Posted by admin at 3 October 2016

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HR News: September 1-30, 2016

(News Collection From September 1 to 30, 2016)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Caste Hindus, Dalits threaten to leave village (2)

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

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

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

Dalit agitation for land rights intensifies (2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Orissa HC notice to government on tribal welfare (6)

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

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

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

Tribals protest raising height of Sardar Sarovar (6)

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

Forest officials held hostage by tribals, Dalits (6)

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

Tribals ignorant about Adilabad trifurcation (6)

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

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

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

Tribal body opposes ST status for six communities (6)

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

Tribal youths on warpath seeking promised jobs (6)

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

 ‘Gender crimes in U.P. rising’ (8)

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

SC commutes death penalty of Soumya rapist (8)

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

Crime graph a case for concern (8)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


More immigrant children found engaged in labour (14)

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

Kerala stands second in unnatural offences against children (14)

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

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

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

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

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

Child rights panel takes note of incident (14)

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

11 children rescued under ‘Operation Muskan’ (14)

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

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

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

Over 75% sex abuse cases pending trial (14)

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

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

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

International meet in Delhi to discuss Child Rights (14)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

78 benefit from mortgage-free loan scheme (7)

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

Biryani policing reaches national minorities panel (7)

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

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

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

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

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

Draft National Edu Policy alarms minorities (7)

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

Bill amending Citizenship Act sent to parliamentary panel (7)

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

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

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

Plight of minorities in Pakistan discussed at UNHCR (7)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Record Muslim students chase civil service dream (7)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Muslim clerics up against Uniform Civil Code (7)

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

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

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


Woman teacher hacked to death inside church (7)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 attacked for distributing religious books (7)

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

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

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

Church to hold Dalit Kalaivizha (7)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tibetan refugees in Arunachal claiming ST benefits (13)

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

Schools to educate children of migrant workers (13)

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

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

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

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

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

Lankan refugees demand protection (13)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Law students to assess govt departments’ transparency (1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RTI filed against Kapil Sharma for destroying mangroves (1)

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

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

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

RTI query on pellet guns rejected (1)

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

NGO wants to evaluate corporators through RTI (1)

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

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

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

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

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

RTI plea turns Haryana schools into marriage bureaus (1)

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Experts slam new central education policy (11)

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

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

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

Draft National Edu Policy alarms minorities (11)

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

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

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

 ‘Liberalisation required in education’ (11)

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

Alumni Association moots change in education system (11)

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

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

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

Congress flays state govt for poor education policy (11)

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

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

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

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

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


BPL kids likely to miss financial aid (10)

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

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

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

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

DIBRUGARH, Sept 15 – The Sadou Asom Gramin Shramik Sanstha, a constituent unit of All India Agriculture and Rural Labour Association, has opposed the Centre’s move to link Aadhaar to the Public Distribution System (PDS), alleging that the step would only complicate the distribution system and deprive poor people of their entitlements. The Leftist body, which organised a demonstration in front of the office of the Dibrugarh Deputy Commissioner here today, said that Aadhaar-based biometric authentication in the PDS, as desired by the Narendra Modi-led NDA Government, is not error-free and has a lot of loopholes. This ‘pro-corporate system’ is being enforced only to dismantle the present PDS, the leaders of the organisation alleged. Aadhaar-based biometric authentication in the PDS involves matching of fingerprints in the Aadhaar database over the Internet through point-of-sale machines. “This system is totally illogical and inappropriate for the rural people, who have no access to power, proper roads, Internet, phone connectivity, etc., which are essential for technology-backed biometric authentication,” said Subhrajyoti Vardhan, vice president of All India Agriculture and Rural Labour Association. The organisation added that identification of customers through fingerprints would be difficult for workers engaged in hazardous jobs like plantation fields, brick kilns, masonry, factories, workshops, etc., “as their fingerprints would keep on changing.” Moreover, under the new system, it will be mandatory for old, sick and differently abled persons to arrive at the PDS venues for identification. The Centre will deprive these segments of poor people under the Aadhaar linkage system of the PDS, the leaders maintained. Vardhan said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, being ‘pro-corporate,’ was seeking to gradually dismantle the present PDS so that the corporate sector could gain an upper hand in the foodgrains market. “Prices of foodgrains are more or less stable in the open market due to the PDS. If the PDS is done away with, the prices of foodgrains will skyrocket and poor people will not be able to afford anything. Besides, common people who are getting 25-30 kg of rice under the PDS at Rs 3 to Rs 4, will not be able to buy it from the open market with the subsidy proposed to be offered to customers in their bank accounts,” he said. The organisation has demanded that the beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act must not be linked to Aadhaar cards, and that all beneficiaries must be provided foodgrains and not cash subsidies. (The Assam Tribune 15/9/2016)

Paswan asks states asked to expedite reforms to ensure PDS transparency (21)

New Dlhi: Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Ram Vilas Paswan on Friday appealed to all states to expedite the reforms so as to bring transparency in the functioning of Public Distribution System (PDS), which is a key feature of National Food Security Act (NFSA). Highlighting the significant role played by Central and State Governments in ensuring food security to more than 80 crore eligible beneficiaries under the NFSA, which is presently being implemented in 34 States/UTs, Paswan requested Kerala and Tamil Nadu also to implement the Act as early as possible. He was addressing the inaugural session of the National Conference on Reforms in PDS and it Computerization here today. Paswan appreciated the significant efforts made by the various State/UT Governments in achieving 100 percent digitization of ration cards and automating 1.5 Lakh Fair Price Shops across the country. He also requested the concerned States/UTs, lagging behind in PDS Computerization in general, and in Aadhaar seeding and FPS automation in particular. Paswan said due to Aadhaar seeding a total of 2.33 crore ghost/fraudulent/duplicate ration cards have been deleted across 27 States and UTs which has led to estimated ‘Rightful Targeting of Food Subsidies’ of Rs. 14,000 crore. Addressing the conference, Minister of State of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution C.R. Chaudhary emphasized the need to further improve the efficiency and transparency of all operations related to food security i.e. production, procurement, storage, logistics, distribution and nutrition among others. In order to ensure the timely delivery of quality food-grains and protect consumer rights, he requested the concerned stakeholders to modernize procurement operations, construct scientific storage facilities, implement NFSA and complete the end to end computerization of TPDS operations within the desired timeframes. Vrinda Sarup, Secretary, Department of Food and Public Distribution, said that the National Conference provides an opportunity to review the progress and devise an effective roadmap for the acceleration of PDS reforms. With the innovative use of technology, significant progress has been reported by States/UTs in last two years. She identified the reduction of inclusion and exclusion errors and Aadhaar validation as the key focus areas so that no eligible beneficiary is denied entitlement under the PDS scheme. CEO of UIDAI, who also attended the conference, informed that the Section 7 of Aadhaar Act has been notified and made operational w.e.f. 12th of September 2016. He also briefed the gathering on the implications of Section 7 and Section 12 of Aadhaar Act which requires Aadhaar authentication on possession of Aadhaar for availing subsidy from consolidated fund of India. Those who do not have Aadhaar will be required to enroll for it. Departments can also provide for alternate methods of identification, so that no beneficiary is denied the benefit from Government Schemes in the interim. Officers from the State Governments of Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Maharashtra shared the Best Practices in Aadhaar Seeding, FPS automation and Supply Chain Management for the benefit of others States/UTs. (Business Standard 16/9/2016)

Centre issues ultimatum to Kerala on food security Act (21)

New Delhi: The Centre on Friday warned Kerala and Tamil Nadu that foodgrains for distribution to above the poverty line (APL) families would be provided at a higher rate to the States if they fail to implement the National Food Security Act (NFSA) at the earliest. Other 34 NFSA implementing States and Union Territories have been asked to address gaps on the list of beneficiaries, computerisation of public distribution system, PDS, operation, Aadhaar linkage with ration cards, and grievance redressal mechanism. The NFS Act, passed by Parliament in September 2013 during United Progressive Alliance regime, aims to abolish the APL and below the poverty line (BPL) criteria and uniformly provides 5 kg of wheat or rice to all beneficiaries every month at a subsidised rate of Rs.1-3 per kg. “Kerala and Tamil Nadu are the only two States left where the NFSA has not been implemented yet. Despite being developed States, I don’t understand why they are not doing it,” Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said addressing a two-day national conference on PDS reforms. The Kerala government had earlier said it would implement the NFSA from November but now the State is planning to do it from December. “Kerala says it does not have necessary infrastructure. I don’t understand why a developed State like Kerala says like this,” he said.“If the two States do not implement the Act, we will take stringent action. One option we have is to supply APL foodgrains to them at a higher rate or we completely stop the allocation. Let them buy foodgrains for APL families at the support price,” he said. Asking the States to speed up reforms in the public distribution system (PDS) to curb leakage of foodgrains, Mr. Paswan said there could be problems in putting up necessary infrastructure for the effective roll-out of the NFSA but those issues need to be sorted out by both the Centre and States. While the ration cards have been digitised 100 per cent in the country, States are slow in seeding them with the Aadhaar card, which would help in eliminating bogus beneficiaries, he said,— PTI (The Hindu 17/9/2016)

‘Farmers having land holdings below 10 acres under threat of poverty’ (21)

NAGPUR: “Farmers need to increase their land holdings to at least 10-12 acres in order to earn a decent income from agriculture. Unfortunately, not many farmers in the state own land up to this level,” said Sukhdeo Thorat, the chairman of Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR). Thorat, who was speaking at a seminar on farm crisis organized by Dr Ambedkar Agricos Association of India, said the methodology followed by National Sample Survey Organsiation (NSSO) considers only those households with 50% of income from agriculture as farmers. Considering this yardstick the latest survey released in 2013 pegs the number of farmers at 37% of the rural population in Maharashtra. When it comes to holdings, the share of tribals and those under schedules castes (SC) is less, added Thorat. Citing the survey, he said the tribals’ share in the number of farmers is 28%, SCs are 22%, other backward class (OBC) are at 33%. “The income is minuscule, ranging from Rs17000 to Rs23000 per household,” he said citing the NSSO report on farmers’ socio economic conditions. Among these the least earners are the tribals, he added. “Unless the farm holding is in the range of 10-12 acres the farmers are poor or are facing the threat of poverty. Out of this, at least 6 acres should be irrigated. Even among the bigger holdings, the ratio of irrigated land is less in the state,” said Thorat. The solution lies in what Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar had suggested during his time as a labour minister in British India. A similar problem was faced by farmers with small holdings during the early 1990s. Ambedkar had suggested that the land holdings needed to be increased. According to Ambedkar, there was surplus labour in the agriculture sector, which ended up being in the low income group. Industrialization needed to be boosted where the surplus labour from agriculture sector could be accommodated. “This will reduce the burden on agriculture, increasing the returns, and those remaining in the profession will get chance to invest in fresh holdings,” said Thorat. He said Ambedkar’s thrust was on industrialization which was also reflected in the second five year plan of the country. “Ambedkar was also the pioneer in harnessing water resources of the country. For example, the Damodar Valley project, which was his initiative to have dams for storing water to be used for drinking, irrigation and also power generation,” Thorat said. Later, journalist and author, P Sainath stressed on the need for proper reporting of farmers’ suicides. He alleged that even deaths of those categorized as farm labourers and tenant farmers should be taken seriously. (Times of India 19/9/2016)

HC concerned over 17,000 deaths due to malnutrition in Maha (21)

Mumbai, Sep 21 () Voicing concern over death of 17,000 persons due to malnutrition in tribal areas of Maharashtra in the last one year, the Bombay High Court today asked the state government to take immediate steps to tackle it and submit details of central grants received for tribal welfare. A division bench of Justices V M Kanade and Swapna Joshi was hearing a bunch of PILs regarding malnutrition among children in Melghat region of Vidarbha and other tribal areas in Maharashtra. One of the petitioners showed the court a reply received through the Right to Information (RTI) Act which said over 17,000 persons, including women and children, had died due to malnutrition in the state in the last one year. The court was also informed that 283 persons had died in Melghat region during 2015-16 and additional 83 from January 2016 to July 2016. “This is a very serious matter that so many people have died due to malnutrition in the state. We direct the government to take immediate steps to tackle the menace”, said the judges. The bench also asked the state to improve the working conditions of the doctors in tribal areas. The Maharashtra government today submitted to the High Court a report of the core committee formed to tackle the menace of malnutrition in tribal areas. The government also informed the high court that it did not have enough gynaecologists, general practitioners and other doctors in tribal areas to improve the health condition of people particularly women and children. However, it had taken measures to improve the health conditions of the people in tribal areas because of which the number of deaths due to malnutrition had come down, said the government pleader. The bench sought to know how much grant was received by the state government from the Centre for development of tribal areas and asked the administration to file a reply by October 14 on this issue (Times of India 21/9/2016)

HC lambasts Maharashtra govt over starvation deaths (21)

MUMBAI: The Bombay high court on Wednesday lambasted the state government for its “complete apathy” and “criminal negligence” that has lead to worsening malnutrition deaths in tribal areas of Maharashtra’s eleven districts, including Palghar, close to Mumbai. “This is shocking,” remarked a bench of Justice Vidyasagar Kanade and Justice Swapna Joshi when told by advocate Uday Warunjikar, appearing for petitioner Kasturba Adivasi Mahila Sangh, that nearly 18,000 children have died in the state during 2015-2016 financial year itself. The court is hearing a public interest litigation on malnutrition deaths. The judges said huge amounts of funds are earmarked and yet there are malnutrition deaths taking place. “This is criminal negligence. Every year large number of children die of negligence,” said Justice Kanade. The judges questioned whether it is not the government’s duty to ensure implementation of welfare schemes. Warunjikar informed the court about the recently reported casual response of the minister Vishnu Savara when told some 600 children had died in Palghar district. “See the mentality,” said Warunjikar. The court lamented the non-implementation of its orders passed since May 2010.”We are absolutely frustrated. If this continues, we will ask the chief secretary to come here. Only if we do that, the entire machinery will work,” said Justice Kanade. The bench asked for a compilation of all orders so that it can issue showcause notices to the officers responsible. The government’s advocate, Neha Bhide, said the core committee, formed following the HC’s May 2015 order, with the chief secretary as its chairperson has held eight meetings. She submitted its report saying the government is doing everything it can to implement the schemes. (Times of India 22/9/2016)

Propagate schemes to check poverty, says HC Judge (21)

KURNOOL: The government welfare schemes being implemented for alleviating poverty should be widely propagated among the people, in charge Chief Justice of the High Court of Judicature of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana Justice Ramesh Ranganathan said on Saturday. The government schemes must be effectively implemented to ensure that families below the poverty line led decent lives, said Mr. Ranganathan, who is also the State Legal Services Authority chairman. He was the chief guest at a seminar on poverty alleviation organised by the A.P. Legal Services Authority and its Kurnool district branch at Vyas auditorium in the District Police Office here. Professor Lajpath Rai of the Sri Krishnadevaraya University explained the objectives of the poverty alleviation schemes of the Central and State governments through a Power-point presentation. SK University law professor Seshaiah spoke about the legal aspects related to the poverty alleviation schemes. Assistant Commissioner of Labour N. Seshagiri Rao narrated the awareness programmes undertaken by the Labour Department. Project Director of Mission for Elimination of Poverty in Municipal Areas N. Ramanjaneyulu spoke about the benefits made available to various sections through the poverty alleviation schemes. Project Director of the Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty T. Muralidhar spoke about the economic empowerment and benefits to the rural poor. Kurnool District Judge G. Anupama Chakravarthi, A.P. State Legal Services Authority Member-Secretary P.V. Rambabu, District Legal Services Authority secretary M.A. Somasekhar, judges, para-legal volunteers, panel advocates, District Senior Citizens’ Welfare Society president Y. Venkata Reddy, officials and representatives of voluntary organisations were present. (The Hindu 25/9/2016)

Cong demands food security for tribals (21)

Koraput: The SC and ST Cell of the Congress on Saturday organised a massive rally at Kashipur in Rayagada district criticising the state government for its alleged failure in providing social security to the tribals of the region. Led by state president of the party’s ST cell Pradeep Majhi over 7,000 tribals took out a rally for 6 km from Sipijodi, where last month three persons had reportedly died after eating soup made from mango kernel, to the Kashipur block headquarters. “The state government has failed in providing food security to the tribals which has forced them to eat mango kernel. The rice which the tribals get under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) is not enough to feed the family for the entire month. We demand the state governemnt to consider the seriousness of the matter and take every possible steps to ensure tribals dont consume mango kernel in future, said Majhi. The former Nabarangpur MP alleged that during their inquiry at Sipijodi it was found that the villagers don’t get any job under the MGNREGA and those who have worked under the central job scheme have not received wages for the past six months. Not a single villager at Sipijodi have been provided land under the Forest Rights Act (FRA). Of the 58 families only 18 have been provided houses under the Indira Awas Yojana (IAY), he said. The tribal leader alleged that the healthcare system has completely collapsed in Kashipur block as there is only one doctor for over 1.5 lakh population. “If our demands are not fulfilled then over two lakh tribals will stage dharna at Bhubaneswar,” Majhi said. Among others, senior Cogress leader Bhakta Charan Das, Koraput MLA Krushna Sagaria and Laxmipur MLA Kailash Chandra Kulesika attended the rally. However, senior BJD leader from Rayagada and Rajya Sabha member Bhaskar Rao brushed aside the Congress allegations describing it as a political gimmick by the national party having an eye on the coming rural polls. Chief minister Naveen Patnaik has always worked for the welfare of the tribals and for his good works people have voted him for the fourth time as the chief minister of the state. It’s a routine work of the Congress to cirticise the state governemnt and this they are doing for the past 16 years, he said. (Times of India 26/9/2016)

TN, Kerala to get PDS grains from Centre at MSP rates (21)

New Delhi, Sep 28 () Acting tough against Tamil Nadu and Kerala who are yet to implement Food Law, the Union Cabinet today approved supply of foodgrain at the minimum support price (MSP) for distribution to above poverty line families via ration shops. Barring these two states, 34 states and Union Territories have rolled out the National Food Security Act (NFSA), passed by the Parliament in September 2013 during the UPA regime, either partially or fully. The NFSA aims to abolish the above poverty line (APL) and below poverty line (BPL) criteria and uniformly provides 5 kg of wheat or rice to all beneficiaries every month at a subsidised rate of Rs 1-3 per kg. “The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has approved a proposal to provide foodgrains to APL category to Tamil Nadu and Kerala at MSP instead of APL rate,” Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan told after the meeting. Wheat will be supplied at the MSP of Rs 15.25 per kg and rice at Rs 22.54 per kg to these two states. Earlier, wheat and rice were given to them at APL rate of Rs 6.10 per kg and Rs 8.30 per kg respectively, he said. Normally, the Central government supplies 1.40 lakh tonnes foodgrain to Tamil Nadu and 47,800 tonnes to Kerala every month for distribution to APL families. However, the foodgrain supplies to these two states for distribution to BPL families and Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) would continue at old rates, Paswan added. As per the officail data, Tamil Nadu has a total of 195.85 ration card holders, out of which BPL and APL are 170.20 lakh while the remaining are under AAY category. There is no distinction made between BPL and APL in the state as it follows universal public distribution system. In Kerala, there are 82.31 lakh ration cards holders, of which APL families comprise 61.54 lakh. Earlier this month, Paswan had warned these two states that foodgrains for distribution to APL families would be provided at a higher rate if they fail to implement NFSA at the earliest. Kerala has informed the Centre that it would roll out the NFSA by December, while TN has not given any date. (Times of India 28/9/2016)


Centre offers bonus, wage sops, but trade unions firm on strike (14)

NEW DELHI: The Centre announced a slew of measures on Tuesday, including a 42% increase in minimum wages for unskilled non-agricultural workers to Rs 350 a day and payment of bonus for two years to central government employees, in a bid to get trade unions to call off their proposed nationwide strike on Friday. But the move was rejected by the unions, which stuck to their plan to paralyse the functioning of all public sector units, including state-run banks, in protest against divestment and FDI in sectors such as defence, railways and insurance. Union finance minister Arun Jaitley announced the measures after discussions with Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, the RSS-affiliated trade union, which had already opted out of the strike. The payment of bonus for 2014-15 and 2015-16 to the central government employees will be based on revised norms and will cost the exchequer Rs 1,920 crore annually. The Centre also assured that amendments made to the Payment of Bonus Act will be implemented strictly and it will support the cause of unions in high courts and the Supreme Court. Labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya said 97 cases regarding implementation of the amended law were pending in 14 high courts and the SC. Trade unions have put for ward a 12-point charter of demands, which includes dropping plans for disinvestment as well as reversing decisions related to allowing higher FDI in sectors such as defence, railways and insurance. Labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya said eight of these were related to labour issues and the government was working to address concerns on seven of them.”In the last-one-and-a-half years, the inter-ministerial years, the inter-ministerial committee had meeting with central trade unions. Trade unions placed various demands. Some were labour-related and some related to economic policy issues. The government has taken some decisions with regard to those on the basis of their recommendations,” finance minister Arun Jaitley told reporters. The statement issued by the government also said that the Centre will issue advisories to states for ensuring completion of trade union registration within 45 days. It said registration of contract workers and their staffing agencies is mandatory and states will be advised to strictly implement them and errant contractors will face action for violation of law. The issue of giving social security benefit to the unorganised sector (like Anganwadi, midday meal, Asha volunteers) will be examined by a committee. (Times of India 1/9/2016)

Unions demand wage hike, oppose anti-labour reforms (14)

New Delhi: The one-day all-India strike by trade unions on Friday is expected to be the biggest so far. A look at the key questions related to the agitation.All the central trade unions, except BMS, and the majority of independent trade unions are participating.All private, public sector, and unorganised sector workers, except Railways and non-industrial workers in government NGOs, are expected to join.Total strength of workforce: 472.9 million as per NSSO 2011-12. As per 2011-12 NSSO data, 87% of India’s workforce was in the unorganised sector and only 13 were in the organised sector; 94.8% in the organised sector were informal workers, only 10.6% were formal; 89.4% in unorganised sector were informal workers, only 5.2% were formal.According to media estimates, 15 crore workers took part in the strike last year, and all the unions expect the numbers to be more this year.There were five demands in the first all-India strike in 2010, and seven more were added in the subsequent strikes. Among the 12 major demands are the following: minimum wage of not less than Rs. 18,000 per month; stop contractualisation of labour for perennial work, and ensure the payment of same wage and benefits for contract workers as regular workers; scrapping of proposed labour law amendments and universal social security for all workers.This is the fourth all-India strike since the coming together of the central unions in 2009. The earlier ones were in 2010, 2011 and 2015.There is a greater proportion of unorganised/informal workers participating in recent years, for two reasons: there has not been much growth in organised sector employment; contract employment in the unorganised and organised sectors has been growing. (The Hindu 2/9/2016)

Odisha government launches pension scheme for construction workers (14)

BHUBANESWAR: The state government today launched pension scheme for construction workers which will benefit 25 lakh beneficiaries in phases. Launching the scheme at a function here, chief minister Naveen Patnaik said all registered construction workers above 60 years of age will get pension of Rs 300 per month while workers above 80 years of age will get pension of Rs 500 per month. The rule requiring a construction worker to be registered for a minimum of five years to benefit from the pension scheme has also been waived, he said. Besides, widows of construction workers and physically challenged labourers will also come under the purview of the scheme. The chief minister said the state government has launched housing schemes for construction workers residing in rural areas. Financial assistance for workers has also been enhanced to Rs 1.3 lakh under the scheme. He gave away work orders to 1000 construction workers  at the function. Naveen asked the Construction Worker Welfare Board to include more workers under the housing scheme. The chief minister said the state government has also taken several other welfare measures for the construction workers. Financial assistance for mothers has been increased from Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 while seriously ill workers are provided Rs 3 lakh. The state government has provided assistance of Rs 172 crore to 4 lakh construction workers under different schemes, he said. Revenue minister Bijoyshree Routray, finance minister Pradip Amat, minister of state for labour Prafulla Mallik, minister of state for higher education Pradip Panigrahi, minister of state for sports and youth affairs Sudam Marandi, party MLAs and mayor Anant Narayan Jena attended. (New Indian Express 9/9/2016)

Labour reforms will help 50 lakh security guards: Dattatreya (14)

New Delhi, Sep 14 () The government’s move to link some of its flagship programmes such as Skill India, Make in India and Start-up India will help more than 50 lakh security guards, Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya said today. Speaking at a conclave of private security industry organised by Ficci here, he said the ministry will soon categorise security guards as ‘skilled’ workers and armed security guards and supervisors as ‘highly skilled’ workers, which will entitle them a minimum monthly wage of Rs 15,000 and Rs 25,000, respectively. The government is pursuing labour reforms vigorously, which is part of the larger goal to link key flagship programmes such as Skill India, Make in India and Start-up India, the minister said. “This will not only bring enhanced wages to over 50 lakh security personnel currently engaged in the private security space, but will also provide social cover to over 2.5 crore of their family members,” Dattatreya noted. The decision will also enable private security agencies to recruit, train and employ quality workforce for the sector, which has been a demand of all stakeholders such as security agencies, corporations and the public, he added. As part of its simplification exercise, the ministry is amalgamating 44 central labour laws into four codes, which will be referred to the Cabinet shortly. Dattatreya expressed hope that a Bill to this effect will be introduced in the next session for parliamentary approval. The four codes relate to wages, industrial relations, social security and working conditions and health and safety. (Times of India 14/9/2016)

Industry opposes AAP govt.’s move for ‘steep hike’ in minimum wages (14)

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government’s endeavour to increase minimum wages in the capital by a steep 46 per cent to over Rs. 14,000 a month is overestimated as it is based on a flawed calorific arithmetic, industry has alleged in a missive to Lieutenant-Governor Najeeb Jung. Industry representatives have approached the his office for red-flagging the calculation methodology, which, they claim, has led to an overestimation of the revised wage threshold in the Arvind Kejriwal government’s proposal. However, the Delhi Labour Commissioner’s Office has refuted the claim. The Apex Chamber of Commerce and Industry, an association of industry in the National Capital Region, has also apprised Mr. Jung of its pending writ petition in the Delhi High Court challenging the constitution of the wage committee following which the Lieutenant Governor had sent the file back to the Delhi government earlier this month.Each State can fix its own minimum wage level for industries based on spending estimates for a working class family on 2,700 calories of food per person, 72 yards clothes, minimum housing rent and education and light and fuel, as prescribed by the Indian Labour Conference in 1957. In Delhi’s case, industrial chambers wrote to Mr. Jung opposing the calculations adopted by the Delhi government to arrive at the proposed minimum wages. The State has proposed that unskilled workers should now get at least Rs. 14,052 a month from Rs. 9,568 at present, semi-skilled workers must be paid Rs. 15,471 as opposed to Rs. 10,582 and Rs. 17,033 a month for skilled workers, up from Rs. 11,622 now payable. Industry has argued that the food and beverages items for breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner meals taken into account to compute the minimum wage level for workers in Delhi had much higher calorific value of 3,447 calories than the minimum requirement of 2,700 calories per adult per day. The expenditure on food, which constitutes around 65 per cent of the wage component, was overestimated, the industry body claimed. The Hindu has reviewed a copy of the documents submitted by an industry chamber to Mr. Jung. The body has also written to Delhi Labour Commissioner A.K. Singh. (The Hindu 14/9/2016)

 ‘Don’t recover loans from wages paid to farmers for works under MGNREGA’ (14)

Shivamogga: Residents of Channagonda, Kuppagadde and other villages have lodged a complaint with the zilla panchayat that the wages credited to their accounts under MGNREGA had been deducted for loans they had borrowed. They also said that the recovery had been performed by banks without any intimation to the accounts holders. It is an unfair practice and defeated the very purpose of MGNREGA to promote income and employment generation activities in rural areas, he said at a meeting here on Thursday to review the progress of implementation of Karnataka Development Programmes. There are also complaints against some nationalised banks that they had recovered loans from the subsidy amount sanctioned for rural families under various housing schemes and under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan for construction of toilets. He directed the manager of District Lead Bank to write to all nationalised banks to return the wages paid under MGNREGA and subsidy amount that was deducted from the bank accounts of rural people towards recovery of loans. D.R. Rekha Umesh, chairperson of Standing Committee on Social Justice, expressed displeasure that expired medicines were given for the patients at primary health centres(PHCs) in rural areas of Bhadravathi taluk. Mr. Rakesh Kumar directed officials of the Department of Health and Family Welfare to ensure proper maintenance of stock and issuance registers of medicines at PHCs. The information related to arrival of the consignment of the medicines and their expiry date should be added to both stock and issuance registers, he said. Deputy Director of Department of Public Instruction P.S. Machado told the meeting that the Android-enabled biometric attendance devices have been provided for all the 143 government high schools in the district in June. (The Hindu 16/9/2016)

ESIC & EPF benefits for construction workers soon (14)

BHUBANESHWAR: Centre is planning to extend benefits under ESIC and EPF for construction workers. Announcing this here at the inaugural session of the national conference on labour, union minister of state for labour and employment Bandaru Dattatreya said auto and cycle-rickshaw and anganwadi and ASHA workers will get benefits of ESIC in a phased manner. Dattatreya, however, said states are not utilising funds even after collecting huge amount towards cess from construction sector. “The money is deposited in the state while construction workers remain neglected and exploited,” he said. Out of the `27,886 construction sector cess with the states, only `5800 crore has been spent, he said and added that this funds should be spent judiciously for the welfare of the construction workers allocated under the BOCW (Building and Other Construction Workers Act) of 1996. The union minister said in case of Odisha, though the state government has a deposit of `940 crore from the construction sector cess, only `120 crore has been spent. Expressing concern over diversion of welfare funds meant for the construction workers, he said  it is seen that in some states that funds are utilised otherwise and not for the construction workers who have rights over the cess amount. Though there is clear guideline for expenditure of the funds, some states are giving bi-cycle to workers which is not in the priority list, he said. Dattatreya said the cess amount for construction workers should be utilised under four heads – health, education, skill development and social security including pension. But, that is not happening in many states, he said. The Supreme Court has also raised question on unspent funds collected as cess in construction sector, he said. As construction sector generates maximum employment, the Centre has been taking steps to ensure protection of workers rights, he said and added that there are 44 laws for protection of the labourers which should be implemented properly. Inaugurating the conference, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said that the state government has spent ` 200 crore against Rs 1,000 crore for welfare of construction workers and we plan to cross Rs 500 crore this year. Around 16 lakh workers have already been registered under the Odisha and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board and received benefits worth `175 crore. Stating that 25 lakh construction workers will be registered by the end of the financial year, he said and added that the state government has rolled out comprehensive schemes for them in different fields. The conference was attended by labour ministers of six states – Odisha, Bihar, Telangana, Meghalaya, Jharkhand and Haryana. (New Indian Express 20/9/2016)

MGNREGA workers stage protest, demand regular jobs (14)

Bathinda: Field and office employees working under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) today staged a protest against the government over their demand of regular jobs. They have been protesting from a long time over their demands and have been urging for a panel meeting with the Chief Minister. They claim that despite the fact that there had been numerous vacancies in the Department of Rural Development and Panchayat, the MGNREGA employees were not regularised by the government whereas the neighbouring Haryana state had regularised its employees. Addressing the protesters, union leader Sukhdeep Singh said around 1,200 MGNREGA workers had been working on different posts in various departments of the state for the past seven years. “Every year, our contract is extended till March 31 despite the fact that we were recruited through a proper procedure of advertisement and then interviews for the posts. We have been working in the Rural Development and Panchayat Department for the past several years and the department is now advertising for recruitment to fill posts lying vacant instead of regularising our jobs.” “Even in 2011, the then Rural Development and Panchayat Minister, Ranjit Singh, promised to regularise us if they came into power but all these turned out to be false promises. The state government was not keen on regularising our jobs since it was exploiting the employees by paying them meagre salaries,” Sukhdeep Singh added. (The Tribune 23/9/2016)

Labour laws to be amalgamated into four main ‘Codes’ (14)

UDHAGAMANDALAM: The forty four centre laws in the Indian Labour Law would be amalgamated into four main ‘Labour Codes’ soon, Shankar Agarwal, Secretary, labour and employment, Government of India announced on Saturday. He was speaking at the 123 {+r} {+d} United Planters’ Association of Southern India (UPASI) annual conference in Ooty. Speaking about the labour rules, Agarwal said, “They are volatile in India as the laws are undergoing various changes since 1921. However, the main laws are out of sync. In an effort to simplify the laws, the 44 laws have been amalgamated into four main labour codes.”According to him, two main labour codes have been finalised and sent to the cabinet for sanction. Code on wages, code on industrial relations, code on working condition and code on social security will be the four main labour codes. Meanwhile, the Plantation Labour Act will be soon amended in the interest of the plantation workers. Also, the labour ministry has proposals to open around 3,000 more Employees’ State Insurance (ESI) dispensaries across the country, Agarwal informed. President of UPASI, N Dharmaraj, who also spoke at the event said, “The support of the government is being sought in the export of tea along with value addition and boost in price.” He also said that the country’s plantation sector is the major employer after Indian Railways. Later, Agarwal distributed trophies to the prize winners of the 12th edition of the Golden Leaf India Awards organised in Dubai in April 2016. Tnn (Times of India 25/9/2016)

Tribal youths on warpath seeking promised jobs (14)

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


HC dismisses PIL for effective implementation of Manual Workers Act (14)

Madurai: The Madras High Court Bench here has dismissed a public interest litigation petition filed jointly by seven different associations for labourers seeking effective implementation of Sections 3 and 16 of the Tamil Nadu Manual Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Work) Act, 1982 and the rules framed thereunder. A Division Bench of Justices S. Nagamuthu and M.V. Muralidaran closed the case after recording the submissions made by Commissioner of Labour, in his counter affidavit, that the State was a pioneer in providing social security and extending welfare assistance to manual workers as specified in the schedule to the 1982 Act. The Commissioner said the government had introduced many schemes for the benefit of manual workers and with a view to uplifting their status. “The petitioner is not able to specify the place where the Act or Rules framed thereunder had not been implemented. A very innocuous allegation has been made in the petition as though the Act and Rules had not been implemented. In the light of the Commissioner’ s statement, we are not in a position to issue any further direction as prayed for. “Further to implement any Act or statutory rules, no direction is required from the court because every citizen of this country including government servants are bound by the statutes,” the judges observed before dismissing the petition preferred by Uzhaikum Makkal Union, Madurai Mavattta Kattumana Matrum Thatchu Thozhilalar Union and five others. (The Hindu 28/9/2016)


