PWD) Anand Kulkarni who was heading it, the report and recommendations are yet to shape up. As the report was not submitted before Kulkarni’s superannuation, Pune-based anti-toll activist Vivek Velankar has appealed to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to suspend the bureaucrat’s retirement benefits. (Asian Age 12/3/16)

‘Ministers answerable under RTI’ (1)

New Delhi: Ministers in the Union and state Cabinets are “public authorities” liable to answer public questions addressed to them under the Right to Information Act, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has ruled. This directive that ministers are answerable under the RTI Act will mean that people can directly send questions to a minister by filing an RTI application which will be answered by a public information officer in his office. “The Commission strongly recommends the Centre and states to provide necessary support to each minister, including designating some officers, or appointing as public information officers and first appellate authorities,” information commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu held in his order. “The probable claim that Cabinet minister does not have the necessary infrastructure to support the applicability of the RTI Act in as much as, the minister is a singular person office… Hence cannot be held as ‘public authority’ is not tenable,” he held in a detailed order. The information commissioner directed that “oath of secrecy” be replaced with “oath of transparency” so that the minister will respect the right to information of the citizen, which was passed by the Parliament and considered as fundamental right intrinsic in Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, and be answerable/accountable to the citizens. Mr Acharyulu was adjudicating the case of Hemant Dhage of Ahmednagar who sought to know from the staff of the then Union minister for law and justice the scheduled time for people to meet the Cabinet minister and minister of state. He was directed to seek time from the minister himself. Citing Ramayana, Mr Acharyulu said, “It is borne by epics that Emperor Maryada Purushottam Shri Ram used to have a bell in front of his palace, and whoever rings it he could come out of his residence to meet the citizen and hear him, reflecting grievance redressal mechanism in Ram rajya.” (Asian Age 14/3/16)

AYUSH Ministry files complaint to probe ‘fake’ RTI query (1)

New Delhi, Mar. 15 : The AYUSH Ministry on Tuesday filed a formal complaint with the Delhi Police asking them to probe the alleged ‘fake’ RTI query, in which journalist Pushp Sharma alleged that the Centre’s discrimination against Muslims in the Yoga teachers’ selection process for International Yoga Day is fabricated, adding that he has proof that all the RTI replies in his possession are authentic. The Delhi Police have picked Sharma from his residence today evening for questioning and they are going through the complaint. Apparently, Pushp Sharma has been arrested in connection with his story published by ‘The Milli Gazette’ and other media outlets, portals and channels about an RTI reply received from the AYUSH Ministry saying that as per the government policy, it did not recruit any Muslim as Yoga trainer. Earlier, the AYUSH Ministry rejected a purported ‘fabricated and mischievous’ Right To Information (RTI) reply which had claimed that the Centre does not recruit Muslims in the ministry as a policy. The Ministry of AYUSH has noted with anguish certain mischievous misinformation being spread in certain section of media and social media quoting a reply to an RTI by mentioning a fabricated draft as Annexure I to that letter, which has never been issued by the Ministry of AYUSH or any of its agencies. “The Ministry strongly condemns this piece of misreporting, clearly aimed at causing chasm between different sections of society and promoting disharmony and mistrust with ulterior motives,” the Ministry said in a statement. The Ministry in a statement said, certain mischievous misinformation is being spread in certain section of media and social media quoting a reply to an RTI by mentioning a fabricated draft as Annexure I to that letter, which has never been issued by the Ministry of AYUSH or any of its agencies. The Ministry said it is initiating proper action in this matter. (New Kerala 15/3/16)

Decline in RTI queries and replies worries activists (1)

NEW DELHI:In a blow to transparency in governance, the number of RTI queries have declined as have the number of public authorities submitting data on the legislation. The annual report of the Central Information Commission (CIC) shows that a total of 7.55 lakh RTI applications were filed in 2014-2015, a decline of 79,000 since last year. Almost 90,000 RTI applications were pending decision at the start of the reporting year of 2014-15. Of the 2,030 public authorities registered with the CIC, only 75.27% submitted data on RTI for the year. This is much lower than 2012-2013, when of the 2,333 registered public authorities 79% submitted RTI returns. The proportion of rejection of RTI applications has shot up by 1.2% in 2014-15. While only 7.20% of the RTI applications was rejected in 2013-14, this figure increased to 8.40% in 2014-15. “This is cause for worry and must be examined. On the face of it, this comparative figure appears to support the anecdotal experiences of many an RTI user that the public authorities under the government has begun rejecting more and more RTI applications under the NDA regime,” Venkatesh Nayak, from CHRI who analysed the data said. Data related to CIC is not encouraging either. The commisison received 35,396 appeals and complaints cases in 2014-15. It decided 20,181 cases during the year while 37,323 cases were pending before the CIC as on April 1, 2015. CIC imposed penalties of over Rs 7 lakh on errant public information officers in 2014-15. This figure has come down by 61% since last year, when fines worth Rs 19.25 lakh were levied. However during 2014-15, the CIC recovered penalties better as compared to the previous year. It recovered Rs 11.31 lakh as compared to Rs 10.19 lakh which is about 10% higher. Among the ministries and departments who have submitted information on RTI applications, the largest number have been filed with the finance ministry as it includes banks, financial institutions, insurance companies and tax authorities. The number of RTIs filed are about 1.4 lakh which has declined by 6%. The other public authorities that have fewer RTI applications as compared to last year are President’s secretariat and ministry of external affairs. (Times of India 18/3/16)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

RTE mandate fails to achieve even half-mark (11)

Mumbai: They were supposed to go to school with everyone else. But the move towards equal education has been marred by contorted reasons and handicaps like slow admission process and lack of awareness among families. Schools too have often been unwelcoming in accepting students from all pin codes into one class. At the close of the 2015 admission season, of the 22.9 lakh seats available under the 25% quota for socially and economically disadvantaged children, only 3.46 lakh (15%) were filled. The mandate though beautiful, said experts, failed to achieve even the half-mark. Delhi did best and filled 44.61% spots with deserving students who could attend a private unaided non-minority school. Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand followed. Of the 1.56 lakh seats under this quota in Maharashtra, 28,028 (17.9%) were filled. A report by the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad and other agencies found that states had unclear rules and guidelines to implement Section 12(1)(c) of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, which mandates 25% reservation for children from economically and socially disadvantaged sections in private unaided non-minority schools. Ashish Dhawan, founder and chairman, Central Square Foundation, a philanthropy, said, “Awareness is still patchy, especially in rural areas. Once children enter the school system, the provision of supporting and child-tracking is almost non-existent.” Ambrish Dongre of the Accountability Initiative, Centre for Policy Research, said, “Out of Rs 1,466 crore that states requested for implementation, only Rs 250 crore was approved by the Centre. Only Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Odisha, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand got assistance from the Centre, indicating that states need to do a lot more.” (Times of India 11/3/16)

RTE students may also be covered under health scheme (11)

Bengaluru: The Education department will make efforts to include RTE students also under the proposed health insurance scheme, said Primary and Secondary Education Department Minister Kimmane Ratnakar on Friday. Speaking to reporters in Bengaluru, Ratnakar said the department would not discriminate against any students. A model will be evolved to include RTE students, too, under the proposed scheme,  he added. The government is expected to announce a health insurance scheme for students under 18 years, studying in government and aided schools and colleges, in the upcoming budget. The department has received 451 applications for the setting up of PU colleges and more than 800 colleges for starting high schools. The department will distribute a pair of shoes and two pairs of socks to all government school students. To ensure that the funds set aside are not misused during the tender procedure, the department has released the money to School Development Monitoring Committees, the minister said. A six-member committee has been constituted at the school level, including parents of students, to ensure that there is no corruption, he added. (Deccan Herald 12/3/16)

Create policy for child beggars: Bombay High Court (11)

Mumbai: Unhappy with the government’s apathy towards rehabilitating child beggars in the city, the Bombay high court on Tuesday asked the government of Maharashtra to come out with a comprehensive policy for rehabilitation of these children. A division bench headed by Justice Abhay S. Oka directed the government to refer to a Census of street children conducted in 2013 by Professor Asha Mukundan from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and various other NGOs. According to the TISS report, there are more than 37,000 child beggars in Mumbai alone, who qualify for “Child in need of Care and Protection” of the Juvenile Justice Act. “Very little has been done by the state till today for child beggars,” observed the bench. It also expressed concern over rising number of child beggars in the city and asked the government to rescue these children, and provide them facilities for adequate accommodation and education as they too come under the ambit of Right to Education (RTE). The bench was hearing suo moto public interest litigation (PIL), stating that there is an urgent need for the state to address this problem. The petition demanded that the government find out how many children have taken to begging, either forcibly or voluntarily. The PIL stated that children are the future of the country and should be given an education. It is the duty of the state to ensure that children don’t have to beg under any circumstances. “The government has a responsibility to take care of destitute children, who either do not have parents or are forced by their elders to take to begging to earn a living,” said the petition. In the past, the high court had asked the government to find out the number of children begging on city streets and how many of them are orphans and how many have parents or guardians. (Asian Age 16/3/16)

Textbooks will be changed to ensure no Kanhaiyas are born: Minister (11)

Jaipur: Rajasthan minister Vasudev Devnani has said major changes are being made in school curriculum and biographies of freedom fighters will be included so as to ensure “no one like Kanhaiya Kumar is born” in the state. “To inculcate the feeling of patriotism in students, major changes are being made in the curriculum,” the Rajasthan Minister of State for Education (primary and secondary) said in the assembly. “In view of recent JNU incident, government universities have been asked to hoist national flag so as to inculcate patriotism in students,” State Higher Education Minister Kali Charan Saraf said. Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Students’ Union President Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested on sedition charge over a controversial event on the campus where anit-India slogans were allegedly raised. He was later released on bail. (Hindustan Times 18/3/16)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

68 crore persons getting subsidized foodgrains under NFSA (21)

Delhi: The Government of India has accorded high priority to the issue of hunger and malnutrition in the country and is implementing several schemes/programmes through State Governments/UT Administrations to improve food security situation in the country. These include Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), Wheat Based Nutrition Programme (WBNP) for providing Supplementary Nutrition, Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme for pre-school children and pregnant and lactating mothers through the Ministry of Women and Child Development. Mid-Day-Meal Scheme (MDM) for primary and upper primary children through Ministry of Human Resource Development, Annapurna Scheme for the senior citizens, Nutritional Programme for Adolescent Girls, Emergency Feeding Programme, etc. This information was given by the Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Shri Ram Vilas Paswan in a written reply in Lok Sabha today. The Minister said that National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA) provides for coverage of upto 75% of the rural population and upto 50% of the urban population for receiving foodgrains (rice, wheat & coarsegrains) at highly subzided rates. Thus, 81.35 crore persons which constitute about two-thirds of the population is covered under NFSA. This coverage has been delinked from poverty estimates. The eligible families under NFSA comprise of priority households and Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) families. Priority households are entitled to receive 5 Kg of foodgrains per person per month at highly subsidized price of Rs.3, 2 & 1 per Kg. for rice, wheat & coarsegrains respectively. The existing AAY households, which constitute the poorest of the poor, will continue to receive 35 Kg. of foodgrains per household per month. The Act also provides that in case annual allocation of foodgrains to any State under the Act is less than the average annual offtake of foodgrains for the last three years under normal TPDS, the same shall be protected. Implementation of the Act has started in 30 States/Union Territories (UTs), covering about 68 crore persons. Foodgrains allocation under erstwhile TPDS is being continued in remaining States/UTs. He said that Government of India has provisionally allocated 289.46 lakh tonnes under NFSA and 207.31 lakh tonnes of foodgrains under erstwhile TPDS during current year. Further, an additional 50.01 lakh tonnes of foodgrains have also been allocated during the current year for Below Poverty Line (BPL) and Above Poverty Line (APL) families to the States/UTs where NFSA has not been implemented. In addition, during the current year, 11.70 lakh tonnes of foodgrains have been allocated to the States for festival, calamities and other additional requirements. The Government has also allocated 52.18 lakh tonnes of foodgrains under Other Welfare Schemes such as Mid Day Meal Scheme, Annapurna Scheme, SC/ST/OBC Hostel Scheme, Welfare Institutions Scheme, SABLA Scheme and Wheat Based Nutrition Programme Scheme. Shri Paswan said that the Act also has a special focus on nutritional support to women and children. Pregnant women and lactating mothers are entitled to meals as per nutritional norms as well as to receive maternity benefit of not less than Rs.6,000. Children upto 14 years of age are entitled to meals as per the prescribed nutritional standards. Higher nutritional standards have been fixed for malnourished children upto 6 years of age. In case of non-supply of entitled foodgrains or meals, the beneficiaries will receive food security allowance. (Business Standard 15/3/16)

Activists to launch campaign against ‘akshata’ wastage (21)

Aurangabad: After successfully implementing the initiative to save food, activists of the city-based Save Food Committee are now gearing up to launch a state-level mission to prevent wastage of akshata (coloured rice) generally used during marriage ceremonies. The activists said Maharashtra witnesses around 1.5 lakh Hindu marriages every year in which on an average 5kg rice is used (per marriage) as akshat. Since all the rice is coloured, it neither can be used for human nor bird consumption. If the grains are saved from getting wasted, it could suffice the hunger of around 75 lakh people in the drought-affected places, they said. “The use of akshata is a wasteful activity, which continues even today during some marriage ceremonies. We cannot afford such wastage, especially during extreme drought conditions wherein a larger section of population is unable to arrange even two square meals a day,” said Anant Motale, the brains behind the hunger-free city mission. “Of the unbroken rice grains which are smeared with kumkum/sindoor (vermillion) to form akshata, only 10% is showered on couples, while the remaining 90% goes waste. It get crumbled under the feet of guests attending the ceremony. On an average, rice grains worth Rs 1.8 crore gets wasted every year in the state,” he said. Rajesh Kulkarni, another member of the Save Food Committee, said, “The use of akshata is rampant during Indian weddings. In a bid to save the rice from getting wastes, we will launch a campaign to pursue and encourage people to utilise it symbolically for the newly weds. The near and dear ones should shower it with good wishes, while other guests at the wedding ceremony standing far away from the stage should raise their hands and bless the couple.” “Since the principal constituent of kumkum is red lead, zinc or other synthetic dyes, this process of converting rice into akshata renders the grains inedible for both human as well as birds or animals,” he said. “Considering the mount of rice going waste on a large scale, our committee would be first sensitising the parents of would-be couples. We will also put up display boards urging people not to waste rice and donate it to the needy instead. On an average, 5-15kg rice is used for this ritual depending on the number of guests. However, only 5-10% akshat is actually showered on the couple,” he added. “With over 20 crore population unable to feed themselves properly, the campaign would be launched extensively across the state. We will also urge people to either donate the rice to the poor or donate it to the committee which would ensure that it reaches to the needy,” he added. Two years ago, a motley group of senior citizens launched a mission for a hunger-free society and formed the Save Food Committee. Its extensive campaign to ensure that no food in the city goes waste and reaches the deprived received overwhelming response from food caterers, city-based NGOs, owners of marriage and function halls and social activists. (Times of India 15/3/16)

Government to provide pulses to poor through PDS (21)

New Delhi: The government is in favour of providing pulses to poor through the public distribution system (PDS), but it cannot give a commitment now as domestic production is inadequate, food and consumer affairs minister Ram Vilas Paswan told Lok Sabha on Tuesday. While stating that the government won’t allow prices to rise, he also said that private importers were attempting to form cartels and hoard pulses overseas to delay their arrival in India and increase domestic prices. Quoting IB reports, TOI on January 26 had first reported how major commodity players were cartelising and hoarding pulses abroad. “There have been reports that some private importers did attempt forming cartels and cornering stocks of certain pulses in producer countries… Domestic searches and surveys have been conducted on a number of importers, traders and financiers engaged in pulses trade,” Paswan said.Pulses imports has increased to 5.55 million tonnes till March 1 during this fiscal as against 4.58 million tonnes in the entire 2014-15. Pulses production is estimated at 17.33 million tonnes while demand is pegged at 23.66 million tonnes in 2015-16. Paswan also told the House that the total import by private and government agencies would be around 6.5 million tonne during this year. (Times of India 16/3/16)

National Food Security Act implementation a hasty step: Tarigami (21)

Jammu: Senior CPI(M) leader and MLA Kulgam Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami on Wednesday said the National Food Security Act (NFSA) has been launched in haste without a proper and perfect ground work in the state. In a statement issued here today, he alleged that discrepancies that surfaced during uploading of the data on the national portal have not been addressed and even more loopholes have detected after the launch of the scheme. “It is beyond comprehension that the Act has been launched without addressing the concerns shown by the masses from time to time, which has resulted in chaos and confusion among the consumers”, he said. The CPI(M) leader suggested for a review of the database and categorization of people under priority, non-priority and exclusion category, besides removing the short comings, duplicity and multiple errors. He reiterated his demand for food security for the entire population of the state by providing 35 kg ration to each family at the rate of Rs 2 per kg. He sought Governor s intervention for enhancement of coverage under NFSA from the Central government and suggested the Governor s administration to take note of the protests that have sparked after the implementation of the Act. All measures for making the Act viable, transparent and consumer friendly, must be taken at appropriate levels, he said. (Times of India 18/3/16)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

Rs 115.9 crore to be spent under MGNREGA scheme (14)

Bathinda: Farmers in the district may get some sigh of relief in future in case they face the unfortunate event of crop failure due to inclement weather, natural disaster or some crop disease. A whopping sum of Rs 115.94 crore will be spent under the MGNREGA scheme as part of the Bathinda Zila Parishad budget for the financial year 2016-17. Apart from paying the salaries of the employees and workers under the scheme, the amount will also be used to provide free labour to the farmers who face crop failure, under the MGNREGA. The amount set aside under MGNREGA in 2015-16 was Rs 24.98 crore. The budget was discussed by ADC (D) Sheena Aggarwal, Zila Parishad chairman Gurpreet Singh Maluka and members of the Zila Parishad during a meeting. The budget projected the total income at Rs 144.20 crore and total expenditure at Rs 144.11 crore. Another major addition to the Zila Parishad’s budget for the year is setting aside of Rs 25 lakh for the work of drug de-addiction programmes, organising drug-de addiction, education, social welfare and awareness camps against social ills in the rural areas, distribution of sewing machines to needy women to help them contribute to the earnings of the family, providing books and other stationery items to female students. The Zila Parishad aims to earn Rs 4.27 crore from its assets such as rent from marriage palaces, schools and banks and also from sale of forms, recovery of loans, interest on loans and tax on sale of liquor, sale of scrap on Zila Prishad premises, interest free amount received from the state government for the construction of new building, miscellaneous rent and other means. The Zila Parishad is also expected to receive a grant of Rs 115.94 crore under the MGNREGA scheme and Rs 16 crore under the 14th Finance Commission. It plans to spend Rs 70 lakh on the salaries and allowances of its employees, Rs 20 lakh on the contingency expenditures, Rs 15 lakh on the maintenance and repair work being carried out in the Zila Parishad complex, Rs 3 lakh each on legal services and audit fee, Rs 5 lakh for buying furniture for the office, Rs 30 lakh for the digital mapping of panchayat samitis and village panchayats. (The Tribune 12/3/16)

Labour dept to recognize union (14)

The state labour department has also begun the process to recognize the union. M S Patel, assistant labour commissioner said, “We have begun the process and soon police verification of the office bearers of the proposed union will be done. We expect the process to be over in 30 days.”Rajkumar Beniwal, district collector, hoped that the issue of strike will be solved shortly. “It is an internal matter of company and workers. Both have shown positive signs towards reconciliation and are coming on same platform. I hope that this will be resolved soon.” After garnering support from 22 trade unions, the agitating workers on Monday held demonstration before collectors’ office. Many of them were detained by the police.”We met the collector and he told us that process for union formation has begun,” added Ashim Roy, national vice-president, NTUI and advisor to Sanand workers’ union. Tata Motors maintained its earlier stand on the issue of forming union. “As per Tata Motors policy, the company has always recognized the right of its workmen to form a Union.” (Times of India 15/3/16)

MGNREGA to the rescue of labourers (14)