Ramdas Athawale for 25% quota for poor among upper castes (25)

NEW DELHI: Junior social justice minister Ramdas Athawale has said the quantum of job reservation should be raised to 75%, with an additional 25% carved out for the poor among the forward castes.Athawale, according to an agency report, told reporters that the increase will settle the perennial controversy about reservations. At present, the total quota for SCs, STs and OBCs stands at 49.5%. Reservations cannot cross 50%, which is a Supreme Court-mandated cap.”To end this controversy (about reservation) forever, I am going to talk to PM Modi and we will also talk to all political parties and see if there can be a constitutional amendment,” the minister of state for social justice said on Tuesday. Athawale said reservations can never be abolished despite the opposition, but added that he has always been in favour of quotas for economically backward classes like the Patels in Gujarat or Jats in Haryana. (Times of India 1/9/2016)

Kejriwal hits out at Gujarat over prohibition (25)

Ahmedabad: Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) supremo and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday hit out at Gujarat government for its prohibition policy. This comes after the AAP  actively supported the Patidar quota stir and the Dalit movement that gathered steam in the state after the public flogging of four youths at Una in Gir-Somnath district of Saurashtra region on July 11. “Some people from Gujarat met me this morning and informed me as if rivers of alcohol are flowing in the state. I was surprised as Gujarat has prohibition. However, they informed me that it is home delivered and everyone from police to administration is hand in glove, collecting money,” Kejriwal said in a video message shared by AAP via social media. Wednesday’s message by Kejriwal could be a step by AAP to win over sizeable OBC community in the state. The OBC community, led by Alpesh Thakor, has been trying to build a pressure group by covertly using the issue of prohibition in the state.  He has even organised “Janta Raids” on liquor dens in the state. All this, after quota stir by Patidars seeking OBC status gained momentum in the state. The OBC community feels that if demand of Patels is met, they could eat in to their share of reservations. “Alpesh Thakor is doing a good job on the issue of prohibition and encouraging people against addiction. He has taken the issue across the state but the administration must act firmly to curb this menace,” Kejriwal said in his message. The message by AAP supremo also comes on the day Alpesh Thakor was in Banaskantha district of North Gujarat, where a policeman from Thakor community allegedly committed suicide due to harassment by his colleagues at behest of liquor mafia. Alpesh has issued an ultimatum to the state government to nab those named by policeman in his suicide note else they would burn effigies across all the districts of the state in protest. (Deccan Herald 2/9/16)

Jharkhand coalition partner seeks doubling of OBC quota in state (25)

Ranchi, Sep 4 : The All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU), a part of the BJP-led ruling coalition, on Sunday demanded almost doubling of the reservation for other backward class people in the state from the existing 14 per cent to 27 per cent. “The reservation quota for backward class people should be increased up to 27 per cent in education and services of Jharkhand,” said AJSU president Sudesh Mahto while addressing Akhil Jharkhand Backward Class Mahasammelan here. “In Jharkhand, the population of backward class is 46.11 per cent and the reservation is just 14 per cent. The central govt has given 27 per cent reservation to backward class people and reservation for backward class varies from 21 to 50 per cent in different states of the country. Even Mandal Commission recommendation advocates 27 per cent reservation for the backward class,” he said. In tribal Jharkhand, 27 per cent seats have been reserved for the community, 14 per cent for backward classes and and nine per cent for the Scheduled Castes. (New Kerala 4/9/2016)

SC to examine validity of 10% quota for EWS in Gujarat (25)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday said that a three-judge bench will examine the validity of the Gujarat government ordinance for 10 per cent reservation for the economically weaker sections of society which was quashed by the Gujarat High Court in August. While saying that the matter would be heard by a three-judge bench, the bench of Chief Justice T.S. Thakur, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said that the admissions made prior to the quashing of the ordinance by the High Court would not be distributed. The bench said that after the completion of the pleadings, the three-judge bench would take a call if the issue has to be heard and decided by the constitution bench. The court said this as Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told the bench that ultimately this matter has to be heard by the constitution bench. Issuing notice to the affected students who had challenged the notification providing 10 per cent reservation, the court in its order said that all the admissions made prior to the quashing of the ordinance by the High Court would not be affected and no further action toward the implementation of the notification qua admission and services is possible. The Gujarat government had issued an ordinance giving 10 per cent reservation to economically weaker sections in the wake of the Patel Patidar agitation seeking reservation in educational institutions and services. (Zee News 9/9/2016)

Jats’ quota call to go to Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand (25)

MAYYAR (HISAR): The Jat community on Tuesday decided to campaign against the BJP in the three assembly poll-bound states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and Uttarakhand to mount pressure on the party to grant reservation to them under the other backward class (OBC) quota. “Jats have a stronghold of over 125 seats in UP, around 80 in Punjab, and 22 in the plains of Uttarakhand. Teams from Haryana will visit these constituencies to hold ‘Jat Arakshan Sandesh Yatra’ and ‘Jat Sankalp Rallies’ to tell people about the non-fulfilment of the quota promise by BJP in Haryana,” said Yashpal Malik, president of All India Jat Arakshan Sangharsh Samiti (Aijass). Addressing a a highly-charged gathering of around 10,000 at Hisar’s Mayyar village, Malik and other leaders appealed to the community to mobilize the community against the BJP, and prepare it to hold rallies in the three states before the polls. Malik said when the Congress government had ignored their demand for reservation from 2006 to 2013, they had to hold similar rallies against during the state polls in Jat-dominated constituencies of Rajasthan and Delhi in December 2013, and the Congress had to face a humiliating defeat in both the states. “It was only after learning a lesson from these states that Congress had announced reservation for Jats and notified it within two months by February 2014. We have seen the attitude of BJP in the past two years on OBC quota to Jats; such protests are the only reply to their deception,” he said. Manvender Verma, president of the UP unit of Aijass, said they had already called two large gathering of Jats at Amloh and Meerut on October 23 and November 6, respectively. “Aap log ghabrayein nahin, jaton ke maang ko kuchalne ke liye hum Narendra Modi ka helicopter UP mein nahin utarne denge (You do not need to worry, we will not allow Narendra Modi’s chopper to land in UP during assembly polls, to express our grouse against the party suppressing our community in Haryana),” Verma said. The president of Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, Jagdish Singh Jhinda, who also joined the rally with several Sikh leaders, extended support to the Jat community over reservation. Jhinda presented a ‘siropa’ to Malik and the families of those who died during the Jat agitation in February this year. Malik announced the launch of another round of agitation from November, and asked the Aijass district-level committee to identify places in each district for the proposed agitation. He asked the gathering to be prepared to launch the agitation after a 72-hour ultimatum, if required, before November. The rally was organized to mark the death anniversary of youths who killed during the Jat agitation at Mayyar in 2010. Two prominent leaders of the Chamar community also addressed the gathering, extending support to the Jat community for reservation. Birbal Lamba of Uklana said they had told their women to support the Jat community as both Chamars and Jats have been working together for years, and in the present circumstances, the Jats really needed reservation. (Times of India 14/9/2016)

Centre may introduce quota for faculty at IIMs: Javadekar (25)

AHMEDABAD: The central government intends to bring a bill to introduce quota for faculty positions in the country’s premier business schools Indian Institute of Management (IIMs), Human Resource Development Prakash Javadekar said at IIM-Ahmedabad on Friday. Making the announcement, Mr. Javadekar also said that he has called a meeting of IIMs’ chairmen and directors at IIM-Shillong on September 20, 2016, to discuss the issue. Currently, there are no reservations for SCs, STs and OBCs in teaching jobs at IIMs — all set up by the government. Mr. Javadekar added that he was reviewing the existing quota systems in teaching positions in other premier educational institutes like Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and National Institutes of Technology (NITs), which were also set up by the central government. “I recently held meetings of Councils of Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs) in Delhi to discuss this issue. I also plan to hold such meetings with National Institutes of Technology (NITs) and central universities. I am conducting a review of all institutes and existing system for faculty reservation and government rules pertaining to reservation and related provisions under Constitution.” the Minister told the media persons after interacting with IIM faculty members and students. Another major announcement the Minister made was about allowing the IIMs to offer degrees while giving them more autonomies. It may be noted that the IIMs offer only post-graduate diploma degrees because they are registered as societies governed by their respective Board of Governors. “The new bill proposed by the Ministry aims at providing more autonomy to the IIMs and allow them to offer degree courses which they are not currently because of their status as a society. The Ministry is contemplating to amend existing laws like it did in the case of IITs and NITs to allow IIMs to offer degree courses,” he added. During the meeting on September 20, 2016, between Mr. Javadekar, the Ministry officials and the chairmen and directors of all IIMs, this is on the agenda. (The Hindu 16/9/2016)

Athawale seeks 25% reservation for upper caste poor (25)

Bhubaneswar: Seeking 25 per cent reservation for upper caste poor, dalit leader and Union Minister Ramdas Athawale on Tuesday said the present ceiling of 50 per cent should be raised for this additional quota for which the Constitution might be amended. “I am in favour of providing 25 per cent reservation for the economically backward sections belonging to upper caste from the 50 per cent left for general people,” the Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment told reporters in Bhubaneswar. He said the present maximum quota of 50 per cent should be increased to 75 per cent in order to accommodate economically backward classes belonging to various categories including Gujjars, Patels, Rajputs, Marathas, Jats and Brahmins. “In order to increase the quantum of reservation beyond the existing quota for SC, ST and OBCs, the Constitution should be amended to avoid any legal hurdle,” he said. Noting that Tamil Nadu already provides 69 per cent reservation, Athawale said economically backward people from upper castes should be accommodated in the proposed additional 25 per cent quota. He asserted that the extra quota would not affect SCs, STs and Dalits. Strongly batting for inter-caste marriages, Athawale said it should be encouraged in a big way and states should also provide attractive incentives to those opting for this. “It would not only bring down atrocities on dalits and tribals but also put an end to casteism in due course,” he said. Asking Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to set an example, the union minister said Patnaik should announce that the districts recording high inter-caste marriages would get reward of Rs 20 crore to Rs 25 crore. Youths opting for inter caste marriage should also be promised jobs, he said. Stating that atrocities on dalits had increased and law alone cannot prevent it, he said people should work together to bring about social changes by promoting inter-caste marriage. On various welfare measures of the centre for the disadvantaged sections, the union minister said that the scholarship being given to SC, ST and OBC students at present was inadequate and the union government was considering steps to increase the amount substantially. “Around 68 lakh ST and SC and 72 lakh OBC students are now getting scholarships from the centre and there is a proposal to raise the budget on this head,” he said. Emphasising that the NDA government is working for the disabled people, Athawale said a proposal to increase the amount of pension given to the handicapped was also under serious consideration of the centre. (Business Standard 20//2016)

Govt to set up panel to study BC quota (25)

HYDERABAD: Telangana government on Tuesday decided to constitute a Backward Classes commission to look into reservations for BC communities in the state. The state cabinet in its meeting on September 26 is likely to approve the proposal. Chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao on Tuesday convened a review meeting on BC welfare and decided to constitute a BC commission to study issues related to social and economic status of people belonging to backward classes and advise the government accordingly. The government’s move to constitute a BC commission is seen as politically significant in view of the ruling party’s poll promise to provide 12 per cent reservation in education and jobs to backward class Muslims. Last month, a commission headed by retired IAS officer G Sudhir submitted its report on backward class Muslims to the government following which the CM said his government would consider providing reservation to them in proportion to their population. Muslims in Telangana account for 12.5 per cent of its over 3.5 crore population. At present, they are entitled to 4 per cent reservation and the state government has to find its way through legal hurdles as a case related to Muslim reservation is pending before the Supreme Court. Undivided Andhra Pradesh government, during YS Rajashekhara Reddy’s regime, enhanced Muslim reservation to 5 per cent which the Supreme Court struck down, and the apex court is now hearing a review petition. “I think the Supreme Court case will never come in the way of enhancing reservation to Muslims. The government has to fulfil its promise,” said senior Muslim leader and MIM MLC Syed Amin-ul-Hassan Jafri. While the Sudhir commission was an enquiry commission, the proposed BC commission will be a statutory body whose recommendation will have more validity. The commission will suggest steps to be taken as government is proposing more welfare schemes for BCs such as setting up of one residential school in each of the 119 assembly constituencies on the lines of Gurukul Schools for SC and ST students, and developing BC study circles into academies. The move also acquires significance in view of the demand that more castes such as Chetti Balija, Koppula Velama, Kalinga, Goura and Thurpu Kapu be added to BC list. These and 21 other castes were deleted from the BC list after bifurcation. “It is a long-pending demand that a BC commission be constituted and we welcome the government’s decision,” said president of Telangana BC Welfare Association R Krishnaiah, who is also a TDP legislator. He said the backward classes in the state account for 52% of population and accordingly reservation for them must be enhanced. At present, BCs are given 25 per cent reservation. (Times of India 21/9/2016)

Gujarat govt suspends EBC quota implementation in 52,000 govt jobs (25)

AHMEDABAD: In a studied move the Gujarat government kept in abeyance the implementation of 10 per cent reservation across admissions in educational institutions and in close to 52,000 upcoming government job vacancies for Economically Backward Classes (EBC). What is significant is that deputy CM Nitin Patel on Friday said that even the Gujarat government’s biggest employment drive in over two decades for filling more than 52,000 job vacancies too has been suspended for the time being till the division bench of the supreme court pronounces its decision. Patel clarified that admissions pertaining to 3,000 odd medical seats carried on basis of EBC quota will not be affected. The EBC quota was brought into effect by an Ordinance passed on May 1 this year by the Anandiben Patel government following the Patidar agitation. “A total of eight EBC notifications issued by our government stands withdrawn. The court has allowed the EBC notification for medical seats and these students will not be affected,” says Patel. Patel said that recruitment procedures for 17,000 teachers jobs in government primary schools, 8,000 jobs in higher secondary schools, 17,000 police personnel and 10,000 odd jobs in various other government establishments was on. “The EBC quota notification stands suspended for these jobs and so are the recruitment procedures till the supreme court division bench,” said Patel.A senior official accompanying Patel told TOI that continuing Dalit agitation, fearing contempt procedures from the Supreme Court and high court were reasons for withdrawal of notification for government jobs. The official further added that on Thursday this week the Punjab and Haryana high court had stayed the Haryana government’s decision of giving 10% quota to economically backward persons (EBP) in the admission to state medical colleges. “We were told that the Haryana government too may appeal before the Supreme Court following Gujarat,” said the senior official. Gujarat’s petition in the Supreme Court argues that the EBC quota is not a reservation, as the Gujarat HC held, but is a “genuine classification on economic ground”. The petition in the SC was filed by advocate Hemantika Wahi. Interestingly, the decision for withdrawing the EBC notification was taken soon after the ‘twitter townhall’ conducted by CM Vijay Rupani on Friday where he was inviting questions from public. Patel said that around evening he had called CM Rupani and officials of the Social Justice and empowerment department and General Administration Department to discuss EBC implementation in upcoming government vacancies in the light of the government’s petition pending before a three judge division bench in the Supreme Court since August 9. (Times of India 24/9/2016)

CM Devendra Fadnavis assures Marathas of education, job reservation (25)

PUNE: Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Sunday said his government is committed to providing reservation to Marathas in employment and education. The statement follows the massive response to state-wide Maratha rallies that are being held to demand Maratha reservation, halt to “gross misuse” of the SCST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, and the death penalty for the accused in the Kopardi gangrapemurder case. The previous government had promulgated an ordinance in 2014 to provide 16% reservation for Marathas, who constitute 34-36% of the state’s population, but the high court stayed it. “My government is honestly committed to providing reservation to Marathas. We are (also) solving problems faced by the community by (promoting) financial empowerment, employment and entrepreneurship,” Fadnavis told TOI. He said the government has drafted an action plan to provide job opportunities to 5 lakh Maratha youths with skill development and finance. “Large sections of Marathas have faced educational and economic backwardness. It’s a legacy created by apathy for a long time… Marathas should come forward to work unitedly on solutions to issues raised by the community … We will find an amicable solution with the help of all,” Fadnavis said. The Fadnavis government had ignored initial protests, sparked by the gangrape and murder of a girl in Kopardi village, Ahmednagar district.But after the Aurangabad rally, attended by over five lakh people, law enforcing agencies made it clear to the CM that if he ignored the ongoing protests, his government would pay a heavy price. Fadnavis had earlier made a statement that he was prepared for a dialogue with the agitating Marathas. A senior bureaucrat told TOI, “We are working out an action plan for a dialogue with the Maratha community , before they plan a morcha in Mumbai.” A convener of the Maratha Kranti Muk Morcha said there will be no compromise unless there is specific commitment to meet Maratha demands. “We will not accept assurance. We are keen on written orders,” he said. Since 1990, three commis sions have observed that Marathas are not a backward community . As such, they are not eligible for reservation in employment and education.The reports were submitted in 1990, 2000 and 2008. A strong demand for reservation was made for the first time in 1997, but it was not pursued. A fresh demand was made in 2005 by the Maratha Mahasangh. In 2013, the state government appointed a cabinet sub-committee headed by the then industries minister Narayan Rane to study the demand. Rane rec ommended 20% reservation. (Times of India 26/9/2016)

Maharashtra parties indulge in slugfest over Maratha reservation (25)

MUMBAI, Sep 27: As the press and office of Saamana daily in Navi Mumbai and Thane were attacked following publication of a cartoon by the Shiv Sena mouthpiece, all major political parties on Tuesday engaged in a slugfest over the issue of job reservation for the powerful Maratha community in the state. Leader of Opposition in the assembly and Congress leader Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil demanded an unconditional public apology from Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray, while state Congress President Ashok Chavan termed the cartoon an “insult to Maratha brothers and sisters”.”The Shiv Sena has always been anti-Muslims and anti-Dalits; now they are even going against the Maratha community. All Marathas are extremely agitated by the cartoon which has not spared even the martyrs of the recent Uri terror strike,” said Vikhe-Patil. Nationalist Congress Party’s Leader of Opposition in the Council Dhanjay Munde also criticised the Saamana cartoon and sought an apology from the publication. “The Shiv Sena has ridiculed a grave issue like Maratha reservation. They have insulted millions of Maratha women who have been spontaneously taking part in the processions all over the state in the past few days. The Shiv Sena must apologise to them,” Chavan said. Interestingly, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Mumbai President Ashish Shelar said the cartoon was in “bad taste” and added that Saamana’s Executive Editor and MP Sanjay Raut himself has been reduced to a “cartoon” in the entire episode. The BJP and Shiv Sena are ruling allies in Maharashtra and at the Centre….  (Times of India 28/9/2016)

Muslim leaders form panel to plan quota stir (25)

Mumbai: With the state government being non-committal on the Muslim reservation, community leaders have stepped up their plan to launch an agitation. On Monday, an 11-member coordination committee was formed to interact with prominent Muslim NGOs, religious organisations, institutions and prepare a strategy. “We want to keep it a peaceful movement. The Special Backward Classes (SBC) among Muslims that the previous government had identified and granted reservation for, deserve it as they have lagged behind,” said MIM legislator Waris Pathan.Responding to NCP leader Majeed Memon’s memorandum to chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on the issue, minority affairs minister Dilip Kamble said the high court, through interim order of November 14, 2014, had allowed 5% Muslim quota in education and stayed reservation in jobs and that the government would further move only after the final verdict on the issue. “The CM is taking different approaches to Maratha and Muslim reservations. While efforts are being made to give the Marathas reservation, which was rejected by the high court, the government is dithering on the Muslim reservation which was partially allowed by the court,” said Memon.Congress MLA Amin Patel said: “Our government had given reservation to Muslims on the basis of their backwardness and not on religious ground. The NDA government did great injustice by letting the ordinance for Muslim quota to lapse.” Former minister and Congress MLA Arif Naseem Khan explained the plan the previous government had made. “Since any reservation in the name of religion would not stand in the courts, we gave it to those Muslims who are socially, educationally and economically backward. The least this government can do till the final order comes is to restore to the community what the court allowed,” said Khan. (Times of India 29/9/2016)


Respect the right to protest, says Kerry (1)

NEW DELHI: A democracy like India should respect the right to protest, said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry here on Wednesday. Speaking at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, Mr. Kerry said: “We have to respect the rights of all our citizens, regardless of ethnicity, language, creed and allow them to protest in peace without fear of retribution and reprisals, without the fear of being jailed for what you say.” Mr. Kerry spoke about upholding common democratic values even as Joint Statement after the conclusion of the second Strategic and Commercial Dialogue (S&CD) emphasised the role of democratic values by saying the “strategic partnership between the United States and India is rooted in shared values of freedom, democracy, universal human rights, tolerance and pluralism, equal opportunities for all citizens and rule of law.” The comments are significant as the rights group Amnesty was accused of sedition by Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad after it organised an event on Kashmir where pro-freedom slogans were allegedly raised. This was the third time senior American officials have commented on freedom-related issues in India. Earlier, U.S. ambassador Richard Verma supported campus politics in JNU, where students were accused of sedition after they participated in a Kashmir solidarity protest. U.S. President Obama in his January 2015 speech at the Sirifort Auditorium had led the way by first cautioning about the dangers of intolerance. Later, speaking to students, Mr. Kerry commented about the election season in the U.S. where Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are slugging it out. American support to right to protest was the highlight of a monsoon-drenched day that Mr. Kerry concluded with a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi whom he briefed about the S&CD. A statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office after the meeting said that Mr. Kerry and Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker briefed the Prime Minister about the dialogue and, “shared perspective on developments in the region and beyond with Prime Minister”. The meeting was a warm up session before a possible bilateral meet between President Obama and Prime Minister Modi on the sidelines of the September 4-5 G-20 summit in Hangzhou, China, the first time top leaders will be meeting after the signing of the landmark LEMOA deal. In a Joint Statement, both sides emphasised the importance of “freedom of navigation, freedom of overflight and unimpeded lawful commerce in the South China Sea, where China continues its building activities despite the July 12 verdict from the Permanent Court of Arbitration, The Hague, which criticised China’s claim on the maritime zone. … (The Hindu 1/9/2016)

India firm on Baloch rights violation issue (1)

New Delhi: India has made it clear that it will not back down from raising the issue of human rights violations by the Pakistani military in Balochistan despite Pakistan reportedly saying it violates the UN Charter, even as New Delhi continued to lambaste Islamabad’s attempts to internationalise the Kashmir issue. “If human rights are being violated and stamped upon, if speaking about that is wrong, many leaders from many countries will then have stand scrutiny. The foreign secretary had also said that humanity doesn’t stop at our borders. If we feel strongly about human rights violations happening in a particular part of the world, we have every right to raise those concerns. We will raise those concerns. We have raised those concerns in the past also. In fact, the blatant interference is cross-border terrorism which Pakistan has been raising again and again repeatedly.” Lashing out at Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif’s move on sending 22 Pakistani parliamentarians as envoys to highlight the Pakistani stand, the MEA ridiculed the move, saying, “Well, sending out 22 envoys is not going to make their baseless and untenable claims legitimate. I would say that instead of sending 22 envoys with a wrong message to the wrong countries, it would have been better to send just one envoy with the right message to the right countries. The message obviously has to be one of stopping support to cross-border terrorism, ending incitement to violence in J&K, and putting an end to interference in India’s internal affairs.” On Mr Sharif writing yet again to the UN on the Kashmir issue, the MEA said, “As far as the latest letter that has been written to the UN Secretary-General is concerned, these are things we have seen before. They can write as many letters as they want to. This will not change the reality on the ground… (which) is that J&K is an integral part of India and part of the Indian state of J&K is under the forcible and illegal occupation of Pakistan. As far as the internal situation in J&K is concerned, we believe that Pakistan has no locus standi in commenting on that. We are perfectly capable of dealing with that.” … (Asian Age 2/9/2016)

Human rights lens on 84 cases (1)

Ranchi, Sept. 7: Led by its chairperson former Supreme Court Chief Justice H.L. Dattu, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), which held its biggest hearing in Jharkhand in recent memory today, recommended a CID probe with a three-month deadline into the deaths of 12 Palamau youths, whom the police allegedly gunned down in a fake encounter in June 2015. The hearing of the National Human Rights Commission underway at Judicial Academy in Dhurwa, Ranchi, on Wednesday; (right) Bundu custody death victim Rupesh Swansi’s father Bhushan and his sisters on their way to the open hearing. Pictures by Prashant MitraThe Palamau case of alleged police atrocity was not the only one to come under the purview of the rights commission’s recommendations. Chairperson Justice Dattu, and a three-member panel of Justices Cyriac Joseph and D. Murugesan and S.C. Sinha together heard 15 cases, including the Palamau one, while members individually heard 69 more, taking the total figure of cases heard today to 84. The full commission hearing of 15 cases started at 11am and continued till noon at the Judicial Academy in Dhurwa. The open hearing, where 69 cases were heard by one member each, followed suit at the same venue. Among the high-profile open hearing cases, Bhushan Swansi, the bereaved father of Bundu minor boy Rupesh Swansi, who was allegedly beaten to death in police custody in July 2016, was asked to move high court against the guilty policemen. Swansi had come with his two daughters for the hearing. Chief secretary Rajbala Verma and director-general of police D.K. Pandey were among those present during the hearing for immediate disposal of cases and to respond to any relevant queries of commission. Though it is not binding for any state to obey the recommendations of the rights panel, it normally does so. Principal secretary to chief minister Sanjay Kumar, when asked on NHRC recommendations, said: “Government will follow them with utmost seriousness as it is very concerned about upholding human rights in the state.” But, many people, whose grievances are listed with the NHRC but were not included for hearing in Ranchi, went home disappointed. Among the unhappy ones were some youths who had over five years ago impersonated themselves as Maoists to stage a surrender allegedly on the orders of police and security personnel in lieu of paramilitary jobs. The case of 2011-12, in which over 500 innocent tribal youths faked surrenders to make security forces look good, was one of the state’s most embarrassing moments. “We expected our case to be heard here but it was not listed,” said Motilal Sahu, a youth from Gumla who had faked a surrender and spent over Rs 1.5 on paramilitary training. “We will have to pursue our case in Delhi (NHRC headquarters),” he said. Kishore Rajak from Hiranpur in Pakur alleged the powerful liquor mafia had killed his 17-year-old son Amar and dumped him on railway tracks in April 2011 to make it look like suicide but the police had instead of punishing the culprits, harassed him by implicating him in false cases. “My case is not listed,” he rued. Before the hearings started, Justice Dattu spoke on the increasing ambit of the NHRC, which he said keeps tabs on government welfare schemes, manmade and natural disaster management measures, atrocities against SC and ST persons, social and environmental issues, illegal mining, child labour, bonded labour and many more. Tomorrow, 12 more cases will be heard by the NHRC by a two-member division bench at Judicial Academy. (The Telegraph 7/9/2016)

SC concerned over rights violations in tense areas (1)

NEW DELHI: Noting that “it is not the Line of Control [LoC] but the heart of cities like Imphal” that concerns it more, the Supreme Court on Wednesday raised questions about human rights violations in insurgency-hit and tense areas of the country even as the Centre said the security forces were forced, at times, to act with an iron hand to protect the internal security of the country. A Bench led by Justice Madan B. Lokur was hearing submissions by National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) counsel and senior advocate Gopal Subramanium that the top human rights body had been reduced to a “toothless” entity.Mr. Subramanium argued that there was zero accountability in cases of human rights violations in strife-ridden areas even as Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi said the security forces charged with the job of maintaining internal peace and order were compelled to act in a “particular way.”Mr. Rohatgi said if there were allegations of human rights violation, justice could be done through criminal trials. But any retrospective probe into the Army’s actions, whether in Manipur or in Jammu and Kashmir, would have a serious impact on the men’s morale. Mr. Subramanium argued that the security forces take umbrage under the Armed Force Special Powers Act (AFSPA) when faced with a human rights complaint. “In Manipur, it took three years to get information regarding a case of alleged human rights violation. The NHRC is a responsible fact-finding body. No government can say it is not accountable for violation of human rights,” Mr. Subramanium said. (The Hindu 8/9/2016)

 ‘Human rights crisis’ in J&K worsening, says Amnesty (1)

NEW DELHI: Amnesty International on Monday hit out against the use of what it described as “arbitrary and excessive” force by the security forces in response to the protests in Jammu and Kashmir. In a statement issued here, the global human rights NGO said the security forces’ actions were a violation of international standards and were leading to a worsening of “the human rights crisis” in the State. The summer of unrest in Kashmir began after the death of Burhan Wani, a Hizbul Mujahideen commander, in an encounter in July. The protests that followed led to clashes. So far 78 people, including two security force personnel, have been killed. “Some demonstrators have thrown stones and attacked police stations, government buildings and politicians’ homes. Security force personnel have fired live ammunition, tear gas and pellets from pump-action shotguns,” said the Amnesty statement. Most recently, on September 10, a man in Anantnag district was killed after being hit by a pellet-firing shotgun, said the statement. The use of these shotguns has led to a debate about the use of lethal weapons to quell demonstrations. Though the Ministry of Home Affairs recently approved the use of chilli-based munitions as an alternative, pellet guns have already killed six people and blinded or injured scores. According to Amnesty, the pellet guns were to be used in “rare” cases. But in the first week of September alone, there have been 100 reported cases of pellet injuries at Srinagar hospitals. “Pellet-firing shotguns have injured and blinded even peaceful protestors and bystanders,” said Aakar Patel, executive director at Amnesty International India. Mr. Patel said children had been hit by pellets while sitting inside their homes. “These weapons are inherently indiscriminate and always carry the risk of causing serious injury to people who are not engaging in violence. There is simply no proper way to use these weapons and they should be prohibited,” he said. Citing the United Nations Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials that says law enforcement officials may use force “only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty,” Amnesty wanted action to be taken against those using excessive force. According to the Amnesty, even the use of pelargonic acid vanillylamide (PAVA or chilli shells) as an alternative to pellets comes with its own set of concerns. The chilli shells are chemical irritant weapons that are meant to temporarily disable people by affecting eyes and the upper respiratory tract. “The continued abusive use of pellet-firing shotguns, along with the deployment of the PAVA shells, is extremely worrying,” said Mr. Patel. He said chemical irritants could be potentially used in “an arbitrary or indiscriminate manner,” which was why there should be adequate training for security forces and thorough safety tests of the weapons. (The Hindu 13/9/2016)

J&K Police arrests human rights activist Khurram Parvez (1)

New Delhi: The J&K Police have arrested a well-known Kashmiri human rights defender from his home in Srinagar late this evening. This is a day after he was stopped in Delhi by authorities to board a flight to Geneva where he was going to attend the ongoing United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) session. Khurram Pervez (39), who is presently Chairperson of Asian Federation Against involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) and Program Coordinator of Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), has been kept in Kothibagh Police Station. Despite repeated attempts, the police officers were not available to comment on the arrest. This is the first such high profile arrest of a human rights activist in Kashmir in the recent past and is seen as part of government’s crackdown on civil society in the valley that is critical of the Mehbooba Mufti led government’s use of excessive force to quell the current uprising. According to Pervez’s family members, he had returned home from Delhi this morning. The family members said that the police officials from Kothibagh Police station called him in the evening asking him to visit the police station because Superintendent of Police wanted to speak to him. “He called the SP and told him he will come at 10 am tomorrow,’’ a relative said. “Late in the night, a police party came to his home, asking him to accompany them to the police station. There wasn’t any police officer in the police station at that time. They told us that he would have to stay in the police station”. Pervez’s family members said that the police didn’t give any reasons for the arrest. On Wednesday, Pervez was stopped by Immigration authorities at IGI airport in Delhi and disallowed to board a flight to Geneva. “At around 1.30 am, as I was about to board my flight to Geneva, I was stopped at immigration and detained for one-and-a-half hours. The officer had stamped my boarding pass but they subsequently disallowed me to proceed to board the flight,’’ he had told The Indian Express. Pervez had also said that he was “only orally informed that immigration officers had instructions that he was not to be arrested, but that he should not be allowed to leave the country”. .. (Indian Express 16/9/2016)

NHRC asks Centre about action taken against cow vigilantes (1)

NEW DELHI: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has asked the Centre to inform them about the action taken against cow vigilantism, following a complaint it received citing at least 15 attacks on people this year. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has asked the Centre to inform them about the action taken against cow vigilantism, following a complaint it received citing at least 15 attacks on people this year. Delhi-based lawyer K R Subhash Chandran had approached the NHRC last month seeking action against such groups, armed with data in which he claimed that at least three people were killed and around 40 physically attacked by cow vigilantes. Acting on the complaint, the NHRC has asked the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to take appropriate action within eight weeks. “The authority concerned is directed to take appropriate action within eight weeks and inform the complainant of the action taken in the matter,” the NHRC communique to the MHA said. The complaint submitted to the NHRC said the lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq at his home in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh, on September 2015 on suspicion that he consumed beef was followed by “rash of attacks by cow vigilante groups” across north India. “At least three people have been killed this year so far, and several beaten, flogged and subjected to severe indignities. Recently in Gujarat, the flogging of Dalits for skinning a dead cow has triggered spontaneous street protests by the Dalits and minorities,” it said. (Deccan Herald 20/9/2016)

NHRC seeks report on Kairana situation (1)

NEW DELHI: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Wednesday asked the Chief Secretary and Director General of Police, Uttar Pradesh, to submit an action taken report within eight weeks on the observations and recommendations of an NHRC team that had visited Kairana. The NHRC had received a complaint alleging that families of a particular religion are leaving Kairana, located in Western UP, due to fear of criminals. BJP MP from Shamli, Hukum Singh, had alleged in June that hundreds of families had left his area due to fear, but the list that he had presented was found to be dubious as it had the names of families who were found to be living in Kairana and Kandhla. Many families were found to have left Kairana in search of livelihood. “The NHRC has considered the material placed on record, including the report of Investigation Division team of the commission, on a complaint that families of a particular religion are leaving Kairana due to fear of criminals. The NHRC has asked UP’s Chief Secretary and DGP to submit an action taken report on the observations and recommendations of the team within eight weeks,” said a statement issued by the NHRC. After receiving the recommendation of its team, the NHRC on Wednesday asked the UP government to constitute a high-level committee to meet the aggrieved families who allegedly left Kairana and explore the possibilities of their return if they desired to do so. The NHRC also asked the Commissioner of Saharanpur and the District Magistrate of Shamli to organise regular meetings of religious and political leaders both the communities at sub-divisional and mohalla-level to sort out differences in an amicable manner. The Commission also asked the State government to “take all necessary steps for improving law and order situation in Kairana so as to restore the faith of the people in the law and order machinery, so that people are not forced to migrate due to activities of local criminals and extortion rackets in future”. The NHRC also recommended a departmental enquiry against the Sub-Inspector posted in Kairana police station, M.S. Gill, for “committing irregularities” in cases of law and order, which were reported in the police station. The NHRC specifically mentioned the case against alleged goon Mukim Kala and his associates and directed the State government to “ensure their fair and impartial trial as there was apprehension that witnesses would not be able to depose against them due to their fear and terror”. (The Hindu 23/9/2016)

Stop Baloch atrocities or face sanctions: European Union to Pakistan (1)

GENEVA (Switzerland): Expressing solidarity with the people of Balochistan against Pakistan’s atrocities+ , European Parliament vice president Ryszard Czarnecki has said the European Union may impose economic and political sanctions on Islamabad, if the Asian nation fails to stop human rights violation+ in the region. “I told the European Union during our human rights debate that if our partner countries do not accept human rights and standards, in this situation we should react and seek sanctions like some moves in economic fields,” he told ANI. Czarnecki, who attended a silent vigil where the protesters condemned Pakistan+ for the ongoing atrocities and paid homage to those who lost their lives, added that it is not the time for words, but for actions. “We have bilateral economic and political relations with Pakistan and if it will not change its state policy towards Balochistan+ , then we would change our attitude towards Islamabad and towards the government of Pakistan,” he said. Stating that Islamabad has dual standards, the European Parliament vice president said on one hand it shows a clean face to the world while on the other it indulges in human rights violations. “Pakistan has two faces. It is the open face to us and the other is the brutal face towards Balochistan,” he said, adding that all the 28 members of the EU should react against Pakistan’s brutal operations and policies towards the Baloch people. “The problem is that the government in Islamabad practically doesn’t control the situation and now is the time to accept and react to this situation. The people in Balochistan must feel our solidarity,” he said. (Times of India 23/9/2016)

Muzaffarnagar riot victims lodge complaint against NHRC’s Kairana ‘exodus’ report (1)

Meerut: A Kandhla-based NGO, Afkar India Foundation (AIF), on Sunday lodged a formal complaint on behalf of riot-displaced families against the National Human Rights Commission’s (NHRC) report on the alleged exodus of Hindu families from Kairana. AIF lodged the complaint on the official NHRC website, objecting to “point no. 18″ of the report, which claimed that the demographic profile of Kairana changed after the riots and blamed worsening law and order situation in the western UP town on the influx of refugees. The complaint claimed that the NHRC has “exaggerated” the number of riot-displaced persons settled in Kairana and has offered no proof that rising crime is directly linked to riot refugees. “I raised three crucial questions in the complaint. First, there is no clarity on what the proof is. There is no conclusive evidence that links refugees to the rise in crime. The NHRC team did not even look at FIRs filed in Kairana police station. If the FIRs are examined, they will find that none of the gangs are run by riot refugees. In fact, the most wanted list at Kairana police station has people from all religions and castes. It is not only wrong to link crime to one community, it is also dangerous,” said Akram Akhtar, project manager at AIF. He added, “The second crucial question I raised was why they have exaggerated the number of riot refugees in Kairana. The report says that around 25,000 refugees came and settled there. That is simply not true. According to our database, there are only 3,000 refugees in the town. Point no. 18 of the report says that refugees changed the demographic profile of the town, which is not true. The last question was regarding who they interviewed. I think the interview process was not thorough. They did not interview enough people. If the NHRC does not respond soon, we will be forced to file an RTI query. Based on all these objections, we demand a public apology from the NHRC and a deletion of point no. 18, which blames crime on refugees.” On Saturday, TOI had spoken to riot refugees who said that far from being responsible for rising crime, they were victims of their “own exodus”. The NHRC report vindicated the stand of Kairana’s BJP MP Hukum Singh, who had claimed that 250 Hindu families had fled the town due to fear from members of “another community”. (Times of India 25/9/2016)

Pakistan police routinely violates basic human rights: HRW (1)

ISLAMABAD: Police in Pakistan engages in human rights violations+ such as “arbitrary arrest, torture, extra-judicial killings and sexual violence,” with religious minorities especially vulnerable to the “disgruntled and corrupt” officers of the force, a global rights body said on Monday in a damning report. The findings, contained in the 102-page report by the Human Rights Watch+ , is based on interviews with senior police officials, and victims and witnesses of police abuse in Balochistan, Sindh and Punjab provinces. The report details the allegedly over 2000 false “encounters”+ committed by police in 2015, and demanded an immediate overhaul of the country’s police system that “enables and even encourages serious human rights violations”.It found that police routinely uses torture against people in custody, particularly during criminal investigations. “Those from marginalised groups, refugees, the poor, religious minorities, and the landless – are at particular risk of violent police abuse,” it said. “Methods of custodial torture include beatings with batons, stretching and crushing legs with metal rods, sexual violence, prolonged sleep deprivation, and mental torture, including forcing detainees to witness the torture of others,” the report added. Expressing concern over the situation, Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said that “Pakistan faces grave security challenges that can be best handled by a rights respecting, accountable police force.” “Instead, law enforcement has been left to a police force filled with disgruntled, corrupt, and tired officers who commit abuses with impunity+ , making Pakistanis less safe, not more,” he added. Senior police officials told Human Rights Watch that physical force is often used because the police are not trained in methods of professional investigation and forensic analysis, it said.”Police officers openly admitted to the practice of faked encounter killings,” the report said, adding that such actions were often carried out under pressure from powerful politicians and local elites. The country’s security forces are not only at the forefront of war on terrorism, but have also to contend with rising militancy, drug-trafficking, gang-wars, honour killings, kidnappings and targeted killings. “Abysmal work conditions contribute to the climate where violations are tolerated or encouraged,” Adams said, adding that the rule of law won’t become a reality in Pakistan unless the law enforcement forces are also held to it. (Times of India 26/9/2016)

Centre, NHRC quizzed on delay in stand-alone law against torture (1)

NEW DELHI: The interview with the wheel-chair bound academician by The Hindu on April 8, 2016, became a rallying cry in the Supreme Court against the use of torture as an instrument of “human degradation” by State authorities. The interview was highlighted in a writ petition submitted by former Union Law Minister Ashwani Kumar. It led a Bench headed by Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur on Tuesday to direct the Centre and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to file their responses explaining why the Central government had delayed the promulgation of a stand-alone, comprehensive law defining and punishing torture. “As on date, India does not have any legislation that defines the expression ‘torture’ or ‘custodial torture’. Nor is there a law dealing specifically with torture in custody and the various specific aspects concerned with custodial torture and those involved in the incidents of such torture,” the petition, argued by Mr. Kumar in person, contended. Mr. Kumar argued that a bare perusal of the Indian Penal Code makes it apparent that its provisions “do not specifically and comprehensively address the various aspects of the custodial torture and are grossly inadequate to address the spiralling situation of custodial violence across the country”. He even pointed out to that the National Human Rights Commission keeps count of incidents of custodial torture only if it leads to death. “Unlike custodial deaths, the police are not mandatorily required to report cases of torture which do not result in deaths to the NHRC,” Mr. Kumar contended, and so a majority of the cases go unreported. Mr. Kumar said India, which had signed the UN Convention against Torture in 1997, has still not ratified the Convention which defines torture as a criminal offence. Mr. Kumar said no steps have been taken to implement the Prevention and Torture Bill 2010 even six years after it was passed by the Lok Sabha on May 6, 2010 and recommended by a Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha of which he had been Chairman. He informed that the Centre has avoided an independent legislation on torture, saying that some States were not in favour of such a law and the Indian Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code were more than sufficient. “It is not understood at all as to why the Government is resisting a standalone legislation to prevent custodial torture considering the mandate of Article 21 and India’s international obligations. A standalone legislation will certainly go a long way in creating the necessary environment to prevent abuse of custodial torture and human dignity of citizen,” the petition contended. (The Hindu 27/9/2016)


Supreme Court quashes Singur Tata plant land acquisition, orders Bengal govt to return it in 12 weeks (19)

New Delhi: Calling it “grossly perverse and illegal,” the Supreme Court Wednesday quashed the decision of the Buddhadeb Bhattacharya-led CPM government in 2006 to acquire 1,000 acres in Singur for allotting it to Tata Motors to set up its Nano car factory. The acquisition had become the CPM government’s touchstone for a dramatic shift in policy to attract investment. It set off a protracted agitation by farmers and the then Opposition Trinamool Congress which forced the project to leave the state for Gujarat. A bench of Justices V Gopala Gowda and Arun Mishra agreed with each other to set aside the acquisition proceeding but gave different reasons to maintain that the entire acquisition was vitiated by non-compliance with provisions of the Land Acquisition Act. Both judges also held unanimously that possession of the land shall be given back to the landowners or cultivators within 12 weeks, and added that compensation already paid to them on account of the acquisition shall not be recovered since “they have been deprived of the occupation and enjoyment of their lands for the last ten years”.Further, those landowners who have not received the compensation, the court said, are permitted to withdraw it from the office of the Land Acquisition Collector without any prejudice to their rights. The verdict is a shot in the arm for current West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and the Trinamool Congress as they had spearheaded the protest against the CPM’s decision to acquire the land for Tata Motors Ltd. .. (Indian Express 1/9/2016)

PIL In Supreme Court To Bar Convicts From Contesting Polls, Judiciary (19)

New Delhi:  A plea was today filed in the Supreme Court seeking directions to the centre and the poll panel to debar convicts from contesting elections for life and stopping them from entering judiciary and the executive. The petition also sought a direction to fix minimum educational qualification and a maximum age limit for persons to contest elections. “Apart from terrorism and naxalism, the most serious problem our country is facing is extensive corruption and criminalisation of politics. In the Executive and Judiciary, when a person is convicted for any criminal offence, he/she is suspended automatically and debarred from his services for life. However, this rule is applied differently in case of convicted person in a legislature,” the petition, filed by advocate and Delhi BJP spokesperson Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, said. “Even after conviction and undergoing sentence, a convicted person can form his own political party and is eligible to become the office bearer of any political party. In addition, a convicted person is eligible to contest the election and eligible to become Member of Legislature and even Minister after expiry of six year period from the date of conviction,” the plea said. The petition further sought to implement electoral reforms proposed by Election Commission, Law Commission and National Commission to review the working of the Constitution. Mr Upadhyay also submitted that decriminalisation of the polity was impossible without debarring convicted persons from electoral politics for life, as done in the case of convicted person being barred from the executive and judiciary. “We cannot apply different rules to debar convicted person from judiciary, executive and legislature,” he said. (NDTV 2/9/2016)

Personal Law Board views are ‘medieval,’ say Muslim women (8)

Mumbai: Denouncing the “derogatory” statements made by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) in their counter affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court regarding triple talaq (practice of divorce), the petitioners, members of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, have asked for a public apology and termed the board as having views, “no longer fit to exist in modern society.” In its affidavit, the AIMPLB had argued that the Shariyat (Muslim personal law) permits the use of triple talaq to keep the dignity and privacy of both the parties intact and save them from public censure, which stems from delayed justice received in a court of law. News reports quoted the board saying men have greater reasoning power as compared to women and a man giving triple talaq to his wife was a better option than murdering her or burning her alive. However, the BMMA and Muslims for Secular Democracy (MSD), who were protesting against the alleged remark made by the board said, “Their stand smacks of a medieval mindset and prejudice against women. To presume that this would take care of murder of women and illicit relationships is a fallacy and the facts do not bear this out.” Members of the BMMA said that on an average, they receive between 15 and 20 cases relating to triple talaq every month. Khatoon Shaikh, who is the Maharashtra convener of BMMA, said the board does not know the ground reality and is disguised as a non-governmental organisation. She said there needs to be an arbitration period before divorce is granted and that the process of divorce should not be male-centric. Ms. Shaikh also said the movement will go to Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, if need be, and the activists will stage a dharna there until their demand of a total ban on triple talaq is not met. Co-founder of the BMMA, Noorjehan Safia Niaz, said Muslims across the country have come out in support of the ban and that there is dissent even in the conservative part of the community with many men and religious priests admitting that the practice is biased and prejudiced against women. “The board’s argument that the procedure of divorce is written in the Quran is false, as is their claim of being Quranic; they are cut off and outdated from the reality of current times,” Ms. Niaz said. A joint statement issued by the BMMA and MSD said legal abolishment should not be limited to triple talaq, but should also extend to “misogynist practices” like underage marriages, muta [temporary] marriages, polygamy and any form of unilateral divorce. On September 5, the apex court granted the Centre four weeks’ time to file a response on a batch of petitions on the issue. (The Hindu 8/9/2016)

Remove name of divorced husband from passport: HC (19)

KOCHI: The Kerala High Court on Thursday asked the Regional Passport Officer, Kochi, to consider an application filed by a Muslim woman who got divorced by her husband, seeking removal of the name of her estranged husband from her passport. The court issued the directive while allowing a writ filed by Ashna Moidu of Kothamangalam for a directive to the passport authorities to delete her former husband’s name from her passport. According to her, her husband had divorced her by uttering ‘talaq.’ The passport authorities refused to entertain her application on the ground that she had not produced the decree of the court as evidence for her divorce. The court observed that divorce by pronouncing ‘talaq’ was a recognised mode of dissolution of marriage under the Muslim Personal Law. Therefore, the Regional Passport Officer could be asked to consider the application of the petitioner for deleting the name of her divorced husband from her passport without insisting any court order evidencing dissolution of her marriage. (The Hindu 9/9/2016)

CJI Thakur yet to convince Justice Chelameswar on collegium transparency (19)

NEW DELHI: The selection of judges is likely to be seriously affected by the continuing differences within the Supreme Court collegium. Chief Justice of India T S Thakur is yet to respond to a letter from Justice Chelameswar, who has stopped attending collegium meetings, about the selection process being “opaque”.The stalemate has not been resolved despite the CJI’s public assurance that he would sort out the differences. Judges are appointed by the SC collegium, which comprises the CJI and the four most senior judges – justices A R Dave, J S Khehar, Dipak Misra and Chelameswar. At present, three posts are vacant in the SC. Four more judges will retire by November 18 – justices C Nagappan (October 3), V Gopala Gowda (October 5), Shiva Kirti Singh (November 12) and Dave (November 18). With CJI Thakur retiring on January 3, 2017, unless Justice Chelameswar’s grievances are addressed soon, the process to initiate appointments to the SC would remain stalled. Also significant is the finalisation of the memorandum of procedure (MoP) for the appointment of judges to the SC and high courts. A five-judge bench headed by Justice Khehar directed the Union government last year to “finalise the existing MoP by supplementing it in consultation with the CJI”. The Constitution bench had mandated that “the CJI will take a decision based on the unanimous view of the collegium”. It had also said the MoP should take into consideration eligibility criteria, transparency in the appointment process, establishment of secretariats in the SC and HCs, and a mechanism to deal with complaints against anyone being considered for appointment as a judge. Justice Chelameswar had complained about the opacity in the collegium’s process for selection of judges. He had also faulted the collegium for not permitting member judges to record their views on candidates under consideration. .. (Times of India 14/9/2016)

PIL seeks Madras High Court direction to protect Tamils in Karnataka, Kerala (19)

Madurai: A PIL has been filed in the Madras High Court seeking a direction to the Centre to protect Tamils in Karnataka and Kerala in the wake of recent attacks on them in both states over the Cauvery issue and alleged assault on PWD officials. Petitioner K K Ramesh, who runs an NGO, on Thursday said the safety of Tamils in both states had become a question mark in recent times. “While Tamils and their business establishments in Karnataka were attacked recently, owing to the Cauvery water dispute, PWD officials from Tamil Nadu were attacked by the Kerala Police, when they had visited the Parambikulam Dam site in Kerala on September 12,” he submitted. “If such attacks continued then the integrity of the nation would be affected,” the petitioner said and sought a direction to the Union government to take steps to protect Tamils in Kerala and Karnataka. The Cauvery water sharing row between both states had turned violent in Karnataka on September 12, claiming two lives, both in Bengaluru.While one person was killed in police firing, another succumbed to injuries he suffered while fleeing a police lathicharge as he jumped in panic from a three-storey building. Widespread violence had erupted that day in Bengaluru and some other parts of Karnataka, while sporadic trouble was witnessed in Tamil Nadu following Supreme Court’s modified order on sharing Cauvery water by the two riparian states. The apex court had modified its September 5 order and asked Karnataka to release a reduced quantum of 12,000 cusecs of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu till September 20. In its September 5 order, the apex court had directed the state to release 15,000 cusecs of Cauvery water for 10 days to ameliorate the plight of farmers of the neighbouring state. On Sept 12, a Tamil Nadu PWD officer and about 50 workers were reportedly prevented entry to the Parambikulam Project area in Kerala. When they protested, officials,led by District Forest Officer, had allegedly resorted to a lathicharge, resulting in injuries to four women. (Indian Express 15/9/2016)

Law Ministry will reply to the Supreme Court on Triple Talaq issue: Centre (19)

New Delhi: The Centre on Wednesday decided that the Law Ministry would give a consolidated reply to the Supreme Court on the Triple Talaq issue on behalf of all stakeholders. The decision was taken at a high-level inter-ministerial meeting formed to decide on the response to be filed before the Apex Court. The inter-ministerial panel consists of Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi. The Law Minister would formulate a reply on behalf of all the stakeholders which includes the National Commission for Women, the Women and Child Development Ministry, sources said. The apex court had sought the centre’s response to a batch of PILs, including a suo motu petition, for and against such laws. Several Muslim women have also challenged the validity of “triple talaq,” polygamy and remarriage restrictions. Stakeholders like the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board had pleaded with the Supreme Court not to go into the validity of “triple talaq” and other provisions of personal laws as these fell in the legislative domain, besides being based on religious scriptures while opposing pleas of alleged gender discrimination faced by Muslim women in divorce cases. AIMPLB, in its counter affidavit, said the issue relating to Muslim practices of polygamy, triple talaq (talaq-e-bidat) and nikah halala are matters of legislative policy and cannot be interfered with. Triple talaq (Talaq-e-bidat) is a Muslim man divorcing his wife by pronouncing more than one talaq in a single tuhr (the period between two menstruations), or in a tuhr after coitus, or pronouncing an irrevocable instantaneous divorce at one go (unilateral triple-talaq). Nikah halala refers to the marriage of a woman with another man who subsequently divorces her so that her previous husband can remarry her. The petitions including one by triple talaq victim Shayara Bano were filed challenging the age-old practice of ‘triple talaq’ among the Muslim community. (New Indian Express 14/9/2016)

Court cites reasons for death penalty in acid attack case (19)

Mumbai:  “A strong message needs to be sent to the miscreants of such crimes against women that such crimes shall not be tolerated,” recorded a special women’s court last week, after it awarded the death penalty to the convict in a May 2013 acid attack case. “This crime is first of its kind in India,” Judge Anju S Shende, said on her last day at the City Civil and Sessions Court. “If the rising trend towards such crime is not checked at its inception, it will have monstrous effects on society, and soon it will spread widely.” In a landmark verdict, the court, on September 6, convicted 26-year-old Ankur Lal Panwar for throwing acid on Preeti Rathi on May 2, 2013, at Bandra Terminus, with the intention of causing burns and committing murder. Ms Rathi, who hailed from Delhi and had arrived in Mumbai to begin her career as a nurse, died of her injuries on June 1, 2013. Her post mortem report recorded multiple organ failure due to the corrosion caused by the acid. In a 150-page order, the court said, “Without a shadow of doubt, this (crime) falls in the category of the rarest of the rare case. The incident is extremely gruesome, revolting, and horrifying. This court is not in the knowledge of any case in which a crime of this nature has been committed and the accused is sentenced, till date. Therefore, deterrent punishment is the need of the hour. Being fully aware of the nature of the death penalty, the court has reached the conclusion to award the death sentence to the accused.” Drawing a parallel with rape, the court said, “The height of brutality in acid attacks was more than those in cases of rape. Rape destroys the soul of the victim. But she can be kept in isolation, without disclosing her identity, and can be rehabilitated. But for an acid (attack) victim, she has to move around with a destroyed body.” The court then ordered, “The accused is to be hanged by neck, till he is dead, subject to the confirmation of the Bombay High Court.” While organisations working for acid attack victims are cheering the judgment, women’s rights lawyers say that the death penalty does not necessarily act as a deterrent. Senior counsel Gayatri Singh, who had represented an acid attack victim at Bombay High Court, said, “The death penalty doesn’t help at all. This is like an eye for an eye; how would it help in solving our societal problems. I am not saying that wrong was not done to the woman, but instead of taking a retributive approach, you should have a more rehabilitative approach. You need to punish the person, but death penalty is not a solution.” Flavia Agnes, a women’s rights lawyer, told The Hindu , “Time and again it has been proved that the death penalty does not act as deterrent. It is like private vengeance. So many countries have eliminated the death penalty, and we just keep on increasing its ambit. In this case, the woman died, but in the Shakti Mills rape case, they gave the death penalty. That’s even more terrible.” On the other side, a volunteer who works with acid attack victims told The Hindu on condition of anonymity, “It’s important to look from the victim’s point of view. When you do that you realise that death penalty is important. Acid attack victims undergo grievous hurt, and that does not go away by mere counselling. The convict will be awarded the death penalty only after confirmation from the High Court, so let’s wait until then. But I can tell you that acid attack victims will be delighted if capital punishment is confirmed.” (The Hindu 20/9/2016)

Community disapproves the 2016 Transgender Bill (19)

The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016 upset the Hijra community of Mumbai. At a press briefing arranged at the Humsafar Trust, Santacruz, the community members showed severe disregards toward the Bill on the grounds of violating basic human rights of the community allegedly. A unanimous comment that the panel of six people had was that, “We want the 2014 bill back and we do not approve of this bill.” According to them, the bill is a far cry from the recommendations of the Supreme Court in its NALSA judgement (2014). One of the many complaints that the community had with the recently passed bill was that it criminalises Hijra culture by banning begging. Arsmita, a community member said, “There are so many people in our community who have now grown extremely old, and do not have any basic education or any other skill. Are they now at the age they stand at, expected to learn a skill for a living? We are not stealing any money from anyone. We seek money in return of the blessings we shower for a living. Besides it being a matter of our living, it is also a matter of our tradition.” Speaking about another issue with the bill, Madhuri, a community member said, “It is our tradition to be in a Gharana system, we are asked to live in a special rehabilitation home.” The most alarming part of the bill which was unacceptable by the panelists was that the NALSA judgement had allowed any person to choose their identity according to their own will. However, in the recent Bill, a ‘medico-legal’ panel would determine their gender and issue a certificate to them. “It is a serious violation of our human rights above anything. Is a man and woman asked to produce a certificate to prove their identity by going through a procedure like this? Then why should a transgender be asked to go through such a procedure? We have our Gurus and our traditions that decide for us; also, I am a human first,” said Priya Patil, another member of the community. According to the 2014 bill, the community had reservations in employment and education. However, in the 2016 bill although education is an inclusive yet, “the stigma and the discrimination is still around us. The need of the hour for our community is to provide the community reservations under the OBC category. This is the only way for the government to keep institutions and firms in check.” Said, Urmi Jadhav, a community member. Another issue raised by the panelists was that, the bill has suggested a National Council for the community with 30 representatives across the country and no council at state or regional level. However, according to them, “We have several Gharanas in Mumbai itself. How is it fair to have only 30 representatives from across the country and that too on national level only? Where do people from the rural parts of the country go?” they added (DNA 22/9/2016)

‘Delayed justice affects rule of law’ (19)

MYSURU: High Court judge BS Patil on Saturday said judicial system play a key role in making rule of law a reality in any country. Inaugurating a workshop on “Access to justice and rule of law” at JSS Law College here, he said, “Rule of law and democracy go hand in hand. If judicial system or justice delivery system is efficient, impartial and competent, then the concept of rule of law and its implementation assumes real significance.” He added, “If a person feels aggrieved by action of authorities or any individuals, he or she should have access to court and access to justice. Access to court and justice are different. If the aggrieved party has access to justice, then the person must be assisted by a competent lawyer, must have fair trial and truth must triumph.” Patil explained that access to justice begins with educating the litigants and witnesses, adding advocates should not just be a mouthpiece of their clients; rather they have to find the truth and help get justice. Patil pointed out that delayed justice affects rule of law and stands as a stigma on the legal system. The workshop was jointly organized by JSS Law College and Karnataka Institute for Law and Parliamentary Reforms (KILPAR) at the college premises here. KILPAR director SB Gunjigavi, additional solicitor general of India Prabhulinga Navadgi, Karnataka legal services authority member-secretary Uma MG and law college principal KS Suresh also attended the function. (Times of India 25/9/2016)

Supreme Court finds govt. defying its order on Aadhaar (19)

The Centre was caught red-handed defying a Supreme Court order directing that no citizen will be denied benefits under a government scheme for want of an Aadhaar card. A Bench of Justices Gopala V. Gowda and A.K. Goel discovered that the Centre had been insisting that students submit their Aadhaar number for applying for government scholarship schemes. On October 15, 2015, a Constitution Bench led by then Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu had held that citizens cannot be forced to produce his Aadhaar to avail themselves of government welfare schemes and benefits. It had even hinted that the government risked contempt of court if it chooses to continue to make the Aadhaar number a mandatory condition. But the government seemed to have ignored the court’s warning in this case. A petition filed by the All-Bengal Minority Students Council clearly exposed the defiance. The petition pointed to a letter addressed by the Centre to States and Union Territories to make Aadhaar a mandatory condition for applying for pre-matric, post-matric and merit-cum-means scholarship schemes. The letter, dated July 14, 2016, plainly directed that “submission of Aadhaar is mandatory” for students. Staying the implementation of the letter recently, the court directed the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to remove Aadhaar as a mandatory condition for student registration from its national scholarship portal. It stayed the instruction insisting on Aadhaar from government advertisements for the scholarship schemes. On October 15 last year, the Constitution Bench had extended the voluntary use of Aadhaar cards to the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), pensions schemes, Employee Provident Fund and the Prime Minister Jan Dhan Yojana. The Bench was modifying an August 2015 order restricting Aadhaar use to only PDS and LPG distribution. The Constitution Bench had directed that the voluntary nature of Aadhaar would continue now. (The indu 26/9/2016)

Centre plans new law to deal with honour killing (19)

CHENNAI: A ‘standalone’ legislation to combat the scourge of ‘honour’ killings is on the way, the Centre informed the Madras high court on Tuesday. A submission to this effect was made by the assistant solicitor-general before the first bench of the court, when a PIL seeking a direction to the Centre to bring a law to curb honor killings came up for further hearing.Taking note of the submission, the bench said, “We are conscious of the fact that there has to be a social change in the thinking process, but the sensitivity of the police would also make the society more aware and law-abiding on issues like these. The fact that parents and immediate relatives are often responsible for what is happening is the reflection of the society as it moves towards a more modern industrialised state. The police is also a part of the same society, and thus, sensitisation plays a very important role.” It said the judicial academy was conducting programmes for sensitisation of police on various aspects. “Of course, the impediment, at present, is the absence of finances with the judicial academy,” the judges said referring to non-allocation of state funds for conducting training programmes for even judges. One such programme, scheduled to be held in the second week of October, had to be cancelled due to non-grant of funds by the state government. Earlier, placing a communication from the Union ministry of home affairs dated September 23, the law officer said the ministry of law and justice was examining the 242nd report of the Law Commission in this regard. Noting that the home ministry did not have much to do with the issue, the officer said the union ministry of law should be impleaded as a party to the case. Impleading the ministry, the bench said authorities must keep the court abreast of the progress made on the issue of the proposed ‘standalone’ legislation. It then adjourned the case to December 15. (Times of India 29/9/2016)


Over 880 rape cases registered in Punjab last year (1)

CHANDIGARH: According to ‘Crimes in India 2015′ report of National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 701 cases of murder and 886 of rape were registered in Punjab during 2015. There were no registered cases of riots in the state, communal or political while number of auto thefts was 5,088. There were 27 cases of insult to modesty of women and 1,583 cases of cruelty by husband or his relatives.The National Human Rights Commission had issued guidelines in 1993 for police to report any case of custodial death or rape within 24 hours to commission and set up enquiry. The NCRB report this year has been delayed by two months as it is usually published every year in June. (Times of India 1/9/2016)

Waiting for repeal of AFSPA in Manipur (1)

Imphal: At the Cheirap Court Complex, Imphal (West), a group of people stand, waiting for their turn. They are families of some of the 1,528 victims of extra-judicial killings in Manipur in the last 30 years. Since July 2016, in accordance with the directive of the Supreme Court after a writ petition filed by Manipur NGOs (non-government organisations) Human Rights Alert and Extra Judicial Execution Victims Families’ Association (known as EEVFAM) — the over-worked staff of the two NGOs has been documenting each case and registering the testimonies of victim families. The work is gruelling and emotionally intense, but the comprehensive picture emerging from the 500-odd cases documented so far is chilling. Among the cases collected till now, none of the families has been able to register a First Information Report against the murder in question. Instead, in several cases, the military or police have registered cases against the victims to justify their execution. In as many as 40 per cent of the cases, the families have not even been able to file a written complaint. Almost all the families interviewed so far claim to know the perpetrator of the killing, or at least the government agency involved. The question on the minds of the people of Manipur, who have been under the fear of what activists refer to as the “draconian and undemocratic” Armed Forces (Special Protection) Act of 1958 is this. What will happen when all these data are presented to the Supreme Court by its deadline on September 7? “We are hopeful now that the Supreme Court has taken such a hard stance on AFSPA,” says Babloo Loitongbam of Human Rights Alert. Surrounded by piles of forms being filled out for victim families by student volunteers and staff, Loitongbam explains the gargantuan task at hand. “We haven’t been able to reach some of the more remote areas that have been cut off by the rains,” he says. “Even in the areas we have been able to reach, the culture of fear is such that some families have been reluctant to even register cases with us…” Money is tight as well, and the two NGOs are surviving on funds contributed by the families of the 28 victims who have recently been awarded ~5.5 lakh each in compensation. “The best remuneration we can get,” says Pragya Shah, a young lawyer who’s just completed a month of volunteering here, “is a favourable judgment from the Supreme Court”. … (Business Standard 6/9/2016)

No lifting of AFSPA, even partially: Government (1)

New Delhi: The Centre has completely ruled out either dilution or a partial withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act from the Kashmir Valley. Credible information with the government suggests the demand to lift AFSPA being propagated by the separatists is part of a well-calibrated strategy to weaken the security establishment. The separatists, government sources said, were fully aware that the local police was not competent to handle a crisis of the magnitude the Valley was now facing, and thus by consistently raking up the demand to lift AFSPA they hoped to weaken security operations in the Valley. Army Chief Gen. Dalbir Singh Suhag will visit the Valley on Friday to review the security situation. The Army Chief had a detailed meeting with home minister Rajnath Singh Wednesday, primarily to review new security mechanisms to check infiltration from across the border. The Centre has again reiterated that Pakistan was behind the ongoing violence in the Valley and there was no possibility of any dialogue with it in the near future. “The separatists want to use the country’s political system to pressure the security forces by getting rid of AFSPA so that the Indian State is weakened. We can categorically say we will not allow this to happen. The separatists want to establish a theocratic state through violence means,” a top official said. There are as many as 2,500 complaints pending against Army personnel over security operations in J&K, and if they aren’t protected under AFSPA, legal action will have to be initiated against all of them….  (Asian Age 9/9/2016)

SC extends time to probe encounter killings in Gujarat (1)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday granted three more months to the Special Task Force (STF) to conclude its ongoing probe into alleged fake encounter killings in Gujarat between 2002 and 2006. The STF, working under the supervision of a monitoring panel headed by a former apex court judge, is probing the alleged fake encounters in the State. A bench comprising Chief Justice T. S. Thakur and Justices A. M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud noted the submission that two out of the 24 cases were now required to be investigated. “Investigation in some cases are complete under the supervision of the monitoring committee whose chairman is Justice H. S. Bedi (retired apex court judge) and investigation in some cases are still to be completed. “To enable STF to complete the investigation under the supervision of the monitoring committee, three months are granted,” the Bench said. Justice Bedi was appointed as the Chairman of the already functioning monitoring committee set up by the state government on March 2, 2012.- PTI (The Hindu 10/9/2016)

Do police get away with rights violations? (1)