Kalaburagi,: The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) has come as a saviour for the landless agricultural labourers and small and marginal farmers.In the drought-hit Kalaburagi district, the landless labourers and others who seek employment under MGNREGA are entitled to get 150 days of work mandatorily, instead of 100 days as is usual in areas not declared drought-hit. Nearly 1,000 labourers are involved in different works in and around Hagargundagi and Farhatabad villages in Kalaburagi taluk, according to Sadashiva Haralayya, the Kshetra Sahayaka who helps those in need of employment to get work under the MGNGREA and functions as a bridge between workers and officials. According to Mr. Haralayya, in villages like Tilagol near Honna Kiranagi, the agricultural labourers are getting employment opportunities for the first time in five years. Nearly 120 workers, including women, are employed in Tilagol village to clear the silt from Tilagol stream. Similarly, another 260 are clearing the silt in Hagargundagi tank. A contingent of 400 workers, the most in Kalaburagi taluk, are working in Honna Kiranagi laying roads under the Namma Hola, Namma Dari scheme, while another 250 are working in Baspet village on soil conservation. (The Hindu 18/3/16)

Political, public outcry as PPF, NSS and saving scheme rates cut (Roundup) (14)

New Delhi: In a decision that evoked immediate uproar by the salaried and self-employed class, the government on Friday slashed the interest rates on public provident fund (PPF) from 8.7 percent to 8.1 percent, soon after retracting the unpopular proposal to partially tax withdrawals. In the process, the interest rate for the national savings scheme was also reduced sharply from 8.5 percent to 8.1 percent, for Kisan Vikas Patra (KVP) from 8.7 percent to 7.8 percent and for five-year recurring deposit to 7.4 percent from 8.4 percent. Even the girl child scheme Sukanya Samridhhi Account (SSA) was not spared. The cut: From 9.2 percent to 8.6 percent. “The new rates will be effective from next fiscal (April 1, 2016). The interest will be calculated on quarterly basis,” A.K. Chauhan, joint director in National Savings Institute (NSI), told IANS. According to him, the main reason for the downward revision was the two year yield on government securities (G-Sec) had gone down. The interest rates for various small savings schemes were recalculated with reference to the G-Sec yields of equivalent maturity for the period December 2015-February 2016, and based on it, rates on various schemes for 2016-17′s first quarter have been notified. According to the government, the quarterly revision of interest rates will ensure that the interest rates under small savings schemes are more dynamically related to current market rates, thereby enabling the banks to move their interest rates in line with current money market rates. Chauhan said the total corpus of all small savings scheme was around Rs.300,000 crore. The net accretion this year was around Rs.65,000 crore till January 31. The SSA has around 85 lakh accounts with a deposit of around Rs.3,500 crore, while the KVP corpus is over Rs.21,000 crore, Chauhan said. Earlier, the government had proposed a tax on 60 percent of the PPF corpus on maturity if it was not invested in annuities – that is schemes that fetch periodic returns. Also proposed was a limit on monetary contributions of employers in provident fund to Rs.150,000 per annum for tax sops.The government also cut interest rates on other small savings term deposit schemes. The small savings interest rates are perceived to limit the banking sector’s ability to lower deposit rates in response to the Reserve Bank of India’s monetary policy, the government said last month. Interestingly the rate of interest on the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) is 8.8 percent. “The self-employed are hit by this move. For them the PPF is the one safe mode of investment. Now the return has come down,” N.Varadarajan, a self-employed person, told IANS. Meanwhile the decision led to a big public outcry on microblogging site Twitter. “Bleed the ones who pay tax! This #ppf rate cut by #Modi government is so not on, Anti national!,” tweeted Vijaita Singh. Sharing similar sentiments, another net-savvy citizen Sudhanshu S. Singh tweeted: “What’s this? Interest rate on PPF has been cut to 8.1%. Where should common people invest for safe earning.”… (Business Standard 19/3/16)

RESERVATION

Quota in promotion not must, says apex court (25)

The Supreme Court on Friday held that the state is not under Constitutional duty to make reservation in promotion for Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe employees. “The state is not bound to make reservation in promotion. Thus, there is no constitutional obligation,” a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla C Pant said in a judgement which is likely to have wider ramification. The court dismissed a batch of petitions seeking direction to Uttar Pradesh government to collect necessary qualitative data of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in the services for granting reservation in promotion by appointing a committee or commission chaired either by a retired Judge of the High Court or Supreme Court. After going through different judgments on reservation, the bench said to issue a mandamus to collect the data would tantamount to asking the authorities whether there is ample data to frame a rule or regulation. “This will be in a way, entering into the domain of legislation, for it is a step towards commanding to frame a legislation or a delegated legislation for reservation,” the bench said. The court, however, said in certain decisions, directions have been issued for framing of guidelines or the court has itself framed guidelines for sustaining certain rights of women, children or prisoners or under-trial prisoners but the said category of cases falls in a different compartment. “Be it clearly stated, the courts do not formulate any policy, remain away from making anything that would amount to legislation, rules and regulation or policy relating to reservation,” the bench said. (Deccan Herald 12/3/16)

Quota Policy to Continue: Government (25)

NEW DELHI: With RSS saying there should be no reservation in jobs and education for the affluent, the government today said there is no rethink on the present social and caste based reservation policy and it will continue. “It is the stated policy of Government that present arrangement of reservation will be maintained,” Leader of the House in Rajya Sabha and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said in response to SP and BSP members raising concern over remarks by some RSS leaders yesterday. RSS, Jaitley said, “has also not talked” of scrapping or changing the present reservation policy. Earlier, Ram Gopal Yadav (SP) alleged a conspiracy in doing away with the present reservation system.  Mayawati (BSP) said the Constitution has clearly defined the criteria for giving reservation to SC/ST and OBCs and now RSS functionaries were talking of the quota being based on economic criteria. She was referring to RSS general secretary Suresh  Bhaiyyaji Joshi’s remark at the organisation’s camp at Nagaur in Rajasthan yesterday. Jaitley responded this, saying “he has not said that.” Soon after listed papers of the day were laid on the table, Opposition members led by SP, BSP and JD-U were up on their feet raising the issue. Deputy Chairman P J Kurien said the Chairman has disallowed a notice under rule 267 by Naresh Agarwal (SP) seeking suspension of business to take up the issue. When members persisted with the issue, he said RSS is a  private organisation. “Why are you worried about that.”  While Ram Gopal Yadav (SP) said there is no difference between RSS and Government, Mayawati said statements on the quota issue have been made since BJP came to power. Responding to this, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said it was a clear view of the government that “reservation should continue” and “RSS has not talked about scrapping it.” “There is no question of removing reservation for SC/ST. RSS has also called for strengthening reservation, not ending it,” he said. Kurien said the government has given an assurance and the House should carry on with the listed business. (New Indian Express 14/3/16)

Activists step up demand for internal reservation for SCs (25)

Shivamogga: The activists of Karnataka Madiga Dandora Meesalati Horata Samiti staged a protest in the city on Wednesday demanding the tabling of the recommendations of A.J. Sadashiva panel on providing internal reservation for Scheduled Castes (SCs) in the ongoing session of State Legislature. Addressing the protest meet, Murthy C., Joint Secretary of the organisation, said that though the Madiga community forms a major chunk of the SC population and has been subjected to the practice of untouchability for many years now, it has failed to get its due share of benefits from reservation system. The social groups that were not subjected to untouchability were enjoying the lion’s share of the benefits of the reservation system at present. To address the problem, the panel was formed in the year 2005. The panel had submitted its report to the State government in June 2012. After carefully studying the socio-economic status of various groups classified as SCs, the panel had recommended the re-classification of 101 castes currently recognised as SCs into four groups and had fixed the percentage of reservation for each, he said. The implementation of the report was necessary to ensure equitable distribution of benefits of reservation among all social groups. The protesters also submitted a memorandum to the office of the Deputy Commissioner in this regard. (The Hindu 17/3/16)

 ‘Globalisation destroying reservation’ (25)

VISAKHAPATNAM: Globalisation, liberalisation and privatisation that were introduced in 1990 were destroying reservation for the downtrodden sections and making rich richer and poor poorer, former Secretary to the AP State SC and ST Commission R. Subba Rao said here on Saturday. Speaking during the inaugural session of a two-day national seminar on challenges to Indian Constitutional fundamentals and Ambedkarism being organised at the Andhra University Dr. Ambedkar College of Law, Mr. Subba Rao observed that 25 per cent of the population is enjoying the land, resources, employment and manages industry and the remaining 75 per cent was suffering and the Constitution was “successfully” running because the 25 per cent was not facing problems. While no welfare schemes were introduced by Nehru during his tenure as Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi introduced some schemes to suppress the demand of Scheduled Castes to have separate villages set up for them after they found their lot not improving, which might lead to a separate and powerful community emerging. He regretted that government schools and colleges and health facilities were becoming dysfunctional and in their place the private institutions and schemes like Arogyasri have benefited the hospitals. Mr. Subba Rao also reminded Dr. Ambedkar’s statement that if the Constitution he had authored was not fit enough to benefit the poor, another should be prepared, while urging the participants of the seminar to find a solution to the problems being faced by the downtrodden sections. Former Vice-Chancellor of AU G.S.N. Raju, who has donated Rs. 3 lakh to the Ambedkar Studies Centre in the college, inaugurated the seminar and said Ambedkar was leader of all and the Constitution should be interpreted in the right way to make the country a super power. Vice-Chancellor in-charge E.A. Narayana felt that the problem was with us and not the Constitution. Director of AU SAARC Studies Centre and EC Member of AU M. Prasada Rao reminded that Dr. Ambedkar linked eradication of caste system with growth process because the downtrodden sections lacked skill development, education and availability of infrastructure. A policy was needed to include the three aspects in their growth, Prof. Prasada Rao said. Vice-Chancellor of Chanakya National Law University (Patna) A. Lakshminath in his keynote address stressed the need for pragmatic rationalism and essentialism. Dr. Ambedkar once told Nehru that he was aware of the rights of people but wanted to know how he would assure the rights to them, Prof. Lakshmikanth said. Principal of Dr. Ambedkar AU College of Law A. Subrahmanyam, director of the seminar D.S. Prakasa Rao, Director of AU Centre for Ambedkar Studies Y. Satyanarayana spoke on different topics. The seminar, sponsored by UGC SAP II, is being attended by 120 delegates from across the country. (The Hindu 20/3/16)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

Pay Rs 2 Lakh More Aid to Victim’s Kin, NHRC Orders Odisha Government (1)

BHUBANESWAR: In a significant order, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has directed the State Government to pay an additional Rs two lakh as compensation to the kin of the Balangir custodial death victim Basant Pradhan. Acting on the petition filed by advocate and rights activist Prabir Kumar Das, the NHRC awarded a compensation of Rs five lakh. Since the Government has already paid Rs three lakh as ex gratia to Pradhan’s family on direction of the Odisha Human Rights Commission (OHRC), the national rights watchdog directed that another Rs two lakh be paid to the family. Pradhan was taken in police custody on suspicion of mobile phone theft and subjected to torture which led to his death in June 2014. The issue sparked off tension and violence in Balangir. The Commission said it received a letter from the OHRC on November 18, 2015 which stated that the latter had also taken cognisance of the matter on June 30, 2014 basing on the petition of Manoj Jena and Biswapriya Kanungo. On completion of full hearing, the OHRC disposed of the case on March 20 last year by awarding a compensation of Rs three lakh to the kin of the deceased and injured victims. Though both the national and State commissions had taken cognisance of the case on the same date and the proceedings in the NHRC continued till June 10, 2015, no information was furnished to the latter by the State authorities regarding pendency of the proceedings. It is only after a notice was issued to the Chief Secretary that the State authorities came forward with the information, the NHRC observed. “The information was furnished to the national commission at an extremely delayed stage and by that time it had already considered the matter on merits and recommended a sum of Rs five lakh to deceased’s family,” the order said. Since Rs three lakh was already paid, the NHRC directed that another Rs two lakh be paid to Pradhan’s family. The panel has directed the Chief Secretary to pay the balance amount and submit compliance with proof of payment within six weeks. Balangir SP has also been instructed to submit his report on outcome of the departmental proceedings pending against the erring police officials. (New Indian Express 12/3/16)

Aadhaar proving counterproductive: civil groups (1)

New Delhi: The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016, which was passed in the Lok Sabha last week as a money bill, could spell disaster for India’s poor and marginalised, said activists at a media event in New Delhi on Monday. Criticising the NDA regime’s decision to bypass discussion of the Aadhaar Bill in the Rajya Sabha by branding it as a money bill, Kavita Srivastava of the Right to Food Campaign said, “The States have their own concerns about the Aadhaar Bill, and that was why a discussion in the Rajya Sabha was vital. We, therefore, condemn the undemocratic passage of the Aadhaar Bill as a money bill.”Nikhil Dey of the People’s Action for Employment Guarantee said the justifications given by the government for linking delivery of social benefits to possession of an Aadhaar card were not borne out in practice. “The government claims that the Aadhaar card will ensure higher efficiency, greater inclusiveness, and a reduction in corruption. But in Rajasthan, what we are getting are more inefficiency, more exclusion, and more corruption”, he said. “In Tonk district, for instance, 80% of the rightful beneficiaries were turned away due to biometric-related issues. In other districts, the inefficiency rate was 60%. Aadhaar neither prevents leakages of ration, particularly from the godown to shops, nor does it deter corruption”. According to the activists, biometric authentication has made the process more painful for the beneficiaries. “Sometimes, the fingerprints do not match. Other times, there are connectivity issues. Often, it takes eight to ten minutes to authenticate one person’s biometrics. People are harassed by being made to come back multiple times. Thanks to Aadhaar, biometric mismatch has now become a legitimate cover for the state to deny people what is their due by law”, said Mr. Srivastava. “It’s possible that sometimes the machines do not work, and in such cases they can do a manual override”, said Mr. Dey. “But this can be acceptable in, say, 4-5% of cases. But the rate of failure at present is 60-80%. Imagine the scope for corruption if manual override has to be resorted on such a vast scale. The majority of poor recipients will be completely at the mercy of the government officials. What is this if not opening up a new avenue for corruption?” The civil society groups called for making entitlements under MGNREGS, pension scheme, and the Food Security Act (FSA) independent of Aadhaar card ownership. “Contrary to the government’s claims, Aadhaar is not a development intervention technology but a surveillance technology, and it’s essential logic is one of invasion of privacy, not delivery of benefits”, summed up Mr. Srivastava. The civil society had come together to present their analysis of the 2016 Union Budget, and belonged to seven different campaigns. (The Hindu 15/3/16)

Activist shot at, escapes unhurt in northeast Delhi (1)

New Delhi: The chairman of International Human Rights Protection Council, Jamshed Alam, escaped an attempt on his life on Wednesday morning after two unidentified men opened fire at him when he was leaving his Northeast Delhi’s Yamuna Vihar office. Mr Alam had come to his office around 8 am and was on his way to New Delhi for some work. Two unidentified motorcycle-borne assailants opened fired at him when Mr Alam was about to enter his car. A bullet whizzed past his ear while another bullet went through the windshield and hit the front seat. The locals immediately rushed to help Alam who had lost consciousness after the attack. “I was overwhelmed by fear and fell down after the assailants opened fire. People rushed to help me and they even tried to chase attackers, but failed to apprehend them. I regained consciousness after an hour and was treated by a doctor.” Mr Alam PSOs provided by the police were not there at the time of the incident. “I had called the police station in the morning and asked for the PSOs, but they did not arrive by the time of the incident.” After the incident, the northeast Delhi police DCP Rajendra Singh Sagar, ACP Gokulpuri Sandeep Lamba and additional SHO Tejram Meena visited Mr Alam and assured him of safety. The Delhi police officials were also accompanied by a team of forensic experts. (Asian Age 17/3/16)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

Real Estate Bill passed; Venkaiah Naidu expects houses to be cheaper (19)

NEW DELHI: With the Lok Sabha giving its nod, Parliament on Tuesday passed the Real Estate Bill which, Urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu said, will help bring down property prices and give more credibility to functioning of the real estate sector. The Real Estate (Regulation & Development) Bill, 2016, was passed by the Rajya Sabha on March 10. “It is a historic moment for the country as we are fulfilling the aspirations of the people who wish to own a house, giving them the needed protection. The bill will be giving credibility to real estate sector also,” said Naidu in his reply to the discussion on the bill in the Lok Sabha. “I say you will get more investment, you will get early clearances and the property prices will come down,” the minister said, asserting the speedy land clearances for the real estate projects will help in bringing down the prices of the houses. “The builders will have to do their duty. Parliament is not interested in interfering with their activity. What you (builders) are committing, what you are promising, fulfill that. This is the only purpose of this real estate bill,” Naidu said. He stressed the bill would help to fill in the loopholes in the existing system that help builders to escape from the ambit of law without fulfilling all the claims they make in their advertisements. “Earlier, the rate of interest payable by consumer and builders used to vary. We found it was not correct. So from here on, the interest payable by either party, be it the consumer or builder, will be the same,” the minister said. Naidu also said that he is open to discuss it with the builders if they have any issue with bill that may hamper the sector’s functioning.”We are not against builders. If there are problem with the builders, I am ready to discuss it with them anytime. We want builder to be partner in building a strong India,” he said. “Since land is a state issue, we seek cooperation from state’s side. All approvals are to be given in 30 days,” he said, insisting the central government has done its duty in providing inexpensive houses.The minister said that he will write to all the chief ministers requesting them to give speedy clearances to the real estate projects in their states. (Times of India 15/3/16)

Criminalizing marital rape will hurt family, says parliamentary panel (19)

NEW DELHI: A parliamentary panel has observed that if the issue of marital rape is brought under law, the entire family system will be under great stress. Minister of state for home Haribhai Chaudhury said in the Lok Sabha that the department-related parliamentary standing committee on home affairs presented its 167th report on the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2012 in the Rajya Sabha on March 1, 2013. While giving its report, the Committee considered both the 172nd report on review of rape laws given by the Law Commission of India and the report of the Justice J S Verma Committee. “The committee deliberated the amendments to section 375 of IPC, including the issue of marital rape, and observed that if marital rape is brought under the law, the entire family system will be under great stress and the Committee may perhaps be doing more injustice,” he said replying to a written question on Tuesday. The law commission, while making its 172nd report on ‘Review of Rape Laws’ in March 2000, did not recommend criminalization of marital rape. However, the Justice J S Verma Committee, while giving its report on ‘Amendments to Criminal Law’ in January 2013, recommended that law ought to be amended to delete the marital rape exception. “This (home) ministry has requested the law commission to deliberate upon the matter during the course of its comprehensive review of Criminal Justice System,” Chaudhary said. (Times of India 15/3/16)

5 changes RS wanted in Aadhaar Bill, legal challenge next (19)

New Delhi: On a day the authenticity of information on the Lok Sabha website came under a cloud, the Opposition on Wednesday embarrassed the government in the Rajya Sabha by recommending to the Lok Sabha as many as five amendments to the Aadhaar Bill. The Lok Sabha sat till late in the evening to discuss the Bill and rejected the amendments after a walkout by several Opposition parties. The Lok Sabha passed the Bill in its original form. It is rare in the history of Parliament for the Upper House to have recommended amendments to a money Bill. The Aadhaar Bill was certified as a money Bill by the Lok Sabha Speaker, which meant that the Upper House could only ‘recommend’ amendments, which are not binding on the Lok Sabha. According to the Constitution, the Speaker’s veto on the issue cannot be challenged. But, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) chief Sitaram Yechury said in the Upper House that legal avenues would be explored on the issue of the Speaker’s discretion. Echoing similar views, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi told reporters that the party could challenge the Speaker’s ruling in a court of law since “by no stretch of imagination, is the Aadhaar Bill a money Bill”. In the discussion on the Bill, Congress member of Parliament Jairam Ramesh suggested nine amendments that primarily related to ensuring that Aadhaar is not made mandatory for seeking government entitlements, that it should not be used for any other purpose other than for identifying beneficiaries for government subsidies, and that the government should look into the recommendations by the A P Shah committee on privacy of Aadhaar data. He also suggested the clause relating to sharing of biometric information in cases of ‘national security’ be amended considering the possibility of its misuse.The Opposition — the Congress, the Left parties, Janata Dal (United) and other regional parties – pushed for a division of votes on five of these nine amendments. But, such is the lack of numbers of the government in the Rajya Sabha that despite the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam members supporting the government on the issue and parties such as Trinamool Congress, Biju Janata Dal, Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party staging a walkout, the government lost 76 to 64 of the 140 members voting on the amendments. Ramesh, the former union minister for rural development, criticised the government for pushing it as a money Bill. He said the government, by trying to bypass the scrutiny of the Upper House, was “knocking a nail in the coffin of the Rajya Sabha”. ….. (Business Standard 17/3/16)