NEW DELHI: India may not have enough safeguards to protect its citizens from human rights violations by the police, official data suggest. As many as 35,831 cases were registered against the police with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in 2015-16, a figure that experts say is highly under-reported. And only 94 first information reports were registered in 2015, recently released data by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) show. Cases against the police involve illegal detentions, extortion, torture, fake encounters and others. The numbers do not include deaths in police custody, for which 153 cases were registered with the NHRC.2015 was not an exceptional year. NCRB data from 2006 to 2015 show that on an average, 120 FIRs are filed against the police for rights violations. From 2012 to 2015, cases with the NHRC against the police have always been more than 30,000, constituting around 30 per cent of all the cases it receives, data accessed by The Hindu show. Explaining this alarmingly big gap, experts say there is unwillingness among the police to file an FIR against one of their own. In the absence of a body similar to the Independent Police Complaints Commission as in the United Kingdom or the Independent Police Investigative Directorate in South Africa, allegations of human rights violations by the police in India are investigated by the police themselves. The NHRC’s investigative unit draws its members from the State police forces who are on deputation. The unit does not have the powers for active investigation: that is to say, it cannot collect or preserve physical evidence itself but has to ask the local police for it. “Wherever an offence has been made out after an inquiry, the NHRC, depending on the nature of the case, recommends lawful action, which may include punitive measures against the guilty and monetary relief to the victim,” NHRC spokesperson Jaimini Kumar Srivastava said. Activists, however, wonder whether there is any follow-up after the NHRC recommends monetary relief. Handing out money, though vital for many complainants who have medical bills to pay, does not mean that justice has been served. In fact, from April 2012 to July 2015, the NHRC recommended disciplinary action in just 22 cases and prosecution for a lone policeman, though monetary relief was recommended in 450 cases from April 2013 to March 2015. “The NHRC has complete authority to act against the police, but it chooses not to exercise its power,” lawyer and human rights activist Vrinda Grover said. Devika Prasad, who is the coordinator of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative’s police reforms programme, said once the NHRC had recommended relief for a victim, the allegation was no longer mere conjecture. “If the harm caused has been quantified, that means the NHRC has made a finding; it’s then no longer in the realm of conjecture,” Ms. Prasad said. “Where is the deterrence within the system,” asks Ms. Grover, given that punitive action is rare and even the compensation amount comes from public money, putting no burden on the policeman in question. Convictions are few. In seven of the 10 years from 2006 to 2015, not a single policeman was convicted of human rights violations. Fifty-eight policemen (54 from Chhattisgarh) were convicted in 2009; 233 (232 from Delhi) in 2011; and four in 2014. (The Hindu 12/9/2016)

Sudheeran asks Kerala CM to initiate stern action against custodial death and tortures (1)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM : In the backdrop of recurring incidents of custodial deaths and torture being reported from various police stations in the state, KPCC president V M Sudheeran has written to chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan today,demanding stern and immediate action against offenders in uniform to curb the disturbing  trend. Sudheeran pointed out that LDF had promised to end various third degree measures known to be used in police stations, if voted to power. ” Even after the LDF government assumed office,custodial deaths and torture is continuing in police stations. The death of  Abdul Latheef  in the police station at Wandoor in Malappuram district and the brutal torture of Suresh, a school bus driver in the Kochi Harbour police station proves it”, the letter underscored. “Strict action should be initiated against those found to be involved in torturing and harassing those taken into custody”, he insisted. The KPCC chief also asked the chief minister to ensure that eligible compensation is given to the family of  Abdul Latheef  and the government meets the entire cost of  the medical treatment for Suresh for his spinal injury suffered while in police custody. (New Indian Express 13/9/2016)

Chhattisgarh slaps murder charges against policemen after dalit’s death in custody (1)

RAIPUR: Two days after a Dalit youth was “beaten to death” in Chhattisgarh, a murder case has been filed against three policemen and a home guard even as the government sanctioned solatium and promised job to the wife of the deceased. Amid protests mounting against the custodial death, state’s principal secretary (Home) B V R Subramanian and director general of police A N Upadhyaya told reporters that on Monday evening that a case on the charges of murder and under the provisions of the SC/ST Atrocities (Prevention) Act has been registered against the policemen of Mulmula police station in Janjgir Champa district. Besides, a magisterial inquiry has been ordered into the circumstances leading to the death, they said. Police had picked up a Dalit Youth Sunil Kumar Narange on Saturday last following a complaint from an engineer of Chhattisgarh state power Distribution Company limited after he had an argument with him over blackout in his village due to a defunct transformer. The villagers were making frequent visit to the electricity office as there was a blackout in the area for the last four days. Though the electricity officials had promised that the transformer would be repaired within a day or two, Narange went to the office and had an argument with the electricity officials. Later, the police picked him up and was taken to Mummula police station where he was brutally beaten up till he fainted. Panicked policemen rushed him to a nearby primary health centre where the doctors declared him brought dead. The deceased’s pictures, with beating marks all over the body, went viral on the social media, sparking political row with political parties and Dalit activists groups demanding registration of criminal cases against the policemen concerned. An FIR has been registered on the charges of murder under section 302 IPC read with section 34 ( common intention) have been registered against Mulmula Town Inspector Jitendra Rajput, constable Sunil Dhruv, constable Hilharan Miri and home guard Rajesh Kumar. Principal secretary (home) and director general of police informed that the district administration has provided an immediate relief of Rs 25,000 to his family while chief minister Raman Singh has also sanctioned Rs one lakh from his relief fund. They said chief minister has also announced to sanction a solatium of Rs five lakh to the family of the deceased. Subramanian said the government has also decided to give a job to Mrs. Usha Narange, wife of the deceased, and to provide free of cost education to his children. They will be accommodated at the government school hostel for free education. (Times of India 19/9/2016)

Govt urged to keep promise of sop to those jailed wrongfully (1)

Lucknow: There are 17 persons from the state who were falsely implicated in terror cases in the last 16 years and were later acquitted by court, still waiting absolute justice in the form of compensation and rehabilitation promised by the ruling Samajwadi Party in its 2012 election manifesto – demand for which was raised on Monday. On the eighth anniversary of Batla house encounter, activists raised voice for those who lost precious years in jail facing custodial torture and later societal backlash, financial constraints and loss of livelihood even after being absolved. They also demanded Muslim youth detained in jails as terror suspects be released as SP had promised. ” Mayawati recently in Azamgarh condemned targeting of Muslims in the name of terrorism, though during her tenure more than 41 wrongful arrests were made,” said Mohammad Shoaib, president of Rihai Manch. “As many as 16 arrests were made wrongfully under Akhilesh-led SP government and 12 under Mulayam’s government previously,” he added. Javed from Rampur spent 12 years in jail from August 2002 to January 2014 when court acquitted him. “I was tagged ISI agent only because I fell in love with a Pakistani girl, visited the neighbouring country twice with my mother and exchanged letters with the girl. Even my friends who read out her letters as they were written in Urdu script were arrested. Charges proved false in court,” said Javed, who used to be a TV mechanic. Their home was sold to fund trials. Syed Mubarak Hussain, a hawker from Sitapur was arrested by police on the basis of his ‘Kashmiri’ appearance on August 14, 2006. “I spent two years seven days in jail and next two years in legal battle. We lost seven bighas land. I was beaten up and asked about accomplices, training and terror plans, though there were none.” Hussain said he feared for his children too, who are fair and sharp featured like him. He was acquitted by court in 2010 but awaits rehabilitation by state. Rihai Manch general secretary Rajeev Yadav said, “Police arrested around 38 Muslim youth in the name of ISIS and eight on charges of allegiance to Al-Qaida. Against promises, six acquittals have also been challenged by both SP and Mayawati governments.” (imes of India 20/9/2016)

23-year old chain snatcher dies in police custody at Chennai (1)

CHENNAI: A 23-year old chain snatcher was allegedly beaten to death while in the police custody at Kannagi Nagar police station in Chennai on Tuesday. The deceased identified as Karthick alias meen Karthick , a resident of Chintadripet was detained by the Kannagi Nagar police station along with another friend identified as Arun alias Arunachalam on Tuesday in connection with a chain snatching case. A petrol bomb (bottle filled with petrol) was hurled on the Kannaki Nagar police station by unidentified persons as the protests against the custodial death was taking place at around 5 pm. However, not much damage was caused as it did not catch fire. A police source said, Karthick, Arunachalam and their friend Parthiban allegedly tried to snatch a gold chain from a woman traveling in an auto rickshaw near Secretariat Colony in Thooraipakkam on Sunday. During the incident, another middle aged man tried to rescue the woman when he was attacked.  However, this was recorded in the CCTV footage. The man was immediately rushed to the government hospital where he underwent treatment.  Based on the CCTV footage the police allegedly nabbed Karthick and Arunachalam on Tuesday and launched a search for the third one. The duo were kept in custody for two days without remanding them. On Wednesday morning Karthick was reportedly found dead in the police station.  Investigation are on. (New Indian Express 21/9/2016)

Custody death: Post-mortem confirms injuries (1)

MORADABAD: The post-mortem report of Rafi ul Hassan, who died in police lock-up at Hazrat Nagar Gadi police station on Friday, has said that the injuries on his body indicated violence. His family had alleged that he was tortured and administered electric shocks while in police custody. After his death an FIR was registered against nine police personnel, including the station house officer of Hazrat Nagar Gadi Parvesh Kumar Chauhan, under IPC’s section 302 (Murder ), 452 (House trespass after preparation for hurt, assault or wrongful restrain ) and 504 ( Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace ) on a complaint lodged by Rafi ul Hassan’s brother Qamrul Hassan. Speaking with TOI, SSP, Moradabad, Nitin Tiwari said, “The post-mortem report revealed signs of violence over Rafi ul Hassan’s body. All the nine police personnel, including the SHO, have been suspended and now, the investigation has been transferred to the Crime Branch. Further action will be taken after er the investigation of the case.” Tiwari added 24 cases relating to heinous offences, are registered against Rafi ul Hassan at various police stations in the district. The SSP denied allegations of electric shock administered on Rafiul Hassan by the police. Hassan was detained in connection with an Arms Act case by the Hazart Nagar Gadi police, he added. According to the FIR , on the afternoon of September 22, Rafi ul Hassan was allegedly taken away by the Hazrat Nagar Gadi police station personnel from the house of his relative at Sirsi village in Sambhal district. Hassan had gone there to attend a function. When his family members, including his father who is a retired police officer, went to the police station, they saw policemen “torturing” Hassan in the lock-up. Qamrul Hassan, said, “When we reached the police station to give lunch to Rafi ul Hassan, we came to know that he was subjected to the third degree. “No case had been registered against Rafi ul Hassan at the station. Village Sirsi does not fall under its jurisdiction. After the ‘murder’ by the police personnel we came to know that a case under Arms Act had been registered against him, which was purportedly shown by police in their defence,” said Qamrul Hassan. (Times of India 25/9/2016)

Centre, NHRC quizzed on delay in stand-alone law against torture (1)

NEW DELHI: Former Law Minister Ashwani Kumar’s petition calls for comprehensive law against custodial violence  “I was kept inside the solitary Anda cell… I was not even taken to the jail hospital, which is a street away, and was not given any medicine.” This is how Professor G.N. Saibaba, who suffers from 90 per cent disability, recounts the torture he suffered inside Nagpur Jail’s infamous Anda cell during his long incarceration. The interview with the wheel-chair bound academician by The Hindu on April 8, 2016, became a rallying cry in the Supreme Court against the use of torture as an instrument of “human degradation” by State authorities. The interview was highlighted in a writ petition submitted by former Union Law Minister Ashwani Kumar. It led a Bench headed by Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur on Tuesday to direct the Centre and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to file their responses explaining why the Central government had delayed the promulgation of a stand-alone, comprehensive law defining and punishing torture.“As on date, India does not have any legislation that defines the expression ‘torture’ or ‘custodial torture’. Nor is there a law dealing specifically with torture in custody and the various specific aspects concerned with custodial torture and those involved in the incidents of such torture,” the petition, argued by Mr. Kumar in person, contended. Mr. Kumar argued that a bare perusal of the Indian Penal Code makes it apparent that its provisions “do not specifically and comprehensively address the various aspects of the custodial torture and are grossly inadequate to address the spiralling situation of custodial violence across the country”. He even pointed out to that the National Human Rights Commission keeps count of incidents of custodial torture only if it leads to death. “Unlike custodial deaths, the police are not mandatorily required to report cases of torture which do not result in deaths to the NHRC,” Mr. Kumar contended, and so a majority of the cases go unreported. Mr. Kumar said India, which had signed the UN Convention against Torture in 1997, has still not ratified the Convention which defines torture as a criminal offence. Mr. Kumar said no steps have been taken to implement the Prevention and Torture Bill 2010 even six years after it was passed by the Lok Sabha on May 6, 2010 and recommended by a Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha of which he had been Chairman. He informed that the Centre has avoided an independent legislation on torture, saying that some States were not in favour of such a law and the Indian Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code were more than sufficient. “It is not understood at all as to why the Government is resisting a standalone legislation to prevent custodial torture considering the mandate of Article 21 and India’s international obligations. A standalone legislation will certainly go a long way in creating the necessary environment to prevent abuse of custodial torture and human dignity of citizen,” the petition contended. (The Hindu 27/9/2016)

HC disposes of 400 petitions, directs police to register FIRs (1)

Chennai: The Madras high court, citing a Supreme Court verdict, underlined that “a power cannot exceed its own authority.” After the high court made it clear on Tuesday that it would not step into the shoes of an investigating officer and order registration of first information reports (FIRs) by relying on its ‘inherent’ power (according to Section 482 of Criminal Procedure Code), it disposed of on Wednesday around 400 petitions seeking directions to order police to register FIR. The court underlined a Supreme Court precedent of 2011, according to which, ‘inherent power’ could be exercised if injustice was done-a clear case where mandatory provision of law was overlooked or where different accused in the same case were being treated differently by the subordinate court. The apex court’s verdict had also said, ” The invoking of the power has to be for a purpose that is connected to the proceeding and not for sprouting a new issue altogether. A power cannot exceed its own authority beyond its own creation…” Underscoring the judgment, the court asked the petitioners to follow the procedure according to which, one had to first approach the jurisdictional police station with a complaint, and if it was not accepted, one must send the complaint to the superintendent of police by registered post with a covering letter. If still there was inaction, one had to file private complaint before the jurisdictional judicial magistrate under Section 156(3) of CrPC. One had to approach the high court with a petition directly only after exhausting all alternative remedies, the court said. The court asked the petitioners to follow the procedure and file a fresh petition, if necessary. (Times of India 29/9/2016)


30 sedition cases registered in 2015; 17 less than in 2014 (1)

NEW DELHI: At a time when a polarising debate on the use of sedition laws was being played out, a total of 30 sedition cases were registered in 2015 with nine being registered in Bihar, followed by three each in Haryana, Karnataka and Kerala. Nationally, there were 17 less cases compared to that in 2014. Data released by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) also say that 571 cases of ‘offence against the state’ were registered all over the country in 2015 with Uttar Pradesh topping the list with 60 such cases, followed by southern states of Telangana (54, Karnataka (49) and Kerala (45).In the context of attacks on Dalits, the NCRB data for 2015 suggest such crimes have dipped. While 45,003 cases of crimes committed against scheduled castes were reported in 2015, the number was 47,064 in 2014, a decrease of 4.4%.Uttar Pradesh reported maximum number of attacks on Dalits – 8,358, followed by Rajasthan (6,998), Bihar (6,438), Arunachal Pradesh (4,415) and Madhya Pradesh (4188). The cases included assault on Dalit women, murders, rapes and abduction.While the use of the sedition law against JNU students’ union president Kanhaiya Kumar for a meeting that allegedly eulogised Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru became a heated political controversy, the number of cases registered have been limited. In Jammu & Kashmir, only one case of sedition was reported despite incidents of unrest and anti-India demonstrations. ‘Offences against the state’, which was listed by NCRB for the first time last year, include waging or attempting to wage war or abetting waging of war against the government (Section 121 of IPC), conspiracy to commit offences punishable by Section 121 (Section 121A) and collecting arms with intention of waging war against the government (Section 122), among others. (Times of India 1/9/2016)

Media must self-regulate for national interest: Venkaiah Naidu (1)

NEW DELHI: The media should not mix news and views Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu said on Thursday, but he added at the same time that the media “needs to practice self regulation for the sake of national interest.” Naidu, who inaugurated the Regional Editors Conference’s Chennai conclave Wednesday morning, didn’t elaborate on what he thinks “self-regulation in the national interest” means. “The challenge before the media is to ensure quality, credibility and responsibility,” Naidu said, adding that social media “defies traditional modes of regulation and censorship.” Naidu also acknowledged that the Narendra Modi government is engaged with the media so it can highlight the government’s programmes. “The Regional Editors Conference is an attempt to take the government’s development programmes to the last mile. The media is a partner in the progress of the country, and has to play a crucial role in inclusive development,” Naidu said. As for regional media, Naidu said he’s “happy to note” that regional print media has witnessed growth in terms of circulation and revenue. That’s important, he said, because regional media is “a crucial link to communicate with people” across the country.New media has a brought a paradigm shift and using that, the crowd-sourcing of ideas has become an important way to ensure people’s participation in governance, Naidu said he believes. “Information is a great ammunition to fight poverty, inequality, corruption and even terrorism,” Naidu added. (Times of India 1/9/2016)

‘Freedom of expression threatened (1)

Lucknow: Expressing concern over the threat to the ‘freedom of speech’ and questioning the way various state governments use advertisements to ‘regulate’ media, BJP MP Varun Gandhi said that such practises should stop. Addressing participants at a youth conclave in the city, he said: “One of the biggest newspapers is without advertisement for the past one year because a particular state government didn’t want. I don’t want to name anyone. And remember, this newspaper is the biggest in the state.” Praising former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, he said, “People think that Nehru became the first PM and lived a lavish life like a king, full of comfort and luxury. What they don’t know is Nehru spent 15 and half years languishing in jail to achieve that. If today someone puts me in jail and say that after 15 years, we will make you the PM, I will say, ‘bhaiya maaf karo. aadmi ki jaan hi nikal jaaye (Pardon me. It’s too taxing).” As youth, Varun said, it was our responsibility to understand that he (Nehru) sacrificed his life, family and borne wounds on his body to get the country free and this freedom should not be wasted. Gandhi, with an example of a 73-old farmer in Kozhikode who committed suicide because he failed to pay a bank loan worth Rs 3 lakh which he took for his daughter’s education, said, “On one side, we have this farmer, KT Joseph, and on the other, there is liquor baron Vijay Mallaya who has Rs 4900 crore loan and is roamingfree, out of the country. And there are hardly any chances of him coming back.” …  (Times of India 3/9/2016)

SC/ST Act curbs free speech: HRW (1)

New Delhi: The global human rights watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW), in its 2016 report on India titled ‘Stifling Dissent: The Criminalisation of Dissent in India,’ presents a list of draconian Indian laws that “restrict freedom of expression”. Alongside laws like section 124 A (the sedition law), and section 295 A (hurting of religious sentiments) of the IPC, which are predictable inclusions, also in the list are the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, and its amendment, the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 2015. While noting that SC/ST Prevention Act is “one of the most important pieces of legislation for the protection of Dalits”, the report singles out section 3 (1) (x) of the Act as a provision ripe for misuse. This section penalises anyone who “intentionally insults or intimidates with intent to humiliate a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe in any place within public view.” The report highlights the case of sociologist Ashis Nandy as illustrative of “how this well intentioned law could be misused. In January 2013, at the Jaipur Literature Festival, Nandy had allegedly made a comment about Dalits being among the “most corrupt”. Nandy apologised but he was still booked under section 3 (1) (x) of the SC/ST Prevention Act.The HRW, referring to an earlier report by PEN International, concludes that “the vague and overbroad language of the act, which targets humiliating rather than hateful speech, makes it ripe for abuse.” In its recommendations to the Indian Parliament, it suggests amending section 3 (1) of the SC/ST Prevention Act to “bring it in line with ICCPR [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights] article 20 by allowing for restriction of speech only when it constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility, or violence.” Mr Nandy, when contacted by The Hindu, endorsed the HRW report’s argument. “I am not a lawyer and I cannot tell you how to amend it,” he said. “But if you want to prevent people from being blackmailed by this provision of the SC/ST Act, as I have been, it must be revised to remove all possibilities of misuse.” … (The Hindu 4/9/2016)

SC scrapped it, but thousands held last year under dead cyber law (1)

New Delhi: College student Danish Mohammed’s arrest this March under the scrapped Section 66A of the Information Technology Act for allegedly sharing a morphed picture of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat wasn’t an exception. Police arrested more than 3,000 people under the section in 2015, triggering concerns that the law was abused well after it was struck down by the Supreme Court in March last year. The top court had ruled Section 66A violated the constitutional freedom of speech and expression. The exact number of people arrested after it was scrapped is not available. But the National Crime Records Bureau’s (NCRB) Crime in India report released last month shows 3,137 arrests under the section in 2015 against 2,423 the previous year. On an average, four people were arrested every 12 hours in 2015 as compared to three in 2014. “I am shocked,” said Supreme Court lawyer Karuna Nundy, who represented the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, among the petitioners in Supreme Court seeking removal of Section 66A. “Making sure that our guardians of law know their law is absolutely basic… Whether it is training or notifying every police officer, we need action on it immediately,” she said. It is unlikely that all 3,000-plus arrests were made before the provision was struck down in March. Sunil Abraham, executive director of the Bengaluru-headquartered advocacy group Centre for Internet and Society, said it was obvious that the police had not made these arrests before the SC ruling. Lawyer Manali Singhal said once the Supreme Court struck off a provision of law, “any arrest under that provision would be per se illegal and void”. Police also appeared to be on an overdrive to file charge sheets against people booked before the SC verdict – in 1,500 cases last year, almost twice the 2014 figure.There were 575 people still in jail on January 1, 2016, twice as many as the 275 in prison when the law was in force a year earlier. In 2015, the courts also convicted accused in 143 cases. (Hindustan Times 7/9/2016)

Protesting journalists lathi-charged; 4 injured (1)

AMRITSAR: Four journalists sustained minor injuries after police resorted to a lathi charge to prevent them from going to the residence of Punjab minister Bikram Singh Majithia here to stage a protest in support of their demands. Later, addressing a gathering of journalists, Chandigarh-Punjab Journalist Association president Jasbir Singh Patti informed that a journalist, Joginder Singh Khera, fainted after he was hit on the head during the lathi charge and was admitted to a hospital. He said journalists, sporting black ribbons, were marching towards the residence of Majithia to demand pension and residential plots for journalists at reserved prices when the police action took place. The association president alleged that one of the journalists, Sunny Sahota, was pulled by the hair and bundled in a car by police. Patti said journalists handed over a memorandum to Majithia’s media in-charge in his absence. (Times of India 8/9/2016)

J&K Police arrests human rights activist Khurram Parvez (1)

New Delhi: The J&K Police have arrested a well-known Kashmiri human rights defender from his home in Srinagar late this evening. This is a day after he was stopped in Delhi by authorities to board a flight to Geneva where he was going to attend the ongoing United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) session. Khurram Pervez (39), who is presently Chairperson of Asian Federation Against involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) and Program Coordinator of Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), has been kept in Kothibagh Police Station. Despite repeated attempts, the police officers were not available to comment on the arrest. This is the first such high profile arrest of a human rights activist in Kashmir in the recent past and is seen as part of government’s crackdown on civil society in the valley that is critical of the Mehbooba Mufti led government’s use of excessive force to quell the current uprising. According to Pervez’s family members, he had returned home from Delhi this morning. The family members said that the police officials from Kothibagh Police station called him in the evening asking him to visit the police station because Superintendent of Police wanted to speak to him. “He called the SP and told him he will come at 10 am tomorrow,’’ a relative said. “Late in the night, a police party came to his home, asking him to accompany them to the police station. There wasn’t any police officer in the police station at that time. They told us that he would have to stay in the police station”. Pervez’s family members said that the police didn’t give any reasons for the arrest. On Wednesday, Pervez was stopped by Immigration authorities at IGI airport in Delhi and disallowed to board a flight to Geneva. “At around 1.30 am, as I was about to board my flight to Geneva, I was stopped at immigration and detained for one-and-a-half hours. The officer had stamped my boarding pass but they subsequently disallowed me to proceed to board the flight,’’ he had told The Indian Express. Pervez had also said that he was “only orally informed that immigration officers had instructions that he was not to be arrested, but that he should not be allowed to leave the country”. .. (Indian Express 16/9/2016)

Kashmir journalists seek Press Council of India’s intervention against ‘gag’ (1)

Srinagar: Journalist fraternity in Kashmir today sought the Press Council of India’s intervention for lifting a “gag” imposed by authorities in Srinagar by snapping internet facilities, saying it was a “serious infringement” of freedom of expression and right to information. “An unprecedented situation has emerged since September 12, as the state decided to snap all internet services after suspending mobile telephony. This undeclared gag has left journalists completely grounded,” said a joint letter from four working journalist organisations in Kashmir. The letter, by the Kashmir Journalist Corps, Press Photographers Association, Kashmir Correspondents’ Club and Kashmir Video Journalist Association, has been addressed to the PCI chairman Chandramauli Kumar Prasad. They said that never before has the media fraternity been confronted with such a grave situation “wherein we are not even able to communicate with other parts of the state”. Journalists also staged a protest at the Press Enclave here against the communication gag by authorities to snap internet services in Kashmir in view of the Eid-ul-Adha festival and as part of efforts to curb the agitation in the valley, which has completed 10 weeks and has claimed 81 lives and left thousands injured.“Visual journalists – photo journalists and videographers – were the worst hit, as they were unable to send pictures or videos,” they said. Journalists said the condition is so bad that some of them have been forced to dictate news reports over telephone and in worst case scenarios sent it as SMS, which in this day and age mocks technological advancement including Digital India. Terming the internet gag as serious infringement not only to freedom of expression but also to right to information, the journalists sought the intervention of the PCI chairman to restore services immediately. “We seek your intervention as the custodian of press rights in India, to ensure restoration of internet facilities at the earliest. We are hopeful that your intervention will end the gag forced on the fourth estate in Jammu and Kashmir. The media fraternity in Kashmir is considering other options of protest but we are hopeful PCI’s intervention will ensure that the situation will not come to that part,” the letter said. They also demanded a permanent solution to such frequent gags. “The PCI may recommend measure to the state government/ Centre to ensure that any future internet gag does not affect working of reporters/ photo journalists/ media outlets,” the journalist said in the letter to the PCI chairman. (Indian Express 17/9/2016)

‘Jan Jan JNU’ to help lift University image (1)

New Delhi: Jawaharlal Nehru University, which has been at centre of controversies in recent months, has decided to work on the varsity’s image and organise and open day “Jan Jan JNU” for schoolchildren to inform them about the university’s contribution to various fields. The varsity has been hogging limelight for negative reasons, including a journal calling the varsity den of anti-nationals and three of its students being arrested for sedition in connection with an event on campus during which anti-national slogans were allegedly raised. The open day will be held on November 21 and schools will be required to register for the event through the website which will be launched for the event. JNU vice-chancellor Jagadesh Kumar took to Twitter to announce the programme. “The university has made outstanding contributions to the society both in humanities and sciences through its renowned academicians and researchers. It would like to highlight and share its achievements with public,” a concept note for the programme said. “The primary objective of the event is to showcase JNU’s contributions to schoolchildren which can serve as an inspiration for carrying out their career as future researchers, academicians and engines of social change,” it added. (Asian Age 20/9/2016)

Officials told to be cautious in use of words in social media (1)

Hyderabad:  “How do we stop a user from writing and commenting bad things about the department and the government?” This was first question asked at a one-day orientation programme for officials of the departments of Government of Telangana with Facebook. Public policy manager, South Asia, of Facebook Nitin Saluja gave three options: hide the message, delete it or report it. Putting it in numbers, Mr. Saluja explained how it is not just one organisations but a clutch of apps that reach out to people every day: 1.6 billion on Facebook, 1.5 billion on Whatsapp, 500 million on Instagram. The orientation programme was aimed at officials in government departments like Electricity, Metro Water and GHMC, among others who have to deal with citizens directly and have to put across the policies of the government. “This is one of the tools to reach out to the largest number of people. And language is no barrier. Nearly, 80-85 per cent of the population has access to phones. People may not have access to safe drinking water, roads or electricity but they will have a cellphone which will have Facebook and Whatsapp,” said Commissioner Information and Public Relations Navin Mittal. But Mr. Mittal cautioned the government officials about communication that is not thought through: “Each of the social media messages that you send out is like an arrow. You cannot call it back. So be careful while framing your words.” “Today, the first thing people ask when they go anywhere is: ‘Where’s the WiFi hotspot? What’s the password?’ The Internet has become part of our life. Information is the new property. If you have information you are important. But this information should be used to benefit people,” said Chief Public Relations Officer of Chief Minister’s Office Jwala Narasimha Rao. Sharing an anecdote of life changing role that social media can have Director of digital media cell of IT Department Dileep Kontham said: “We received a message from a young boy who was wheelchair bound as he had muscular dystrophy. He sent a small message to the Chief Minister wanting to know if the government can do something about it. Immediately, we verified his case and now the boy is getting a monthly pension.” (The Hindu 20/9/2016)

Use social media for plaints: Guntur urban SP (1)

Guntur: At a meeting convened here on Wednesday, Urban SP Tripati said as smart phones are being used by the public, they can make good use of the dedicated social media platforms and WhatsApp number of the Guntur police. He said there are many occasions when some people had sought to bring social issues to the notice of the police through Facebook in the past. Also, many people had come forward to register their complaints with the police during public meetings in the city. “Inputs like videos, photos and SMSes are invited at Whatsapp to 8333981178 and media platforms,” said SP Tripati. He further said implementing advanced technology in the administration can bridge the gap between people and the police in sharing the views and opinions. (Times of India 22/9/2016)

Press Council seeks report from Kerala HC on media ban in courts (1)

KOCHI: Press Council of India has sought a status report from the Kerala High Court regarding the restrictions imposed on media in reporting court proceedings and denial of entry to media personnel to various courts in the state, including the high court. The Council’s secretary issued a letter to the registrar general of the high court and the chief secretary of the state that stated, “Since the matter prima facie concern free functioning of the press and the statute mandates the Press Council to preserve the freedom of the Press, I have been directed by Hon’ble Chairman to seek information in this regard. It will be appreciated if a status report of the matter could be filed within two weeks from the date of receipt of this letter to enable the Council to decide further course of action in the matter.”

Headed by a former Supreme Court judge, the Council consists of 28 members including editors, journalists, newspaper managements’ representatives, and five members of Parliament. As per Press Council Act of 1965, the Council has the duty to ensure that freedom of speech is maintained and its actions cannot be questioned unless it is proved to be in violation of the Constitutional provisions. In the letter to the high court, the Council said it has come to its notice that there were “continuous attacks” on media persons from July 19th to 21st in and around the high court and at the court in Vanchiyoor in Thiruvananthapuram. It has also been noticed that media is being prevented from entering the high court and other courts for news reporting since July 19th, the letter said.The Council sought reports from the high court registrar and the chief secretary after receiving a complaint from former Parliament member Sebastian Paul. Seeking immediate intervention of the Council, Sebastian Paul had stated in the complaint, “There is no direct reporting from the courts and nothing but news with vested interest is trickling out. The situation is worse than censorship.” “The violent exclusion of the media from court proceedings is not something which can be taken lightly. It is a portent. Tomorrow more frustrated institutions and disappointed organizations may decide on the basis of their organized strength to outlaw the reporters. As on today the right of the Press to collect and disseminate news from an important and sacred source is denied totally,” the complaint had stated. (Times of India 22/9/2016)

Journalist’s exile shows concern over Nepal’s press freedom (1)

Kathmandu: A prominent local journalist who helped organise a gathering in Nepal of investigative reporters from throughout Asia was notably absent from the event, exiled to avoid possible arrest. Journalist and publisher Kunda Dixit, who founded the Nepal Center for Investigative Journalism, is under investigation by the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority. Global Investigative Journalism Network executive director David Kaplan, who worked with Dixit for more than a year to bring more than 350 journalists from 50 countries to Nepal this weekend, said Dixit is being targeted for prosecution and detention by Nepali officials, underscoring broader concerns about press freedom. “He fled Nepal just weeks before this conference because of a witch hunt in which he’s scared of being detained and imprisoned if he comes back here,” said Kaplan. “Kunda is one of our best and we are here because of him. We are all going to continue fighting for what Kunda believes in.” Nepal’s home ministry spokesperson Yadav Koirala said Dixit’s issues are not related to the overall government and only concern the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority. The commission’s official Ganesh Raj Karki said his agency has no warrant or case against Dixit because he is not a public figure and thus cannot be charged. However, Dixit and his brother, also a publisher, are being investigated for the amount of property they have in their names. Dixit said he’s waiting for courts to grant him protection against unfair prosecution by the commission. Some local journalists and editors say Dixit’s situation highlights growing government pressure on journalists to avoid publishing anything that could cast authorities in a poor light, even if they’re true and fairly reported. At least one news magazine is being forced to close, and a radio station was demolished last week after authorities said its building encroached on forest lands. US Ambassador Alaina B Teplitz told journalists that free press is an issue the State Department is closely watching in this impoverished Himalayan nation fraught with political instability. The ninth government in 10 years took power last month, and a constitution adopted last year both espouses a right to free expression and has clauses that seem potentially restrictive of the press. (Indian Express 27/9/2016)


Karnataka stands second in communal, political riots cases (7)

BENGALURU: The latest crime data for the country shows that Karnataka reported the second highest number of communal and political riots. But this isn’t to say that the atmosphere in the state has been polarised. In fact, the numbers can be attributed to the state’s reporting mechanism. The National Crime Records Bureau’s data for 2015 shows that Haryana topped the list with 201 cases of communal riots in 2015. Karnataka trailed with 163 cases. Karnataka also reported the second highest number of political riots at 166 cases, far behind Kerala that reported 1,031 cases. R S Deshpande, former director of Institute of Social and Economic Change, Bengaluru, said, “As a political observer I don’t see why there should be a reason for spurt in communal riots in the state. There is no reason why the political atmosphere needs to be polarised. It may be because of the state’s strong reporting system. I can say that in the recent past we have seen a few more riots than before. This is in retraction to the national political scene.” Deshpande added, “Even small skirmishes are being reported with caste and community colour. There has been a change in the definition of communal riots. Also, bear in mind that when an incident gets reported as a communal riot there is greater leverage for news. Even if a lingayat and a vokkaliga fight for financial reasons, their community will be drawn into it.” Bengaluru also has the dubious distinction of reporting the second highest number of riots at 373 cases, after Mumbai (396). In arson cases, Bengaluru stands third with 99 reported cases, following Delhi with 182. The city recorded the maximum number of cases of crimes against Dalits (SCs) — 127 cases. Minister for Social Welfare H Anjaneya, a Dalit, said that the value of land given to Scheduled Castes through land committees between 1972 and 75 has increased over the years. Crimes against SCs have increased in a bid to reclaim these government grants. “These are landless people. They own one to three acres of land. There are atrocities against them to reclaim it from them as the land value has increased manifold of late,” he said. (The New Indian Express 1/9/2016)

Riots continue to singe volatile west UP (7)

Agra: For the fourth straight year, volatile western Uttar Pradesh region has reported maximum cases of riots in the state, shows the NCRB data. Data collated from seven major cities in the state shows that Agra once again had the highest instances of riots in the state in 2015, with state capital Lucknow coming second. Agra reported 219 cases of riots in 2015, with 12.5 affected people per lakh of population. This was, however, the lowest in the last three years; 2012 had seen 227 such cases, 2013 the same number and 2014 had witnessed 242. Riots have been classified under several sub-categories such as sectarian, agrarian, student, caste, communal and “others”.In Agra, a total of 51 people became victims of clashes over land property dispute followed by 47 in student violence; 14 people were victims of communal riots and 12 of caste conflicts between SCs/STs and non-SCs/STs. There was a considerable gap in the number of cases between Agra and Lucknow, which came in second place. Lucknow saw 113 cases of riots in 2015, at a rate of 3.9 affected. Meerut, which reported the second highest number of riots last year, stood third in the state with 112 cases at a rate of 7.9 per lakh affected. The industrial capital of UP, Kanpur, was fourth with 96 cases of riots, but at a much lower rate of 3.3 affected. Varanasi, the Lok Sabha constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with 29 cases of riots had the lowest number among the seven major cities. The rate in Varanasi is 2 affected per lakh of population; Ghaziabad reported 30 instances of riots in 2015. Out of the total 65,255 riots in country, Uttar Pradesh saw 6,813 cases and stood third after Bihar at 13,311 and Maharashtra 8, 336. Bihar’s capital Patna had the highest instances of riots in the country at 725, with a rate of 35.4 affected people per lakh of population, followed by Mumbai with 396 instances and a rate of 2.2. Shockingly, Faridabad reported highest 201 number of communal riots cases, in which 220 people were victims. Interestingly, Amritsar and Ludhiana in Punjab and Kota in Rajasthan had no cases of riots in 2014. (Times of India 1/9/2016)

1984 riots: Court permits confronting witness with previous statement (7)

New Delhi: A court hearing a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case on Wednesday allowed Congress leader Sajjan Kumar’s plea to confront one of the witnesses with her previous statement and said it will be done in accordance with law. Sajjan Kumar’s counsel urged District Judge Amar Nath that he wanted to confront prosecution witness Sheela Kaur with her statement made on February 10, 1985, in another case. The Central Bureau of Investigation raised objection and apprised the court that during investigation it was found by the agency that the local police was hand in glove with the killers and hence they deliberately did not record the victim’s statement in a fair and impartial manner. The CBI told the court that this fact was also highlighted in the Nanavati Commission report on the 1984 riots.However, the court allowed Kumar’s plea but directed that the witness will be confronted with her previous statement in accordance with law. The defence counsel sought some time to apply for the certified copies of the alleged statement. Therefore, the court adjourned the matter to October 21. Currently, the court is recording the statement of prosecution witness Sheela Kaur whose husband, brother-in-law and father-in-law were killed in the 1984 riots. The case proceedings are being video-recorded. The Central Bureau of Investigation had filed two chargesheets against Sajjan Kumar and others in January 2010 in cases registered in 2005, on the recommendation of Justice G.T. Nanavati Commission that probed the sequence of events leading to riots. Kaur had deposed that it was Sajjan Kumar who provoked a mob that attacked her house. Sajjan Kumar, along with Brahmanand Gupta and Ved Prakash, is facing trial in connection with the killing of Sikhs in Sultanpuri in north Delhi during the anti-Sikh riots that erupted after the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by two of her Sikh security guards. The court has framed various charges, including those of murder and rioting, against the three accused. (Business Standard 7/9/2016)

Cattle trader’s death ignites communal tension in Dholahat (7)

Dholahat: The police arrested 49 individuals after a mob attacked the Dholahat police station at South 24 Parganas district. The mob had allegedly arrived at the station protesting the mysterious death of an affluent cattle trader. A 28-year-old died in the clashes that took place on Sunday evening. With the Muslim community alleging that the cattle trader was murdered by those associated with right-wing Hindu groups, concentrated in the Hindu majority village of Bhajna. Since the incident, communal tension has prevailed in the area with both communities alleging atrocities. Bhajna village is one of the few Hindu-majority villagers in the otherwise Muslim-dominated area and has a number of youths associated with cattle protection outfits, many of them associated with the right-wing Hindu groups. However villagers have denied the allegation, while the police also believe that the ‘communal motive’ is unlikely. “We are investigating the matter. The family members of the deceased have alleged that the murder was motivated by religion, but we can’t just arrest someone like that,” said Ashesh Biswas, sub-divisional police officer (Kakdwip) The FIR in the case of Sunday’s violence has been filed under a number of sections of the Indian Penal Code including 144, 145, 149 (unlawful assembly), 147 (rioting), 152 (assaulting public servant when suppressing riot), 153 (spreading communal tension), 307 (attempt to murder), 354 (molestation), 427 (damage to public property), 353 (assault on public servant) and different sections of the Arms Act. Meanwhile, of the 49 arrested, three – identified as Hanif Mollah, Saifuddin Haldar, Haider Ali Sordar — were sent to police custody by a court in Kakdwip. While the rest have been sent to jail by the court for over 14 days. The police admitted that communal tension prevailed in the area and RAF has been deployed in the area in an attempt to bring order and peace in the area. While the police maintain that they fired two rounds to disperse the crowd, villagers allege that 14 rounds had been fired without any prior warning. TMC MLA Jagaranjan Haldar said, “It is tragic that a young man has died like this. It is also equally tragic that a police station and government officials were attacked like this. But the law will take its course and investigation will continue. We are taking steps so that those who’re innocent can be released and that shops can be reopened.” (The Indian Express 12/9/2016)

Curfew in three Odisha towns following communal tension (7)

BHUBANESWAR: As communal tension prevailed in three towns of Odisha during immersion processions of Lord Ganesha and another deity, the administration imposed section 144 of the CrPC in these areas. Section 144 has been clamped in Rourkela in Sundargarh district, Soro in Balasore district and Patamundai in Kendrapada district following communal tension between two groups, police said on Tuesday. Adequate security personnel have been deployed keeping in view the festival of Eid-ul-Zuha, said a senior police official. Director General of Police (DGP) K.B. Singh said adequate force has been deployed to maintain communal harmony in these areas. He said police will take tough action against the miscreants who indulged in hooliganism. Section 144 was imposed in Rourkela late Monday night after some miscreants hurled bricks at an idol of Lord Ganesha when the immersion procession reached minority-dominated Nala Road. Stones were pelted by the members of the two communities at each other and police had to resort to a mild lathi-charge to bring the situation under control. Following the incident, a group torched a car and damaged two scooters. Similarly, curfew has been imposed in Soro town of Balasore following incidents of communal violence since the last three days.Balasore SP Niti Sekhar said even though prohibitory orders under section 144 were lifted for several hours in view of Eid, they would be in force till Wednesday morning. Two communities indulged in brick-batting during the immersion procession of Lord Ganesh on August 9.In Pattamundai town of Kendrapara district, curfew has been clamped after members of the minority community opposed the use of loudspeakers and beating of drums in front of a mosque during an immersion procession of Ma Khudurukuni, a local deity. “The situation is under control. We have deployed adequate security personnel to restore peace in the area,” said Kendrapara SP Nitinjit Singh. (Times of India 13/9/2016)

Communal tension grips Kashi before Laat Bhairav Barat (7)

Varanasi: A few hours before the commencement of Barat (marriage procession) of Lord Laat Bhairav from the Laat Bhairav temple, which is located on a giant platform where Muslims also offer Namaz, a police constable allegedly moved in front of the Namazis on Friday with his shoes on. The incident led to communal tension and protests and counter-protests by the members of the two communities.Angered over it, the people of the minority community went on rampage after the end of Namaz and staged a demonstration. Before the senior police officials could bring the situation under control by issuing order to suspend that police constable, some mischievous elements uprooted the flags placed at temple as a part of Laat Bhairavs Barat celebration and threw them in a pond. Angered over it, the people of Hindu community also started a sit-in. District magistrate Vijay Kiran Anand and SSP Akash Kulhary had to exercise hard to convince both groups to call off the stir before the commencement of Barat.The holy city houses eight temples of Lord Bhairav, which are known as Ashta-Bhairava, including Laat Bhairav. This temple is located on a giant platform adjacent to a pond. Muslims also use this platform to offer Namaz due to which this place is also known to be Laat Saraiyya.Before a few hours of the commencement of Barat, Muslims had gathered at the platform to offer Friday Namaz in the afternoon. When they were offering Namaz, a police constable allegedly moved before them without removing his shoes. It made the Namazis annoyed, who staged a demonstration after the prayers. Heavy police force was rushed to the spot to bring the situation under control while SSP also reached there. Before the officials could bring the situation under control, some mischievous elements removed the flags of the temple and dumped them in the pond. Angered over it, Hindus also started sit-in. The DM also reached there. The SSP ordered to suspend the police constable and hold a probe into the matter. To satisfy the Hindus, the officials also ensured installation of new flags. The DM and SSP also held meeting with senior citizens of both the communities to maintain peace during Laat Bhairav Barat. (Times of India 17/9/2016)

4 of community killed over eve teasing in UP (7)

LUCKNOW: Officials said trouble started when some youths reportedly passed lewd comments at a girl, belonging to another community, when she was on her way to school at Peda village in the district. dh illustration Tension prevailed in Uttar Pradesh’s communally sensitive Bijnore district after four members of a community were killed in a violent clash over an eve teasing incident on Friday. At least a dozen people sustained injuries and were admitted to hospital, according to the police. Enraged over the killing, an angry mob torched some houses and indulged in stone pelting, besides blocking traffic on NH 119 with the bodies, sources added. Two police personnel, including an inspector, were suspended and a probe was ordered. Officials said trouble started when some youths reportedly passed lewd comments at a girl, belonging to another community, when she was on her way to school at Peda village in the district. Later, the youths attacked the girl’s family when they voiced protests against the eve teasing. Bijnore is near Muzaffarnagar, which was rocked by large-scale communal riots in 2013. (Deccan Herald 17/9/2016)

SC grants 6 months to conclude trial in a Guj riots case (7)

New Delhi, Sep 19 () The Supreme Court today granted six more months to a lower court in Gujarat to conclude trial in the 2002 Naroda Gam riots case, one of the nine post-Godhra riots matters probed by the apex court-appointed SIT pertaining to the killing of eleven members of a community. “The City Civil & Sessions Court (at Ahmedabad in Gujarat) is granted six months more time to conclude trial and pronounce the judgement (in the Naroda Gam case),” a bench of Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justice A M Khanwilkar said. The court considered the submission of amicus curiae and senior advocate Harish Salve and SIT chief R K Raghavan, who is a former CBI chief, that the trial court should be granted more time as it has to examine nearly 300 witnesses. “So far as other eight cases are concerned, investigations have been completed. The charge sheets have been filed and the trial courts have pronounced the judgements and now the cases are at stage of appeal in the High Court,” Salve said. He said a time limit can be fixed for the lower court to conclude the trial. Eleven persons belonging to the minority community were killed at Naroda Gam in 2002 riots during a bandh called in protest of the Godhra train burning incident. A total of 82 persons are facing trial in the case. In June, a special court had convicted 24 persons in the Gulberg society riots case in which 68 people, including former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, were killed. The apex court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) has been probing nine major riots cases including the Gulberg society riots case and the Naroda Gam matter. The apex court, on February 22 this year, had paved the way for pronouncement of judgement by Ahmedabad trial court in various cases including the Gulberg Society massacre case. It had said there was no restraint on the trial judge to pronounce the verdict and granted him three months for it.  (Times of India 19/9/2016)

Over 100 Hindus missing in Peda village: BJP (7)

Bijnor: Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) unit here on Sunday met the superintendent of police and claimed that “over a hundred Hindu men were missing from Peda village” following the clashes that took place on Friday. The BJP claimed that the men had fled the village out of “fear from a particular community”. The local BJP unit claimed that these people’s houses were being looted in their absence. On Sunday, BJP workers led by Bijnor MP Kunwar Bhartendra Singh met DIG Omkar Singh and submitted a memorandum seeking protection of these people. In the memorandum, the BJP members said, “The reason for clash is that the youths of minority community used to harass the girl students while on their way to schools. Villagers had earlier complained to the authorities about the matter but not strict action was taken. On Friday also, a youth had teased some girls while they were going to school. This triggered the clash. After the clash, police are taking one-sided action. There are 30% Hindu population in the village, and hence the Hindus have left their home leaving behind their cattle. About 100 people are missing from Peda village. Nobody knows where they have gone. The police are also not trying to locate them. Police should ensure their safety. A fair probe should be conducted in this regard. Oppression of the innocent people must be stopped.” Workers of the Jat Mahasabha, led by state president Shoorveer Singh, also met the SP and visited Peda village. Singh demanded that the oppression of the innocent be stopped. After the clash and police action, villagers of a particular community are moving out the village.” (Times of India 19/9/2016)

Communal tension in Coimbatore after Hindu Munnani leader hacked to death (7)

COIMBATORE: Communal tension prevailed in various parts of Coimbatore after a Hindu Munnani leader was hacked to death by unidentified persons last night. Coimbatore bandh: Stop attacks on cadre or Tamil Nadu will become another Gujarat, warns Hindu Munnani chief C Sasikumar (36) from Subramaniyampalayam who was on his way home was attacked by four-member gang with sickles at GN Mills in Thudiyalur. Despite suffering 11 cut injuries, Sasikumar somehow managed to escape but later succumbed to his injuries in a private hospital. Following the incident, unidentified miscreants hurled petrol bombs on a mosque in Sukrawarpet. Other than that, all the shops in Coimbatore and Tirupur districts were forced to close and few protesters even pelted stones on TNSTC buses bringing their service to a halt in many parts of the city. Reacting to Sasikumar’s death, the Hindu Munnani’s state president Kadeswara G Subramani on Friday had called for a state-wide bandh condemning the attack over the Hindu people in the state. Meanwhile, more than 500 members of the Hindu Munnani outfit have assembled in front of Coimbatore Medical College and Hospital (CMCH) where Sasikumar’s body was taken for postmortem.  City Police Commissioner A Amal Raj and Deputy Commissioner N Lakshmi arrived at CMCH for take stock of the situation. (New Indian Express 23/9/2016)

Muzaffarnagar riot victims lodge complaint against NHRC’s Kairana ‘exodus’ report (7)

Meerut: A Kandhla-based NGO, Afkar India Foundation (AIF), on Sunday lodged a formal complaint on behalf of riot-displaced families against the National Human Rights Commission’s (NHRC) report on the alleged exodus of Hindu families from Kairana. AIF lodged the complaint on the official NHRC website, objecting to “point no. 18″ of the report, which claimed that the demographic profile of Kairana changed after the riots and blamed worsening law and order situation in the western UP town on the influx of refugees. The complaint claimed that the NHRC has “exaggerated” the number of riot-displaced persons settled in Kairana and has offered no proof that rising crime is directly linked to riot refugees. “I raised three crucial questions in the complaint. First, there is no clarity on what the proof is. There is no conclusive evidence that links refugees to the rise in crime. The NHRC team did not even look at FIRs filed in Kairana police station. If the FIRs are examined, they will find that none of the gangs are run by riot refugees. In fact, the most wanted list at Kairana police station has people from all religions and castes. It is not only wrong to link crime to one community, it is also dangerous,” said Akram Akhtar, project manager at AIF. He added, “The second crucial question I raised was why they have exaggerated the number of riot refugees in Kairana. The report says that around 25,000 refugees came and settled there. That is simply not true. According to our database, there are only 3,000 refugees in the town. Point no. 18 of the report says that refugees changed the demographic profile of the town, which is not true. The last question was regarding who they interviewed. I think the interview process was not thorough. They did not interview enough people. If the NHRC does not respond soon, we will be forced to file an RTI query. Based on all these objections, we demand a public apology from the NHRC and a deletion of point no. 18, which blames crime on refugees.” On Saturday, TOI had spoken to riot refugees who said that far from being responsible for rising crime, they were victims of their “own exodus”. The NHRC report vindicated the stand of Kairana’s BJP MP Hukum Singh, who had claimed that 250 Hindu families had fled the town due to fear from members of “another community”. (Times of India 25/9/2016)

One year since Dadri lynching, Mukhtar Naqvi claims communal tension have reduced under NDA govt  (7)

New Delhi: Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi stressed on the Prime Minister’s message of “empowerment and not appeasement” of Muslims. A year after the Dadri lynching, Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi claimed incidents of communal tension have reduced “substantially” under the NDA government and stressed on the Prime Minister’s message of “empowerment and not appeasement” of Muslims. “Over the past two-and-half years, the number of incidents of communal tensions have gone down substantially. “We want such incidents to be zero. We are working on that,” he said in remarks which come on the eve of completion of one year since the lynching of Mohammad Aqlakh in Uttar Pradesh’s Dadri over suspicion of beef consumption. The Minister of State for Minority Affairs said it was a “very unfortunate” incident and an act of people “who are bent on dividing communities”. “But there has been no repeat of such incident over the past one year,” he said. The Ministers was responding to queries from reporters on the sidelines of launch of Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS) at the annual conference of state channelising agencies of National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation (NMDFC). The BJP-led NDA government at the Centre had come under attack over the September 28, 2015 killing of 50-year-old Aqlakh with some Union Ministers and BJP MPs making controversial statement regarding it. The incident also led to a section of artistes and litterateurs returning their awards in protest against the alleged intolerance. Naqvi did not specify the data on communal incidents, but stated that there is an “atmosphere of confidence and development” among all including minorities and added the government’s agenda of development can only “defeat the agenda of destruction”. He also defended Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reported “parishkrit” remark relating to Muslims, which has stoked a controversy, saying that the PM was right in asserting that there should be “no appeasement, but empowerment” of the community members. “Prime Minister has said it rightly. He has said that appeasement of minorities should be stopped and work on their empowerment should begin in the spheres of education and employment,” Naqvi said. (DNA 27/9/2016)

Minor’s rape leads to communal tension in Mathura

MATHURA: Communal tension mounted in Magorra Village, Mathura, after a 14 year old jat girl was allegedly raped by two men, Yunis (35) and Anees (24) on the intervening night of Tuesday and Wednesday. According to report lodged by the victim, she was watching TV in her house when someone knocked the door. She alleged that when she opened the door, she was pulled out by the suspects, who then dragged her to the rear side of the house and raped her. She said the suspects gagged her when she tried to raise an alarm. However, hearing her cries, her mother came out and raised an alarm and neighbours also gathered there. While one of the suspects managed to flee, Yunis was caught and thrashed by the crowd. Though the police arrived at the spot, they had a hard time in convincing the agitated crowd, who were wanting to lynch the suspect. Talking to TOI, SP (rural) Arun Kumar said he pleaded to the crowd to let the police handle the matter and they finally relented.Talking to TOI, Village Pradhan, Chandrapal Singh Kuntal, alleged that these accused had earlier also molested a girl but were spared after they apologized. Meanwhile extra police enforcements have been posted in the village to avert any untoward incident. (Times of India 29/9/2016)


Goa: 300 RSS workers to resign following Subhash Velingkar’s removal (26)

Panaji: Upset with the removal of Subhash Velingkar as Goa RSS chief, over 300 Sangh workers have annouced that they will quit the organisation and vowed to “defeat” BJP in the Assembly polls next year if he is not reinstated. RSS on Wednesday removed Velingkar who had crossed swords with BJP government over the issue of medium of instruction (MOI) in schools with members of his outfit BBSM even showing black flags to party chief Amit Shah recently. The Sangh said he was trying to engage into “political activity” which is contrary to its tradition. “We want that either Velingkar should be reinstated or we (over 300 volunteers) all should be relieved along with him. Since the Sangh has not reinstated him (Velingkar) during the entire day, we have decided to tender resignations,” Sangh member Pravin Nesvankar told reporters Wednesday night in Panaji. A large number of RSS workers from Goa on Wednesday night held an ’emergency’ meeting for over three hours at Bambolim near Panaji in the backdrop of Velingkar’s removal. Velingkar, the convener of Bharatiya Bhasha Suraksha Manch (BBSM) which is fighting for withdrawal of grants to English medium schools and for the cause of promoting regional languages as MOI in the coastal state, has been at loggerheads with the saffron party as well as Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar. “RSS workers will now work for a new political front that will contest the Goa Assembly polls,” said Nesvankar in the presence of members like Ratnakar Lele and Krishnaraj Sukerkar. “We will defeat the BJP in the upcoming elections,” Nesvankar added. Sangh’s South District head Ramdas Saraf said the volunteers will not work for RSS until the decision to relieve Velingkar is withdrawn. (Indian Express 1/9/2016)

Bajrang Dal protests against AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi in Jammu (26)

Jammu:The Bajrang Dal activists staged a protest against All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader Asaduddin Owaisi here on Monday after he reportedly met Hurriyat leaders. “We are here from the past 70 years but the delegation didn’t have time to meet us. We are just saying that at least listen to us once. Why did they come here for? Are we not nationalists? What have we done? They have given us time for the meeting, but that is very less and we don’t support it,” said one of the protesters. Hurriyat leaders S A S Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq on Sunday refused to meet the all party delegation. However, the delegation on Sunday was successful in reaching out to Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chairman Yasin Malik. Extremely upset with the separatists move to reject the offer of talks, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday said this clearly indicates that they don’t believe in ‘insaniyat, Kashmiriyat, jamuriyat’ while reiterating the doors are always open for those keen on holding a dialogue to restore normalcy in the region. Addressing the media in Srinagar, Singh said the Centre as well as the all-party delegation is extremely serious and concerned about ensuring that the prevailing situation improves in the valley and normalcy is restored at the earliest. “There are no two ways about the fact that Jammu and Kashmir is a part of India, was a part of India and will be a part of India,” Singh said while spelling out the Centre’s stand. “Some members of the delegation met Hurriyat leaders and that the government neither approved nor disapproved of the same. ‘Baat-cheet kay liye hamara darwaaza hi nahin, hamara roshandaan bhi khulaa hai’,” Singh said. The separatists had earlier rejected Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s invitation for talks. The all-party delegation headed by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday held parleys with various sections of the society and listened to their concerns as part of efforts to find a common solution to the current unrest. The delegation earlier met the Chief Minister during which a detailed presentation was given by the state government highlighting various issues related to the current scenario in Jammu and Kashmir. While interacting with the delegation, Mehbooba said that Kashmir is a common issue of national interest and should not be viewed as a political issue. The all-party delegation also met the representatives of various political parties who expressed their concern on the use of pellet guns. Kashmir has been on the boil since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8. (Business Standard 5/9/2016)

VHP leader Pravin Togadia makes big announcement on Ram temple and UP assembly polls – Know what it is (26)

Patna: Vishva Hindu Parishad leader Pravin Togadia has made a big announcement in connection with Ram temple agitation and UP assembly polls. The leader of the right-wing organisation said, “the VHP will not launch any agitation for construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya till assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh next year.” However, Togadia said that the VHP is committed to construction of the Ram temple. “Ram temple in Ayodhya will be constructed, it is a certain fact,” he said. What a heartwarming teacher-student relationship – Meet PM Narendra Modi’s teacher; know what he says about him. He also supported the liquor ban and lauded the Bihar government’s decision on prohibition. (Zee News 6/9/2016)

Nathuram Godse never left RSS, says his family (26)

NEW DELHI: Nathuram Godse’s family believes that the assassin, a staunch member of the RSS was neither expelled from the sangh nor did he ever leave the organisation. This comes at the time when Congress Vice president Rahul Gandhi is fighting a defamation case filed by a sangh activist on his statement that the RSS killed Mahatma Gandhi. Talking to ET, Satyaki Savarkar, grand nephew of Nathuram Godse and Veer Savarkar, said the family has preserved all important writings of both Nathuram and Gopal Godse, some of which, according to him, clearly indicate that Nathuram Godse was a dedicated member of the RSS but had increasingly become disillusioned with the sangh for not being radical enough. Grandson of Gopal Godse, the younger brother of Nathuram Godse and also a convict in Gandhi assassination, Satyaki, is a software professional who is now reviving the original Hindu Mahasabha, founded by hindutva ideologue Veer Savarkar. “Nathuram joined the RSS when he was in Sangli in 1932. He remained a boudhik karyawah till his death. He was neither expelled nor did he ever leave the organisation,” Satyaki said. “I am definitely upset with the RSS for denying the fact that he was a swayamsevak. I understand that they do not support the act of killing Gandhiji but they cannot run away from the facts,” he added. Satyaki said that Nathuram had led a protest against the Nizam of Hyderabad under the Hindu Mahasabha banner in 1938-1939 that many RSS swayamsevaks were also a part of. “He was also jailed for that. It was a “muktisangram” in 1938-1939 in Bhagyanagar against the nizam of hyderabad. Naturamji was totally against the idea of islamic state that the Nizam wanted to establish in Hyderabad and he was torturing the hindus. He was part of the discrete project to identify and mark hindu households in Hyderabad, unite them and bring in outside help in the State. He used to send articles to a newspaper there and many were published. Many of such writings have been preserved by our family,” Satyaki said. …  (Economic Times 8/9/2016)

 ‘State agencies should prevent attacks on minorities’ (26)

BALLARI: Abdul Azim, president of the BJP’s State Minority Morcha, said that it was the responsibility of law enforcing agencies to not only prevent the attacks on minorities in the name of ‘Hindutva’ but also bring the guilty to book. “The issue is very sensitive. I am being very cautious while issuing statements on such issues to ensure that it would not lead to law and order problem. I can only say that it is the duty of the law enforcing agencies, particularly the police, to prevent the attacks on minorities and also bring the guilty to book,” Mr. Azim said while responding to questions by presspersons here on Thursday. Mr. Azim, on the attack on beef eaters by those claiming to be ‘cow protectors’, said that he only endorsed the statement made by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and did not wish to elaborate. When asked whether he would demand the party to field a minority candidate from Ballari in the ensuing elections to the Assembly, where, according to him, a large number of minorities were with the BJP and called it as a capital too, Mr. Azim said that he had already requested party president B.S. Yeddyurappa and other senior leaders to field 10 candidates from minority community in the coming election and the response was very positive. Similarly, he would also be requesting B. Sriramulu, MP and State BJP vice-president, to reserve 1 assembly seat in Ballari district for minorities. Mr. Azim was here to address the special executive committee meeting of the district unit of Minority Morcha. (The Hindu 10/9/2016)

BJP poll cocktail has religion and development (26)

LUCKNOW: BJP’s plan for UP election has started unfolding. On Thursday, controversial MLA and Muzaffarnagar riot accused Suresh Rana visited Ayodhya, the land of Ram Lalla, BJP’s ‘Hindutva’ laboratory. On Friday, Union ministers Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari would lay foundation of outer ring road, thus forwarding the party’s development plank. Just a few hours before that, party president Amit Shah would be addressing a rally at Kanshiram Smriti Upvan to ally Dalit sentiments hurt by SP leader Azam Khan’s remark on Dr BR Ambedkar. In days to come, BJP leaders would continue to work on similar lines-polarisation on religious lines in one part and development and caste equation in other parts of the state. Though Thana Bhawan MLA Suresh Rana was invited by Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarthi Parishad members at felicitation of talented students at Saket University to carry forward BJP’s youth agenda, he took out time and offered prayer at the makeshift Ram Temple on the disputed site at Ayodhya.Rana had been accused by the state government of inciting riot in Muzaffarnagar in 2013 in which 67 were killed and which brought new faces of hardliners like Suresh Rana, Sanjeev Baliyan and Sangeet Singh Som to the fore. BJP strategists are wasting no time thus to tap the potential of these leaders. While Baliyan was included in Modi cabinet, Rana was elevated to UP BJP’s vice-president post.Party leaders have been insisting on contesting election on Modi government’s development work and not on caste or religious equation. No wonder, Union home minister Rajnath Singh and Union surface transport minister Nitin Gadkari will be in Lucknow to lay foundation stone of the much-awaited outer ring road in Lucknow. Gadkari and Rajnath will address a rally at Jhulelal Park in the the state capital. (Times of India 16/9/2016)

VHP wants India to launch attack in PoK against terror camps, reclaim territory (26)

New Delhi: Following the terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Uri, hardline RSS affiliate, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), wants the Indian government to storm into Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) to destroy terror camps and take control of what they assert is “Indian territory”. The Uri attack on Sunday has given the Indian government “legitimate reason to retaliate by entering PoK,” VHP’s international joint general secretary Surendra Jain told HT. Unlike the BJP mentor RSS, which has in the past backed the government’s Pakistan policy, the VHP demands India shed its “soft approach” towards Pakistan. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid tributes to the 17 soldiers (killed in the Uri attack), but a real tribute would be to hunt down the terrorists who escaped to PoK and finish the terror camps,” Jain said. Urging the government to take a tough position vis-a-vis Pakistan, he said India must mount pressure to reclaim PoK and put an end to the imbroglio. This is not the first time the Hindutva outfit has asked for a robust response to Pakistan for sponsoring terrorism in India. After the Pathankot attack in January this year, the VHP had petitioned PM Modi to take strong action against the neighbour. A group of VHP leaders in Uttar Pradesh had even submitted a petition to the PM to declare war against Pakistan. The shift in India’s policy by announcing that it will raise the issue of human rights violations in Balochistan at various levels has been hailed by the Hindutva outfit. “PM Modi had raised the issue of Balochistan (during this Independence Day speech), now is the time to take it forward,” Jain said. The RSS, which backed PM Modi when he called on his counterpart Nawaz Sharif in Lahore, had earlier called for caution after the Pathankot attack. Dubbing Pakistan a “rogue state”, RSS joint general secretary Dattatreya Hosabale in June cautioned the government that it should not overlook the fact that past attempts to broker peace with the neighbour were met with aggression and terror strikes, such as the Kargil war and the Pathankot attack. Hosable stressed India should be vigilant at all times, since Pakistan is administered by the “army generals” and not an elected government. (Hindustan Times 18/9/2016)

Bhagwat to lead RSS outreach to expand base in God’s own country (26)

New Delhi: RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat will address students from professional colleges on September 24 and 25 to inspire them to take up jobs in India and give something in return to their country. The two-day event named Jagriti will also see Bhagwat spread the Sangh’s message of ‘nationalism’ that has often been criticised by BJP’s political rivals. Attempting to consolidate its gains, the ideological fount of the BJP plans to open shakhas or units in every village of the southern state, said RSS’ Kerala joint secretary M Radhakrishnan. Kerala already has over 5,000 shakhas — the highest in the country — but now the RSS wants its ideology to percolate to every corner of the state that swings between the Congress and Left-led coalitions in polls. More day schools run by its affiliate Vidya Bharti, and residential schools or Bal Ashrams will be opened for the underprivileged section, as the Sangh wants to introduce its ideology early to the students. While it claims to be an apolitical outfit, the RSS is supporting the BJP for electoral politics. The decision to hold the party’s national council meet in Kerala was also influenced by the RSS view that the party should remain a part of the state’s political discourse. The RSS machinery had helped the BJP increase its vote share to 14% in the assembly polls in May. To change its uneasy equation with minorities, attempts are being made to encourage liberal Muslims and Christians to congregate with the Sangh. RSS leaders blame conversions by Christian missionaries and outreach by radical Islamic groups for the alleged radicalism. BJP cadre has been instructed to highlight the scarcity of jobs and absence of industries, growing crime rate and disparity as failures of Left and Congress leadership. (Hindustan Times 23/9/2016)

Outfits to seek ban on Hindu Munnani (26)

TIRUPUR: The Popular Front of India (PFI) and 12 other outfits are planning to move court seeking a ban on Hindu Munnani for triggering violence and indulging in vandalism in Coimbatore and Tirupur districts. They have also forwarded a petition to the City Police Commissioner seeking detention of Hindu Munnani State president C. Subramaniam under the Goondas Act for making certain remarks during a press briefing following the murder of Hindu Munnani functionary C. Sasikumar. “Mr. Subramaniam has stated that if the attacks on Hindu Munnani leaders continue unabatedly, possibilities will arise of Tamil Nadu becoming a Gujarat. This is a threat-like statement considering the series of violent incidents that happened in Gujarat over the years and hence, he should be detained,”said Abdul Wahab, spokesperson of PFI. The 12 organisations, including the PFI, the SDPI, the Tamizhaga Makkal Jananayaka Katchi and the Marumalarchi Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam among others, would take legal steps to get the Hindu Munnani banned. “Similar instigated violence occurred in the past too. Such rampage curtailed human rights apart from causing destruction of public and private property, said Mr. Wahab. Meanwhile, “Mr. C. Subramaniam told The Hindu that what he meant by possibilities of Tamil Nadu becoming a Gujarat was speculating the chances of BJP coming to power like it did in Gujarat. (The Hindu 25/9/2016)

Instil nationalism into work, writers told at RSS meet (26)

LUCKNOW: The two-day litterateurs meet came to an end with an advisory to writers, intellectuals and columnists to write articles keeping India’s interest over and above everything. The RSS-backed meet was attended mostly by writers from Hindi belt comprising Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Three sessions were held on the last day. Publicity in charge of RSS Dr Manmohan Vaidya and co-in charge J Nand Kumar, All-India RSS Central Committee member Madhubhai Kulkarni, co-contact chief at RSS Arun and historian Satish Mittal, who is also the in charge of History compilation wing, marked their presence at the programme. RSS functionaries and experts exhorted writers to read Indian history thoroughly before writing an article so that readers get correct information about the country. Former MP Rajnath Singh ‘Surya’ was present from Lucknow. On Saturday, economic expert from Maharashtra, Vinay Rao gave the keynote address on economics in Indian and non-Indian concept. The next litterateurs’ meet is expected to be held at Madhya Pradesh in November, a senior RSS functionary privy to the two-day meet, said. (Times of India 26/9/2016)

JNUSU council slams RSS, warns against ‘saffronisation’ of education (26)