Father must maintain son only till he’s 18: Gujarat HC (19)

AHMEDABAD: Gujarat high court on Friday ruled that a parent is liable to maintain a son till he turns 18 and starts earning. The HC made it clear that a parent is liable to maintain an unmarried daughter even after she attains an majority and is also liable to spend for her wedding. However, the same provision does not apply for a son. According to provisions of Section 125 of CrPC, a father or mother is not responsible to pay maintenance to a son once he turns 18 if he is not mentally or physically unfit. The case in question is a divorce petition involving a doctor, Dinesh Oza, who practices in Visnagar and his wife Nita. The wife was driven out of the home in 2006 and she lodged an FIR with Satellite police in 2006. On the other hand, the doctor filed a divorce petition in Mehsana. The woman filed for maintenance in Ahmedabad’s family court. The court ordered the doctor to pay his wife and son. In the second round of litigation, the court enhanced the amount and asked the doctor to continue to pay his son till he turned 18 years. The father stopped payments to his son when he turned 18 in October 2013. The wife moved the family court against this. The family court asked her to move the HC for clarification on whether the father should continue to pay after the boy turned 18. The court also asked the doctor to deposit arrears of Rs 78,000 with the court.The woman moved the high court again, where her lawyer argued that the father is liable to maintain his son till he starts earning. The doctor’s lawyer Dakshesh Mehta argued that the law is clear on this aspect that a son must be maintained only till he turns 18. After hearing the case, Justice JB Pardiwala concluded that he cannot accept the provisions made to maintain daughters for maintenance of a son. He cited an order passed by Karnataka high court, which said that it would be a moral and social obligation of every father to bring up his children by giving proper education, culture etc not only as his children, but also as the future citizens of the nation. But, there is no law that mandates a parent to give maintenance to a son once he turns 18. And hence the father can stop paying maintenance amount to the son. (Times of India 19/3/16)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

Kanhaiya Kumar’s Remarks On Army Trigger New Complaint By BJP Youth Wing (1)

JNU students’ union president Kanhaiya Kumar, who is out on bail in a sedition case, is facing ire of the BJP’s youth wing for his remarks on the security forces in Kashmir. Speaking on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act or AFSPA, Kanhaiya said, “No matter how much you try to stop us, we will speak up against human rights violations. We will raise our voice against AFSPA. While we have a lot of respect for our soldiers, we will still talk about the fact that in Kashmir women are raped by security personnel.” Kanhaiya was addressing students at a late night march on the eve of International Women’s Day on Wednesday. While he spoke of atrocities against women with examples of the war in Rwanda, he added, “You take example of Gujarat, women were not just killed but were raped first.” The Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha has filed a complaint in Vasant Vihar police station against Kanhaiya and JNU professor Nivedita Menon, saying they made “anti-national” statements. “Despite the submission of an undertaking before court, Kanhaiya has yet again addressed a gathering of students and uttered poisonous words against the Indian Army, labelling them as rapists of Kashmiri Women,” a BJYM statement said. A senior police officer said the matter was being looked into, but added that “no FIR has been registered yet”.”JNU professor Nivedita Menon has been spewing hatred against the Indian Armed Forces in public meetings as well,” the statement said, adding, “She made statements like it is recognized worldwide that India is illegally occupying Kashmir.” Ms Menon, who teaches at the Centre for Comparative Politics and Political Theory at the School of International Studies at JNU however said, “I don’t believe anything I said was anti-national”.In Kanhaiya’s defence, the All India Students Federation (AISF) said that his remarks were “in context of atrocities on women worldwide and not just in Kashmir,” and that, “he in no way meant to demean the Army or any other force and he clarified that in his speech too.” The Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad or ABVP affiliated to the BJP, which was the first to raise an alarm over the February 9 event in JNU, issued a statement saying, “The judge in her order also advised Kanhaiya to not forget the contribution of those sacrificing lives on borders. His statement is an attack on Indian Army”.Kanhaiya was arrested on February 12 in a sedition case over an event on campus against hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru during which anti-national slogans were allegedly raised. He was granted an interim bail for six months by Delhi High Court last week. (NDTV 10/3/16)

Man who tried to slap Kanhaiya files complaint over his remark on army (1)

New Delhi: The Ghaziabad resident who recently tried to slap JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar on campus filed a complaint against the student leader on Saturday for his remarks about army men allegedly raping Kashmiri women. “From day one, I have been observing his speeches and the previous instance where anti-national slogans were raised on the JNU campus. I had decided to speak to him and challenge him for a debate. But those days, there were legal proceedings going on. So I decided to wait,” said Vikas Chaudhary (26). Chaudhary, who works with a private developer at Raj Nagar Extension, said Kanhaiya made derogatory remarks against the army after he was released on bail. “I could not stop myself and went to meet him at JNU… he refused to speak to me. Several people said I was not a student and pushed me. I too pushed them. They alleged that I tried to slap Kanhaiya,” he said. Kanhaiya Kumar on Tuesday told a gathering of students, “We will speak against Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). With all my due respect to army soldiers, I will say this that in Kashmir women are raped by security personnel.” Chaudhary, in his complaint to the Ghaziabad police, also alleged that both Kanhaiya and Umar Khalid raised anti-national slogans under a conspiracy. “I have forwarded my written complain to the police…They are yet to lodge any FIR so far,” he said. Kanhaiya Kumar sedition charges in connection with an event where anti-national slogans were allegedly raised. “The contents of the complaint will be verified and we will even consider their jurisdiction area. Some legal process is already going on in Delhi,” said Ashok Shishodia, Kavi Nagar station house officer. (Hindustan Times 13/3/16)

‘Assault by inspector led to auto driver’s death’ (1)

CHENNAI: The State government has informed the Madras High Court that an inquiry has proved that the death of an autorickshaw driver in police custody was a result of assault by an Inspector. The authorities made the submission before the First Bench of Chief Justice S.K. Kaul and Justice M.M. Sundresh on a public interest litigation (PIL) moved by Campaign for Custodial Justice and Abolition of Torture. On December 31, 2013, Suresh had parked his autorickshaw near the Vanjur police checkpost and was chatting with his friend at around 7 p.m. The Inspector of Police, Nagoor Police Station, N.S. Rajendran instructed Suresh to park the vehicle elsewhere. Enraged by the reply of Suresh that his vehicle was parked on the roadside, the police officer took him to the Nagoor police station and allegedly beat him up, resulting in his death. Through an affidavit, the Superintendent of Police, Nagapattinam submitted that the departmental enquiry against the Inspector is complete and delinquency is proved. The matter has been forwarded to the DIG of Police for final orders, he added. The government has decided to initiate appropriate criminal and departmental proceedings against Rajendren. The officials filed the status report in a sealed cover before the First Bench. (The Hindu 15/3/16)

Family demands probe into man’s custodial death (1)

Mumbai: The family members of Arvind Shimpi, who died last week inside Arthur Road jail, have demanded an inquiry into his mysterious death and have refused to claim his body. There is also confusion on whether his body has already been cremated. While his family says they will not claim his body Azad Maidan police said the family had already claimed it. Arvind Shimpi (32), who used polish shoes at Churchgate railway station, was arrested on March 8 in a mobile theft case. Three days later he was dead. The jail authorities told N M Joshi Marg police that he was suffering from some stomach ailment and died due to infection. Shimpi is survived by his wife Sunita and two kids. The family claimed that Azad Maidan police did not inform them when he was arrested which is mandatory. “A police constable informed me that my brother Arvind had died inside the jail,” said his sister Rehana Shaikh. Shaikh said they were shocked when they saw the autopsy report and saw his body at JJ morgue. The body bore several injuries she claimed. “Arvind did not have any ailment. I had met him on March 7. I was told that either RPF or Azad Maidan police had beaten him severly to extract information. Now they are supressing the facts.” “Arvind was arrested along with some others by the RPF on the basis of CCTV footage. They later handed the case to us. His body has been claimed by the family,” said Manoj Sharma, deputy commissioner of police (zone 1). Police said that his viscera have been sent for a histopathology report to find out if he had any disease. (Times of India 17/3/16)

Police assault victim’s family lodges complaint with SHRC (1)

CHENNAI: The mother of Mukesh Vincent, victim of police assault, has lodged a complaint with the State Human Rights Commission on Friday describing in detail how Mukesh was beaten up at home and bundled into a police vehicle and taken to an undisclosed location. Ms. Sumathi has also complained that at the Government Royapettah Hospital the authorities not only refused to admit him, but also did not provide him adequate treatment after the assault. In her complaint, she has said her nephew tailed the van till it disappeared near Pallikaranai. It gives details of the phone number from which a policeman called the family to warn it of dire consequences if they lodged a complaint in any police station, and the registration number of the vehicle that picked up her son.The victim’s mother says her son was refused treatment at the Government Royapettah Hospital when she took Mukesh for a review as he complained of loss of hearing. “We were asked to the Government General Hospital, but that hospital sent us back to the Royapettah Hospital,” Ms. Sumathi has said in her complaint. She said her family would be able to identify the six policemen who entered their house and beat up her son. (The Hindu 20/3/16)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

House suspends AIMIM MLA for ‘anti-national’ act (1)

Mumbai: The Maharashtra legislative assembly on Wednesday suspended Byculla MLA Waris Pathan for the remainder of the current session after he refused to chant ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ when provoked to do so by a BJP member. The entire assembly, cutting across party lines, called on speaker Haribhau Bagde to suspend Pathan for his “anti-national” act—a charge that he denied while requesting that his suspension be revoked. Pathan (47) is one of the two All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (AIMIM) legislators in the state assembly and the only one from Mumbai. Pathan called a press conference in the evening where he said, “I love my country. I was born here and I will die here. I can never ever dream of insulting my country. Don’t judge anyone’s love for the country by just one slogan. I have requested the chairman to review the suspension. Jai Hind.” The incident took place after the other AIMIM MLA from Aurangabad, Imtiaz Jaleel, said the government should not use public money to construct memorials. “Banks give farmers a tough time if they don’t repay their loans, but we couldn’t stop Vijay Mallya, who has defaulted on Rs 850 crore. He would have said ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ after boarding the flight, as this could happen only in India,” said Jaleel. Jaleel was reacting to the governor’s address earlier mentioning plans to construct memorials of Shivaji, the late Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray and Babasaheb Ambedkar. As Jaleel sat down, other members pounced on him saying he lacked respect for national heroes. That was when BJP MLA Ram Kadam repeatedly asked both AIMIM MLAs to say ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’. To this, Pathan replied, “We will not say Bharat Mata ki Jai. We will say Jai Hind.” Following the episode, the entire assembly stood up against the two MLAs; some even gheraoed the bench where they sat and chanted ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ while calling them “traitors” and “anti-national”.NCP MLA Bhaskar Jadhav said, “They don’t have respect for martyrs who laid down their lives for the country. The nation is of utmost importance. We will not tolerate any insult to the nation. ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ is a national slogan. If they are ashamed to chant the national slogan, they should be suspended. They don’t deserve to sit in this house.” Supporting the demand, BJP MLA Ashish Shelar said, “If raising anti-national slogans is the right to freedom of speech, then we will not support it. His suspension will be a service to the nation.” Revenue minister Eknath Khadse said, “In the past few days, such anti-national slogans were being chanted outside, like in the case of JNU. This is the first time that such a thing has happened inside the house. It’s a black day in the history of the assembly,” said Khadse . Minister of state for parliamentary affairs Ranjit Patil tabled the proposal to suspend Pathan for the remaining days of this session. Pathan has also been barred from entering the premises of Vidhan Bhavan in Mumbai and Nagpur. The proposal was passed unanimously. Meanwhile, Muslim community leaders said the uproar is aimed at diverting attention from the issues JNU students’ union leader Kanhaya Kumar had raised after his release from jail. The leaders also said that uttering ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ is not the proof of patriotism and people should not be forced to raise this slogan as the Constitution doesn’t require it. ….   (Times of India 16/3/16)

Amal Clooney to discuss freedom of expression in India (1)

British human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who is married to Hollywood icon George Clooney, says she is looking forward to her trip to India and is eager to initiate a dialogue on human rights and freedom of expression in the country. Amal, who specialises in international law and human rights, is coming to India to be a part of India Today Conclave 2016 here later this week. She will present the closing argument on the right to dissent and free speech in repressive regimes. “I am thrilled to be returning to India, and to be participating in the Conclave with such a distinguished group of professionals. I look forward to a fruitful and timely discussion on human rights and freedom of expression in India today,” Amal said in a statement. The discussion comes at a time when India is seeing a debate on intolerance and freedom of speech and expression. Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt, who walked a free man 23 years after his legal problems began over his possessing an assault rifle, will also open up on the ‘hard road to freedom’ at the two-day conclave, which begins on Thursday here. Amal will be a part of the second day. The conclave will also feature a number of famous sportspersons, including Abhinav Bindra, MC Mary Kom and Gopichand Pullela, while from the cinema world, famed poet-lyricist Javed Akhtar and his wife, renowned actor Shabana Azmi, as well as comedian-writer Varun Grover will delve into various issues. (Times of India 16/3/16)

25 thousand followers on social media – BJP’s eligibility criteria for ticket in UP polls (1)

Meerut: Well, this one may leave many BJP leaders in the state of Uttar Pradesh stumped. After party chief Amit Shah reportedly told BJP leaders hopeful of getting tickets that their social media presence will be one of the important factors which will determine their suitability for the 2017 Assembly polls in UP, many state members with limited or nil presence on Facebook and Twitter are  in a flux. Shah is also supposed to have encouraged those vying for tickets to have 25,000 followers or likes each. As per a report in the Times of India, BJP’s state president Laxmikant Bajpai has just 10,000 followers on Twitter. On the other hand, Muzaffarnagar riots accused Shamli MLA Suresh Rana has 12,856 followers on Facebook. And BJP MP from Meerut Rajendra Agarwal has 13,957 likes. Kunwar Bhartendra Singh, BJP’s Bijnor MP, does not have a fan page on his Facebook account and has just 2,986 friends. He is not active on Twitter. “The real parameter of a leader’s popularity is gauged by the work he does in his area and not how many followers he has on social media. Besides, a leader serves all sections of society, and not all of them are on social media platforms,” a member was quoted as saying by the Daily. But party’s outgoing state president Laxmikant Bajpai seemed hopeful. As per the report, he seemed confident of achieving the “target in just three months”.Meanwhile, Shamli MLA Suresh Rana was quoted as saying, “I think the statement should not be taken as a burden. Instead, social media is the best way to connect with the youth and it also serves as a barometer of your work. A few days ago, I got a suggestion on FB itself when someone asked me to put up a question in Vidhan Sabha on the way Western UP’s increasingly contaminated groundwater is giving rise to diseases like cancer. I do not have a fan page. The day I have that page, I will also have a minimum of 1 lakh likes.” Bijnor MP Kunwar Bharatendra opined that Shah’s suggestion has been misunderstood. “Shah’s statement was more on a suggestive note because 25,000 followers are minimal to run an election campaign. The message was intended to encourage party workers to strive harder towards increasing public contact,” he said. (Zee News 17/3/16)

Scribe faces arrest over recruitment in ministry (1)

New Delhi: The Mili Gazette journalist, Pushp Sharma, was again questioned by the Delhi police on Wednesday. He had been picked up by the police on Tuesday evening for questioning and was allowed to return home late at night. The police questioned Mr Sharma in connection with a story claiming the Ayush ministry, as per government policy, does not recruit Muslims. Sources said the police was likely to arrest him soon on charges of promoting hatred among communities and for committing forgery for purpose of cheating. A case has already been filed in this connection, based on a complaint lodged by an undersecretary of the Ayush ministry alleging that the RTI responses cited by the journalist in his story were forged. Mr Sharma reached the Kotla Mubarakpur police station at 11 am on Wednesday as per instruction by the police and was still being questioned at the time of filing this report. The Ayush ministry had rubbished the story that appeared on the Milli Gazette newspaper’s website as completely false and an attempt to defame the ministry. The newspaper, however, is supporting its report. They have even uploaded the documents on the newspaper website. “The police had copies of just one RTI reply whereas I had filed for three. When I told them they did not have all the documents, they asked me to come again tomorrow (Wednesday),” Mr Sharma told this newspaper. He also put up a message on the website alleging that his interrogators verbally abused him, shouted at him, questioned the motive behind the story and ask him to name the people backing him. (Asian Age 17/3/16)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

Withdraw cases against Jat youth: Community leaders (7)

CHANDIGARH: Nearly a fortnight after the Jat agitation for quota that snowballed into violence in Haryana, Jat leaders are closing ranks to get the promise of reservation executed by the state government. Members of the All India Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti (AIJASS), a group led by Yashpal Malik, announced that if the state government did not withdraw criminal cases registered against Jat youths during the agitation, it would launch a peaceful agitation across the state. AIJASS members will submit a memorandum to the state government at its district headquarters on March 14, demanding withdrawal of cases registered against Jat youths. They will also ask the state not to arrest anyone without holding a preliminary inquiry about their involvement in incidents of violence from February 17 to 22. A decision to the effect was taken on Tuesday at the Chhotu Ram Dharamshala at Nangloi in Delhi, in which Jat leaders from Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh discussed future course of action.Talking to TOI on Wednesday, AIJASS president Malik said police falsely implicated a large number of Jat youths and so they decided to request the state government to withdraw cases against them. He said if the government failed to take action, a meeting would be held in April to launch a non-cooperation movement by Jats in Haryana. Similar protests in support of their demand will also be organised in UP, Rajasthan and Delhi, he said. As for further strategy, Malik said their main focus is to ensure that all the seven demands of the Jat community, which the Centre agreed to recently, are executed as promised. For this, he said, a committee of senior Jat leaders from across Haryana will meet Union home minister Rajnath Singh, BJP president Amit Shah and the coordination committee of Union ministers requesting them to implement reservation for Jats as per their promise. AIJASS also prepared a formula for implementation of the other backward classes (OBC) quota for the Jat community at the Centre. When asked about the violence during the reservation row, Malik claimed that some politicians, belonging to Gujjar, Saini, Ahir and Punjabi communities of the ruling BJP, were eyeing the post of chief minister in Haryana and had perpetrated communal tension in the state to further ulterior motives. Leaders of those communities in other political parties, including INLD, Congress and BSP, he said, were maintaining brotherhood in the state. In Jhajjar, Rohtak, Bhiwani and Sonipat, a few leaders of the ruling party and officers affiliated with the BJP were involved in triggering incidents of violence, Malik alleged. He also accused a few television channels owned by political leaders of inciting violence. (Times of India 11/3/16)

Riot report begs for answers (7)

The one-man Vishnu Sahai Judicial Commission of Inquiry probing the 2013 Muzaffarnagar communal riots has raised more questions than it has answered. No wonder then that barring the ruling Samajwadi Party, the Commission’s report has been criticised by all political parties. A PIL has already challenged it in the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court. Tabled in the state Assembly on March 6, the 700-page report concludes that Intelligence failure and laxity on the part of police led to the violence that left 62 people dead and almost 50,000 homeless.  It lists 14 main causes for the riots. The state government has also circulated an eight-page Action Taken Report, which is equally baffling. Scrutinising the action of 40 officers, it holds four of them responsible for the riots, namely the then Principal Secretary (Home) RM Srivastava, then Circle Officer of Jansanth in Muzzafarnagar Jagat Ram Joshi, then Muzaffarnagar District Magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma and then Muzaffarnagar SSP Subhash Chandra Dubey. However, it virtually gives a clean chit to three of these four, including Srivastava while stating that he had transferred SSP Manzil Saini after rioting first erupted. It is another matter that it proved to be a costly mistake as the riots spread rapidly while the new SSP, Dubey, took time to become familiar with the lay of the land. The transfer of the top district officials was also been perceived as a step to appease the Muslims, resulting in the spread of violence, points out the commission. Dubey failed to prevent the escalation of riots, was suspended and a departmental inquiry has been re-opened against him. However, there is no mention of the political bosses responsible for the government order pronouncing a change of guard at such a crucial juncture. Similarly, the commission nails a lone Inspector in the Local Intelligence Unit, Prabal Pratap Singh, as prima facie being the main culprit for the widespread and most organised riots in the state in recent memory. Departmental action is being initiated against him. His monumental fault was not accurately assessing the large number of people expected to participate in the September 7, 2013 ‘Bahu-Beti wa Hindu Bachao Mahapanchayat’ at Nagla Madod, where provocative speeches were delivered, accelerating rioting.  In the Action Taken Report, the state government declared that it has sought an explanation from the then DM Kaushal Raj Sharma about the arrangements made to maintain law and order during the mahapanchayat and if the provocative speeches were videographed or recorded. And if not, why not? Thirty months after the ghastly communal violence, an SIT probe and one-man judicial commission later, the state government is still in the dark if the speeches were recorded. Several of these fiery speakers are now honourable members of the Lok Sabha. The most glaring case is perhaps of the BJP MLA from Sardhana in Meerut. The commission report states how on August 27, 2013, “one Shiv Kumar flashed a video on YouTube of an incident (which had no connection with the murders of Sachin and Gaurav) showing it as their murders. On August 29, at 6.21 pm, BJP MLA Sangeet Som shared the video on his Facebook account, which read, Bhai Sab Dekho kya hua Kawal gaon me. On account of this video clip, communal tension on a large scale erupted between the Hindus and Muslims, and at several places incidents of communal violence took place”. Strangely, the commission report does not recommend pressing more charges against Som. It states that a case against Som and 229 others had been registered at Kotwali Muzzafarnagar.  Invoking Article 20 (2) of the Constitution, it asserts that “no person shall be prosecuted and punished for the same offence more than once”. “Hence, no other penal action should be taken against Som and the other political accused”. (The Tribune 14/3/16)

J&K govt wants arrest of all accused in ‘2013 Eid violence’ (7)

Jammu: 2013 communal clashes, communal clashes, kishtwar communal clashes, PM Modi, jitendra singh, riot murder, communla riot murder, india news, nation news Singh (centre) with Kasooru (extreme right) at his houseThe Jammu Kashmir government on Monday sought details of people and the status of cases registered against them in connection with incidents of killings, arson and looting during Eid clashes in Kishtwar district in 2013. Sources said that Kishtwar Deputy Commissioner Ghulam Nabi Balwan held a meeting with Senior Superintendent of Police Sandeep Wazir to discuss the matter. He asked for apprehension of all the accused wanted by police in connection with killings during 2013 communal violence and who have been declared absconders by the court. This followed publication of a story in The Indian Express issue date March 14, 2016 “Wanted for riot murder, J&K BJP leader surfaces at MoS, PMO, house“. Identified as Hari Krishan alias Kasooru of Paddar, the BJP leader had been delcared absconder by Munsiff Kishtwar on November 2, 2013 after police could not arrest him in connnection with the killing of one Lassa Khandey during communal violence in the district. Kasooru along with some senior BJP leaders from the state including three sitting MLAs appeared not only made an appreance at the Delhi residence of Minister of State in the PMO Dr Jitendra Singh, but also posed for a photograph with him on Friday. Others seen rubbing shoulders with him in the photograph included Sunil Sharma, Dileep Parihar and Shakti Parihar, all sitting MLAs from Kishtwar, Bhaderwah and Doda respectively, besides Showkat Daing and Tariq Keen. While Sunil had been minister of state for Revenue and Roads & Buildings in previous Mufti Sayeed led coalition government, Daing and Keen had contested the 2014 assembly elections as BJP candidates in Banihal and Inderwal respectively, but lost. “The law will take its course,” said Kishtwar Senior Superintendent of Police, Sandeep Wazir, who assumed office in the hilly district only four months ago. “I have sought details about the status of cases and also the details of people involved from the investigating officer and also the Senior Public Prosecutor,” he said. Three people were killed and 80 others injured, while property worth crores was razed to ashes during communal violence on Eid in Kishtwar during 2013. Then then Minister of State for Home Sajjad Ahmed Kitchloo, who also happened to be local MLA from the district, resigned from office to pave way for a judicial enquiry into the matter. The then Omar Abdullah government appointed Justice R C Gandhi, a retired High Court judge, as one man inquiry commission who in his report indicted Kitchloo along with some civil and police officers in the matter. While nearly half a dozen people have been arrested in connection with the killings, a large number of people have been declared absconders by the court, he said. Though police parties have been regularly visiting their native places from time to time, they appear to have moved out of the district, SSP said, adding that they will be forming teams to conduct raids at their suspected hideouts elsewhere the state and outside for their apprehension as per warrants issued by the court. (Indian Express 15/3/16)

Stone pelting between communities after ‘eve teasing’ in M’nagar (7)

Meerut: Barely four days after inspector-general of police Navneet Sikera asked Muzaffarnagar police to take strict action against eve teasers and provide all possible aid to victims, police did everything to the contrary, picking up a girl who was allegedly molested and bring her to the police station instead of arresting the accused. Annoyed at alleged police inaction, people gathered at the police station, while stone pelting was also reported between two communities at Naya Bans area of Muzaffarnagar city. It may be mentioned that an incident of alleged eve teasing had snowballed into the deadly communal riots of 2013 in Muzaffarnagar, which had claimed 61 lives. Locals who had come out in support of the victim alleged that shortly after the incident, the police, instead of arresting the alleged culprits, took the girl to the police station. Soon afterwards, a large number of locals also gathered at the police station and began protesting against the alleged inaction of the police. “Our girl was molested and yet it was she who was taken to the police station, while no action was taken against the accused, who still remain at large,” one of the agitators alleged. Meanwhile, seeing the rising anger of the crowd, women constables brought the girl out of the station from the rear. Meanwhile, both communities started pelting stones at each other at Naya Baans locality. There were also unconfirmed reports of gunfire. Superintendent of police (city) Santosh Mishra rushed to the spot immediately along with Kotwali police officials, under whose jurisdiction the area falls. Seeing the situation going out of control, Mishra immediately informed senior officials, following which SSP KB Singh, chief development officer (CDO) Avnish Sharma and additional district magistrate (ADM) Manoj Kumar arrived at the spot and tried to reason with the aggrieved crowd. BJP MLA Kapil Dev Agarwal also reached the spot and asked officers to arrest the accused without delay. SSP KB Singh said that the situation was now under control. “People of both sides have been pacified after being made to understand the gravity of the matter. Taking precautionary measures, adequate police force has been deployed in the area,” he added. Singh said that police were investigating the matter and the accused would be arrested very soon as raids were on at every possible location where they might be found. “We will take strict action against the accused and none will be spared at any cost,” he said. (Times of India 17/3/16)

COMMUNALISM

University Campuses become hotbed of antinational activities: RSS (26)

Nagaur: RSS on Friday disapproved the student union bodies and their political activities on university campuses. Referring the JNU row, it alleged that university campuses are becoming hotbed of antinational activities and asked Central and state governments to take strict action against ant-inational forces that pollute the sanctity of educational institutions.Remarks were made in an annual report presented by the RSS general secretary Bhaiyyaji Joshi during three day meet of Akhil Bhartiya Pratinidhi Sabha (ABPS) in Nagaur district of Rajasthan. It highlighted that subversive activities in certain universities have become a matter of concern. It called for stern action against these forces. “We expect from the Central and State governments to deal strictly with such antinational forces and ensure the sanctity and cultural atmosphere by not allowing educational institutions to become centres of political activities” noted the report.Unapologetic about Centre’s action against the students from Hyderabad University and JNU, RSS pointed that anti-national elements have made universities the centers of their activities for long. RSS asserted that universities are expected to groom patriotic citizens and imparting lessons of unity and integrity. It lashed out at political parties for supporting JNU students who allegedly shouted anti-India slogans. The report also questioned that how in the name of freedom of speech slogans calling for the breaking up of and destruction of nation can be tolerated. Invoking issue of illegal migration across the border before Assam and West Bengal elections, RSS has also set the tone that would become part of elections debates. (Times of India 11/3/16)

Non bailable warrants issued against BJP and VHP leaders in hate speech case (26)

AGRA: The court of Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate (III) on Friday issued non-bailable warrants against BJP leader, Kundanika Sharma, VHP leader, Ashok Lavania and ABVP activist Shashank Chaudhary, who are wanted by police for allegedly delivering hate speeches at the condolence meeting for murdered VHP leader Arun Mahor on February 28. On March 1, police had registered an FIR against the trio under IPC sections 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot) and 295A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) for their speeches at Mahor’s condolence meeting. Mahor was alleged shot dead by one Shahrukh and his four associates on February 25. (Times of India 12/3/16)

BJP’s Subramanian Swamy or VHP’s Pravin Togadia after Singhal? (26)

New Delhi: Among the major decisions the Sangh Parivar top brass has to take at the ongoing Akhil Bhartiya Pratinidhi Sabha (ABPS) meet in Nagaur is to appoint the “successor” of late VHP leader Ashok Singhal, who was considered the “pioneer” of the Ramjanambhoomi movement. Construction of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya remains the top priority of the VHP. Sources disclosed VHP’s international working president and “Hindutva icon” Pravin Togadia or BJP leader Subramanian Swamy could be asked to take up the mantle. Speculation is rife that the Sangh Parivar could also project both as Singhal’s successor, with one looking after the “religious” projects of the VHP while the other will be given the charge of “social” projects. A meeting of Sangh Parivar’s “choti toli (top brass)”, including RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, general secretary Bhaiyya Joshi, BJP president Amit Shah and heads of other prominent parivar affiliates, was held on Thursday and Friday ahead of the inauguration of the ABPS. The issue of Singhal’s successor, it is learnt, came up for discussion. Dr Swamy has been highlighting the Ram Mandir issue and has also written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging initiation of measures to build the temple in AyodhyaMr Shah, sources disclosed, also discussed with the RSS top brass organisation-related issues, including the party’s national executive meet scheduled next week and coordination between the party, government and Sangh Parivar affiliates. With Assembly elections lined up in Kerala and Assam, the issue also came up for discussion with the RSS top brass. RSS has a major influence in both the states. The ABPS meet began by paying homage to Singhal along with other RSS leaders. Homage was also paid to Sujith, the RSS volunteer who was recently hacked to death in Kerala. The ABPS paid homage to late CPI stalwart A.B. Bardhan, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and PDP patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, farmers’ leader Sharad Joshi and Congress stalwart and former Lok Sabha Speaker Balram Jakhar among others. (Asian Age 12/3/16)

VHP to launch a major Ghar Wapsi drive (26)

Gandhinagar: A day after data on religious conversions in the state was placed by the Gujarat government in the assembly, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) demanded strict action against conversion of Hindus by the use of force and economic and other attractions. Government data shows that in the last five years (till March 2015), 1,838 applications for religious conversion were received from across the state, out of which 94.4% applications were from Hindus. These include 1,735 Hindus, 57 Muslims, 42 Christians and 4 Parsis. There were no applications from Sikhs or Buddhists to change their faith. The state government allowed 878 applications to go through. Most applications were from Surat, Rajkot, Porbandar, Ahmedabad, Jamnagar, and Junagadh. Reacting to the figures, Ranchod Bharwad, VHP general secretary, Gujarat, said, “VHP will soon launch a major drive under our ‘Ghar Wapsi’ programme, to bring back Hindus who have converted to other religions. Due to our efforts, the religious conversion propaganda has come down, but we aim to bring it to zero-conversion level through our intensive drive.””Today, many don’t disclose their conversions in Dangs, Ahwa and other parts of the state as they want to continue to enjoy their benefits as SC or ST. The government must intervene to stop this illegality,” Bharwad added. “When VHP raises concerns over the rampant conversion of Hindus in Gujarat and across the country, groups or individuals with vested interests raise their voices and try to paint us with a tarred brush. But the official figures given by the Gujarat government shows the reality. In the last five years, more than 94% of those converting to other religions are Hindus,” Bharwad said. “Despite lot of awareness efforts, the religious conversion of Hindus to other faiths continues whether by force, or by economic and other incentives. We demand strict legal action, against all such NGOs and groups who propagate religious conversion,” he added. (Times of India 17/3/16)

TERRORISM

Killing Rajiv Gandhi was the biggest mistake, admits LTTE leader (12)

Mumbai: Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination was no less than a blunder, confided LTTE’s chief political strategist and negotiator Anton Balasingham, as quoted in a new book ‘To end a civil war’ by Mark Salter. Though the terrorist group’s leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran and intelligence chief Pottu Amman laid off the group’s involvement in the most talked of assassination of the then Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi; however, later on, they admitted the truth before Balasingham. Balasingham shared the covert information with Norway’s former special envoy to Sri Lanka, Erik Solheim. “Perhaps most controversially, in terms of official LTTE policies, Balasingham conceded that the killing of Rajiv Gandhi was the biggest mistake the LTTE had ever made,” said Solheim, as quoted in the book. The book, which runs into 549-pages, gives a comprehensive insight into the plight of the then strife-torn Sri Lanka. Further, it also throws considerable light on how Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination was the biggest blunder undertaken by LTTE. “Gandhi’s assassination was committed out of sheer vengeance by the group’s chief Prabhakaran. The macabre killings of Tamils by Indian troops when they were deployed in Sri Lanka in 1987-90 was the most pertinent reason behind Gandhi’s assassination. The leader’s conviction in the probability of Rajiv Gandhi sending troops to Sri Lanka if Congress came to power in India further consolidated his motives,” reads the book. LTTE has never officially conceded to Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination by a woman suicide bomber. The book also gives an insight into Balasingham’s emotional upheaval immediately after the assassination. According to the book, Bala in his last days, when he was putting up at London, made special efforts for repentance; his affinity for India made him apologise for his misdeeds. Besides, the Norwegian envoy said that when Balasingham was asked about LTTE’s alleged involvement in the assassination case, the Lankan political strategist blurted out the truth without any hesitation. As mentioned in the book, Balasingham warned the envoy of the terror group and suggested him that one should not belittle the power of the organisation as they are capable of undue profanity. ‘Balasingham was very frank with us, including admitting to the LTTE’s mistakes,’ added the envoy. (Asian Age 11/3/16)

Six terrorists involved in Pathankot attack: forensic report (12)

New Delhi: Putting to rest the controversy over the number of terrorists who attacked the Pathankot airbase, a forensic examination has concluded that remains of two more terrorists were found from the debris, thus confirming that six terrorists were involved in the attack. Top government sources said a detailed forensic examination was concluded on the remains collected by the National Investigation Agency from two different locations of the strategic airbase. The forensic test has come to the conclusion that traces of two human beings were found in the remains collected from Pathankot airbase, the sources said. Bodies of four terrorists were recovered immediately after the anti-terror operation was over in the airbase. There have been varying reports over the number of terrorists, suspected to belong to Pakistan-based group Jaish-e-Mohammud, attacking the Pathankot airbase on January 2. While NSG, which had carried out the operation against the terrorists, has said there were six terrorists, NIA, which is probing the case, maintained that they found the bodies of four terrorists and no conclusive evidence was found about any more terrorist’s involvement in the attack. Home Minister Rajnath Singh had said that charred remains, apart from four bodies of terrorists, were found at the debris after security forces searched the spot when the operation ended. (The Hindu 15/3/16)

10 Pak terrorists who sneaked into Gujarat traced, 3 killed: Reports (12)

New Delhi: Ten Pakistani terrorists who sneaked into Gujarat on March 6 have been traced and three of them have been killed by security forces, television channels quoted government sources as saying on Tuesday. Television reports said that Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Naseer Khan Janjua had shared the intelligence inputs with his Indian counterpart, Ajit Doval. The government had rushed National Security Guard commandos to Gujarat on March 6 after intelligence reports said militants had sneaked into the state from Pakistan. The inputs came after a Border Security Force patrolling team recovered an abandoned boat – allegedly from Pakistan — off Koteshwar coast in Kutch. On Tuesday, the television reports said the government sources did not reveal any details on the whereabouts as it could jeopardise the operation to hunt them down. Union home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi could not be contacted despite repeated attempts and a home ministry spokesperson refused to offer any comments. No details were provided on how they were identified or located and which police force was instrumental in neutralising them. No details were also given as to what happened to the dead bodies of the three alleged attackers who have been neutralised. Top intelligence sources also denied knowledge about such an operation being conducted against alleged suicide attackers. Gujarat’s long coastline renders it vulnerable to infiltration from the sea route – the land border with Pakistan is fenced. The terror alert brings back memories of the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, where 10 extremists reached India’s financial capital on a boat from Pakistan and launched strikes that killed 166 people. The terrorists are reportedly members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba or LeT and Jaish-e-Mohammed or JeM. Pakistan’s disclosure about the men is seen as an attempt to prove it is genuine in its offer to prevent India from attacks planned across the border. In January, seven military personnel were killed in a deadly assault by Pakistani terrorists at the air force base in Pathankot in Punjab, where military high-value assets including fighter jets are stationed. India has agreed to a visit by Pakistani investigators assigned to examine the evidence at the air force base by Pakistani Prime Minister Nazwaz Sharif. (Hindustan Times 16/3/16)

Assamese militant, 2 others held for abducting Bhutanese nationals (12)

Bengaluru: The police identified the suspects as Boben Mushai, (43), a member of NDFB, Jelson Basumathri, (20), and Narswan Narjari, (25), all natives of Assam. The trio was residing in a makeshift shed in Bidarahalli. They had come down to Bengaluru a few days ago and were living under fake identities, working as helpers in a market in Avalahalli. DH file photo. For representation purpose The Central Crime Branch (CCB) of the Bengaluru police, along with the Assam state police, arrested three men, including a member of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), from a shed in Bidarahalli, off KR Puram, on Tuesday, in connection with the kidnapping of two Bhutanese nationals. The police identified the suspects as Boben Mushai, (43), a member of NDFB, Jelson Basumathri, (20), and Narswan Narjari, (25), all natives of Assam. The trio was residing in a makeshift shed in Bidarahalli. They had come down to Bengaluru a few days ago and were living under fake identities, working as helpers in a market in Avalahalli. The police said the three men were part of an eight-member gang. A couple of days ago, the Assam police arrested NDFB members Birmul, Phakum, Jibon, Manam Basumatri and Ansul Mushai, son of Boben Mushai, in Assam, and seized Rs 3.80 lakh from them. They were arrested for kidnapping Ajith Rai, 16, son of a pig farm owner in Bhutan, and Bhol Bahadur Saab, 26, a helper at the farm. On February 22, at around 8.30 pm, the gang kidnapped Rai and Saab who were on their way to feed the pigs. They threatened the duo with a countrymade pistol and Kukri knives and warned them not to raise an alarm. The duo was taken to Chirang district near the India-Bhutan border, confined to a small room for five days and physically tortured. They made a ransom call to Rai’s father and demanded Rs 20 lakh (Indian currency) and threatened to kill his son and the helper if he did not pay up. Rai’s father went to a spot near the India-Bhutan border as directed by the abductors and gave them the money after which they released Rai and Saab. On March 7, Rai’s father went to the Sidli police station in Chirang and registered a complaint, added the police. “The Assam police launched a manhunt for the abductors and arrested five of them, while three of them fled to Bengaluru by train. During interrogation, the police got to know their mobile phone numbers. They checked the call detail records and found that the trio was in Avalahalli in Bengaluru,” said an investigating officer. The Assam police informed Bengaluru Police Commissioner N S Megharikh about the hideout and the latter handed over the case to the CCB who traced the trio’s residential location. “The CCB officers were keeping a watch on them and, in the meanwhile, the Assam police also arrived and together they raided the shed and arrested them. Another person is absconding and efforts are on to nab him,” said the officer. In 2015, Boben Mushai was booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, and Birmul, Phakum and Jibon were arrested for their involvement in NDFB activities and released on bail. (Deccan Herald 16/3/16)