NEW DELHI: Launching a sharp attack on the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for trying to turn India into a “Hindu majoritarian fascist country, instead of a secular democratic one”, the new Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) council warned that the government should not use the Uri attack to “cover up its own inadequacies”. Resolutions made available after the JNUSU’s first council meeting held on September 19 also pointed to the grave dangers of “saffornising education”. After the closely-followed students’ union elections, the new council condemned the efforts of the RSS and various members of the Modi government to “undermine India’s secular democracy”. The JNUSU, in fact, called for “an all-out resistance against the RSS-dictated offensive.” It also condemned attempts by the BJP-led NDA government towards “fascist indoctrination by way of saffronisation of education” and called upon all progressive sections to “unite against the concerted attempts to indoctrinate young minds”. The council mentioned the introduction of Dinanath Batra’s books in Gujarat, the man believed to be responsible for getting publishers to withdraw Wendy Doniger’s book from stores and forcing Delhi University to drop A.K Ramanujan’s essay on ‘Three Hundred Ramayanas’ from the course. The council said that “such assaults that aim to promote the concept of Hindu Rashtra are a threat to the development of critical faculties among children and young adults”.The meeting, which was attended by 28 members of the JNUSU, saw 61 resolutions being passed. These ranged from solving campus-centric issues like construction of more hostels and strengthening the gender sensitisation committee to condemning the “undeterred violence of the cow vigilante groups on Muslims and Dalits in different parts of the country”. The students’ union also addressed the attack in Uri and said that the government “should not use it to cover up its own inadequacies and failure to address and resolve the Kashmir situation in a democratic way, and to secure military bases from terrorist attacks.” The JNUSU also expressed deep concern over the repression and civilian killings in Kashmir saying that they “stand against any attempts by the state to unleash violence on innocent civilians under any pretext”. (The Hindu 27/9/2016)


Terrorist groups operating inside Pakistan a continued security threat: US (12)

Washington: The United States has said it recognises that the Haqqani Network and other terrorist groups operating inside Pakistan and those along the Pak-Afghanistan border are a continued security threat. “We all recognize that the continued security threat that is posed by the Haqqani Network and by other terrorist groups that operate inside Pakistan and along that border between Afghanistan and Pakistan,” US State Department spokesperson John Kirby said at Tuesday’s press briefing. US State Secretary John Kerry, who is presently visiting India, also agreed on coming down heavily on such terrorist organisations. Kerry earlier on Tuesday said terrorism cannot be differentiated irrespective of where it comes from. Kerry also said that Pakistan in recent months has taken strong actions against the Haqqani Network. After meeting Kerry, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had said that the US Secretary agreed with India’s view that no nation should maintain double standards, such as the categorization of good and bad terrorists nor must they act as sanctuaries and safe havens for terrorist organizations. She said that the two nations also reaffirmed the urgent necessity for Pakistan to dismantle safe havens for terrorists and criminal networks, including Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad. She added that Secretary Kerry also agreed on the need for Pakistan to do more to bring the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai and 2016 Pathankot terror attacks to justice quickly. But when Kirby was asked why Pentagon did not agree with State Department’s views about the Pakistani action against the Haqqani Network as last month Defence Secretary Ash Carter refused to certify that Pakistan had done enough to counter the terrorist network which led to the suspension of USD 300 million of US military aid to Pakistan, Kirby said, “we make these decisions routinely and they’re based on active, fluid, dynamic conversations that we have with Pakistani leaders.” During the briefing, Kirby also agreed with Kerry’s earlier remarks that the resumption of trilateral dialogue with India and Afghanistan was the way forward and added that details for the same need to be worked out. “Those discussions are important and they are going to continue,” said Kirby. (Indian Express 1/9/2016)

Eight militants held in Punjab province (12)

Lahore: Eight militants belonging to Pakistani Taliban and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi terror groups have been arrested and weapons seized during multiple raids across Punjab province, security officials said on Friday. Punjab police’s counter-terrorism department (CTD) said most of the terrorists were from Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. The CTD said the team seized weapons, explosives, CDs containing hate speeches and glorification of “jihad.” “A joint team of the CTD and other security agencies picked up six suspects from Chak 58-JB on Narawala Road Faisalabad (some 150 km from Lahore),” an CTD official said. Interrogation underwayThe terrorists have been shifted to an undisclosed location for interrogation, the official said. In another raid in the province’s Jauharabad city, the CTD arrested another terrorist affiliated to the TTP. Following intelligence reports that some terrorists were planning to attack sensitive installations in Jauharabad, a CTD team conducted a raid near the city’s railway station on Thursday and arrested Ejaz Husain of TTP’s Aminullah Amin group. In another operation, a member of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi was arrested from Rajanpur, some 400 km from here. — PTI (The Hindu 2/9/2016)

14 killed in bombing of IS-controlled Syrian town (12)

Damascus, Sep 7 : At least 14 persons were killed on Wednesday in bombing of the Syrian town of Tadaf, controlled by the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group, in Aleppo province, according to the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (SOHR). SOHR said unidentified warplanes targeted the town, located southeast of the city of al-Bab, the main stronghold of the jihadis in Aleppo, Efe news reported. A source added that the attack injured dozens, including women and children. The bombings were carried out by Syrian and Russian aircraft, as well as Turkish and the US-led international coalition. (New Kerala 7/9/2016)

11 killed, 29 hurt in Baghdad bomb attacks (12)

BAGHDAD: At least 11 people were killed and 29 others wounded in two car bombs at a busy mall in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, a police source said on Saturday. The attack occurred shortly before Friday midnight when a booby-trapped car detonated at the car park of al-Nakhil Mall in Palestine Street in eastern Baghdad, while a suicide bomber blew up his explosive-laden car at the busy street outside the mall building, the source told Xinhua. The blasts set fire to several nearby cars at the parking lot and outside the mall and damaged many others, the source said. Iraqi security forces sealed off the area and blocked the roads leading to the scene, while ambulances and police vehicles evacuated the killed and wounded people to the city hospitals, the source added. No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group, in most cases, is responsible for the suicide attacks, targeting areas where crowds of people gather, including markets, cafes and mosques across Iraq. (New Indian Express 10/9/2016)

Poonch encounter enters second night, 4 terrorists killed so far (12)

Jammu: Two security personnel were injured on Monday night as the encounter between terrorists holed up in the under-construction Mini Secretariat in Poonch and security forces entered the second night even after four militants were killed since yesterday. Police believes that one or two militants were still hiding in the premises and they continued to fire. There was firing tonight in which one policeman and an army jawan suffered minor injuries, police officials said, adding firing was going on. Talking to reporters here after visiting Poonch, Director General of Police Rajendra Kumar said, “There might be a group of 4 to 6 involved in this incident. We have recovered two bodies of militants. Two more militants have been killed. We feel one or two militants are still alive”.He said the militants had come with full preparation to disturb peace in the border district as there is calm and communal harmony in the area. “Militants infiltrating a day before Eid is clearly pointing towards the fact they had come here to disturb peace on Eid,” he said. The encounter started at around 7.30 AM yesterday with militants firing at a police party, killing one policeman. Then they took shelter in a house and another structure in the Mini Secretariat. Security forces killed three militants yesterday and one today. (Zee News 13/9/2016)

16 killed in Pakistan mosque suicide blast (12)

Islamabad:  At least 16 persons were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a mosque in Pakistan’s Mohmand Agency during Friday prayers. As many as 23 others were injured in Ambar town, Dawn news online quoted Assistant Political Agent Naveed Akbar as saying. Those injured were admitted to hospitals in Bajaur Agency, Charsadda and Peshawar for treatment. A security source confirmed that the explosion was a suicide blast as the attacker blew himself up in the verandah of the mosque. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. (Business Standard 16/9/2016)

17 soldiers killed in Uri terror attack (12)

Srinagar: In one of the worst casualties suffered by the army in peacetime operations, 17 troopers were killed when a group of fidayeen (suicide) militants stormed a military base in north Kashmir’s Uri on Sunday. In retaliatory action, four militants, who barged into the camp near the Line of Control (LoC) in Uri town, 102 km from here, around 5.30 am, were killed in the gun battle that raged for two-and-a-half hours, officials said. Sources said among the 19 injured soldiers, at least nine are critical, and the death toll could rise. They said the injured soldiers have gunshot wounds or severe burn injuries. “The fidayeen militants breached the fence of the army installation and attacked the soldiers, mostly believed to have been sleeping in barracks and tents. They fired incendiary ammunition along with automatic fire that led to temporary shelters catching fire,” a source said. The Uri camp, which houses the army’s brigade headquarters, has a strength of around 12,000 to 13,000 troops. A defence spokesperson said during the early hours of Sunday, a group of heavily armed terrorists targeted the rear administrative base of a unit at Uri. “The strategic base had a large strength of troops of units turning over after their tour of duty. They were stationed in tents/temporary shelters, which caught fire, and resulted in heavy casualties. We salute the sacrifice of 17 soldiers who were martyred in the operation,” he said. The spokesperson said the slain militants were foreigners and had some articles with them that bore Pakistani markings. “Initial reports indicate that the terrorists belonged to Jaish-e-Mohammed ‘tanzeem’. Four AK-47 rifles and four under barrel grenade launchers along with a large number of other war-like stores were recovered from them,” he said. Immediately after the attack, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Army Chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag rushed to Kashmir to review the situation. The Kashmir Valley has been hit by violent protests, sponsored by separatists, for the past 72 days. On his arrival in Srinagar, General Singh rushed to Uri to take stock of the security situation at Army installations and camps near the site of the attack and the alertness of the soldiers along the LoC. On December 5, 2014, six fidayeen militants had carried out a similar attack, some 20 km away from Sunday’s spot. While the militants were killed, eight soldiers had lost their lives. (Deccan Herald 19/9/2016)

10 militants killed, soldier injured in two gunfights in Kashmir (12)

Srinagar, Sep 20 : Ten infiltrating militants were killed and an army soldier critically injured in two gunfights in north Kashmir’s Baramulla and Kupwara districts on Tuesday. Defence sources said 10 infiltrating militants were killed in an ongoing operation on the Line of Control (LoC) in Lachipora area in Uri sector where a group of 15 heavily armed militants tried to enter the Indian side, during a ceasefire violation by the Pakistan Army. “Lachipora operation against the infiltrating terrorists is still on,” a defence source said. The area on the LoC where the infiltrating militants were challenged by the army is barely six km from the army camp that was attacked by four suicide guerrillas on Sunday morning in the garrison town of Uri. Eighteen soldiers were killed and 30 others injured in the Uri attack. All the four fidayeen attackers were also killed. In the other operation, a group of heavily armed militants was challenged by the security forces in Nowgam area of Kupwara district near the LoC, police sources said. “When challenged, the group of heavily armed militants fired at the security forces, triggering an encounter in which one army soldier was critically injured. “The encounter is still going on in the area. There are five to six militants engaged in the encounter by the security forces in Nowgam area,” a police source said. The latest infiltration bid comes as New Delhi and Islamabad are locked in a bitter diplomatic war of words following the Uri terror attack, which India has blamed on militants from Pakistan. Pakistan has denied the allegations even as India claimed to have clinching evidence to support its claims. The Indian Army has said it has recovered arms, ammunition and food and medicine packets with Pakistani markings during the combing operations at the military base in Uri. India also claimed that the four attackers gunned down during the two-and-half hours of gunfight were foreigners. According to the Indian Army, infiltration attempts from across the border with Pakistan have increased this year in comparison with the past three to four years. In 2016 so far, the Indian Army has foiled n 18 infiltration bids from across the border. Some 110 militants were killed and 31 of them were gunned down near the LoC. The army said it was a “desperate attempt” by Pakistan to create “disturbance and foment unrest” in India. (New Kerala 20/9/2016)

Discontent in Army as NIA takes over probe into Uri attack (12)

New Delhi: Home Minister Rajnath Singh may have taken the centrestage in the Centre’s response to the terror attack at an Army camp in Uri but there is discontentment simmering in the rank and file of the Army on the “excessive involvement” of the home ministry. The government’s decision to hand over the probe to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has also not got down well with some in the Army questioning the move. The Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) Lt. Gen Ranbir Singh had told the media that the attack, which killed 18 Army personnel, was carried out by Jaish-e-Mohammad, a Pakistan based terrorist outfit also involved in the Pathankot airbase attack on January 2. A senior NIA official told The Hindu that they were in no hurry to jump to a conclusion about the four terrorists killed in the attack belonged to JeM. “If not NIA then who else can investigate a terror case? The Army might have done investigations to this effect but we cannot conclusively say at this point whether it’s Jaish or any other terrorist outfit. We would also probe if insider helped the terrorists to breach the perimeter security at the camp,” said the NIA official. A senior home ministry official said there was no conflict with Army and the ministries of defence, external affairs and home were working in tandem in wake of the attacks. Mr. Singh took charge in the attack’s aftermath and convened meetings with NSA Ajit Doval and R&AW chief Rajinder Khanna at his residence on Sunday with defence minister Manohar Parrikar who was in Goa at the time asked to fly to Uri by Prime Minister Narednra Modi. It was Mr. Singh who briefed the PM on the ongoing security review. “It (operations and expertise) is the domain of the Army. MHA has no role. There is discontentment in the middle and lower level cadre,” one Army officer told The Hindu. He questioned as to why Home Minister Rajnath Singh had cancelled his visit to Russia when the issue was that of the Defence Ministry. The whole episode of the Uri terror attack was visibly handled by the MHA and the case is now being investigated by the NIA which has now registered a case and visited the site of the attack to collect clues. Another officer observed that the Army can investigate its incidents. “We have the expertise given the nature of the incident. Will the NIA expect to be given complete access? It will only be shown what is required,” the officer added. The NIA has secured the weapons recovered from the four slain terrorists, who were buried in Uri on Monday. A J&K police source said three bodies were majorly burnt in the exchange of fire with the Army, while one body’s hands were intact. The NIA is planning DNA test on three bodies and will take finger prints of one slain militant. An NIA official also said that a 12-member team was camping in Uri. “A team of forensics experts is also accompanying the NIA team. It has to be seen whether we need to exhume the bodies or not,” said the official. (The Hindu 21/9/2016)

Pakistan carrying out war crimes using terror as state policy: India (12)

United Nations: In its sharpest attack on Pakistan, India today called it a “terrorist state” which carries out “war crimes” by using terrorism as an “instrument of state policy”, after Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif glorified Hizbul commander Burhan Wani at the United Nations. India also strongly rejected Sharif’s call for “a serious and sustained” bilateral dialogue “without any conditions”, saying that Pakistan, which “seems to be run by a war machine rather than a government”, wants talks with a “gun in its hand”.Strongly reacting to Sharif’s remarks at the UN General Assembly session, Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar described them as full of “threat, bluster and complete disregard of facts” as he said glorification of Wani by him at the world forum is an act of “self-incrimination” by Pakistan. He said it is “shocking” that a leader of a nation can “glorify a self-declared self-advertised terrorist” at a forum such as the United Nations General Assembly. “We heard the glorification of a terrorist. Burhan Wani was a self-declared commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen, this organisation is widely acknowledged internationally as a terrorist group,” Akbar said at a briefing to Indian reporters here responding to Sharif’s General Debate address at the UN. “This is self-incrimination by the Pakistan Prime Minister. We just heard a speech full of threat, bluster and what can only be described as rising immaturity and complete disregard of facts,” he said. In his nearly 20-minute speech, almost half of which was focussed on Kashmir, Sharif had hailed Wani – who was killed on July 8 by the Indian forces resulting in tensions in the Valley – as a “young leader” and the “symbol” of the Kashmiris’ freedom movement. Exercising India’s Right of Reply to Sharif’s “long tirade” about the situation in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, First Secretary in the Permanent Mission of India to the UN Eenam Gambhir made a strong rebuttal. “The worst violation of human rights is terrorism. … Deccan Herald 22/9/2016)

MP seeks Bill to declare Pak. a terrorist State (12)

NEW DELHI: Independent Member of Parliament in the Upper House Rajeev Chandrashekhar has written to Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari giving notice to introduce a Bill to declare Pakistan a terrorist state. The Bill – titled Declaration of States as Sponsor of Terrorism Bill, 2016 – aims at declaring some States as sponsors of terror and withdrawing economic and trade relations with the said State, creating economic and travel sanctions for citizens of the said State.The text of the Bill says that the Islamic Republic of Pakistan harbours agents of terrorism and is a continual risk to the peace and security of the region. The Bill has a number of prohibitions applicable to the government, citizens and corporates of a State sponsoring terror: travel in India, meaning no grant of visas; trade with India or its citizens, etc. The government of India is, however, permitted to make some relaxations. The Bill also lays down that any person violating the provisions of the law is punishable with imprisonment for a term extending to five years in prison, or fine, or both. (The Hindu 25/9/2016)

India summons Pakistan envoy Abdul Basit, presents proof of cross-border origins of Uri attack

NEW DELHI:. “Foreign secretary S Jaishankar summoned Abdul Basit and told him that the two guides who helped infiltration were apprehended by local villagers and are now in police custody,” MEA spokesman Vikas Swarup tweeted on Tuesday. “Local villagers in the Uri sector apprehended on 21 September and handed over to Indian security forces two individuals from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir who have acted as guides for terrorists and helped them infiltrate across the LOC. “Their personal particulars are — Faizal Hussain Awan, 20 years, S/o Gul Akbar Resident of Potha Jahangir, Muzaffarabad and Yasin Khursheed, 19 years, S/o Mohammed Khurshid Resident of Khiliana Kalan, Muzaffarabad,” Basit was told. During his interrogation, Awan has deposed to the NIA that they had “guided and facilitated” the border crossing of the group that perpetrated the September 18 Uri massacre, the foreign secretary told Basit. In another incident on September 23, 2016, one Pakistani national, Abdul Qayoom, R/o Sialkot was apprehended in Molu sector opposite Pakistan’s Sialkot sector and has confessed to undergoing three weeks of training with the terrorist group LeT and donating substantial funds to Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation, their front organization, Basit was conveyed. “We are willing to provide the Pakistan High Commission consular access to these three individuals apprehended in connection with terrorist attacks in India,” the foreign secretary told the Pakistani envoy. Basit was also told that these apprehensions and subsequent interrogation underline the cross-border infiltration that had been the subject of their previous discussion. “We would once again strongly urge the Government of Pakistan to take seriously its commitment not to allow terrorist attacks against India from its soil and territory under its control. Continuing cross-border terrorist attacks from Pakistan against India are unacceptable,” Jaishankar asserted. (Times of India 27/9/2016)

India, China hold talks on terrorism for first time (12)

Beijing : India and China on Tuesday discussed ways to enhance security and cooperation to combat terror as officials from the two sides exchanged information on policies and legislation to deal with terrorism at the first high-level dialogue where they reached “important consensus”. The two sides exchanged views on the international and regional security situation at the first meeting of the India-China High Level Dialogue on Counter-terrorism and Security held here. The meeting was co-chaired by R.N. Ravi, chairman of Joint Intelligence Committee and Wang Yongqing, secretary-general of Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission of China. They exchanged information on respective policies, systems and legislation to deal with terrorism, and further enhance their understanding on issues of major concerns to both sides, according to a press release. “The two sides had in-depth discussions on enhancing cooperation in counter-terrorism and securit,” it said. (Asianage 28/9/2016)


CRPF constable injured in Naxal blast succumbs at AIIMS (12)

New Delhi: A Crpfconstable, who got severely injured during an anti-Naxal operation in Chhattisgarhfew days back, today succumbed to his injuries at a hospital here. 27-year-old constable Sachin Kumar of the paramilitary force was airlifted to the AIIMS trauma centre here after he was badly injured in an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blast in the Sukma district of Chhattisgarhon August 26. “Kumar succumbed to his IED splinter injuries at about 8:40 AM today. He was brought to AIIMS on August 29 on an air ambulance from state capital Raipur. In AIIMS, his right leg was amputated but his condition kept deteriorating,” a senior official said. The official said Kumar, of the CRPF’s 150th battalion, was an expert of the bomb disposal squad and was out defusing IEDs on the fateful day in the Naxal hotbed of Chintagufa in Sukma but he accidentally stepped on a hidden landmine and got badly hit. Senior officers paid tributes to him at a wreath laying ceremony at a Central Reserve Police Forcecamp here. Kumar hailed from the Muzaffarnagar district of Uttar Pradesh and is survived by his wife and a two-year-old son. (Business Standard 1/9/2016)

17 Naxals surrender in violence-hit Bastar (12)

Jagdalpur | in Raipur: As many as seventeen Naxals including two women rebels, surrendered before police in the insurgency-hit Bastar district, a senior police officer said here on Saturday. “One of the female surrendering ultras was a CNM (Chetna Natya Mandali) member which is banned outfit. She carried a cash reward of ` 1 lakh on her head,” Superintendent of Police (SP) Bastar, RN Dash said. A Naxal LOS (local organizing squad) Commander who was operating in the Niyamgiri region of neighboring Odisha district was also among the persons surrendering, the SP added. “They were deeply unsatisfied with the dual standards adopted by Naxals and also were under the pressure of anti-Naxal operations being carried out by police forces’’, he added. He informed the ultras who surrendered were residents of Bodavada, Badhanpal, Govindpal, Badhrimau villages which are located near Darbha valley of Bastar region. According to the SP, they were involved in different kinds of Naxal activities. The ultras who have given up arms will be provided with benefits provisioned under the surrender policy adopted by the state government, he mentioned. (Pioneer 4/9/2016)

Maoist gunned down in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district (12)

NAGPUR: A member of the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist) was killed in an encounter with the security forces in Sukma district of south Chhattisgarh on Tuesday. “An encounter took place this [Tuesday] morning between a small team of 40 DRG [District Reserve Guard] boys, led by Dornapal SHO Ajay Sonkar, and the Maoists in the forest near Koyabekur village. The operation was launched based on inputs that a small action team of the Maoists was planning to attack surrendered Maoists cadres and Gopania Sainik (Secret Agents) in Dornapal,” a statement issued by Sukma district Superintendent of Police Mr. I. Kalyan Elesela. “When the security forces reached the forest area of Koyabekur, the Maoists started firing. There was counter action by the DRG and the post-firing search [of the area] resulted in the recovery of one dead body of a Maoist in uniform,” it added. The security forces also recovered one country-made weapon and some documents. The person was identified as Meda Benjami alias Kukkal Mada, president of the ‘Janatana Sarkar’ of the CPI (Maoist) and was looking after ten villages under Kerlapal area committee, claimed the IG. (The Hindu 6/9/2016)

Chhattisgarh: Three Naxals arrested in Bijapur (12)

Raipur: Three Naxals were arrested during a search operation in the forests of Chhattisgarh’s insurgency-hit Bijapur district, police said on Thursday. “The cadres were nabbed last evening by a joint team of CRPF’s 168th battalion and district force from Basaguda police station area,” Bijapur Additional Superintendent of Police Mohit Garg told PTI. While carrying out the combing operation in the remote jungle of Basaguda, about 450 km from here, when the security forces reached Putkel village, they rounded up the three suspects who, during interrogation, admitted to their involvement with the outlawed Naxal movement, he said. Those arrested were identified as Balram (31), Venkteshwar Pujari (26) and Erragolla Laxmaiyya (32), all natives of Putkel village, he said.  They were involved in Naxal-related incidents, including riots, loot and cases under the Arms Act, the ASP added. (Indian Express 8/9/2016)

Another mass surrender in Bastar, 72 Maoists give up gun (12)

RAIPUR: In a yet another mass surrender, 72 Maoists and their sympathisers gave up guns in strife-torn Narayanpur region in tribal Bastar region of Chhattisgarh. Among them were 62 Maoists and their 10 grass root level supporters, belonging to remote villages of Abujmarh, surrendered before police and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP). Three of them were active local guerrilla squad (LGS) members, eight are members of Maoists’ cultural wing Chetna Natya Manch and four are Janatana Sarkar group members. Besides, 45 others were associated with the outlawed movement as Jan militia members. Narayanpur additional superintendent of police Anil Soni said the rebels themselves turned up at Kurushnar police station to surrender claiming being fed up with the Maoist way of life and violence and want to return to mainstream. He said one of the main reasons for Maoists surrendering was the pressure being mounted by the security forces coupled with the attractive surrender and rehabilitation policy of the state government. He alo said those surrendered would be entitled for rehabilitation as per the policy. Soni also told that some of them were involved in several incidents of murder, arson and attacks on security forces. Earlier this month, 38 Maoists including three women had surrendered at Narayanpur. According to Bastar police the trend of surrender began early this year and at least 987 Maoists and their supporters had surrendered before. Civil rights and other groups, however, have been describing these mass surrenders as a propaganda farce, claiming many as fake and forced surrenders. (Times of India 9/9/2016)

Jharkhand: Maoist with Rs 25 lakh award on his head shot in encounter (12)

Ranchi: A TOP Maoist carrying a reward of Rs 25 lakh on his head was killed in an encounter with the security forces in Jharkhand’s Gumla district Sunday afternoon. Police said Ashish Yadav alias Ashish Da was a member of the Bihar-Jharkhand Special Area Committee (BJ-SAC). He masterminded several operations against the security forces over the past few years, they said. Congratulating the CRPF and the police, DGP D K Pandey said: “This will be a turning point in our battle against the Maoists.” Gumla SP Chandan Kumar Jha said a joint team of the CRPF and police entered the forest area of Boradih on receiving specific information about the presence of Maoists there. He said the rebels opened fire when the security forces asked them to surrender. In retaliatory fire, Ashish was killed. “We are trying to get more details about Ashish’s involvement in Jharkhand and Bihar, as he was from Jehanabad,” said Jha. He said a few more Maoists may have sustained gunshot injuries in the encounter. “A detailed combing operation will be carried out,” he said. IG (Operations) and Jharkhand Police spokesperson M S Bhatia said: “We have recovered three weapons — one INSAS rifle, one SLR and a high calibre rifle, besides another weapon and cartridges. These weapons were, in all probability, looted from the police.” He said additional forces were rushed from Ranchi in helicopters after information was received that the number of Maoists holed up in the jungle could be higher. “They are still in the jungle,” he said. (Indian Express 11/9/2016)

Naxal carrying Rs 1 lakh reward on him held in Chhattisgarh (12)

Raipur: A Naxal, carrying a reward of Rs one lakh on his head, was arrested today from Chhattisgarh’s insurgency-hit Bijapur district, police said. Midiam Raja (28), was nabbed by a joint team of security forces during a search operation in the forest under Basaguda police station limits, Bijapur Additional Superintendent of Police Mohit Garg said. Security personnel had launched the operation in Basguda region, around 450 km from here, since yesterday. While cordoning-off the forest close to Polampally village, they nabbed the rebel who was trying to escape, he said. Active as the head of Dandakaranya Adivasi Kisan Majdoor Sangthan – a frontal outfit of the Maoists, in the area, Raja was allegedly involved in cases of attempt to murder. He was carrying a reward of Rs one lakh on his head, the ASP said, adding the rebel is being interrogated. (Business Standard 15/9/2016)

C’garh people come out to protest against Naxal menace (12)

Raipur:     CPI (Maoist) activist carrying Rs 25 lakh reward surrenders Chhattisgarh govt extends ban on outlawed CPI(Maoist) CPI(Maoist) courier held Woman Maoist operative killed in encounter 12 ultras surrender, cite disappointment with Maoist ideology Sending out a strong message to Naxals, large number of people including students, activists, local organisations and traders turned up at ‘Lalkar rally’ in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar against the outlawed CPI (Maoist). Chanting anti-Maoist slogans and displaying placards bearing messages condemning violence and killing of innocent people by Naxals, the people from different parts of Bastar division, comprising seven districts, gathered at Hata Ground in Jagdalpur town to take part in the protest yesterday. It was convened under the aegis of Action Group for National Integrity(AGNI) – an organisation spearheading anti-Maoists protest in the region for past few months. “Around one lakh people participated in the rally and unanimously raised voice against Naxals and violence,” AGNI national convener Anand Mohan Mishra told PTI. Bastar has been bearing the brunt of violence for over three decades and facing dearth of development works due to the menace. But now, the people of the region, particularly tribals, want to see peace and development, he said. People and representatives from at least 70 social communities, school and college students and local citizen voluntarily took part in the rally which clearly indicates they are fed up of the Maoist violence, he said. The move has also encouraged security forces fighting Naxalism in the region, Mishra said. Folk dance and other cultural programmes were also performed by tribal artistes during the rally. Meanwhile, Inspector General of Police, Bastar Range, SRP Kalluri said, earlier people did not have the courage to speak against Naxals, but now the situation is changing. “By extending support to the rally, the residents of Bastar have indicated that they are with us. The day is not far when Bastar will be free of Maoist menace,” Kalluri said. (Business Standard 18/9/2016)

‘Naxal’ arrested for threatening businessman (12)

Hyderabad :  A man posing as a Naxal of Jana Shakthi group was today arrested for allegedly threatening and demanding ransom from a businessman, police said. Sleuths of Special Operation Team (Cyberabad East), on credible information, nabbed the fake extremist R Shekar Naik, a resident of Karmanghat. He had been threatening one businessman, Secretary of a pharmacy college, by claiming him to be one Jagan from Jana Shakthi Group of extremists, they said. Naik would regularly call the businessman from coin operated public booths and demand payment of money. He would warn of dire consequences if the businessman failed to pay up, a police release said. On a complaint lodged by the businessman, a case was registered at Meerpet Police Station. A close watch was kept in Meerpet area and Naik was nabbed when he telephoned the complainant and threatened, it added. (Business Standard 20/9/2016)

Cache of ammunition recovered in anti-Naxal operation (12)

Rajnandgaon :A cache of ammunition and other items was recovered by security forces after an exchange of fire with Maoists in Naxal-hit Rajnandgaon district in Chhattisgarh. The recovery was made from the dense forests, under Chhuikhadan police station area, yesterday while a team of police was conducting an anti-insurgency operation in the region bordering Maharashtra, Rajnandgaon Superintendent of Police Prashant Agrawal said. Based on specific inputs about the movement of Naxals in Budhanbhat, Devarcha, Chatrela and Kukripat villages of the region, located around 200 kms from state capital Raipur, a composite team of police was dispatched towards the area on Tuesday, he said. While the police party was advancing into a forested-hilly terrain between Budhanbhata and Kukripat yesterday afternoon, they confronted the Maoists following which a gun-battle broke out between them and lasted for a short while, he said. After conducting a search at the spot after the encounter, bullets of 315 bore rifle, two solar plates, 12 volt battery, three radios, camera flash, wireless chargers, wire, bagpacks, multi-meter, six Maoist uniforms and other items of daily use were recovered from the spot, the SP added. (Business Standard 22/9/2016)

Chhattisgarh: Two naxals gunned down in encounter with security forces, arms recovered (12)

PHULBAGRI (Chhattisgarh): At least two naxals were killed during an encounter with the security forces in Phulbagri district of Chhattisgarh on Tuesday. Arms and ammunitions were also recovered from the slain naxals. Two Naxal Commanders were neutralised in an encounter with security forces in the jungles of Banspal-Toinar in Chhattisgarh yesterday. Tirupati and Lokesh of PLGA military company 6 were killed in an encounter with DRG of Narayanpur district. The security forces received an input that a platoon would be coming in the night towards Jhara to attack CAF jawans in similar fashion as last month in Kukdajhor, where two jawans were injured seriously by small action teams. Kicking into action, the Narayanpur police launched a surgical operation and laid ambush in the route of the naxal party near the jungles of Banspal and Toinar. Around 5 a.m. the naxal party of about 20 reached the spot where ambush was laid and opened indiscriminate fire over the police party. As a retaliatory measure and for self defence police also fired over the naxal party and the encounter lasted for one hour after which naxals fled away with some of their injured and killed using jungles as cover. On searching the area, the police recovered two male Maoist bodies which were identified as Tirupati (Akash) r/o Madded in Bijapur and Lokesh (Ramesh) r/o Tirkanar, PS Dhaurai, both commanders in military company 6. Weapons and other naxal items were also recovered during search of the area, additional parties were sent to the area where they are searching for rest of the naxal party which fled from the encounter. (New Indian Express 27/9/2016)

New Anti-Maoist group a different version of Salwa Judum: CPI (Maoist) (12)

Nagpur: The outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist) has termed the recently formed anti-Maoist group ‘the Action Group for National Integrity’ (AGNI) as a different version of the anti-Maoist militia Salwa Judum, which was banned by the Supreme Court in 2011. In a press release issued by Vikalp, the spokesperson of the CPI (Maoist) Dand Karanya Special Zonal Committee (DKSZC), the ultra-left outfit has claimed that the BJP ruled central and state governments, the police, and the paramilitary forces have “directly or indirectly” participated in the formation of the AGNI. The AGNI was formed in July this year “to fight an ideological battle against all kinds of terrorism” and Bastar based lawyer and a former Vishva Hindu Parishad officer bearer Anand Mohan Mishra was appointed as its convener. “Attempts were on to revive the Salwa Judum at the time of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally in Dantewada last year. The AGNI has been formed by secretly uniting Salwa Judum leaders and anti-social elements. The only difference is, this time, it has been given an appearance of a national-level organisation,” claimed Vikalp. Calling the recently organised anti-Maoist rally in Bastar by the ANGI as an attempt to “terrorise” progressive intellectuals, people’s lawyers, journalists, tribal and non-tribal social groups and human right activists, the Maoist spokesperson said, “Over 50 schools were closed and the school administrations were threatened to ensure the participation of school children in the rally. Many people from villages were forced to join the rally and many were given bribe to do so.” Incidentally, the CPI (Maoist) statement was made available to the media by Bastar range Inspector General of Police and controversial police officer Mr.Shiv Ram Prasad Kalluri who was present on the dais during the ANGI rally with the AGNI members and Salwa Judum founder Madhukar Rao on September 17 at Jagdalpur district headquarters of Bastar. “It is clear that the AGNI is not a peace organisation or a people’s movement. It is just a different form of Salwa Judum and has been formed to target all those who are fighting against the Operation Green Hunt,” claimed Vikalp. Appealing to the people to raise their voice against the AGNI, the Maoists’ spokesperson also warned the AGNI leaders of the “same fate as that of Salwa Judum leaders” in the past. Most of the Salwa Judum leaders were brutally killed by the Maoists, including senior Congress leader Mahendra Karma. (The Hindu 28/9/2016)