German bakery blast: Life sentence for Himayat Baig (12)

Mumbai, Mar. 17 : The Bombay High Court on Thursday quashed the death penalty for Himayat Baig, the mastermind of the 2010 Pune German Bakery blast case and sentenced him to life for possession of explosives. However, Baig has been acquitted of all charges under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act Speaking to ANI exclusively after his hearing he said that he has been made a ‘scapegoat’ and that he has been ‘framed’ in the case. Earlier, Baig had alleged threat to his life and said he had been attacked in Yerwada prison in Pune. Baig’s father, accompanied by members of a Muslim rights group, Mulnivasi Muslim Manch, had submitted a letter to the authorities at Yerwada police station on Sunday on behalf of Baig, requesting that he be immediately shifted out of the Yerwada prison. President of Mulnivasi Muslim Manch, Anjum Inamdar, said Baig feared that he may be murdered like Indian Mujahideen operative, Qateel Siddiqui, who was found murdered in his cell in June 2012. Baig was arrested in Pune on September 7, 2010. He was arrested after the investigators found 1,200 kg of explosives from his home in Udgir in Latur district. (New Kerala 18/3/16)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

17 naxals surrender in Chhattisgarh; three others held (12)

Raipur: Seventeen naxal cadres, including a woman, surrendered before police in Kondagaon district of insurgency-hit Bastar region today. In a separate incident in the same region, three ultras, carrying reward of Rs 3 lakh each, were arrested by the police from Dantewada district. “The 17 cadres, all lower-rung members of the outlawed CPI (Maoist), turned themselves in before senior police officials in Kondagaon district,” KondagaonSuperintendent of Police JS Watti told PTI. They were active as naxal jan-militia members in different parts of the district, the SP said. Theultras confessed they were frustrated with the high-handedness of senior cadres, particularly from Andhra Pradesh, and by exploitation of the women and of those belonging to lower rank, Watti said. Besides, they were also impressed with the surrender policy of the Chhattisgarh government, he said. “Theywill berehabilitated as per the policy of state government and necessary assistance will be provided to them,” the officer said. In another incident, three Maoists, carrying a reward of Rs 3 lakh each on their head, were arrested from Dantewada. The rebels were apprehended by a joint squad of the District Reserve Group (DRG) and local police from Barsoor police station area, a police official said. They are identified as Baman Podiyami (30), Mani Poyam (27) and Budhu Barsa (25). The trio was active as military platoon members in Indravati Area Committee of Abhujmad region, he added. (Business Standard 10/3/16)

2 BSF men killed, 4 injured in Naxal encounter in Chhattisgarh (12)

RAIPUR: Two BSF jawans were on Saturday killed while four others injured in a Naxal encounter in Chhattisgarh’s Kanker district. The encounter broke out early today between a Border Security Force patrol and armed Naxal cadres near the Chhotebethiya-Pakhanjore jungle axis of the Maoist violence- hit district, officials said. “While two jawans have been martyred in the exchange of fire, four others have been injured,” they said. Skirmish took place at around 2:30 am when a composite squad of BSF and district force was on a special operation in the interior forests of Bande police station area of the district, Kanker Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Jayant Vaishnav said over phone. A joint squad of BSF’s 117th and 122nd battalion along with district force had launched the anti-Naxal operation from Chhotebethiya camp of BSF in Pakhanjore region – located around 300 kms away from the state capital, the DSP said, adding that when the security forces reached near a river in the dense forest of Becha village, Naxals opened indiscriminate firing on them, leaving six jawans injured. Two succumbed to their injuries while being airlifted to Raipur and four other injured have been shifted to Raipur and admitted at Ramkrishna Care Hospital, Vaishnav said. The deceased jawans have been identified as Vijay Kumar and Rakesh Nehra, while the injured are Manoj Kumar, S Thomson, Jagdish K and Bappa D. According to police, ultras attacked on security personnel as a part of a one-day Bastar-bandh call today. The bandh call was given by the naxals in protest against the alleged fake encounter and surrender of tribals in the region, according to posters pasted on the walls in different places. (Times of India 12/3/16)

Odisha police to intensify combing operations against Maoists (12)

Bhawanipatna: With Left-wing extremists (LWEs) extending their activities in the tribal-dominated Kalahandi district in the State, the Odisha Police on Saturday said it would intensify combing operation and also ensure development of certain areas. This was stated by Director General of Police K. B. Singh after reviewing the Maoist situation with Superintendents Police of Kalahandi, Nuapada, Bolangir and Nawarangpur districts here today. Among senior police officials Additional DG Arun Sarangi, Sunil Ray, Santosh Kumar Upadhaya, IG Intelligence D. S. Kute and DIG S. Saine also attended the review meeting. Admitting that LWE activities have increased in Kalahandi and Nuapada region in the recent time, the DGP said steps are being taken to intensify combing operation and welfare activities as well in the Maoist-infested areas. Out of 13 blocks of Kalahandi, movement of Maoist cadres were witnessed in 10 blocks. However, the situation is acute in tribal pockets in Thuamul Rampur and Lanjigarh blocks, the DGP said claiming that the red radicals are gradually losing their hold over the areas due to intensified combing operation by CRP and SOG. “Maoist cadres are now defensive and desperate,” the DGP said. The DGP said some cadres of the CPI(Maoist) operating in the region have already surrendered before police. – PTI (The Hindu 13/3/16)

Chhattisgarh: 128 Naxals, 100 policemen killed in 543 encounters in last 3 years (12)

Raipur: Chhattisgarh government on Monday said 128 Naxals and 100 policemen were killed in gun battles over the last three years in the state. In a written reply to a question raised by Congress MLA Deepak Baij, state Panchayat Minister Ajay Chandrakar, who is in-charge of the Home department, said, “543 encounters took place between police and Naxalites from 2013 till January 2016 in the Maoist-affected districts of Chhattisgarh.” 128 Naxals were killed while 100 security personnel also lost their lives in the gun battles. Besides, 210 security personnel and eight Naxals were injured in the exchanges of gunfire, he said. A maximum of 52 Naxals were gunned down in Bijapur, where 14 security personnel also lost their lives during this period. Also, 48 policemen and 29 Naxals were killed in Sukma district, the minister said. Moreover, a total of 852 Naxal cadres surrendered in the state in the last three years and a sum of Rs 149.37 lakh was given to them as relief aid. Besides, 20 of them were also given government jobs, he said. Chhattisgarh has been battling the Naxal menace to tackle for over three decades. Central armed police forces, including CRPF, BSF, ITBP and SSB, have been deployed in the state. (Indian Express 14/3/16)

Naxals evict 21 families from village (12)

Raipur: Maoists on Sunday evicted 21 tribal families of their homes in Abujhmad area in Chhattisgarh’s south Bastar district of Narayanpur, accusing them of spying for the police. In another development, security forces gunned down a suspected Naxal in an encounter in south Bastar district of Sukma. According to the police, 21 tribal families hailing from Pikumeta village under Abujhmad area, a Maoist-stronghold, fled their homes following threats by Naxals to eliminate them. “The panic-stricken tribals who numbered 44, fled their village following an ultimatum issued to them by the Naxals to leave the area. The ultras suspected the innocent tribals as police informers. The displaced families have now been camping in district headquarters town of Narayanpur,” local sub-divisional police officer (SDPO) C.D. Tirkey told this newspaper. He, however, said the displaced families have absolutely nothing to do with the police. Meanwhile, three low-ranked Naxals carrying a reward of Rs 10,000 each on their heads surrendered before the Narayapur police. (Asian Age 14/3/16)

TRAFFICKING

‘Changemakers’ to fight trafficking (1)

Ranchi: A group of 150 youth took an oath to fight human trafficking at a national convention against human trafficking organized by the Jharkhand State Legal Services Authority (Jhalsa) and Association for Social and Human Awareness (ASHA) on Wednesday. The youth, who belong to major trafficking hubs of the state, including Ranchi, Khunti, Gumla, Lohardaga and Saraikela, have been called “changemakers”. The young men and women have been entrusted with the task of going back to their respective villages to spread awareness about laws against trafficking as well as safe migration.Of the 150 changemakers, a few of them have been victims of trafficking and bonded labour in the past. Shanti Kumari (name changed), a trafficking survivor and changemaker said, “I was taken to Delhi by my aunt when I was 15. She said I would earn a lot of money in the home where I worked as the domestic help. The reality was different, I was not given food and was beaten regularly. I was not even paid.” Kumari managed to flee and returned home with the help of a few NGOs. “It took me a while to recover from the trauma. I have decided to fight against the system and save my sisters from meeting the same fate. I will work with ASHA to bring a change in society,” Shanti said. ASHA conducted a survey in two panchayats each of Khunti and Ranchi annd found out that around 55 girls who were taken out of the state for “work” had been missing for the last three-four years. The four panchayats surveyed were Lalkhatanga and Maguban in Ranchi and Bakuli and Chikor in Khunti. ASHA’s Ajay Jaiswal believes that the changemakers will bring about a difference at the grassroots level. “We have tied up with Jhalsa to spread awareness about trafficking. People tend to concentrate on bringing back the trafficking victims, but there is hardly any discussion on ways to prevent trafficking. These changemakers will help spread awareness at the grassroots level,” said Jaiswal. Jhalsa secretary Santosh Kumar said the legal authority will be organizing legal awareness camps and distribute material in a bid to curb trafficking and promote safe migration. (Times of India 10/3/16)

Only 32 punished under POCSO, ITPA in 10 yrs (1)

Patna: Altogether 1,363 cases under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) and Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act (ITPA) have been registered in 21 districts of Bihar in the last 10 years. Only 11 victims could get compensation and 32 persons have been convicted in such cases during this period. Total 175 victims, who are entitled to compensation, are still waiting for it, according to information received by Bihar State Legal Service Authority (BLSA) through RTI. The RTI was filed on January 29, 2016. Only 21 out of the 38 districts have sent their reply. There is one-month time limit for sending reply under the RTI. The districts which responded to the RTI are Buxar, Jehanabad, Muzaffarpur, Gopalganj, Kishanganj, Lakhisarai, Khagaria, Patna, Begusarai, East Champaran, West Champaran, Nawada, Kaimur, Rohtas, Seohar, Siwan, Vaishali, Munger, Darbhanga, Gaya and Purnia. Patna has the highest number of cases (234) under POCSO and ITPA. But, surprisingly, Patna police could neither rescue any victim nor anyone was convicted in the district. Police sources said border districts like Purnia, Katihar, East Champaran and West Champaran are prone to human trafficking. Patna is followed by West Champaran with 171 cases, Gaya 127 and Purnia 111 cases under both the Acts in the last 10 years. The RTI report reveals that compared to other districts, Jehanabad performed well in conviction of culprits and providing compensation to the victims. Seven cases were lodged in Jehanabad. Seven victims were rescued, six criminals convicted and two victims were given compensation. Apart from Jehanabad, one victim in Gopalganj, four in Siwan, three in Darbhanga and one in Vaishali got compensation. The BSLSA had asked through the RTI about the preventive measures being taken to control crime under ITPA and POCSO. The districts replied that the BSLSA spreads awareness through Doordarshan and officials concerned stop such crime. Section 357A of the CrPC says if the offender is not traced, but the victim is identified and where no trial takes place, the victim or his dependants may file an application to the state or the district legal services authority for awarding compensation.Varsha Jawalgekar, a social worker who has been working for the compensation to and rehabilitation of victims of acid attack and crime under the two Acts, said, “The compensation is the right of each victim who suffered sexual offence. It is under the law. There is compensation for victims even if the offenders are not traced,” said Jawalgekar. (Times of India 15/3/16)

Supreme Court orders protection from trafficking for adopted children (1)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court of India has ordered the government to draw up strong guidelines for screening and tracking adoptions after a charity appealed for a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into allegations that adopted children were being abused. Parliament passed a law in January aimed at streamlining the adoption of orphaned and abandoned children, but the rules have not yet been framed by the responsible body, the Central Adoption Research Agency, CARA. “We hope and trust the authorities concerned take speedy steps. Children are to be protected against abuse and trafficking,” a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Tirath Singh Thakur said on Monday. “The interest of children, whether it is intra-country or inter-country adoptions, has to be protected. The process of adoption has to be transparent. It should ensure welfare of the child,” the court order said, adding that guidelines must be drawn up within three months. The court issued the order after the Bangalore-based Advait Foundation alleged the existence of child adoption rackets involving both Indian and foreign adoption agencies. Kunal Cheema, a lawyer representing the charity, said it wanted the court to order the CBI to probe such rackets, but the court dismissed the plea, asking for specific evidence. “To prevent the infringement of the fundamental right to life of millions of Indian children, who have become amenable to kidnapping or abandonment, a thorough impartial CBI probe is required,” Cheema told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Government data show that 4,362 Indian children were adopted within and outside the country in the year to end-March 2015. (Hindustan Times 16/3/16)

Women and child trafficking rising: Goa study (1)

PANAJI: Goa has become a source as well as transit destination for trafficking of women and children for sex trade with girls from 14 States, apart from some neighbouring countries, being trafficked here over the last three years, say studies conducted by non-governmental agencies. Arun Pande, Director of ARZ, an NGO which works for the rehabilitation of trafficked women and children, says that girls from the north-east, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and other countries, and from vulnerable sections of society, are lured to Goa in the guise of employment in massage parlours, casinos, hospitality segments, etc, and then exploited in sex-trade. The NGO, which has conducted studies on trafficking in India, is networked with other NGOs and government agencies involved in resolving the issue. He said that it was a huge, well-organised network, and called for stringent laws and implementation of such laws to contain the menace. He said that nearly 100 girls on an average are rescued from Goa every year, but that is hardly around 10 per cent of the number of girls trafficked in the sex industry. As there are no concerted efforts from NGOs, law and order agencies, various licensing authorities under tourism trade, and stakeholders of tourism like taxi operators and society at large, the problem is getting aggravated. “Goa is getting established as a market for sex tourism, especially among domestic tourists. Maverick Fernandes of Church-affiliated Centre for Responsible Tourism said that foreigners were also found to be indulging in child sex. A recent reply from the State police to a query under Right to Information Act revealed that in Calangute, north-coastal Goa’s leading tourist village, the police had rounded up 560 touts involved in illegal activities and filed criminal cases against them for sex crime and trafficking between 2014-15. Most of these touts are from Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, UP, Bihar, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Chennai, Kerala and Delhi. Police say that they raid the places on getting information and touts are arrested while girls are rescued with the help of NGOs and sent to rehabilitation centres of the government. The Crime Branch, headed by the Superintendent of Police, has been actively working on this problem though all police stations, according to law, are supposed to be working to tackle the menace in their jurisdiction, say NGOs. Police sources in the Crime Branch told The Hindu on Sunday that most of these people work online as bookings are made via the Internet. The Crime Branch arrests them, books cases against them, but they keep changing their spots when on bail, said a police source on condition of anonymity. (The Hindu 21/3/16)

CORRUPTION

Kolkata Port Trust chairman held on bribery charge (5)

KOLKATA: A city court on Thursday remanded Kolkata Port Trust chairman Rajpal Singh Kahlon in police custody for seven days for allegedly accepting a bribe of Rs. 20 lakh. He was arrested by the Kolkata Police and the anti-corruption wing of the Central Bureau of Investigation from a city hotel on Wednesday. “KoPT chairman Rajpal Singh Kahlon and D.D. Jagtap Dattaji, Director of Bharat Calcutta Containers Terminal Limited, were arrested for making over and accepting illegal gratification of Rs. 20 lakh,” a police officer said. Port Trust officials told The Hindu that the Shipping Ministry had instituted an investigation against Mr. Kahlon in 2014 for financial irregularities. The Ministry asked him to explain whether the rates charged by handling agents were approved by the Board of Trustees of the port. Mr. Kahlon, however, had told The Hindu that all questions from the Ministry had been answered. (The Hindu 11/3/16)

Maharashtra Sadan scam: Chhagan Bhujbal appears before Enforcement Directorate (5)

MUMBAI: Senior NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal apeared before the office of Enforcement Directorate (ED) on March 14 to record his statement in Rs 870 crore money laundering case connected with the Maharashtra Sadan scam. Last week, ED had issued summon asking Bhujbal to appear before them for questioning. The local police deployed heavy bandobast in the area anticipating that NCP supporters may try to create ruckus in the area. The police issued an order across the city, prohibiting assembly of five or more persons.The ED had arrested Bhujbal’s nephew and former Member of Parliament Sameer in the case on February 1, under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). They want to interrogate Bhujbal about the money trail that they suspect Bhujbals received as kickbacks from the RTO land deal. Sameer is in jail custody presently. The ED had earlier questioned Bhujbal’s MLA son Pankaj in the case. ED had tightened their grip on Bhujbal after state anti-corruption bureau (ACB) had filed a chargesheet against him recently for forgery, cheating, breach of trust, criminal conspiracy and under the Prevention of Corruption act. The ED translated the chargesheet into English and after detail examination they prepared a questionnaire for Bhujbal. They want to question Bhujbal about the suspicious money transactions. The ED will decide their further course of action against Bhujbal based on his replies, said a source.ED officials earlier stated that Bhujbal family paid cash to various individuals and entities, who returned the money by cheque by purchasing shares of the Bhujbal companies at a high premium. ED recorded confessional statement of various witnesses who admitted that they had collected cash from Bhujbals and returned the money through cheques. The ED officials earlier informed the special court that Bhujbals received funds through criminal activities and created bogus entities to channelize the money. … (Times of India 14/3/16)

TMC ‘bribe sting’ rocks Parliament, Opposition calls leaders ‘chor’ (5)

New Delhi/Kolkata: Ahead of the West Bengal Assembly polls, a sting operation showing leaders of ruling Trinamool Congress taking bribes, rocked the Parliament on Tuesday with Opposition demanding stern action against the leaders. Congress and Left leaders demanded high-level probe into the matter. CPI(M) lawmaker Mohammed Salim was seen shouting that TMC lawmakers are ‘chor’. TMC led by chief minister Mamata Banerjee has been put in a tight corner with its ministers and MPs caught in a sting operation for allegedly accepting bribes from a fictitious import-export company. The TMC has, however, denied the charge and claimed the videos were “doctored”. A news portal’s “sting” operation alleged that three West Bengal ministers, some MPs and MLAs had allegedly accepted bribes from a fictitious import-export company. The news portal, Narada News, released the tape of the operation, which it claimed to have conducted over the last two years at a news conference in New Delhi on Monday. The tape purportedly shows the ministers and legislators taking cash, said to be around Rs 5 lakhs each, in return for favours such as lobbying for a fictitious company “Impex Consultancy”. A journalist from the portal claimed to be a representative of the company to seek help from them. The TMC was quick to dismiss the tapes as “doctored” and said the “dirty tricks departments” of its political rivals were behind the “smear campaign”. However, the BJP demanded the resignation of Mamata Banerjee and the CPI(M) sought President’s Rule in the state in the wake of the news portal’s “sting” operation. In a video statement, Trinamool MP Derek O’Brien said the party had seen the video which he described as a “smear” campaign against it. He threatened to sue the portal for defamation. “We are completely transparent. (Chief minister) Mamatadi’s credentials are impeccable. The people of Bengal know. We are busy with elections now. So whoever has concocted this smear campaign, please go ahead and concoct your smear campaign or your doctored video,” he said. “Where these videos came from, who doctored these videos … will now be put to (test) in a defamation case. We are not bothered. This is a smear campaign. Our political opponents know they cannot defeat us politically, so they create a cheap tricks department, a dirty tricks department,” said Mr O’Brien. Journalist Mathew Samuel of the news portal, who led the team that conducted the “sting”, termed the release of the video before the Assembly polls as a “mere coincidence”. He said he had no political backing. The video, which triggered a major political storm in poll-bound West Bengal, could not have surfaced at a worse time for the ruling TMC. BJP national secretary Siddharth Nath Singh showed the 24-minute-long video at the party office in Kolkata only hours before the arrival of the full bench of the Election Commission in the city. The video showed Trinamool Congress vice-president Mukul Roy, MPs Saugata Roy, Sultan Ahmed, Suvendu Adhikari, Prasun Banerjee and Kakali Ghosh Dastidar, state ministers Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee, MLA Iqbal Ahmed, Kolkata mayor Sovan Chatterjee, former state transport minister and Saradha scam accused Madan Mitra, former Burdwan SP H.M.S. Mirza and other TMC leaders accepting wads of currency notes from a fake consulting firm to allow it to set up a company in West Bengal. “Chief minister Mamata Banerjee must step down immediately. She has no business to remain in the post even for few days before the election. Her party and leaders are neck-deep in corruption and we are writing a letter to the director of the CBI asking the agency to investigate the matter,” Singh said. He claimed that the TMC-led West Bengal government had broken all records in corruption. The video showed the TMC leaders and the police officer accepting bribes of around Rs 73 lakhs from the fake consultancy firm. Around Rs 4 lakhs to Rs 5 lakhs was used in each transaction, with the exception of Roy, who was offered Rs 20 lakhs. However, Roy could not be seen taking any money (Asian Age 15/3/16)

Speaker sends TMC bribery sting case to ethics panel (5)

New Delhi: Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan on Wednesday referred the bribery allegations against TMC MPs to the ethics committee of the House, observing that it had impacted Parliament’s credibility even as the sting operation rocked RS on Wednesday .  These allegations are very serious in nature and seek to impact upon the very credibility of parliamentarians and Parliament as an institution and therefore need to be examined,” said Mahajan. Her comments came a day after BJP, Congress and CPM raised the issue in LS. Five TMC MPs were purportedly caught in a sting accepting cash to lobby for a fake consultancy firm. The matter has been referred to the L K Advani-led 15-member panel. “Keeping in view the extreme gravity of the matter, I have in exercise of my powers under the provisions of Rule 233B of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in LS decided to refer the matter to the committee on ethics for examination, investigate and report,” she said. However, TMC MP Saugata Roy later strongly protested the decision, saying it was “unilateral and one-sided”. If it becomes a practice, anybody will do a sting against members and inquiry would be ordered on such “unverified” contents, he contended. The sting relates to April 2014, he argued, and suggested hat it dates prior to the constitution of this LS. Roy is likely o write to the Speaker for a re view of the decision. He is likely to give the same reasons he talked about in the House, but TMC’s contention is that “it is a BJP-Left conspiracy” that has pushed for the move and he Speaker has accepted it. … (Times of India 17/3/16)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

Twenty recycling plants coming up along Ganga: Nitin Gadkari (9)

New Delhi: The government is putting in “massive efforts” to conserve ecology that include setting up of 20 water recycling plants along the Ganga and create huge employment opportunities, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari on Saturday said. “We are committed to conserving ecology. By developing waterways, we can save the environment and minimise pollution … Ganga is a subject close to people’s hearts. We have started huge work on the Ganga. We are making 20 water recycling plants along the river,” Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Minister Gadkari said. Addressing the World Cultural Festival, organised by the Art of Living Foundation in New Delhi, the minister said the government has decided to use this water from recycling plants at 13 railway stations and refinery in Mathura, besides 13 power projects. “Recycling of water will be done and used for industry… The environment issues are very important and I feel we are very much progressive and development oriented. Eradication of poverty is our mission through creation of huge jobs,” Gadkari said. Parliament’s nod to convert 111 rivers across the country into waterways is a “revolutionary step” and paves the way for utilisation of 35,000 km of waterways in the country for sustainable development. Gadkari felt that harnessing waterways will minimise pollution while reducing high logistical charges, adding that apart from waterways, the government is focusing on converting “waste into wealth” and has given nod to 8 per cent plastic usage in tar for building roads. Besides, iron ore slag is used for road construction and use of bio CNG, bio-diesel, electric and environment-friendly fuel is being promoted to cut down on huge Rs 8 lakh crore crude import bill per annum. In Nagpur alone, the government will have 100 buses on bio-CNG and another 50 running on ethanol. Bio-digesters, the minister said, will be used in Delhi to convert its waste into bio-fuel, stressing that completion of eastern and western bypasses along with highway projects worth Rs 30,000 crore will decongest traffic in Delhi by 50 per cent in two years while significantly reducing pollution. “Conversion of knowledge into wealth as well as conversion of waste into wealth is our mission. By these two missions, we can make the life of people a sustainable one,” Gadkari said. He also let out that the government will soon take the length of National Highways to 2 lakh km so that it can bear 80 per cent of the total road traffic. At present, the NHs have a length of only about 1 lakh km out of a total 52 lakh km roads and carry 40 per cent of the traffic. He said government is also spending Rs 11,000 crore to fix 767 black spots as India accounted for a huge 5 lakh road accidents per annum, in which 1.5 lakh people lost their lives while another 3 lakh were left maimed. (Indian Express 12/3/16)

Villagers oppose move to permit quarrying (9)

PATHANAMTHITTA:  The People’s Action Council has taken strong exception to a move by the grama panchayat to permit resumption of granite quarrying on the environmentally fragile Chembanmudy hill in Naranamoozhy panchayat in Ranni taluk. Action council convener Shaji Pathalil told The Hindu that the panchayat had decided to seek legal opinion on the request submitted by a quarry owner to resume granite quarrying at Chembanmudy. Mr. Shaji the panchayat’s move to consider the request to resume granite quarrying at Chembanmudy, in violation of various laws and rules pertaining to it as well as Western Ghats protection, was an anti-environment and anti-people act. Chembanmudimala, stands 3,825 ft. above mean sea level. The unabated illegal operation of two giant granite quarries and crusher units in this environmentally fragile hilly tracts for about a decade was brought to a halt three years ago following strong public protest against it. The hazardous silica dust flying from the quarry also posed a major health hazard in the locality. There was a rise in incidence of cancer as well as skin and and lung ailments in the Chembaoly-Vakamukku areas . The villagers had organised themselves and resorted to direct action to protect themselves from the ill-effects of the illegal granite quarries and crusher units following the alleged denial of justice to them by the people’s representatives as well as the official machinery three years ago. Mr. Shaji said an expert team attached to the Geological Survey of India had categorically stated in 2013 that no granite quarrying should be permitted at Chembanmudy without attending to the future threats and corrective measures. During his visit to the affected area in 2013, Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel chairman Madhav Gadgil too had strongly opposed quarrying at Chembanmudy (The Hindu 13/3/16)

Delhi to join 10th Earth Hour on March 19 (9)

New Delhi: As part of efforts to spread the message of energy conservation, Delhiites will join a billion people in over 6,000 cities across the globe to observe the Earth Hour this Saturday by switching off electrical appliances between 8.30 PM and 9.30 PM. Power distribution companies (discoms) in the city are gearing up for 10th edition of the event by sending text messages on mobile phones and memos to individual households, Residents’ Welfare Associations (RWAs), business houses and communities urging them to switch off all lights for an hour to conserve energy. BSES said it has appealed to its over 37 lakh customers to unequivocally support the event and voluntarily switch off non-essential electrical appliances on March 19 for an hour starting 8:30 PM. “BSES has been an active crusader of climate conducive initiatives in its operations, as we realise that climate change and global warming are growing international concern,” a spokesperson for the discom said in a press release. As the Earth Hour coincides with the India-Pakistan match in ongoing T20 World Cup, BSES urged Delhiites to cheer for India while observing the Earth Hour. “One can do this by watching the match with friends and family collectively at one place, with the non-essential lights switched off between 8.30 PM -9.30 PM,” the spokesperson said. Last year Delhi saved around 200 MW (124 MW in BSES area). On their part, BRPL and BYPL will also switch off all non-essential lights at their over 400 offices, spread across an area of around 950 sq kms, during the appointed hour. Earth Hour is an annual international event created by WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature/World Wildlife Fund) that urges households and business establishments across the world to turn off their non-essential lights and electrical appliances for an hour at the appointed time to raise awareness towards the need to take action on climate change. In India, the focus of the campaign this year is on the potential of solar energy as a viable and renewable source of power. The campaign is being endorsed this year by cricketer Shikhar Dhawan. BSES said it is trying to reach out to maximum number of people through various platforms including its monthly newsletter which goes to over 34 lakhs customers. The information about the annual event is also available on the discom’s website, it said. (Zee News 16/3/16)

NGT seeks Centre’s response on plea to ban microplastics (9)

NEW DELHI: Use of microbeads as “scrubbers” in cosmetics products are being released into the natural environment and potentially made available to organismsOur desire for a squeaky clean skin could be polluting the environment and even hampering our health by entering into the food chain with microbeads/microplastics now being identified as the “tiny’’ pollutants that we need to watch-out for. In an application seeking a ban of these pollutants the National Green Tribunal earlier this week issued notices to the Union health, environment and water resources ministries seeking their comments on what has been done to identify and curb this growing threat. Lawyer Sumeer Sodhi on whose behalf the case has been filed is also seeking that fines be imposed on defaulting companies causing environmental pollution by the use/ manufacture/ import/ sale of various cosmetic/personal care products containing microbeads/microplastics. “There is no way of effectively removing microplastic contamination once it is in the environment. Causing severe water pollution, what adds to the problem is the unregulated production and usage of plastics in microbeads,” he said adding, there is an ongoing international campaign for ban of usage of plastic microbeads. Explaining the rampant use and danger, Mr. Sodhi said: “There is growing evidence that the amount of microplastics in marine waters is increasing with unknown ecotoxicological consequences. It was also reported about the use of microbeads used as “scrubbers” in cosmetics products are being released into the natural environment and potentially made available to organisms. Ingestion of microplastics has been reported for a wide range of marine organisms including deposit and suspension feeders, crustaceans, fish, marine mammals, and seabirds.” (The Hindu 17/3/16)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

310 farmers committed suicide in Chhattisgarh in three years (20)

Raipur: As many as 310 farmers committed suicide in Chhattisgarh in the last three years, Revenue Minister Premprakash Pandey informed the state Assembly on Wednesday. In a written reply to a question by Congress’s Amarjeet Bhagat, he gave district-wise break-up of farmers’ suicides between January 1, 2013 and January 31, 2016. The maximum number of suicides were reported in Surguja district (102), followed by Bemetara (65), Kabirdham (42), Janjgir-Champa (33), Raigarh (24), Rajnandgaon (16), Balod (9), Raipur (6), Balodabazar (4), Dhamtari (3), Mahasamund (2) and one each in Bastar, Kondagaon, Korba and Durg. (Times of India 10/3/16)

58 Farmer Suicides in AP, 342 in Telangana (20)

NEW DELHI: An Agriculture Ministry report has suggested that 58 farmers committed suicide in Andhra Pradesh last year, while 342 ended their lives in newly formed Telangana. Karnataka, where business tycoon Vijay Mallya’s business empire is mainly based, witnessed an average suicide of eight farmer per month in 2015. In the ministry’s latest figure for 2016, 57 farmers have committed suicide till February 18, which means one life per day. The ministry has noted that several new initiatives have been taken to focus on farmer’s welfare by making farming viable. There are, however, no details on whether the government is considering loan waiver or restructuring of the loans. At present, loan is available to farmers at an interest rate of 7% per annum, which only gets reduced to 4% if there is prompt repayment. But government banks had no such condition in restructuring Mallya’s debt to the tune of `7,000 crore in 2011. State-owned United Bank of India had, in fact, given up hope to recover hundreds of crores from Mallya. A letter written by the government-constituted task force, Vasantrao Naik Sheti Swavalamban Mission (VNSSM), to Prime Minister Narendra Modi also shows fraudulent practices by nationalised and cooperative banks, adding to the woes of the farmers. It said Joint Liabilities Groups (JLG) of farmers have been formed in collusion with some agro process corporate/ industries by preparing fraudulent and forged documents in the name of farmers to receive loans from the banks.“Amount of such disbursement has been pocketed directly by such so-called agro process corporate/ industries, which are direct beneficiaries of amounts to the tune of several crore of rupees,” VNSSM’s letter to Modi said. Field inspection by the government task force shows that most of the banks are able to meet the target through this modus operandi but such lending amounts have been siphoned off by the corrupt persons involved therein and entire blame is mounted on the heads of farmers and such JLG members who are not aware of such fraud in the name of agro credits. The task force has recommended a probe by Special Investigation Team. Tiwari said present situation of farmers and direct agro sector is mainly due to inadequate credit facilities which is only extended to big corporate and people like Mallya. In February 2014, Express had exposed the scam in farmers’ loan waiver scheme initiated by UPA government in 2008 to write off bank loans of 3.69 crore small and marginal farmers in 35 states and union territories. The Department of Financial Services under Ministry of Finance had admitted that somebody who is not eligible got it and somebody who is eligible did not get it or alternatively there was a case of tampering or alternation. (New Indian Express 13/3/16)

1,841 farmers killed self over agri crisis: Eknath Khadse (20)

Mumbai: Maharashtra agriculture minister Eknath Khadse has informed the Legislative Assembly that out of the 3,228 farmers who committed suicide in 2015, more than 1,300 were because of reasons not related to agriculture. Out of the total suicides, 1,841 were eligible for government aid. The minister also said that over 20,000 farmers committed suicide in Maharashtra in the last 15 years, but only 8,066 suicides were due to crop failure, loan and recovery pressure. Mr Khadse revealed the information in a written reply to a query on the farmers’ suicide in the Assembly. “During January 2015 to December 2015, 3,228 suicides were committed, of which 1,841 were eligible, 903 were ineligible and 484 are pending inquiry,” Mr Khadse said. In the same reply, he admitted that over 20,000 farmers have ended their lives in the last 15 years and 2015 had the highest suicides. “However, 8,066 suicides were committed due to crop failure, debt and recovery pressure,” he said. All party members had asked the government if it has helped the families of the farmers who have committed suicide. The MLAs, including Ashish Shelar (BJP), Parag Alavani (BJP), Bhaskar Jadhav (NCP), Ameen Patel (Congress), Vijay Vadettiwar (Congress) had also asked if the government was thinking of giving compensation to the families on the lines of Telangana. The Telangana government gives `6 lakh as compensation and Rs 51,000 for marriage of daughters. However, the minister refused the demand. Currently, the Maharashtra government offers only Rs 1 lakh as aid for the kin of farmers who have committed suicide. The minister said that the government had proposed Rs 4,002.82 crore aid for the drought-stricken farmers through supplementary demands. Another proposal of Rs 116 crore meant for orchards is pending before the Centre. So far, the Centre has sanctioned Rs 2,548 crore for the farmers and Rs 2,536 crore has been distributed, he added. (Asian Age 14/3/16)

Farmer suicides: no inquiry for compensation, says govt (20)

MUMBAI: Faced with a steadily worsening drought in the state for the fourth consecutive year, the Devendra Fadnavis-led government sought to reach out to beleaguered farmers announcing that suicide-hit families will not have to face inquiries about the reason to receive compensation. The government, however, ruled out loan waivers. Since it came to power end-2014, the BJP-led state government has refused to announce a complete loan waiver despite persistent demands from the Opposition for the measure, and has claimed to have spent over Rs 18,000 crore till now on drought relief. The government’s stance on loan waivers was indicated during the extended discussion in the Legislative Assembly last week on the drought situation and the rise in farmer suicides, when Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse said, “Will loan waiver stop farmer suicides completely? Neither you nor we have answers to certain questions. There can be other reasons as well and we should try to solve those problems.” While announcing the decision to change norms for compensating farmer-suicide families, Mr Khadse said earlier the police and revenue officials would investigate the reasons behind the suicide. “The process to find out whether an agriculture loan was the reason behind the suicide was long and tedious. It delayed compensation to many families. We have re-evaluated the policy. From now on, the family of a farmer who commits suicide will be given compensation (of Rs 1 lakh) without any inquiry,” he said, adding a Rs 70,000-crore loan waiver package in 2008 could not stop suicides. Mr Khadse’s was interrupted several times by Opposition members who not only demanded loan waivers but also asked the government to increase the compensation amount. Former CM Prithviraj Chavan of the Congress said the 2008 loan waiver had reduced suicides considerably. “It is the drought since last the four years that has led to the rise in number of suicides,” he said. Former finance minister and NCP leader Jayant Patil added, “I assure you that if you take the decision now, it will have a positive impact. The number of farmers’ suicides will come down by over 50 per cent.” Khadse said families of farmers killed by natural calamities will be paid Rs 4 lakh, while under the Late Gopinath Munde Accident Insurance scheme, families will be paid Rs two lakh in case of death due to snake bite, falling off a tree etc. “But increasing compensation in case of suicides would make me guilty of promoting suicides,” the minister said. Maharashtra has registered 3,228 farmer suicides in year 2015, the highest since 2001. As per the earlier norms, only1,841 were considered eligible for compensation, leaving out 1,387 claimants. Shiv Sena’s Arjun Khotkar asked if the new rule will be applied retrospectively as well, to which Mr Khadse said the government will decide on it soon. Khadse’s replies, however, did not impress Leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, who led a boycott of the assembly accusing the government of not considering the legitimate demands of farmers. (The Hindu 15/3/16)

NHRC Seeks Report on Farmers’ Suicide (20)

BHUBANESWAR: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has directed the Chief Secretary to submit a report on high number of farmers’ suicides due to agrarian distress in the State. Acting on complaints filed by rights groups led by Pradip Pradhan, seeking its intervention in providing justice to the families of victims, the Commission has sought a detailed informative report within four weeks. The petitioner has alleged that 30 debt-ridden farmers in 12 districts had committed suicide due to crop failure over only a fortnight between November 25 and December 10 last year. He has submitted a fact-finding report on farmers’ suicides after visiting 12 districts and collecting detailed information on the plight of farmer community. The petitioner has urged the Commission to constitute an enquiry team or assign a probe by special rapporteur into the farmers’ suicides as well as directing the State Government and Centre to ensure food security and rehabilitation of the distressed families. (New Indian Express 16/3/16)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

Panel sought to look into land acquisition in Jharkhand (4)

RANCHI: The Opposition in the Jharkhand Assembly on Wednesday demanded setting up of a commission to look into issues pertaining to land acquisition, particularly those protected under the Santhal Parganas Tenancy Act (SPT) and the Chota Nagpur Tenancy Act (CNT). “Let the government announce a commission to resolve all land-related issues,” Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) Legislature Party leader Pradip Yadav said. Debating over his Cut Motion on the Budget allocations for Revenue, Land Reforms, Art, Culture, Sport and Youth Affairs departments, Mr Yadav sought to know from the State government about the “result” of the special investigation team (SIT) it had instituted a year back to look into land deals in violation of SPT and CNT. “The government had set up a SIT a year ago to look into violation of SPT and CNT. What is the result? Was it set up to intimidate anybody?” Mr Yadav asked while drawing the attention of the House on sale of land in Godda, Sahibganj and Dumka districts of the Santhal Pargana region to a private industrialist. Claiming that a couple of amendments in land acquisition rules had drastically reduced the compensation amount in the three districts, Mr Yadav wondered how the poor land holders were “losing” land, despite 90 per cent of land being protected under CNT/SPT Acts. “Let industrialists come, but with adequate compensation to the people as they suffer from industrial pollution and displacement,” Mr Yadav said. Reminding Chief Minister Raghubar Das’ promise of protecting 86 basti in Jamshedpur, Mr Yadav asked whether he would keep his vow now. Participating in the debate, Leader of Opposition Hemant Soren asked how the government took a decision on coal mining by a private company in Godda. Expressing concern over acquisition of land in the Santhal Pargana, Mr Soren said the people who lost land could not purchase it under the SPT Act in the districts of the region. “It is a conspiracy to displace tribals/moolvasis (natives), despite pledging to protect the tribals under the Constitution,” Mr Soren argued. – PTI (The Hindu 10/3/16)

Fresh ruling by Karnataka HC on new land acquisition act (4)