TN ranks 3rd in human trafficking cases (1)

CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu reported the third-highest number of human trafficking related incidents in 2015, with a total of 577 cases. The State accounted for 8.4 per cent of all human trafficking cases that year; Assam, highest with 1,494 cases, accounted for 21.7 per cent. This is, however, a better performance from the State, which was second in 2014 with 509 human trafficking cases, all booked under the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act; this accounted for 9.3 per cent of all human trafficking cases. West Bengal, second in 2015, had topped with a tally of 20.1 per cent of all crimes across the country. Most of the State’s trafficking cases in 2015 relate to the violation of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act. As many as 511 cases were registered under the provisions of the Act. With a total of 684 victims, Tamil Nadu tops the country in immoral traffic cases; Karnataka is second, with 423 cases and 592 victims. Of Tamil Nadu’s 511 cases under the Act, 351 were registered under Section 5, which deals with the procuring, inducing and taking a person for the sake of prostitution. In 2014, the State police registered 509 cases under the Act; there were 590 victims. Karnataka came second, registering 392 cases, which had a total of 591 victims. Among the 53 cities in the country with over a lakh population, Chennai has invoked the Act most, after Bengaluru. While police in the former registered 201 cases, Bengaluru police registered 236 immoral trafficking-related cases in 2015. In comparison, Delhi police used the Act only thrice, while in Mumbai, 85 cases were registered. Continuing the statewide trend, Chennai police used Section 5 of the Act the most. (The Hindu 1/9/2016)

Uttarakhand tops in human trafficking cases among hill states (1)

DEHRADUN: Uttarakhand, which shares border with Nepal and districts of western Uttar Pradesh, tops the list of Hill states in cases of Human trafficking in 2015. As per the recent report by the National Crime Records Bureau, a total of 27 cases of human trafficking were reported in Uttarakhand in 2015, which was three more than those come to the fore in 2014. The number is thrice more than that of neighbouring Himachal Pradesh and well above of Jammu and Kashmir. In 2015, a total of 27 cases of human trafficking involving 38 victims were reported in Uttarakhand. Whereas, the number of such instances at Himachal Pradesh was 9, 2 at Jammu and Kashmir, six at Nagaland, three at Arunachal Pradesh, while no such case was reported at Tripura, Manipur and Mizoram. It was a similar trend in 2014 when 24 cases involving 29 victims was reported in Uttarakhand. In Himachal Pradesh it was 9 cases, 4 at Nagaland, 3 at Manipur, two at Arunachal Pradesh, one at Jammu and Kashmir, and none at Mizoram. When contacted over the issue, IG Law and Order Deepam Seth told TOI, “Neither Jammu and Kashmir nor Himachal Pradesh share border with Nepal. People in high number come to Uttarakhand from the adjoining country.” He asserted that registering cases and strong action was the only way to break the nexus of the gang active in human trafficking. “Suppliers, shelter and clients are the three stages of this network. To an extent we have broken this chain and taken action in a number of matters,” said the senior police officer. Seth pointed out that to curb the menace, the state police was taking the help of NGOs and social organisations of Nepal as well as that of Uttarakhand. “We have identified the poverty-ridden villages on the other side of the border and our anti-human trafficking units are keeping a close eye on the developments. The number of such cases show that the efforts put in by our teams are in the right direction,” added the IG. (Times of India 3/9/2016)

Three traffickers nabbed in Assam (1)

Guwahati, Sept 5 : : Security forces on Monday arrested three persons, who were allegedly involved in child trafficking, in Assam. The Railway Protection Force (RPF) have arrested them at Rangia railway station, 50 km away from Guwahati. The security personnel also recovered five boys and seven girls from their clutches. Assam turned a hub of child trafficking as at least 1317 child were trafficked from the state last year. (New Kerala 5/9/2016)

Trafficking racket busted, 2 girls rescued in Jodhpurin Jodhpur (1)

JODHPUR: Police busted a human trafficking racket and rescued two girls in Jodhpur on Monday night. Both were kept locked in a room for two days. When neighbours heard sounds of wailing emanating from the room, they informed police. The investigation found that they had been brought to Jodhpur from Kolkata by three persons, including a woman, three months back and were being kept at different places since then. Jitendra Singh, sub inspector (Udai Mandir), said, he reached the place on the information of some people on Monday midnight who said that they had been hearing cries of girls coming out of a locked room. “When we reached the spot, we heard sobbing sounds of girls coming out of a locked room. We checked through the ventilator and found two girls there,” said Singh. The landlord was called who said that he had rented out this room to one Fatehraj Soni. The lock of the room was broken and the girls were rescued. They revealed that they had been kept hostage in the room since two days. Singh said that the girls, aged 14 years and 18 years, could speak and understand only Bangla language, so an interpreter was arranged.”They said that Soni and two other persons, Rajiv Ranjan and Nandini, who also belonged to West Bengal, had brought them from there and were keeping them in inhuman conditions since then,” Singh said. Soni is already under police custody on the charges of kidnap of a 3-year-old girl three days back. Police had arrested him on the same day and had rescued the girl, whom he had kidnapped from Saraswati Nagar locality for his sister, who had no child after marriage. “Police have already been interrogating Soni and Nandini in relation with the kidnapping case but now fresh case of human trafficking has been slapped on them after the rescued girls named both of them,” said Singh. Meanwhile, both girls were handed over to the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) and the investigation has been handed over to the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of Jodhpur police. (Times of India 7/9/2016)

40 per cent human trafficking crimes occurred in Assam and WB (1)

KOLKATA: Assam and West Bengal account for 40 per cent of all crime related to human trafficking in the country, reveals latest data released by the National Crime Records Bureau ( NCRB) Assam (population 3.22 crore) recorded the highest number (1,494) cases of human trafficking — 21.7 per cent of all cases recorded across the country in 2015. Assam is followed by its neighbour West Bengal, which has three times the population of Assam (at 9.3 crore) and recorded 1,255 cases (18.2 per cent of all such crimes nationwide) pertaining to human trafficking in the same period. Together, both states have recorded 2,799 cases of human trafficking under Section 370/370A of the Indian Penal Code, which is 39.9 per cent of the total number of cases recorded in this category. Tamil Nadu is next only to Assam and West Bengal, with 577 cases adding up to 8.4 per cent of total number of crimes under this category. Through out the country, 6,877 cases were registered for crimes related to human trafficking in 2015. Assam and West Bengal also record a high number of cases of under Section 366-A of the Indian Penal Code, which relates to the ‘procuration of minor girls below 18 years’. Of the 3,087 cases under Section 366-A recorded across 29 States and seven union territories of the country, Assam accounted for 1,303 cases and West Bengal for 1,003 cases. Together, Assam and WB account for 74 per cent cases recorded across India in 2015 under 366-A of IPCThe figures assume significance at a time when the country has earned the dubious distinction of having the highest number of people in the world trapped in one of the worst forms of human slavery. Rishi Kant, an activist with Shakti Vahini, an NGO that’s involved in rescuing trafficked persons, pointed out that the figures are coming at a crucial juncture when the Ministry of Women and Child Development is coming up with a legislation to tackle human trafficking as an organised crime. The draft of the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill 2016 is ready and suggestions are being invited from different states and sections of the society, he said. Mr. Kant said that this situation has been prevailing in Assam and West Bengal for quite some time, and the frequent floods in Assam make people most vulnerable to trafficking. However, the activist also pointed out that the police are recording cases under anti-trafficking laws when people go missing from these states, which is a silver lining for tackling the issue. (The Hindu 8/9/2016)

8 rescued tribal girls brought back to Jharkhand (1)

RANCHI: As many as eight trafficking victims of Jharkhand, some being such who have not seen their home for years were brought back to Ranchi by Action against Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation of Children and Women (ATSEC) on the direction of Jharkhand State Child Labour Commission (JSCLC) on Tuesday night. Addressing the press on Wednesday, member of JSCLC, Sanjay Mishra said, “The eight tribal girls include four minors and four adults, were rescued in a time of two months from Delhi were they worked as domestic helps.” Of the eight girls, two are from Khunti, three from Gumla and one each from Sahibgunj, Giridih and Godda. “The minor girls have been sent to Nirmal Chhaya shelter home and the adult girls have been sent to Nari Niketan. District Child Protection Officers of the various districts will come here and take the girls home. We get the minors enrolled in Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalyas in their districts and will provide skill development training to adults,” Mishra said. Most of the girls were trafficked to Delhi by their family members. Priya, a 15 year old who was trafficked around a year ago said, “I was going to school when my Jijaji (sister’s husband) asked me to come with him and promised that he will give me better education and arrange for tuitions. He then took me Delhi and handed me to placement agent who employed me as domestic help.” Like Priya, other girls have similar stories of their uncles or cousins trafficking them to Delhi. Mishra said, “Spreading awareness is most important at present. The commission will be starting a Mukti Carvan on September 30 to spread awareness against trafficking and child labour in the remotest areas of the state.” The awareness vehicle will go to every village in each district and spread awareness through short films, jingles and nukkad nataks. “The villagers will also be informed about what happens to their daughter when they are taken away to Delhi. This apart the carvan will also collect data of missing children in every village,” Mishra said. (Times of India 14/9/2016)

Baby-seller no doctor, is a trafficker, say police (1)

GHAZIABAD: The woman,who was arrested for selling a kidnapped 13-month-old boy for Rs 3 lakh is not a doctor as she claimed to her patients while “practising” in east Delhi, police said. Anija Vij, who was arrested earlier this week from her flat in Patparganj, also revealed during interrogation that she had been involved in baby trade in the past. The police suspect a larger child trafficking racket operational in Delhi and Ghaziabad following her confession. Vij, who was taken on police remand on Tuesday, has confessed to at least one instance of child trafficking she was involved in. Ghaziabad SP (Rural) Rakesh Kumar Pandey told TOI, “It has emerged that the woman was not a doctor but a nurse. But now we are investigating whether she is even a qualified nurse.” Pandey said that during interrogation she had revealed that four years ago she sold a child to the elder brother of Laxmi Nagar-based bakery owner Paras Jain. “We are investigating if that child had also been kidnapped from Ghaziabad. We are also trying to find out if she was involved in more incidents of child trafficking in Ghaziabad,” Pandey said. The police did not reveal the names of the couple who had allegedly bought the child from Vij four years ago for security reasons. Police records are also being verified to ascertain if any kidnapping case had been registered in Ghaziabad regarding the child whose description has been given by Vij. Vij was arrested by Ghaziabad police on September 11 for allegedly buying 13-month-old Yash from his kidnappers for Rs 70,000 and later selling the boy to a bakery owner in Delhi for Rs 3 lakh. The kid was rescued by police on September 12 from the bakery owner’s house in Laxmi Nagar. The bakery owner, Paras Jain (30), was arrested but his wife, Archana (27), is at large. Paras and Archana had been consulting Dr Vij for the past few years because of their inability to conceive a child. According to police, Dr Vij had bought Yash from an Ola cab driver, Chandvir (30) and his wife Poonam (28) at around 6 pm on September 10 after paying them Rs 70,000 in cash. Chandvir lives with his wife in a rented house in Gagan Vihar area of Ghaziabad. (Times of India 15/9/2016)

Minors girls trafficked from Bangladesh to Indian cities (1)

Jodhpur: The Jodhpur police have stumbled up on a human trafficking racket that spans from Bangladesh to West Bengal, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Delhi, police said on Thursday. It was a bank deposit slip found at the rented house of Sukhjant alias Tumpa alias Nandini, 35, arrested on September 4, for kidnapping a 3-year-old girl from the Saraswati Nagar neighbourhood of Jodhpur that led police to the suspected kingpin of the human trafficking racket in a village on the Indo-Bangladesh border in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas, said deputy commissioner of police (east) Vinit Kumar. Sujoy Biswas, 32, a small shopkeeper from Laxmipur Bihara village of the district was arrested who police suspect is the mastermind of the cross-border trafficking racket, he said. Police arrested Biswas on September 12 and produced him at a Jodhpur court on Wednesday. “Investigation has reveled that Biswas often rows a boat across the Kopotakho River into Bangladesh to pick up girls aged between 10 and 15. These girls are then trafficked into India and dispatched to different parts of the country where they are forced into prostitution,” he said. Police investigation has revealed that Tumpa operated through her father in Bangladesh who helped her and Biswas lure minor girls. It is not clear yet if the girls were kidnapped or bought. But, Biswas told police, that he bribed BSF guards to get the girls past the international border. After police arrested Thumpa from Saraswati Nagar, two girls, kept hostage by her in a house in the Raikabagh neighbourhood of the city, were rescued. The girls told police that Thumpa –who claimed that she was a resident of West Bengal but police verification revealed that she was a Bangladesh citizen–brought them from Bangladesh. They said that they were forced into prostitution by the woman. “It is possible that the girls’ parents sold them to Biswas and Thumpa as the girls are hard nuts to crack and didn’t reveal anything easily. Biswas too has said that he shared 50% of the money that the girls earned from prostitution with agents in Bangladesh,” Kumar said. Police have found documents of bank transactions in Biswas’s account of Rs 1 crore in the last three years. Police suspect that he bought the girls from Bangladesh for Rs 3,000-5,000 and sold them to agents in cities like Jaipur, Jodhpur, Mumbai, Delhi and Pune for Rs 40,000 to Rs 50,000. Agents deposit money in Biswas’ bank account after the girls are delivered, investigation has revealed, police said. Udaimandir police station chief Madan Beniwal said police have got Thumpa on production warrant from the Jodhpur central jail and will bring her face-to-face with Biswas to know more about the racket. (Hindustan Times  15/9/2016)

‘Trafficking racket run by agents in India, Bangladesh’ (1)

JODHPUR: The entire racket of cross-border human trafficking operated through agents on both sides of the border, who would bring the girls to India and hand them over to Sujoy Biswas, who would further supply them through his network spread in many cities of the country. In this entire racket, the girls were treated like objects by the agents, who would bring them from Bangladesh to India and hand them over to Biswas, the kingpin of human trafficking racket, currently under the police custody, who would charge depending upon the ‘quality’ of these ‘objects’. SHO (Udaimandir) Madan Beniwal said that the amount given to the agents against this work was not fixed. They would charge depending upon varying conditions like availability of girls, ease of crossing the border and age and features of the girls. “Interestingly, the agents would not disclose the source or address of the place in Bangladesh they brought the girls from,” he said, adding that the agents had liaisons with the border guards who would hardly intervene. “Operators-Biswas, Sukhjaan alias Tumpa alias Nandini and Sonu-would cross the border with the help of these agents,” said Beniwal. Police, however, have been desperately trying to explore the forward and backward linkages of the kingpin of the racket, Sujoy Biswas. He was on Friday produced in the court, which extended his police custody for three more days. Besides, the police also sent Tumpa and Sonu, who were under judicial custody for kidnapping a 3-year-old girl, to police remand for their combined interrogation. According to police commissioner Ashok Kumar Rathore, they were trying to find out how they crossed the border, brought the girls from Bangladesh and how and where they supplied the girls. “The accused are hardened criminals but we are trying our best to gather as much information as possible so that we could bust the entire racket and rescue the girls,” said Rathore. (Times of India 17/9/2016)

Software launched by NGO on human trafficking will reunite victims with families (1)

New Delhi: A non-government organisation (NGO) dealing with human trafficking has launched an online platform to reunite victims with their families. Named “Impulse Case Info Centre Software” (ICCS), it offers a platform to people and authorities to communicate and collaborate to prevent human trafficking effectively. Emboldened by the success of the software in several northeastern states, Impulse recently launched the software in Siliguri town West Bengal.Emarine Kharbhih, a consultant working with Impulse, said most cases of human trafficking are reported from Indo-Nepal border. “We have already launched in northeast, it is working perfectly fine in Sikkim, Nagaland, Mizoram, and now we are here in for the first time, because we really need to see and make people understand that Indo-Nepal border is so free and people are being trafficked. And that is why this software is very important in north Bengal,” said Kharbhih. Twin earthquakes that struck Nepal in April and May 2015, which killed almost 9,000 people, left hundreds of thousands of families homeless and many without any means of income, led to an increase in children and women being trafficked. More than 40,000 children lost their parents, were injured or were placed in precarious situations following the disaster, according to Nepali officials. Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing transnational organised crimes in India. Thousands of people, mostly from poor rural areas, are taken to cities every year by trafficking gangs who sell them into bonded labour or hire them out to unscrupulous employers. Traffickers often take advantage of impoverished communities, luring girls and young women and girls with promises of jobs as maids or nannies in wealthy households in the cities. Impulse has been working on human trafficking for the past 23 years in northeast region of India. The web based software has been incubated by the IIT (Institute of Information and Technology) Guwahati of India’s northeastern Assam state. (Indian Express 20/9/2016)

Human trafficking: Four girls to be sent to Bangladesh (1)

JODHPUR: The District Legal Service Authority (DLSA) has taken steps to send four girls who were lodged in Nari Niketan. All of them were brought to Jodhpur from Bangladesh by human traffickers. Two of these girls had been brought in lure of housework while other two were brought for prostitution. On the basis of the report, justice G K Vyas has directed DLSA to coordinate with home department and help these girls getting back to Bangladesh as soon as possible. Secretary of Rajasthan State Legal Services Authority Dheeraj Sharma said that a retired government officer (CTO) Manphool Kumar Verma was sent to Nari Niketan as Para Legal Volunteer (PLV) to prepare a detailed report on the status of these four girls so that steps could be taken to send them back. “Two girls were rescued by the police on September 5 from a gang of human traffickers which forced them into prostitution. DLSA has directed to pay them compensation and also help them in sending Bangladesh back,” said Sharma. Verma said that other two girls were lodged in Nari Niketan in 2012 and 2014 by police after they were found roaming around. “Both these girls were brought to Jodhpur from Bangladesh by human trafficking gang in lure of providing job as house maids here. But, few days after landing in Jodhpur, they tried to flee and found their way into Nari Niketan,” said Verma. It may be recalled that Jodhpur police had recently busted a human trafficking racket and had rescued two girls of 14 and 18 years, who were brought by this gang in Rai Ka bagh area on the nights of September 5 and 6. When these two girls were sent to Nari Niketan, it was found that two more women aged 26 and 22 years, had been languishing there since 2014. They also said to have been brought by the same gang operated by Sujoy Biswas.Jodhpur : The District Legal Service Authority (DLSA) has taken steps to send four girls lodged in Nari Niketan. All these four girls had been taken to Jodhpur from Bangladesh by human traffickers. Two of these girls had been brought in lure of house work and two others were brought for prostitution. On the basis of the report of these girls, justice G K Vyas has issued directions to the DLSA to coordinate with the home department and help the girls to go back to Bangladesh as soon as possible. Secretary (Rajasthan State Legal Service Authority) Dheeraj Sharma said that a retired government officer (CTO) Manphool Meena was sent to the nari niketan as Para Legal Volunteer (PLV) to prepare a detailed report on the status of these four girls so that the steps could be taken to send them back….  (Times of India 24/9/2016)

Child trafficking racket busted in Bhopal (1)

Bhopal: In another shocking incident, a man was booked over the weekend for allegedly exploiting a 10-year-old boy by forcing him into begging. Additional Superintendent of Police Rajesh Chandel said “The police swung into action after the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights member Priyanka Kanungo spotted the boy begging in front of a coffee house under TT Nagar Police Station area here and brought it to the notice of authorities.” He also said that the boy told the cops that a person named Shakeel had forced him into begging, adding that they have registered a case under Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, and are now looking for him. The boy is now in the care of the Special Juvenile Police Unit. (Indian Express 26/9/2016)


Sting operation: BJP lodges complaint against Odisha CM, BJD MLAs (5)

Holding Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik responsible for the four ruling BJD MLAs allegedly demanding illegal gratification from industries, the opposition BJP on Wednesday a police complaint here. BJP state unit Vice-President Sameer Mohanty filed a complaint against Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and four BJD MLAs at the Capital police station here. Four BJD MLAs – Susant Kumar Behera (Chhendipada), Seemarani Nayak (Hindol), Anam Nayak (Bhawanipatna) and Bijay Kumar Nayak (Karanjia) – were purportedly shown in a sting operation by a private news channel two days ago seeking bribes from industries. “They (the MLAs) have been shown asking money as bribe in the name of Chief Minister of Odisha who is the president of BJD. The Chief Minister of Odisha and the BJD MLAs are public servants and come under the purview of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988,” Mohanty said in his complaint. “Since the matter relates to the interest of Odisha, I, on behalf of BJP state unit, register an FIR against those MLAs and Chief Minister under Prevention of Corruption Act 1988 and other offences,” Mohanty said. When contacted, Capital police station authorities said the complaint of Mohanty has been received as a station dairy. “Since the state government has already ordered a vigilance probe, there is no need of a police investigation. The allegation is made under PC Act, 1988. Only vigilance can undertake such cases,” an official of the Capital police station said. (Business standard 1/9/2016)

Modi raises issues of black money, tax evasion at G20 (5)

Hangzhou (China): Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday raised the issue of black money and tax evasion at the ongoing G20 Summit here, urging the member countries to take action against the financial corruption. On the second day of the Summit, Modi said “fighting corruption, black money and tax evasion were central to effective financial governance.” The Prime Minister also said there should be “zero tolerance” for corruption and black money and treaty loopholes. He urged the members nations to show “full commitment” to action against the financial corruption. (Business Standard 5/9/2016)

ACB conducts raids on residences and offices of 3 public servants in Karnataka (5)

BENGALURU: The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) sleuths on Wednesday conducted simultaneous raids on the residences and offices of three public servants in Bengaluru, Chikkaballapur and Kolar districts.The three officials are Deputy Directors Srinivasa Reddy, Industries and Commerce, Kolar district, Sampath Krishna, Mines and Geology, bengaluru, and GT Srinivas, second division assistant, taluk office at Gudibande in Chikkaballapur districts.Addressing the media, ADGP Gagan Deep, ACB, said that they have seized documents, cash and silver from the premises of the three officials and it is still continued. The raid was lead by Superintendents of Police Labhu Ram and Uma Prashanth.He said that the exact amount of disproportionate assets to their known sources of income will be assessed by evening after completion of search. However, he said that they have registered FIR against all three officials after they primafacie case during preliminary inquiry. Gagan Deep added that the preliminary inquiry is continuing in cases against both Chief Minister Siddaramaiah over his controversial hublot watch and Chief Secretary Arvind Jadhav over land scam.Meanwhile, ACB officials trapped Senior Health Officer Kumar, BBMP, while accepting bribe of Rs. 6,000 to issue trade license, informed SP Labhu Ram (New Indian Express 7/9/2016)

Kapil row has exposed BJP’s anti-corruption claim: Congress (5)

CHANDIGARH: Congress said the BJP government’s claim of zero tolerance towards corruption “stood exposed” after stand-up comedian Kapil Sharma alleged that he had been asked to pay a bribe of Rs 5 lakh by an official of the civic body BMC in Mumbai. “I think popular artist Kapil Sharma being openly asked for Rs 5 lakh bribe exposes Modi government’s claims of zero tolerance towards corruption,” Congress’ spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said here. In a sarcastic remark, Surjewala said the bribe allegations have shown what kind of “Achee Din” have come for artists. “Whether they do anything for common people or not, but now the manner in which bribe is being sought from reputed artists and the way they are harassed, it shows what Achee Din have come..,” he said. A controversy erupted earlier today after Kapil Sharma alleged that he had been asked to pay a bribe of Rs 5 lakh by an official of the civic body BMC which, in turn, claimed that the actor had carried out “illegal construction” at his office for which a notice had been served on him. In a series of tweets, Kapil levelled the bribe allegation  and tagged Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asking if this was the “achche din” (good days) he had promised. (New Indian Express 10/9/2016)

Protect honest officers, IAS team urges Centre (5)

NEW DELHI: A delegation of the Central IAS Officers’ Association on Sunday called on Minister of State in the PMO Jitendra Singh and urged the government to review some of the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, and the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, to ensure that ‘honest and sincere officers’ are not made scapegoats for ‘bona fide’ decisions taken in public interest. The meeting came against the backdrop of the recent suspension of a senior officer in the Home Ministry following the renewal of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act licence to Islamic preacher Zakir Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation (IRF). In a rare display of camaraderie, all 15 Joint Secretaries associated with the Ministry last week petitioned Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh seeking a review of the decision to suspend the senior IAS officer. Their case is that Joint Secretary G.K. Dwivedi is an honest officer whose integrity could not be questioned and such moves by the government would send a “wrong signal demoralising” others who take decisions in public interest in good faith. The association requested the Centre to immediately revoke his suspension. Mr. Dwivedi, along with three of his junior officers, was suspended last week after the government found that the FCRA licence of the NGO run by Mr. Naik was renewed by the Home Ministry’s Foreigners Division headed by him despite several probes against Mr. Naik. Sanjay Bhoosreddy, Honorary Secretary of the Central IAS Officers Association, told The Hindu that the Minister promised to look into the issues raised by the association. (The Hindu 12/9/2016)

Government asks CBI to probe in allegations of corruption in purchase of three Embraer aircrafts

NEW DELHI: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has started analyzing allegations of Brazilian aviation major Embraer hiring a UK-based agent and paying commissions to swing the $208 million deal for three Emb-145 aircraft inked with India during UPA rule in 2008. The government had asked the agency to probe in allegations of corruption in the purchase of three Embraer aircraft for Defence Research and Development Organisation in 2008 The agency sources said officials are going through the reference and any decision to start a probe in the matter will be taken soon after analysing all the documents. If the agency is satisfied that it has enough prima facie evidence to initiate an FIR, it will start or else it might register a preliminary enquiry to gather enough material for registering a regular case, they said. Government had stated that the allegations were of a serious nature and the CBI will probe. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had earlier this week said that, “If there is a criminal angle, then the CBI will probe as the Ministry cannot”. “If only procedural issues are involved, then the Defence Ministry can do an internal investigation,” he had said. The deal for purchase of three Embraer aircraft during the UPA regime has kicked up dust with US authorities going into alleged payment of kickbacks.  The deal has come under the scanner of the US Justice Department which has been probing Embraer for alleged payment of bribes to secure contracts. Soon after, the reports of irregularity surfaced, the DRDO has already sought a report from the Brazilian firm, which has said it has been looking into graft allegations over the last five years. DRDO investigation through report from Brazilian firm is a separate investigation. Parallel investigation has been started by CBIThe Special Investigation Team probing AgustaWestland bribery scandal will also probe this scam. The deal was signed in 2008 between Embraer and the DRDO for three aircraft equipped with indigenous radars for AEW&C (airborne early warning and control systems). The first “modified” aircraft was delivered to DRDO in 2011, with the other two following later. After several missed deadlines, the AEW&C project is now slated to be completed by December. Present DRDO chief S Christopher was the AEW&C programme director and head of the Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS) before he was chosen to head DRDO in May 2015 by the NDA government. Sources claimed that role of the committee, comprised of officials from IAF and DRDO is also under scanner, which shortlisted the Embraer deal. Brazil’s top newspaper, the ‘Folha de Sao Paulo’, had reported on September 8 that the possible bribery in the 2008 Indian deal was under the scanner of the US justice department, which has been investigating Embraer since 2010, after a contract with the Dominican Republic raised suspicion. The scope of the investigation has now been widened to examine Embraer’s dealings with eight other countries, including India and Saudi Arabia. (New Indian Express 15/9/2016)

CBI registers preliminary enquiry in $208 mn Embraer deal (5)

New Delhi: The CBI on Saturday registered a preliminary enquiry (PE) against unidentified Defence Ministry officials and others to probe allegations of kickbacks in the purchase of three Embraer aircraft in a $208 million deal inked during the UPA rule in 2008, an official said. Sources in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) said the PE was registered on a reference from the Defence Ministry on allegations related to Embraer employing an agent to facilitate various contracts. The CBI took the step after its two-day thorough examination of the Defence Ministry request made on Wednesday through a letter regarding alleged corruption in the multi-million-dollar deal with the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer, following reports of investigations in Brazil and the US. PE is the initial step taken by the CBI to examine any case before lodging a First Information Report (FIR) against suspected persons. During a PE, the agency cannot record statements or carry out searches. In 2008, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) signed a $208 million deal with Embraer for three ERJ-145 aircraft to build indigenous Airborne Early Warning and Control Systems for the Indian Air Force. The DRDO has already sought an explanation within 15 days from Embraer on the issue. Apart from the CBI probe, the Defence Ministry will also seek information through diplomatic channels from Brazil and the US. Brazilian newspaper ‘Folha de Sao Paulo’ had reported last week that Embraer paid commissions to a UK-based defence agent to finalise the deal with India. It is also alleged that Embraer had taken the services of middlemen to get the deal of aircraft supply not only in India but also in Saudi Arabia. (Business Standard 17/9/2016)

ACB files FIR against DCW chief Swati Maliwal over recruitment scam (5)

New Delhi, Sept 20 : : The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on Tuesday filed FIR against Delhi Commission for Women chief Swati Maliwal over an alleged recruitment scam, reports said. Maliwal was on Monday questioned for over two hours by the ACB in connection with the allegations of illegal recruitment in the womens panel. Former DCW chief Barkha Shukla Singh had complained that many Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) supporters were given plum posts in the womens panel. She listed in her complaint the names of 85 people as those who had allegedly got jobs without requisite credentials. (New Kerala 20/9/2016)

CBI court frames charges against tainted cop (5)

CHANDIGARH: A special CBI court on Wednesday framed charges of Prevention of Corruption Act against a UT police sub-inspector for allegedly taking a bribe of Rs 15,000 for not lodging an FIR (first information report) against a Kaimbwala resident at the rear of Hotel Taj in Sector 17 in December 2015. The charges were framed in the presence of the accused policeman, who is currently posted at police lines in Sector 26. The complainant, Hemraj Singh, claimed that Sewak initially had demanded Rs 20,000 and later reduced the amount to Rs 15,000. CBI sources said, “Hemraj Singh has a dispute with someone and both had lodged cross FIRs against each other. Later, the opponent of Hemraj again lodged a DDR against Harnek at Sector 3 police station. Sub-inspector Sewak Singh was pressuring and demanding bribe from Hemraj for not covering the DDR into an FIR.” The detailed charge sheet against the tainted cop was filed in March. Sources said the complainant lodged an FIR with the CBI and a trap was laid. Singh had called the complainant to hand over the bribe money behind Hotel Taj and he had come in his SUV for accepting the bribe. Interestingly, CBI had also seized about 39 bottles of IMFL liquor and Rs 60,000 from his office room in Sector 3 police station. Sources in CBI said a person cannot keep more than 12 bottles in his capacity but Sewak had about 40 bottles at his office. In the charge sheet, the testimony of complainant Hemraj Singh and a transcript of a recorded conversation between accused Sewak Singh posted at Sector 3 police station and Hemraj was attached in the charge sheet. Currently, Sewak is out on bail. (Times of India 22/9/2016)

Narendra Modi govt is targeting small traders for black money: Digvijaya Singh (5)

Panaji: Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh on Saturday accused the Narendra Modi government of targeting small traders and businessmen under the pretext of unearthing black money. “You have given amnesty scheme (for declaring domestic black money). People are coming out…Identify people, who have hundreds of crores of black money. You are targeting small traders, businessmen that should be stopped. We should stand up for these people,” Singh said while addressing party workers’ convention in Panaji on Saturday. “Today, in India most business people are very unhappy with Narendra Modi. He promised concessions to the business people, but economy is not growing. Raids are being conducted and they are targeting Congress people,” he alleged. They have declared September 30 to be the last date on which the black money has to be declared. They have issued 900 thousand notices all over the country for people to declare money, Singh said. “Lot of people have spoken to me, asking what to do. When P Chidambaram was the Finance Minister, under amnesty scheme Rs 30,000 crore money came into the coffers. Now, Modi and BJP people had said that there is Rs 40 lakh crore black money parked outside the country and if that comes in every Indian will have Rs 15 lakh in his account. That money has not come back,” he added. (Indian Express 24/9/2016)

CBI wants customs to display anti-corruption officers info (5)

NEW DELHI: All Customs, Central Excise and Enforcement Directorate’s offices across the country have been asked by the CBI to prominently display phone numbers of anti- corruption officers to check bribery and harassment of citizens. The move assumes significance as Prime Minister Narendra Modi had early this year taken strong exception to people’s complaints and grievances related to the customs and excise sector and directed strict action against the officials responsible. “In order to deal more effectively with complaints of corruption against public servants in various agencies of department of revenue, ministry of finance, Government of India, it is necessary to pro-actively solicit information from public,” CBI director Anil Sinha said in a latter to revenue secretary Hasmukh Adhia. Sinha has asked to display details of CBI office concerned, including telephone numbers at prominent public places in all the offices of customs, central excise and ED “in case of demand of bribe”. This will encourage citizens facing demands of bribe to instantly report to the local CBI anti-corruption branches,” he said. All CBI branches are being separately instructed to liaise with local authorities of Department of Revenue for prompt follow-up, the letter said. Taking strong exception to complaints and grievances from people related to the customs and excise sector, Modi had asked for strict action against responsible officials during a meeting of PRAGATI–Pro-Active Governance and Timely Implementation, an IT-based multi-modal platform under which he interacts with top officials of various central departments and state governments via video conferencing — in January. A total of 1,460 complaints of alleged corruption were received by the Central Vigilance Commission last year against the customs and central excise employees. (Times of India 25/9/2016)

Successful Anti-Corruption Bureau traps drop by 20% this year (5)