BENGALURU: The Karnataka high court has held that the provisions of new Land Acquisition Act of 2013 has to be applied to those acquisition proceedings under BDA act,1976 and Karnataka Urban Development Authorities (KUDA),Act 1987 act,which remained without being completed in all respects as on January 1, 2014. Disposing of a batch of petitions filed by land owners from Bengaluru and Mysuru, Justice Anand Byrareddy has observed that there is a sea change in land acquisition through the coming into force of ‘Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 ‘. The Judge has further added that in view of this new development, there is gross discrimination as regards to compensation and other benefits both under BDA and KUDA acts and this unconstitutional discriminatory effect render both the acts as “unworkable and ineffective”. (Times of India 11/3/16)

Joint parliament panel to seek consensus on land bill (4)

New Delhi: A parliamentary panel, headed by BJP MP S.S. Ahluwalia, is meeting on Monday to try to reach consensus in sorting out the land acquisition imbroglio which remains unresolved even after a colonial era law was replaced in 2014 by a new law. The 21-member Joint Committee of Parliament examining the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Second Amendment) Bill, 2015, is to have a crucial round of meeting on Monday, sources said. “The committee members have already been circulated the replies received from the state governments on land acquisition proceedings that had been initiated under Land Acquisition Act, 1894, and the other status of land acquisition proceedings,” a committee member said. The panel was granted extension on December 16, 2015, after replies from various state governments did not reach it in time. The bill under consideration was passed in the Lok Sabha in March 2015, but was stalled in the Rajya Sabha and then referred to a joint parliamentary committee in May last year. It seeks to amend the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, which was passed by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government and came into effect in January 2014. The 2013 law, in turn, had replaced the colonial era Land Acquisition Act, 1894. The committee has been given a number of extensions after it failed to evolve general consensus on various provisions. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government had initially brought in a few drastic changes in the legislation, especially in terms of compensation for land owners as against what was in the 2013 law, but climbed down after facing widespread protests of the opposition and the farmers’ organisations. Union Rural Development Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh has, however, denied that the change in the government stance on the sensitive bill was any kind of “climb-down”.”There is nothing like climb-down or anything. When we referred the bill to the joint committee, we had said that we were of the view that there has to be a good speed for the process of land acquisition. But we also made it clear that farmers’ interests should not be ignored for that,” Singh told reporters recently. A Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member of the panel echoed the minister, saying, “no question of climb-down or climb-up as parliamentary committees discuss and debate the bills only to bring in overall qualitative improvement in it”.Three NDA allies, Shiv Sena, Akali Dal and Swabhimani Paksha, as well as organisations affiliated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), have voiced concern over removal of the consent clause and social impact assessment provisions from the 2013 law. …  (Business Standard 13/3/16)

Kerala offers no land security to tribals: Activist (4)

Kochi: The state does not offer any land security to tribals, said tribal activist Daya Bai while expressing solidarity with the students of Maharaja’s College who were protesting against the proposed hydro-electric dam at Athirappilly waterfalls. The dam will have direct consequence in the lives of ‘kadar’ tribe and the environment. “People should stand against any sort of destructive development. Such projects will leave considerable impact to our ecology. Developments that uproot our ancestors, culture and environment should not be allowed,” said the activist. The proposed hydro-electric project is in the vicinity of Athirappilly waterfalls and covers nearby forest areas. Kadar tribes are present in large numbers in Thrissur.The students’ representatives said that they would hold a protest march to Athirappilly. (Times of India 16/3/16)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

‘Bone TB is the prime cause for bone, spine deformities’ (3)

New Delhi: With the rise in the number of people suffering from bone Tuberculosis in India, medical experts have said that the disease is one of the major reason behind bone and spine deformities. The ignorance about bone TB, during which the bacterium causing TB affects bones and the spine, also leads to limb shortening in growing children and full body paralysis. According to the medical statistics, 5-10 percent of the total TB patients in India suffer from bone TB and the figure was on rise. India witnesses 15 lakh TB patients every year. In India, Uttar Pradesh has the maximum number of bone TB cases followed by Maharashtra. “Bone TB requires a different approach and duration of treatment is usually prolonged as compared to lung TB. About 50 percent of the bone TB affects spine, which causes paralysis if not treated well,” said Abhay Nene, Spine Consultant at Mumbai based Wockhardt Hospitals. “The worst suffering are to live the life with a painful deformity, limb shortening in growing children. Young spine TB patients (growing age) can present with late onset paralysis years after their disease has healed. The loss of spinal cord function or permanent paralysis which doesn’t recover is also not very rare in spinal TB patients.” According to the doctors, the disease starts growing over the cartilage and then extends to the underlying bone. “The symptoms include fever, chills, weight loss, and swelling. Bone TB is non infectious,” Nene said. The doctors have also said that the bone TB causes damage to the bone marrow. Vispute, general physician at S.R.V. Hospital has said: “Bone TB may affect the bone marrow. After the drugs are given, the disease may live dormant in the bone marrow, causing it to affect the body’s mechanisms of self renewal.” (Business Standard 10/3/16)

Punjab tops chart in clearing medical negligence cases (3)

Pune: Punjab topped the charts in delivering judgement in cases of medical negligence slapped either against doctor or hospital last year with 24%.West Bengal, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu followed with 17%, 16% and 11%, respectively. The figures were announced at the 8th annual medico-legal review for 2015, held here on Friday. The event is held consecutively since 2009 by Institute of Medicine and Law (IML). The need for inclusion of doctor-judges in the panels dealing with cases of medical-legal matters was also underlined at the review meet. The need was expressed both by experts from medical and legal fraternities while discussing various aspects of legal complications involved in medical treatments, particularly those with medical negligence or faulty medical events occurring during treatment regimes. “At many occasions, judges are in a fix due to limited knowledge about medicine and related issues, thereby sometime delaying in awarding judgement. There is a need of a doctor to advise the legal team in order to handle these cases better,” said senior Supreme Court lawyer and director of Institute of Medicine and Law (IML), Mahendrakumar Bajpai. When asked about having a doctor on the panel, an official on the condition of anonymity said the Medical Council of India (MCI) fails to do its duties in addressing these legal cases.” The MCI comprises doctors and other experts from the medical fraternity who are well aware and understand the cases better. Sadly,due to their callousness, the body is as good as as being toothless in this matter,” the official complained. Among the several reasons that the patients file complaints, the key ones included medical negligence by doctors, delay in initiating treatments, charging exorbitant medical fee and lack of communication between the hospital and patient’s family about the treatment, medical fees among others.Speaking on the occasion, chief cardiologist and managing trustee of Ruby Hall Clinic P K Grant, said, ” It is true that there is lack of communication between the hospital, doctors, paramedical team and the patient and family. This needs to be increased.” (Times of India 12/3/16)

Govt Move on Security for ASHA Workers (3)

BHUBANESWAR:  In a bid to provide safe and secure work atmosphere to frontline women health workforce like ASHAs and protect them from sexual harassment and other exploitation, the State Health Department on Tuesday issued instructions for strengthening prevention and grievance redressal mechanisms at all levels. The district Collectors, health authorities and heads of health institutions have been directed to ensure adequate safety and security measures across all work spheres of ASHAs. The ASHA Gruhas or resting place for the health workers who accompany pregnant women to hospitals should be located adjacent to labour rooms and provided with security personnel. The issues of sexual harassment at workplaces should be dealt sternly. Each sub-centre, PHC and CHC level meeting must specifically include discussion on whether any frontline health worker has faced any form of sexual or gender harassment or discrimination. Even perceived threat or harassment must be taken seriously. Functioning of district and block level ASHA grievance cells must be strengthened and complaints dealt in a timely manner. The Gaon Kalyan Samiti meetings should also be used to support ASHAs and other female workers, Health Secretary Arti Ahuja stated in a circular issued to all district Collectors. Further, a complaint committee headed by a woman as per Visakha Committee guidelines is to be set up in every workplace or facility. Gender sensitisation training of all service providers are to be undertaken so that complaints are investigated properly and action taken on them. (New Indian Express 16/3/16)

Tribal areas have more lepers than others (3)

NASHIK: Noting the fact that the numbers of lepers in tribal areas is still very high – more than two per 10,000 of population, the additional district collector, Kanhuraj Bagate asked the medical teams to scan the areas to find out the exact numbers of sufferers from the disease and start earlier intervention programmes. “The numbers of people suffering from leprosy is quite under control in the district, but somewhat on the higher side in several parts – tribals – of the district which need special attention and hence we have suggested for a special drive in the latter half of the month of March,” Bagate said.The administration has formed 3,802 teams of officers and employees – totaling 7,308, which are set to scan the population of Nashik district – including the Nashik city. The exercise will be carried out jointly by medical officers and employees of Nashik Municipal Corporation (NMC), district health offices in the city and the rural areas. Every person including child above 2 years of age will be examined for the presence of leprosy signs by the medical teams visiting the house holds throughout the district. “There are people who still do not disclose the disease because of stigma associated with it or on the other hand they do not have any idea of the same. This is the reason that the patients coming to are in the later stages of the disease. We have therefore decided to carry out massive operations in the district to get the right impression of the people affected with the disease and the spread of the same,” Joint director Dr PM Padvi, said. (Times of India 18/3/16)

HIV/AIDS

11 Pilibhit jail inmates test postive for HIV (3)

PILIBHIT: Those infected with Kanwardeep Singh/TNHIV virus often do not know about their condition till they are diagnosed for sufferinf from a host of ailments. So is the case of many prisoners serving their terms at the Pilibhit district jail here. As many 11 inmates of lodged in Pilibhit district jail have tested positive after tests were conducted on them. In fact, not all prisons and jails offer HIV testing. However this has changed now. A recent directive as has been issued to jail authorities wherein all prisoners are required to go through an HIV test. Now, these inmates may have to go through anti-retroviral therapy soon. Sources say that most of the inmates are drug addicts and must have got infected while sharing drugs through infected syringes. Lack of awareness about AIDS in Pilibhit district is also an important factor. Sr far, health authorities have neglected the matter. According to sources, 923 inmates of the district jail underwent an HIV test conducted by the district health officials and the results have shocked jail officials as well as medical officers. Eleven inmates were tested positive for HIV and now, they would have to go through a confirmatory test to be conducted by the experts from anti-retroviral therapy (ART) centre of Bareilly. A health official who did not which to be identified confirmed most of the inmates who tested positive for HIV were drug addicts. Their blood samples also showed the presence of drugs, which means that narcotic substances are smuggled into the prison.. Jailor A K Sagar told TOI, ” As many as 923 inmates were tested for HIV and 11 were found to be positive. These inmates will have to go through one more test and will be sent to ART centre later.” Chief medical superintendent of the district hospital, Dr RC Sharma, said, “We need to wait for a confirmatory test before send them to ART centre in Bareilly. This test will be conducted on Saturday by a team of experts from Bareilly. I cannot say whether the inmates ae drug addicts or not because we tested the samples for HIV infection,” he added. (Times of India 11/3/16)

India home to 21L HIV+, 3rd highest in world (3)

NEW DELHI: India has 21.17 lakh people living with HIV, the third largest in the world after South Africa (68 lakh) and Nigeria (34 lakh), health minister J P Nadda informed Lok Sabha on Friday. Though the incidence of new cases has declined significantly, the government is currently faced with a challenge of sustaining the rate of reduction. To facilitate this, the government has decided to revamp its National AIDS Control Programme and extend free anti-retroviral therapy (ART) to those with a CD4 cell count of less than 500, earlier this was at 300. CD4 is a type of white blood cell that fights infection.”The total number of patients with CD4 count of less than 350 is estimated to be at 13,45,678. Out of this, the number of people on ART is 9.25 lakh making a coverage rate of 69%,” Nadda said. ART is a therapy that improves the life quality of HIV patients with treatment that maximally suppresses the HIV virus. At present, Nadda said there are 524 ART centres and 1,094 link centres in the country providing free anti-retroviral therapy, treatment for opportunistic infections and counselling services to 9.25 lakh people living with HIV. Based on HIV prevalence in different parts of the country, he said ART centres are scaled up every year. (Times of India 12/3/16)

HIV+ moms deliver 100 virus-free babies (3)

MUMBAI: The state-run J J Hospital’s gynaecology department has scored a perfect 100 in one of its most trying tasks: delivering 100 HIV-free babies of HIV-positive mothers since March 2014. The hospital, considered a referral centre for HIV-positive pregnant women who are turned away from other hospitals, has performed deliveries of 1,200 HIV-positive women since 2000. “We have been working on reducing mother-to-child transmission of HIV since 2000. But we have been pleasantly surprised to note that 100 children born since the start of the three-drug regimen (Tenofovir, Lamivudine and Efavirenz) are HIV-free,” said Dr Rekha Daver, who heads JJ Hospital’s gynaecology department and is on the National AIDS Control Organisation task force. Without drug intervention, such children have 45% risk of HIV infection during pregnancy, delivery and breastfeeding. We have been working on reducing mother-to-child transmission of HIV since 2000. But we have been pleasantly surprised to note that 100 children born since the start of the three-drug regimen (Tenofovir, Lamivudine and Efavirenz) are HIV-free,” said Dr Rekha Daver, who heads JJ Hospital’s gynaecology department and is on the National AIDS Control Organisation task force. Without drug intervention, such children have 45% risk of HIV infection during pregnancy, delivery and breastfeeding. turns here But the last 100 have been extra special for two reasons. Firstly, these HIV-positive pregnant women got special treatment due to the Union ministry of health’s decision to start them on an anti-HIV regimen for life as soon they discovered their pregnancy. Secondly, the children don’t carry the dreaded virus. Without any drug intervention, children born to HIV-positive mothers have a 45% risk of HIV infection during pregnancy, delivery and breastfeeding. Between 2001 and 2002, India started giving a single dose (of Nevirapine tablet) to pregnant women and the newborn. “This helped cut down the transmission risk to a great extent, but the mothers risked developing drug resistance later on,” said Dr Daver. Moreover, 7% of the children born to HIV-positive mothers in J J Hospital contracted the virus under the Nevirapine regimen; the national average was higher at 11%.In 2014, India accepted the World Health Organisation’s Option B+ that entails pregnant women taking the three-drug dose daily to reduce the viral load in their bodies. (Times of India 13/3/16)

OHRC Seeks Reports on Denial of PDS Ration to HIV+ Siblings (3)

BHUBANESWAR: The Odisha Human Rights Commission on Friday directed three administrative department heads to inquire under what circumstances two orphaned siblings, both HIV positive, were denied ration at a PDS centre in Kendrapara district. Terming it a grave matter, Acting Chairperson Justice BK Msihra asked Secretaries of Health and Family Welfare, Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare, Women and Child Development as well the Collector to inquire and furnish separate reports. The rights panel also observed that the Departments must reflect the actions initiated by the Government on informing and educating people about myths on mingling with HIV positive people.  Acting on a petition filed by rights activists Bijay Panda and Biswapriya Kanungo, the Commission has also asked the Government to consider if it plans to mount a vigorous campaign so as to protect human rights of the positive people. As per case records, the siblings – a 14-year-old boy and his 12-year-old sister – had alleged that they were refused ration by a dealer at Olabar village last week under the PDS scheme of the Government since both were HIV positive. While the Kendrapara district administration ordered an investigation into the matter, a joint probe by field officials of the block, Health Department and Integrated Counselling and Testing Centre is also underway. The siblings had also submitted a petition to the Collector in this connection. The petitioners requested the OHRC for a high level probe into the matter. Kanungo said the Government must also issue comprehensive guidelines elaborating how HIV positive persons should be dealt with compassion and dignity and it should have a penal provision too. The siblings had lost their parents to the disease in 2005 and since they carried the virus, they were later tested positive. Both are bright students too. (New Indian Express 19/3/16)

 

Posted by admin at 21 March 2016

Category: Uncategorized

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

Thangadh Dalit killings: Inquiry report still under govt consideration, says CM Anandiben Patel

Gandhinagar: Nearly three years after it was submitted to the state Home Department, an inquiry report into the killing of three Dalits in 2012 police firing in Surendrangar’s Thangadh town, Gujarat government is still considering its findings while not making it public. Replying to a starred question, raised by Congress MLA Shailesh Parmar, in the Assembly on Tuesday, CM Anandiben Patel said that the report was under the consideration of the state government. Parmar had sought details of the report and asked why it was not being presented in the House. On September 22-23, 2012, three Dalits were killed and one seriously injured in police firing in Thangadh after they went to lodge a police complaint over a Dalit’s scuffle with a local upper-caste community member at the annual Tarnetar Fair in the town. Police had fired on the Dalits when they were protesting against them. The state government had ordered a probe into the incident by the then principal secretary of Social Justice & Empowerment Department, Sanjay Prasad. Prasad had submitted his report to Home Department in May 2013. (Indian Express 1/3/16)

Judge memo to Dalit for not washing wife’s clothes (2)

Chennai: THE JUDICIAL employees association in Tamil Nadu is preparing to approach Madras High Court after the judge of a lower court in Erode served a memo on his office assistant, a 47-year-old Dalit woman, for “failure to wash the inner wear” at his house and “retorting in an arrogant tone” to his wife. The memo, dated February 1 and signed by subordinate judge D Selvam of Sathyamangalam court, stated: “Please explain within 7 days why disciplinary action should not be initiated against you for your failure to wash the inner wear which were put for washing in the Sub-Judge’s house, and for throwing them away disgustingly, and when your attitude was questioned by the officer and his wife for retorting in an arrogant tone.” On February 4, the woman responded in a note: “My humble explanation for the memo dated February 1, 2016, I humbly submit that I will guard against any lapses in the future and undertake to do my duties properly. I request that the disciplinary action against me may please be closed.” The Indian Express has examined the memo and the reply. T Senthil Kumar, general secretary of Tamil Nadu Judicial Employees Association, said they have verified the incident and will file a petition before the registrar general of Madras High Court and Justice S Nagamuthu, the High Court judge who heads administrative affairs of judicial employees in the state. When contacted, judge Selvam said he cannot “react immediately” as the memo “was issued a month ago”. When the contents of the memo were read out to him, judge Selvam said: “I need to go back and check the file.” Asked if it was legal to use an office assistant for menial jobs at his home, he did not respond. When contacted, Vasanthy confirmed the incident but refused to comment, citing her “vulnerable condition”. But reliable sources at the court said Vasanthy and other court staff continue to work at the judge’s house, doing menial jobs, including washing, cleaning and cooking. …  (Indian Express 4/3/16)

Gujarat: 13 cases of denial of entry to Dalits at temples in 5 years (2)

Gandhinagar: Gujarat government on Friday told the Legislative Assembly that at least 13 cases of Dalits being denied entry to a temple were registered in the state in last five years.In a written reply, Chief Minister Anandiben Patel, who handles the Home department, stated that as of June 2015, 13 such cases were recorded in eight districts in the last five years. Three cases were registered in Bharuch, two each in Anand, Porbandar and Gir-Somnath and one each in Ahmedabad, Surendranagar, Mahisagar and Banaskantha districts. In all these case, where complaints were filed by people belonging to Scheduled Castes, the police arrested the accused and filed charge-sheets, she said. Congress leader Kumari Selja had last year claimed during a discussion in the Parliament that she was asked about her caste when she visited a temple in Dwarka in Gujarat as a Union Minister during the previous UPA rule. (IBN Live 4/3/16)

Dalits, adivasis get raw deal in Budget (2)

Dalit and Adivasi groups have expressed disappointment at the continued deficit in earmarking of funds for these two deprived communities in this year’s Union Budget. An analysis of budgetary allocation by the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights showed that, like in past years, instead of earmarking 16.6% funds for Dalits, only 7% has been earmarked. Similarly, only 4.36% has been specifically kept aside for adivasis, instead of the required 8.6%.These earmarking policies called Scheduled Caste Sub Plan (SCSP) and Tribal Sub Plan (TSP) were started in the late 1970s. They are meant to ensure that spending by various ministries and departments should have a specific component meant for Dalits and adivasis in proportion to their population shares, which are 16.6% and 8.6% respectively. The Budget has separately given Rs 500 cr each for Dalits and adivasis under ‘Start Up India’. “We need to move beyond the optics. The first step is to allocate the money that is in proportion to the population,” said N Paul Divakar of the NCDHR. The finance ministry had grouped 292 schemes under SCSP and 303 under TSP. But an analysis done by NCDHR showed that only 26 schemes related to Dalits and 22 related to adivasis have direct relevance to the communities. An example of schemes with no direct impact on Dalits is the allocation of Rs 897 cr for the UGC, shows the analysis. About 60% of the allocation was for creating capital assets under the two sub plans and 30% was grants in aid for institutions. Only 8% was spent on fellowships, scholarships and hostels.

Top Comment How much more funds and reservation dalits needed? they will never come out of backwardness if they keep asking for subsidiaries and other benefits.Hanover Divakar said that plans like Indira Awas Yojana for rural housing, matric scholarships or self-employment scheme for manual scavengers are beneficial because the targeted persons are accounted for individually. While 86% of funds allocated to Dalits and adivasis are for ‘survival’ related schemes only 27% funds flow to real development related measures. The Center for Budget and Governance Accountability says changes in fiscal policies like restructuring of centrally sponsored schemes, finance commission recommendations and the proposal to scrap the Plan/Non-Plan differentiation will have marked impact on these earmarking policies. (Times of India 7/2/16)

Thirsty dalit boy drowns in well after denied water from school hand pump (2)

Bhopal: A Dalit boy in Damoh district of Madhya Pradesh was drowned in a well while trying to fetch water after he was denied access to school hand pump to quench thirst on Tuesday. Five teachers of the primary school, including the principal have been suspended for discrimination on caste grounds. An inquiry has been ordered, said CEO of Janpad panchayat Manish Bagri. The incident took place in in Khamariakalan village in Damoh’s Tendukheda tehsil on Tuesday afternoon. When Veeran Ahirwar, student of class 3 finished his midday meal, he went to the hand pump on the campus to drink water, but he was turned away by teachers. This was confirmed by his brother, Sevak, a class 5 student of the same school. A thirsty Veeran then carried a water bottle and reached the well. He tied the bottle to a rope to fetch water, but lost balance and fell inside and died. Talking to reporters, Veeran’s brother Sevak alleged teachers had on several occasions ordered them not to touch the hand pump and were forced to use the well to draw water. Earlier, several students had complained to Janpad CEO about discrimination against low-caste students. Refuting allegations, collector Damoh Shriniwas Sharma said, “For past one week, there has been a water crisis. Villagers also come to fetch water from the school hand pump.” On Tuesday, a crowd had gathered at the hand pump and students also joined the queue. When Veeran went to the well, there was a crowd there too. Veeran lost balance and fell into the well, said the collector. (Times of India 10/3/16)

TRIBALS

Odisha says tribals had no power to reject Vedanta bauxite mining (6)

The Odisha government has challenged the landmark Vedanta bauxite mine judgement of the Supreme Court which upheld the statutory powers of the tribal village councils under the Forest Rights Act and the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Area) Act to decide if they wish mining to take place in their traditional forestlands or not. Filing a new interlocutory application before the apex court, Odisha government has claimed that the Forest Rights Act and its rules do not require any consent from gram sabha (village councils) for use of forestlands if the government decides that the rights of the people have been settled. If the application filed by the state against the Union government is accepted by the courts for hearing it could also force the NDA government to take a public stand on the issue after having deliberated the dilution of tribal consent powers behind closed doors since 2014 when it came to power. In its application, which Business Standard reviewed, Odisha has also contended that gram sabha resolutions rejecting mining in the Lanjigarh bauxite mines cannot remain perpetually in force. The state government has claimed that with adults dying in the community and new ones growing up to have voting rights in the gram sabha decisions should be up for review. The state has additionally claimed in its application that there were technical errors in the way the gram sabhas were conducted and the resolutions passed to refuse mining in their traditional lands. Making these and other pleas, the state has asked that the gram sabha decisions be set aside, the meeting of the councils be held afresh and the environment ministry’s order rejecting mining based on the tribals’ decisions also be quashed. The Supreme Court’s judgement of 2013 ordered that the 12 gram sabhas of the Dongaria Kondh, Kutia Kandha and other tribal communities would decide if they held any religious and other rights over the Niyamgiri Hills of Odisha and if the mining of bauxite in the Lanjigarh mines below the peak of the hill would affect their religious rights. The court held that if the rights were affected by the proposed mining then the clearances to mining rights stood to be cancelled. Under supervision of the tribal affairs ministry and the local administration, in what turned out to be a rather high-profile event garnering domestic and international attention, 12 gram sabhas unanimously rejected the mining that Odisha Mining Corporation was to do in a joint venture with Vedanta. Consequently the environment ministry rejected the clearance to the project. The marquee land-mark reaffirmed the power of the tribal and other forestdwellers gram sabhas as statutory authorities under the Forest Rights Act. The present NDA government has since 2014 attempted to also do away with the need for tribal consent, trying various formulations and interpretations to dilute or do away with it. With meetings on the matter continuing at the highest level the tribal affairs ministry has repeatedly warned that doing away with powers of consent would be unconstitutional and illegal, requiring an amendment to the law through Parliament in light of the Supreme Court’s Vedanta judgement. But, with nearly three years after the court passed the order the state government has come to court with the plea, could do away entirely with the need for consent from tribals before using their traditional forestlands for industrial purposes. In the petition, which is listed to be heard on Friday the Odisha government contends that “various general claims of worshipping all the hills in the Niyamgiri range, including NIyamgiri Dangar (the site of mines) were made and all the persons who attended were unanimous in their opposition to the Bauxite Mining Project.” But the state government then notes, “However, pertinently, not a single member of the Gram/pali Sabha explained how a claim could be made over an entire plateau situated far away from the abode of Niyam-Raja (the tribe’s traditional god).” It has also contended that the tribals did not follow several other technical requirements of the court order and “overlooked the interplay between the declaration of law and determination of religious/sacred rights as permitted by the court and even beyond the provisions of the Forest Rights Act.” Using these arguments, even as it claims the consent of tribals under the law is not required, Odisha has asked the Supreme Court o quash the decisions of the gram sabha and hold their meetings afresh. On Friday the Supreme Court could decide whether to admit the application or not. (Business Standard 1/3/16)

Attappady tribal women threaten to resume agitation (6)

Palakkad:  A day after tribal women’s collective Thaykula Sanghom in Attappady has decided to put a temporary halt to their fortnight-long agitation demanding closure of a Tamil Nadu liquor shop across the State border at Anaikatti, its leaders said they would resume the agitation after a gap of one month if the Kerala authorities fail to prompt their Tamil Nadu counter parts to shift the shop from the locality. “District Collector P. Marikutty has sought one month’s time to close down the liquor shop. She visited us at the agitation venue and said Tamil Nadu wanted one month to complete the formalities for shutting the shop. She said Coimbatore District Collector Archana Patnaik had given an assurance in this regard,’’ said Sanghom leader Maruthi. “If they do not shift the shop within one month, we will lay siege to the shop,’’ she said. The agitation involving over 300 women from Attappady won wide attention when they blocked traffic on the Mannarkkad-Attappady-Coimbatore route several times. Almost all political parties and social organisations in Kerala and Tamil Nadu had extended support to them. “The Collector said the government was not in a position to provide police security to the agitation as the Assembly election is nearing. She also said there was no need of a written agreement from Tamil Nadu side as both the Collectors jointly decided to initiate the process for closing down the shop,” Ms. Maruthi said. As total prohibition exists unofficially in Attappady, the Tamil Nadu shop at Anaikatti has been doing brisk business with sales crossing Rs.5 crore a month. It is one of the largest selling liquor retail outlets in Tamil Nadu. (The Hindu 4/3/16)

‘Maoists luring minor tribal girls’ (6)

ADILABAD: While women across the world will be celebrating International Women’s Day on Tuesday, their counterparts in the Maoist movement would presumably be criss-crossing the unforgiving countryside, which some of them have been doing for many years. The presence of women cadres, especially Adivasis from Adilabad district, among the outlaws has become the point of focus against the background of the IWD with the police department here slamming Maoists for luring naive and minor girls into the violent movement. “Especially Adivasi girls who are lured into the movement have no clue about the underground movement run by the Communist Party of India (Maoist). This is definitely not ethical and certainly a violation of women’s rights,” Adilabad Superintendent of Police Tarun Joshi accused the naxalites even as information of Maoists looking for recruitment in the tribal habitations come wafting from different parts of Telangana. “Yes, I did not understand a thing when I joined the movement way back in 1988 at the age of 15 years,” concurred Kursenga Motibai alias Radhakka, a Gond tribal from Linguguda village in Adilabad mandal who had spent 28 years of her life as an outlaw. “There were two other girls from my village who had also joined the movement the same day,” she added as she recalled that fateful day when she left home for a life in jungles. Police records reveal that 114 women Maoists from Adilabad functioned as outlaws since the late 1980s. Of them as many as 96 laid down arms and 11 were killed in encounters with police while seven are still active, most of them in Chhattisgarh. Though herself ethically wronged, Radhakka swears by the Maoists for rooting for equality between men and women. “The party responds to women’s problems and issues,” she stated. (The Hindu 7/2/16)

Migration of Bastar tribals to other states rocks Chhattisgarh Assembly (6)

Raipur: The issue of migration of a large number of tribals from Chhattisgarh’s insurgency-hit Bastar region to neighbouring states in search of jobs as labourers caused uproar in the Legislative Assembly today with the opposition Congress accusing the BJP government of “apathy”.Raising the issue through a call attention motion notice, ruling BJP MLA Santosh Bafna said the State has been witnessing a large scale migration of people of Bastar region to other states in search of jobs. “Everyday, a large number of labourers migrate through buses en route to Hyderabad from Bastar. They migrate through agents,” Bafna said. He said around a dozen girls of Salepal area under Kodenar police station limits of Bastar were taken by agents to Andhra Pradesh’s Prakasham district for working at a road construction site six months back. “Two of them died in January this year,” Bafna said. He alleged that government is negligent on the issue despite “several incidents of death” of workers migrated from Bastar were reported in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. “People from Bastar are still migrating due to reckless attitude and negligent behaviour of the government towards them,” the MLA said. In his reply, Labour Minister Bhaiyalal Rajwade admitted about the migration. “It is true that labourers from Bastar migrate by themselves in search of jobs to the neighbouring states, but it is incorrect that a huge number of labourers are taken daily by agents in buses headed towards Hyderabad,” he said. Rajwade said teams of labour inspectors carry out frequent inspections at local bus stands to prevent forced mass exodus of people. “During the inspection no (case of) migration through agents or contractors was found,” the minister added.”In year 2015-16, construction works worth Rs 9136.17 lakh were sanctioned which ensured jobs to 63,217 labourers in Bastar district. Similarly, development works to the tune of Rs 1017.65 lakhs were allocated in Tokapal janpad panchayat which provided jobs to 6443 labourers. “Besides, construction works worth Rs 2062.35 lakh were sanctioned in Bakawand block which created jobs for 13256 workers,” he said.     Unsatisfied with his reply, Congress MLAs, including Kawasi Lakhma (Konta) and Deepak Baij (Chitrkot) of Bastar region, alleged that people are forced to migrate due to lack of jobs and “apathetic attitude of state administration”.Later shouting slogans against the state government, the Congress legislators staged a walkout. (Times of India 9/3/16)

WOMEN

Are girl babies deliberately neglected, asks Rajasthan chief (8)

JAIPUR: Samuel Mawunganidse, chief of Unicef for Rajasthan, noted that the majority of children found malnourished in Barmer district were girls. He said that it came as a painful realization to Unicef staff involved in the programme that families might be deliberately neglecting the girl child. “One could introduce laws and make sex-selective abortion criminal, but can one ensure that families tend to girl babies better?” The National Family Health Survey-3, whose results were declared in 2012, showed that 7.3% of children in the state under five years old were malnourished. There is a special programme being undertaken by the state government in 13 districts, including three with a high tribal population, to identify cases of children with malnourishment so that intervention can be planned early. Unicef is partnering the state government in its efforts to prevent malnutrition from leaving lifelong impact. Mawunganidse pointed out that the upper arm of children is measured with a specially-designed tape – if the child’s upper arm circumference is less than 11 and half cm, he or she is considered dangerously malnourished. Survival chances of such children are bleak, he said. Children between the ages of two months and up to four years are put through this test. If an intervention is not made to reverse the malnourishment immediately, the damage to the brain could be irreversible by the time the child is two years old, he said. State health minister Rajendra Rathore admitted recently that two children, both girls, had died of malnutrition. Mawunganidse said both deaths occurred before the programme for intensive supplementation of diet began. While an initial survey in September had revealed the need for such a programme, it could not begin until December, he said, adding that the diet supplementation effort has met with commendable results. Over 95% of children given the diet supplement regain healthy levels of weight in about three months. Those who failed to gain weight were tested by medical experts at the end of three months to check if there were medical reasons for the sluggish pace of recovery. Mawunganidse said the programme is faced with a few challenges – it is occurring in pockets of sparse population that might not be very well served by anganwadis. Since the intervention cannot wait until a child is brought to the health centre, people working on the programme must go out into the community to identify children who are malnourished and act early. Once the child is back to a healthy weight, the programme cannot be abruptly stopped, for the diet might become insufficient again, leading the child’s nutrition levels to slip. Many of the children come from families where parents are daily-wagers – Unicef does offer such parents a monetary compensation, since arriving at a health centre might mean loss of that day’s wage. Mawunganidse maintained that all that is being done, however, is merely an “experiment”. Despite the high levels of success, there is much that remains to be done, lots still to learn. (Times of India 3/3/16)

No time frame for tabling Women’s Reservation Bill in Lok Sabha: Centre (8)

New Delhi: Government today refused to give a time frame for introducing in Parliament the Bill that seeks to give 33 per cent reservation to women in Lok Sabha and Assemblies, saying a consensus among parties is needed. In a written response in Lok Sabha, Law Minister D V Sadananda Gowda said it is the endeavour of the government to provide reservation on one-third seats to women in Lok Sabha and state Assemblies. “The issue involved needs careful consideration on the basis of consensus among all political parties before a bill for amendment in the Constitution is brought before Parliament,” he said. He was asked to specify the steps being taken by the government for arriving at an early decision on the issue. A similar bill, brought by the erstwhile UPA government, had lapsed following the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha. As per law, any bill pending in Lok Sabha lapses with the dissolution of the House. Bills introduced in Rajya Sabha and pending there are put on the “live register” and remain pending. In its initial stage the bill was subjected to vehement opposition; however, it finally took a sigh of relief when Rajya Sabha passed it amid ruckus in the Parliament. (Deccan Chronicle 3/3/16)

Almost 50 per cent suicides by young girls in Latur is due to dowry (8)

Mumbai: In January 2016, an 18-year-old girl from Latur district committed suicide so that her father would not have to arrange money for her dowry. In her suicide note, she asked ‘Why does anyone have to pay?’ She was a bright student who scored 80 per cent in her class 12 examinations. Even as the International Women’s Week is being celebrated worldwide, the condition of women in Latur, a region in southern Marathwada region, is pitiful. Like the teenager who committed suicide, several young women kill themselves every year after falling prey to dowry harassment at the hands of their in-laws. A similar issue was highlighted in a recently published study of KEM Hospital conducted in the region. It was stated that 48 per cent of the women commit suicide in the age group of 21-30 years in the region owing to dowry. Also, 19 per cent commit suicide owing to ‘ill-treatment by in-laws’. The department of forensic science, KEM hospital, studied 120 cases of women suicide deaths. “Our study also showed that those who committed suicide were educated. In 31 per cent of the cases, the women had got higher education,” said Dr Manoj Bhanusaheb Parchake, assistant professor of the department who was the main coordinator. As per the data released by National Crime Record Bureau, Maharashtra records highest number of suicide of women by burning. In 2014, almost 3,000 women committed suicide by self-immolation. “The data shows mostly those between 18-30 years die in it. In many cases, it has been proved later that it was not accident but murder when in-laws kill their daughter-in-law by pouring kerosene,” said Pooja Thakkur, a woman right advocate from Maharashtra Federation of Women. (Asian Age 7/3/16)

10 Rights every Indian woman should know (8)

Below are the 10 rights every Indian woman should know…

Free legal aid: Under the Legal Services Authorities Act 1987, all female rape victims have the right to free legal aid. “Whenever a rape victim is unable to hire a lawyer, it’s mandatory for the station house officer to inform the city’s legal services authority to arrange a lawyer for her,” says citybased criminal lawyer Arnab Dutta. Right to protect one’s identity: According to Section 228A IPC, all victims of sexual assault have the right to anonymity . Neither the media nor the police can force them to reveal their identity in public. Unpermitted publication of the identity can even lead to imprisonment for the publisher. Moreover, the victim can record her statement with a magistrate either alone or in presence of a lady police officer. Women witnesses can’t be called to police stations: Indian women witnesses have the right to record a statement at home. Section 160 CrPC states that women cannot be called over to police stations for interrogation. “If a woman is a witness, she can choose to record her statement at her own residence in presence of a lady police officer,” says criminal lawyer Kaushik Dey. No arrests at night: According to Supreme Court ruling, a woman cannot be arrested between sunset and sunrise. This was the result of a rising number of police harassment complaints by women.However, if the woman in question is wanted for a serious crime, police can make an arrest with a special permission from a magistrate. Right to maternity leave: The Maternity Benefit Act 1961 ensures 12 weeks of paid leave for a mother, taken before or after the delivery . However, it allows a maximum six weeks of leave before delivery. Right to equal wage: The principle, equal pay for equal work, holds good for any working women.According to the Equal Remuneration Act 1976, no organization can discriminate between men and women doing similar work or having same designation visa-vis recruitment or pay. Safety at the workplace: Any workplace with more than 10 employees is duty-bound to create a Sexual Harassment Complaints Committee. According to Supreme Court’s Vishakha Guidelines, the presence of such committee is mandatory and it must be headed by a woman. Right to property: Daughters of a family have a valid right to claim the inheritance. “In 2005, amendments in the Hindu Succession Act grant sons and daughters equal rights to ancestral property,” says civil lawyer Parama Ganguly. Live-in relationships are legal: Women who are in a live-in relationship can seek protection against domestic violence under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005. Such victims can also seek financial or other relief under the provisions of the Act.If a woman is unable to visit a police station to lodge a complaint, she has the privilege of doing so by sending an email or registered letter to a senior officer. “The concerned officer then instructs the station house officer to verify it with the complainant and lodge an FIR,” Kaushik tells us. (Times of India 8/1/16)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

Union Budget ignores non-voting population: CRY (14)

Kolkata, Mar 1 : The 2016-17 Union Budget has considerably increased outlays for the social sector; yet, children remain to be at the margins of policy discussions, interface, and allocations, CRY said. With health and education forming an integral part of the nine pillars for transformation of India, the scope for redrawing the future of India, and especially, its children was tremendous the NGO said. However, the trend of decreasing share of child budgets within the social sector has continued with this years Union Budget. Over the years, allocations for children have failed to regain the lost ground since 2011-12 and 2012-13 when it crossed the figure of 5 per cent of the Union Budget. Instead, child budget shares have steadily decreased over the past few years, though this year has seen a marginal increase of 0.06 per cent over 2015-16. In 2016-17, share of child budget stands at 3.32 percent of the Union Budget, with absolute amount increasing from Rs. 58016.72 crores (Budget Estimate 2015-16) to Rs. 65758.45 (Budget Estimate 2016-17). It may be noteworthy to remember that as part of the financial devolution to states in the previous year, social sector allocations had sharply dipped, with allocations in schemes such as Integrated Child Development Scheme and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan by 30 per cent and more. .. (New Kerala 1/3/16)

1,605 child workers rescued in Namakkal in three years (14)

NAMAKKAL: Collector V. Dakshinamoorthy has said that a total of 1,605 child workers were rescued from various industries in the past three years and education was provided to them. Addressing a two-day training programme on anti-child labour and prevention of child marriages here on Tuesday, he said that the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) aims at rescuing children and provide them rehabilitation measures. “So far 1,605 child workers were rescued and education was bein