NASHIK: Despite conducting the second maximum number of traps this year, after Pune, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) of Nashik has failed to surpass its own bar. From January 1 to September 25, last year, the ACB made 130 successful traps, whereas during the same period, this year, the bureau has managed only 104 traps, which is a drop of 20%. Nashik still comes second in maximum number of successful cases, following Pune, which is at the top spot with 137 traps. Senior ACB officials from Nashik said that they have appealed to the general public to approach them in case of demand for bribes at government, semi-government and local self governing bodies, etc from officials and staff. Superintendent of ACB, Nashik Panjabrao Ugle said, “We are continuously approaching people to get to know if they are facing problems at the government and semi-government departments for getting work done. Apart from this, we also have a helpline number, Facebook account and Whatsapp number for people to contact us without any hesitation.” While the ACB is actively taking initiatives to stop corruption, people are urged to come forward and report the demand of bribe. The Nashik division along comprises of the districts of Nashik, Ahmedngar, Dhule, Nandurbar and Jalgaon. Of the total 104 successful traps, Nashik and Jalgaon districts have made 27 traps each, while Ahmednagar district has done 26 traps, Dhule has done 18 and the Nandurbar office has done 6 traps. Apart from the 104 traps, a total of 133 government officials and employees have been arrested including eight Class I, 11 Class II, 89 Class III, 8 Class IV, two other public servants and 15 private persons. The action of Nashik’s Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) has dropped by 20 percent this year compared to the last year, despite the bureau doing the second maximum number of traps in the state, after Pune. Last year from January 1 to September 25, the ACB had made 130 successful traps. This year during het same period, the ACB has managed to do only 104 traps, which is a drop of 20 percent. Meanwhile, despite the drop in the number of successful traps, Nashik has second maximum number of cases of successful traps, while Pune is at the top spot with 137 traps. .. (Times of India 27/9/2016)


NGT issues notices to Centre, State on Shivaji memorial (9)

Mumbai: Following a plea filed by the fishermen’s community in Maharashtra, Pune-based National Green Tribunal (NGT) has issued notices to the Centre and Maharashtra government seeking clarifications on the environmental clearance and coastal regulation zone (CRZ) clearances given to the Chhatrapati Shivaji memorial off the Mumbai coast before September 30. The community claims that the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) granted the environmental clearances to the project without conducting a public hearing and taking the consent of opposing parties, which they deem mandatory. The Environment Interest Litigation plea filed by the Maharashtra Macchimar Kriti Samiti before the NGT said the Maharashtra government did not conduct the public hearing before the Environment Assessment Committee citing, “larger public interest” and the memorial’s stature as a ‘national monument’, based on which, the applicants claim, the environmental clearance was given by the MoEF. Aseem Sarode, the legal representative of the applicants, said that among other things, “there are certain processes like taking consent and conducting a public hearing, which need to be followed before granting the CRZ clearances, but they have not been followed in this case.” He also claimed that the no-objection certificates for the construction of the project were issued by several bodies including Mumbai Port Trust and Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority, without considering the environmental dangers posed by the mid-sea memorial. The need for oceanology and biodiversity studies and surveys before construction of the memorial were also ignored, he said. According to Mr. Sarode, though the MoEF has disallowed dredging at the site, a two-km pipeline will be constructed under water to provide fresh water during construction as well as for tourists afterwards at the cost of Rs. 100 crore. “This alone will disrupt the marine and aquatic biodiversity and also violate the MoEF’s directives,” he said. “Along with being a threat to the biodiversity, the construction of the memorial will destroy the livelihood of the fishing community of the area as it is a prime fishing spot where several species of marine life are found,” Damodar Tandel, president of Maharashtra Machimar Kriti Samiti and one of the petitioners, said. He also said the waste generated by the large number of tourists to the spot will damage the ecology of the area. Mr. Sarode also said the project will destroy 110 km of coastline. He said he and the petitioners will write to Prime Minister Narendra Modi presenting these facts, and urge him not to perform the ‘bhoomi pujan’ of the project. (The Hindu 2/9/16)

GM mustard is “safe”, says technical body (9)

New Delhi: A technical body has said that genetically-modified (GM) mustard is “safe for human and animal health” and did not threaten biodiversity. The Environment Ministry on Monday made public the body’s report on its website and invited comments until the 5th of October. Now, the Environment Ministry will take a “final call” on whether GM mustard should be declared safe for commercial cultivation. The Hindu had reported on this committee’s favourable verdict on the August 26. Sources told The Hindu that such a technical clearance would be a gateway to not only GM mustard — the first such food crop in Indian fields — but to a host of several genetically-modified food crops being developed by public as well as private-research bodies. These include genetically-modified rice, brinjal, wheat, tomato among others and are at various stages of the approval process. For Dhara Mustard Hybrid-11 (DMH-11) the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) had consulted with plant biologists, ecologists and environmentalists before tasking a sub-committee with compiling all evidence and addressing key questions. In 2010, the GEAC had cleared Bt brinjal but it’s decision was over-ruled by the then Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh. DMH-11 has been developed by a team of scientists at Delhi University led by former vice-chancellor Deepak Pental under a government-funded project. In essence, it uses a system of genes from soil bacterium that makes mustard — generally a self pollinating plant — better suited to hybridisation than current methods. A similar sequence of genes has been used in imported canola oil also used in India. The technology used in DMH-11 allows local crop developers to easily develop different varieties of hybrid mustard, like in say GM cotton, and confer traits like pest resistance and potentially improving yield. The 133-page report is an abridged version of the full biosafety dossier that generally accompanies applications by crop developers to the GEAC. The GEAC subcommittee hasn’t conducted tests over and above those already done as part of the biosafety-testing process that GM crops currently undergo. However its mandate was to check if the genes used in DMH-11 produced unexpected changes, or made the plant more susceptible to weeds than conventional strains of mustard. “In summary it was observed that natural occurrence of all the major pests and disease of mustard were similar in GE hybrid DMH-11 as well as non genetically engineered conventional local check variety…however as a precautionary approach and sustainable use of this technology…an oversight post-release monitoring is suggested,” the report added. … (The Hindu 5/9/2016)

NGT clears road widening in Megamalai with 13 riders (9)

CHENNAI: Vacating its interim injunction, the National Green Tribunal Southern Bench has allowed the widening of 35 km stretch of road adjoining Megamalai wildlife sanctuary “within the boundaries of existing right of way.” However, the Bench comprising Justice P. Jyothimani and P.S. Rao considered it prudent to issue 13 directions to Theni district administration as a precaution to ensure that the road work did not cause damage to the flora and fauna which were rich in diversity. Relying upon an NGT western zone order and an Apex Court order in Essar Oil vs Halar Utkarsh Samiti cases, the Bench concluded that the prayer to restrain road widening of a 35-km stretch from Thenpalani to Highways was not sustainable as it did not involve any notified forest, wildlife sanctuary and as no illegal cutting of trees was involved. The co-operation and involvement of local communities in management of natural resources cannot be ignored and if basic minimum needs of communities are not met and their quality of life not improved, they may even turn against the preservation and protection of biodiversity. “This will go against the very basic concept of protection of biodiversity, particularly in ecologically sensitive areas like western ghats,” the Bench noted in its order. In this case, no new road was being permitted to be laid; no forest land was involved and no felling of forest trees was permitted and no civil structures other than structures for strengthening the road were allowed to be constructed, the Bench pointed out. As per the records produced before the Bench, only carriageway was being widened from 3.5 to 5.5 metre width within the existing right of way besides strengthening the culverts, bridges and protective walls in the interest of smooth flow of traffic and safety of passengers, it said. No doubt such linear projects, particularly the stretches of the road passing through Wildlife Sanctuaries and Ecologically Sensitive Areas to some extent, cause negative impact on the protection of biodiversity, the Bench said. But one has to take a holistic approach and basic minimum needs of local inhabitants cannot be sacrificed, it concluded. (The Hindu 5/9/2016)

Uttarakhand to charge Rs 12 crore from Ramdev firms for using state’s natural resources (9)

DEHRADUN: Uttarakhand Biodiversity Board is going to charge Rs 10 crore from Patanjali Yogpeeth and Rs 2 crore from its subsidiary Divya Pharmacy as annual fee for using the natural resources of the state for their products. Under the Biodiversity Act, industries using natural resources for a commercial venture have to either give 5% of the cost of the resources or 0.1 to 0.5% as per the slab of their turnover to the Board annually. The Board is going to bring some 3,000 industries using natural resources under access and benefit sharing (ABS) clause of the Act, according to officials. The chairman of the Board, Rakesh Shah, told TOI, “There are some 3,000 industries in the state. We have issued notices to some 600 so far to share their benefits with the board under ABS section of the Act. However since the companies never shared their benefits earlier, so they are not forthcoming in doing so now. The giants come up with seasoned high court and Supreme Court lawyers who argue for minimising the cost under ABS.” The finances generated from ABS are passed on by the Board to biodiversity management committees (BMC) formed by local bodies at the village level for the conservation and management of biological resources. The Board has to form 8,000 BMCs across the state, out of which only 850 have been constituted so far. With the finances generated from these companies in future, the conservation of bio-resources will be managed by these 8,000 BMCs. According to Dhananjay Prasad, deputy director of the Board, though the Act came into being in 2002, the guidelines were issued only in 2014. “With so much investigation, data and lengthy discussion involved in finalizing the ABS amount, the process took a lot of time. As the turnover of the company or their purchase of bio resources increases, ABS would also rise simultaneously,” he said. “This month, we will be able to charge Patanjali Yogpeeth of Ramdev at Haridwar Rs 10 crore and its subsidiary Divya Pharmacy Rs 2 crore. As Ramdev has declared that he has set a target to take his turnover to Rs 5000 crore in a year, the ABS would also increase exponentially,” said Prasad. Dabar India will also start sharing Rs 16 lakh annually from this month, he added. Some companies have begun sharing their profits. Cooperative Drug Factory has given the Board Rs 3.82 lakh; Habib Cosmetics Rs 3.48 lakh; Geeta Bhawan Ayurved Bhawan Rs 2.27 lakh and Hans Ayurved Vikas Sansthan Rs 16,594. “A couple of other companies are also sharing small amounts, based on their turnovers, with the Board,” an official added. Acharya Balkrishna of Patanjali Trust said, “The provisions of the Biodiversity Act are still not clear to us. However, being law-abiding citizens of the country, we will share our due under ABS with the State Biodiversity Board. We are still to arrive at a final decision on the matter.” (Times of India 7/9/2016)

Environment Ministers of BRICS countries to meet in Goa (9)

NEW DELHI: The Environment Ministers of BRICS countries will be meeting in Goa on Friday to prioritise actions for cooperation in critical areas like air and water pollution and climate change. The meeting is expected to address Memorandum of Understanding and the Joint Working Group on environment. The BRICS Ministers are also expected to discuss thematic areas of mutual interest and prioritise actions for cooperation in critical areas like air and water pollution, liquid and solid waste management, climate change and conservation of biodiversity. The meeting assumes significance after the adoption landmark global environmental agreements like Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development, Sustainable Development Goals and Paris Agreement last year. It is one such series of meetings being organized by various central government ministries, in the run-up to BRICS Heads of States Summit in October 2016 at Goa, after India assumed BRICS Presidency from Russia this year. Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa comprising BRICS block together accounts 41.6 percent of global population, 29.31 percent of total world’s territory and about 22 percent of world’s total GDP. (New Indian Express 13/9/2016)

Himalayan climate impact: India, China share concerns (9)

PANAJI: Stating that the rapid melting of glaciers in the Himalayan ranges was a major concern, Union Minister for Environment and Forests (Independent Charge) Anil M. Dave on Friday said India and China were both “concerned” about the degradation of the world’s highest mountain range. Mr. Dave, briefing the media on Friday about the two-day discussions on global climate change and other environment issues at a meeting of the BIRCS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Environment Ministers at Goa, said there was now a wider understanding that there is something wrong because of a larger issue of climate change. He said the Environment Ministers had agreed on a Memorandum of Understanding and announced the setting up of a joint working group institutionalising their mutual cooperation on diverse environment related issues. He said India and China the main two countries on the either side of Himalayas, were both concerned about the degradation. “We are all concerned, nobody is blaming each other. It is not the countries that are surrounding the mountains that are responsible, but it is the effect of the global climate change. So we are thinking in details in length about what to do and what not to do,” he said. He said the areas for mutual cooperation were abatement and control of air and water pollution, efficient management of liquid and solid waste, climate change and conservation of biodiversity. Issues related to air, industrial pollution, agriculture, bio-diversity and the effect of climate change on it were primarily discussed. “We have all agreed that we should work on this and we have formulated a group which will exchange views. We can have bi-lateral efforts to conserve rivers and ponds or we can have multi-lateral efforts or individual countries can work on that.” Choices made by BRICS countries have global significance as the member countries account for 41.6 per cent of global population, 29.31 per cent of total world area and about 22 per cent of world’s total Gross Domestic Product. Later talking to The Hindu , Mr. Dave admitted that issues associated with degradation of the coastal environmental were serious, but said this did not figure in the discussions. (The Hindu 17/9/2016)

Beware of resource pollution: Environmentalist warns state (9)

Mumbai: While the state government has big plans to open lands for petrochemical companies in Konkan, the environmentalists fear degeneration of the area. Chemical factories that have come up so far in the region have polluted the rivers and creeks with untreated effluent. This has even put the people’s lives into danger, an environment expert pointed out. “Most of the chemical industries are throwing untreated effluent in creeks,” environmentalist Satyajeet Chavan said. “Vasisthi river in Chiplun, Savitri river in Mahad, Pundalika in Roha and Patalganga in Rasayani have been so much polluted that one can see black water. Boisar river near Mumbai has become a gutter. Petrochemical companies will further harm the environment in Konkan. There are modern technologies like zero effluent from Japan. But the government does not force companies to use such technologies,” he said. He also ridiculed the government’s claim of bringing more employment for the locals. “The companies offer employment to the locals but at very meagre salaries. Traditional businesses get affected due to effluents… The companies always get away with a fine,” Mr Chavan said. (Asian age 18/9/2016)

Pune metro would threaten riverbank ecosystem: Report (9)

PUNE: Just as it is preparing to get clearance from the Central Public Investment Board for its much-awaited metro rail project, Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has been presented with a report by its own Biodiversity Monitoring Committee (BMC) that clearly states that the proposed metro alignment on the Mutha riverbed from Panchaleshwar temple to Nava Pul will destroy the biodiversity of what remains of the riparian zone (the interface or space between the existing water and the actual riverbank) still untouched by urban incursions. It has suggested the civic body consider alternative route options. The flora and fauna of the riparian zone (marked by the blue-line) of the river has already been feeling the anthropogenic pressure of development, from the existing road to fastfood stalls and parking of vehicles. The metro project will take away what little remains of it. The six-member committee has submitted its report to PMC, which in turn will be forwarding it to the Maharashtra State Biodiversity Board (MSBB). Botanist Sachin Punekar, academician Avinash Kandekar, agriculturalist Sham Sasane, Jaywant Shirke (representing fishermen), Vijay Tikone (representing various consumer forums) and Babasaheb Patil (community worker) constitute the committee. The report, submitted on Septemebr 14, has noted the route of the metro will result in felling about 60 trees, mostly of exotic varieties, but also including indigenous species such as Babul, Umbar and Karanj. Removal of these trees and loss of other vegetation will inevitably disturb the ecological balance, disrupting the habitat of small birds, raptors and arboreal mammals. While some of the flora and fauna already betrays existing degradation of the ecology, the stretch is also home to some rare species, such as the Wooly-Necked Stork which is listed in the ‘vulnerable’ category of the red list published by International Union of Conservation for Nature and also the Angled Castor, a rare variety of butterfly (mostly seen in the thickets of the outer bank). … (Times of India 20/9/2016)

India to ratify Paris Agreement on climate change on October 2, says PM Narendra Modi (9)

NEW DELHI: India will ratify the Paris Agreement on climate change+ on October 2 – the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. The country’s move will bring this global deal to fight the menace of global warming+ closer to enter into force later this year. The big announcement was made by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his speech at the BJP party council meet+ in Kozhikode on Sunday. India had, in fact, announced its ‘climate action plan’ (to fight the challenges of climate change) on October 2 last year. It had submitted its ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to the UN body on October 1, 2015 and later made it public the next day coinciding it with the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. So far, 60 countries including the world’s top two polluters+ – China and USA – have ratified the Agreement which was adopted by 195 countries in Paris last December. While China and USA had ratified it on September 3, as many as 31 countries had formally joined the Agreement through formal ratification or acceptance+ at a special event, hosted by the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York, on September 21. The Agreement will enter into force 30 days after 55 countries, representing 55% of global emissions+ , deposit their instruments of ratification, acceptance or accession with the UN Secretary-General. Though the national ratification has already crossed the threshold of 55 countries, it has so far only accounted for nearly 47.62% of the global emission. Decision of India, which accounts for 4.1% of the global emission, will now bring it closer to the emission threshold of 55%. The magic figure of 55% will certainly be reached this year as 14 more countries, accounting for 12.58% of the global emission, had on September 21 committed to join the Agreement this year most probably before the beginning of the next UN conference on climate change (COP22) in Morocco in November. The Paris Agreement calls on countries to combat climate change and to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future, and to adapt to the increasing impacts of climate change.  It mandates regular meetings every five years, starting in 2018, to review progress and to consider how to strengthen the level of ambition as countries recognised that the present level of climate actions, pledged by individual nations, were still not sufficient to save the world from the adverse impact of climate change. Besides India, the other countries who have announced to join the Paris Agreement through formal ratification this year include Austria, Australia, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, Costa Rica, France, Germany, Hungary, Kazakhstan, New Zealand, Poland, and the Republic of Korea. (Times of India 25/9/2016)

NGT notice to MoEF on decentralisation of EC for sand mining (9)

New Delhi, Sep 27 () Government’s new policy to decentralise the process of granting environmental clearance to mining of sand and minor minerals has come under the scanner of the National Green Tribunal. An environment activist has moved a plea before the green panel seeking quashing of two notifications issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to amend the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification 2006 and constitution of district level panels for appraising projects for mining of minor minerals. Taking note of the plea, a bench headed by Justice Jawad Rahim issued notice to the Environment Ministry seeking its reply within two weeks.The Ministry in January had notified the minor mineral mining policy, decentralising the process of granting environmental clearance (EC) for sustainable mining of sand and minerals. As per the notifications, the districts will decide on ECs for 5 hectares of individual lease and 25 hectares in cluster. For areas up to 50 hectares, their state counterparts will be responsible for environment clearances. The Ministry will step in to give clearances for areas above 50 hectares. To make the policy functional, district administrations have been asked to set up the District Environment Impact Assessment Authority (DEIAA) at the earliest. The chairperson of four-member DEIAA will be District Magistrate or District Collector and the Member Secretary will be SDM/SDO. The other two members are DFO and an expert to be nominated by Divisional Commissioner. For the purposes of assisting the DEIAA, the Ministry has also constituted a 11-member District Level Expert Appraisal Committee (DEAC) for all the districts in the country. The plea filed by environmental activist Vikrant Tongad contends that composition of DEIAA and DEAC reflects absence of environmental expertise as most of posts are administrative in nature who lack environmental knowledge. “As a consequence of these Notifications, the process for appraisal and environmental clearances system has been substantially modified and the composition of the DEIAA and DEAC is inadequate to protect the environmental requirements of ecosystems in granting clearances for mining of minor minerals,” the plea filed through advocate Rahul Choudhary said. (Times of India 27/9/2016)

Invisible foe in air kills 600,000 in a year (9)

New Delhi: Air pollution could have killed at least 600,000 Indians in 2012, a study conducted by the World Health Organisation and made public on Monday said. That is about a fifth of the 3 million who died worldwide because they were exposed to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) that may have aggravated or been directly responsible for cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer. India comes just behind China – which witnessed an estimated 800,000 deaths – says the study, which relied on mathematical modelling to arrive at its figures. It is second among all countries in the absolute number of deaths caused due to exposure to air pollution. About 2,49,388 Indians died of Ischemic heart disease;1,95,001 of stroke; 1,10,500 of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and 26,334 of lung cancer, the study relying on publicly available national data on pollutant levels showed. The actual impact of air pollution, says the report, is a “conservative figure,” as it does not include the separate impacts on health from other air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) or ozone (O3), and excludes health impacts where evidence is still limited (such as pre-term birth or low-birth weight), the authors note. Industries, households, cars and trucks emit complex air pollutants, including invisible PM2.5 particulates.The impact of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) highlighted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) study is felt through a broad spectrum of acute and chronic illnesses that cause premature death. These include lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cardiovascular diseases. Worldwide, it is estimated to cause about 16 per cent of lung cancer deaths, 11 per cent of COPD deaths, and more than 20 per cent of ischaemic heart disease and stroke. Particulate matter pollution is an environmental health problem that affects people worldwide, but low- and middle-income countries disproportionately experience the burden. A WHO South East Asian Region (SEAR) statement said, “Air pollution is the world’s biggest environmental risk to health and must be addressed on a priority basis as it continues to rise, causing long lasting disease and illness.” The study findings, based on data derived from satellite measurements, air transport models and ground station monitors for more than 3000 locations, both rural and urban, were developed by WHO in collaboration with the University of Bath in UK.In instances where accurate PM2.5 (that is, 2.5 micrometers or less) measurements were unavailable, the researchers derived their averages based on PM10, which are larger dust particle-concentrations. It notes that more than 80 per cent of people living in urban areas that monitor air pollution are exposed to air quality levels that exceed the World Health Organization (WHO) limits. The study gave the WHO air quality guidelines for PM2.5 as 10 micrograms per cubic metre annual average, and 25 micrograms per cubic metre 24-hour average. While all regions of the world are affected, populations in low-income cities are the most impacted. Overall, 98 per cent of cities in low- and middle income countries with more than 100,000 inhabitants do not meet WHO air quality guidelines. However, in high-income countries, that percentage decreases to 56 per cent. Earlier this year too, the WHO had warned that nearly 1.4 million Indians may have succumbed to diseases caused by indoor air pollution. The numbers released on Tuesday were specific to outdoor air pollution. Of all of pollutants, fine particulate matter has the greatest impact on health. A lot of the fine particulate matter comes from fuel combustion, both from mobile sources such as vehicles and from stationary sources such as power plants, industry, households or biomass burning. (The Hindu 28/9/2016)


Government wants FSL to give priority to farmer suicides (20)

Bengaluru: With the delay in disbursal of compensation to the families of deceased farmers denting its image, the government has directed the home department to put farmer suicides on the Forensic Science Laboratory’s (FSL) priority list. Till now, FSL, whose reports are considered foolproof scientific evidence, was focusing on cases pertaining to sexual offences and high-profile crimes. In fact, a report from the lab is vital to determine the eligibility of a compensation claim made by the deceased farmer’s family members. “Whenever a farmer commits suicide because of crop failure or mounting debts, jurisdictional police collect the chemical samples of his internal organs and send them to FSL to ascertain the cause of death. Based on the FSL report, a sub-divisional committee takes a call on the disbursal of compensation,” a senior police officer said. “Given the pendency of samples at FSL, reports pertaining to farmer suicides were getting delayed,” the officer added. According to the agriculture department, 1,694 farmer suicides had been reported from across the state since 2013-14. Of these, 1,046 cases were found eligible for compensation. While many claims were not genuine, in at least 50 cases the decision is pending because of a delay in sourcing FSL reports. In fact, the government has increased the compensation from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5 lakh from April 2015. Speaking to TOI, agriculture minister C Krishna Byregowda said: “FSL cites its own constraints in furnishing reports on farmer suicides as it gets a huge number of samples for tests. It used to take more than three months just to get the FSL report, based on which the sub-divisional committee decides whether the claim is eligible for compensation. But we have decided to bring about a change. It has been communicated to the director general and inspector general of police to instruct FSL to give importance to farmer suicides and submit its analysis within 10 days.” The highest number of farmer suicides have been reported from Mandya, Belagavi, Haveri, Mysuru, Hassan and Tumakuru districts. (Times of India 1/9/2016)

 ‘Government must compensate farmers who take loans from private individuals’ (20)

Chikkamagaluru: Lakshmeesh, the 38-year old farmer, who attempted suicide recently in the presence of MLA C.T. Ravi, criticised the formalities involved in attaining compensation in farmer suicide cases. He had attempted suicide on August 16 by consuming poison. He had been disappointed after moving from pillar to post to receive compensation after his father, Bhootaiah’s suicide. “I consumed poison in the presence of MLA Ravi to draw the attention of the State government to this issue. The government only considers the families of those who have borrowed loans from banks and committed suicide, for compensation. Those who take loans from private financiers are at a greater risk than those borrow from banks,” Lakshmeesh told The Hindu on Saturday. He was in a hospital in Chikkamagaluru for a couple of days and has recovered now.Bhootaiah (67), owner of two acres of land at Devanuru in Kadur taluk consumed poison on November 9 last year. He had borrowed a loan of up to Rs. 3 lakh from private persons in the village. The State government had rejected his name for Rs. 5 lakh compensation as he had not borrowed a loan from any bank. His son Lakshmeesh approached the officers and people’s representatives several times seeking compensation. However, his plea was not honoured. “My father was illiterate. He had no bank account, let alone bank loan. He lost his crop two years in a row and committed suicide, unable to repay the loan. Those who borrow loans from banks are not worried about clearing them as they are sure that some day the government will waive the bank loan,” he opined. Bhootaiah is survived by his wife Hemavati and two sons, of who Lakshmeesh is the younger one. He is growing maize in the land. “I have borrowed loan of up to Rs.1.5 lakh to cultivate the land this year. The government should provide compensation for the family, besides widow pension for my mother. If the amount is not released soon, I will go on an indefinite protest in front of the Deputy Commissioner’s office in Chikkamagaluru,” he added. (The Hindu 4/9/2016)

Over 60 farmers end life in Telangana as dry spell hit crops (20)

Hyderabad, Sept 7:  Over 60 farmers have committed suicide in Telangana in August alone as a three-week dry spell damaging crops in 38 mandals in the State. The Rythu JAC has asked the Government to disburse crop loans to all farmers, including the tenant farmers. The JAC decided to organise programmes across the State on October 2 demanding the government to address the crisis in the farm sector. They also called for a Chalo Hyderabad to bring pressure on the government. A group of activists, representing Rythu Joint Action Committee (JAC) has visited 32 out of the 38 mandals that witnessed a long dry spell in the kharif. In a report they prepared after the visit, the activists alleged that the financial difficulties of farmers compounded as they were yet to receive the compensation for last year’s drought. “They have not received the compensation for crop loss and input subsidy. Our survey revealed that most of the farmers had not received crop loans until mid-August and many of them have not yet received them even now. This has left them at the mercy of private moneylenders for loans at very high interest rates,” the report said. Releasing the report here on Tuesday, Kodandaram, the Convener of Political JAC that spearheaded the Telangana movement, has asked the government to immediately disburse input subsidy to the farmers who lost crop in last year’s drought. “The government should give assurance of crop compensation to all farmers whose crop is damaged due to lack of rains this season and immediately begin assessment of damage to crops,” he said. “The government must discuss the problems of farmers in the ensuing Assembly session,” Kiran Kumar Vissa of Rythu JAC said. (HBL 7/9/2016)

Farmer ends life with 3 minor kids in Yavatmal village (20)

Yavatmal: A 35-year-old impoverished farm labourer threw his three daughters into a well and then jumped in himself at Falegaon village in the district’s Babhulgaon tehsil on Wednesday. All four died. TOI had, in its Thursday’s edition, reported about the rise in suicide by farmers in Yavatmal. The district is infamous for farmers’ suicides and the toll touched 51 last month. Pandurang Kodape flung his children Gayatri, Jaya and Komal — aged 14, 10 and 5 respectively — into the farm well of one Banu Bakode before jumping in himself. Pandurang cultivated a three-acre farm he had taken on rent and worked in other fields along with his wife Vandana. The farm labourer had borrowed Rs 35,000 some time ago from a Dhamangaon-based branch of a private finance company for his agriculture needs. While the exact cause of Pandurang’s extreme step was not known — resident deputy collector Rajesh Khawle said it could be ascertained only after investigation — villagers said the deceased and Vandana, his second wife, would quarrel often over their financial distress. The police took Vandana to the police station for questioning. Police inspector of Babhulgaon police station, Hanumantrao Gaikwad, and his team rushed to Falegaon on receiving the report about the deaths. The police fished out the bodies of Pandurang and two children initially but it took them over six hours to fish out the body of the third child. All four bodies were sent to the rural hospital at Babhulgaon for a post mortem examination. Yavatmal superintendent of police Akhilesh Kumar Singh, subdivisional officer Rajendra Deshmukh, Babhulgaon tehsildar Dilip Zade and others visited the suicide site and took stock of the situation. (Times of India 9/9/2016)

We will make Punjab farmers debt free by 2018: AAP (20)

Baghapurana (Punjab): Aiming to target a major vote bank in the state, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Sunday promised to make farmers in Punjab debt free by end of 2018 if the party was voted to power in assembly elections early next year. AAP convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who released the Kisan (farmer) manifesto of AAP in this Punjab town in Moga district, said the party will implement the Swaminathan Panel report on agriculture and ensure that no more farmers in the ‘Green Revolution’ state committed suicide. Kejriwal was flanked by AAP Punjab convener, comedian-turned-politician Gurpreet Ghuggi, and AAP MPs from Punjab, Bhagwant Mann and Sadhu Singh. The AAP Kisan manifesto promised to pay a compensation of Rs 20,000 per acre if their crop was damaged due to natural calamity. It promised compensation for farm labourers and said that property of farmers will not be confiscated or attached in default of payment of loans. It also promised 12-hour uninterrupted power supply free of cost to farmers. Addressing the rally, Kejriwal said that Punjab’s ruling Badal family and the Shiromani Akali Dal, which has been in power in Punjab in an alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) since 2007, had ruined the farmers of the once progressive state. He said that Akali Dal leaders would be put behind bars and their properties confiscated for indulging in large-scale corruption in Punjab. The AAP, which has witnessed internal crisis in its Punjab unit in the past one month, is trying to revive itself to pose a challenge to the Akali Dal-BJP alliance and the opposition Congress. Kejriwal arrived here on Thursday for a four-day political tour to revive the party’s fortunes. (Business Standardf 11/9/2016)

2,530 ryots ended lives in 2 years, TDP tells SHRC (20)

HYDERABAD: The Telugu Desam lodged a complaint with the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC), alleging that as many as 2,530 farmers had committed suicide so far in the state because of financial problems and mounting debts ever since chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao assumed office. “Of them, 393 farmers belonged to Karimnagar district, 365 to Medak, 358 to Nalgonda, 339 to Mahbubnagar, 338 to Warangal, 243 to Adilabad, 188 to Rangareddy, 150 to Nizamabad and 129 to Khammam district,” party’s Telangana unit president L Ramana said. According to him, when he had informed the SHRC that the state government was not giving proper compensation to the families of the deceased farmers, the commission had sought details of the farmers. Then, all the details of the farmers, including their names and addresses, were submitted to the commission. Meanwhile, an 11-member TDP delegation headed by L Ramana and A Revanth Reddy petitioned governor ESL Narasimhan seeking cancellation of the recent pact made between Telangana and Maharashtra governments over sharing of Godavari waters. Alleging that the agreement was detrimental to the interests of Telangana, the TDP leaders requested the governor to take steps to annul the pact. The leaders also appealed to Narasimhan to direct the state government to pay compensation to the oustees of Mallanna Sagar project as per the provisions of the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. (New Indian Express 15/9/2016)

 ‘Govt. looking the other way as farmers commit suicide’ (20)

Chitradurga: District BJP president K.S. Naveen on Wednesday said the State government had completely failed to protect the interests of farmers and the common man. Speaking at a protest rally organised by the unit on Wednesday, he said farmers across the State were being pushed to suicide because of crop failure but the Congress leaders were busy making their lives comfortable and plotting for the Assembly elections. He said in failing to properly tackle the water disputes with neighbouring States, the government had done injustice to Karnataka’s farmers. In the Cauvery issue for instance, the government did not properly present its arguments and facts in the Supreme Court, he said. “The District in-charge Ministers and officials, including deputy commissioners, are not ready to hear the grievances of farmers,” he said. He demanded that the district administration take immediate steps to conduct a detailed survey of the crop loss in the district and provide suitable compensation to farmers. Chandrappa, former MLA, said the agitation would be intensified if the government fails to take steps to solve the problems of the common man. (The Hinmdu 16/9/2016)

Families in Mandya give up farming after suicides over debts (20)

MYSURU: Last year, Mandya district recorded the highest number of farmers’ suicides with 92 cases. With the present water crisis in the Cauvery basin, many worry that it may once again lead to suicides among farmers in the district. The families of a few farmers who committed  suicide have partially repaid their loans  with the help of government relief. When this correspondent visited some of these families, many of them said they have discontinued farming fearing that the shortage of Cauvery water may affect their crops and push them further into debts.Eere Gowda could not work on his field after he fractured his leg | s udayshankar Sunanda, the 60-year-old widow of Srirajendra, lives in Chinnenahalli in Srirangapatna taluk where her 1.75 acres of land has remained barren after her husband’s death. Srirajendra committed suicide by consuming poison. “My husband used to grow vegetables, but he could not get good prices for them. We could barely manage our household expenses with the earnings from our field. How can I continue farming when the government has already announced that water for irrigation of paddy and sugarcane crops will not be released?” she asked. Depleting groundwater table and erratic power supply have also affected many farmers who installed borewells in their farms. Many farmers have stopped taking land on lease due to the water shortage. Sunanda’s son was given a temporary job on compassionate grounds. “But how can we sustain if my son has not been paid his salary for the past three months?” she questioned. She added that the banks from which her husband borrowed money for agriculture have declined fresh loans or issue a no-objection certificate until the loan amount is repaid. Sunanda said she has paid Rs 16,500 as interest so far and hopes to get a new loan. Eere Gowda’s father Ninge Gowda, a farmer, committed suicide last year by setting himself on fire in Gande Hosur in Pandavapura taluk. Eere Gowda had spent Rs 6,000 to transplant paddy, relying on the water from Krishnaraja Sagar (KRS) reservoir. But the government’s announcement that water will not be released for irrigation came as a rude shock. “We did not cultivate anything last year as they had not released water due to canal modernization work. How will we survive now if there’s no water for irrigation?” he asked. With no government support available, Gowda’s mother Boramma has been forced to work on fields for Rs 80 a day. His wife works at a dairy farm in the village. “I have repaid Rs 2 lakh that I had borrowed but I still have to repay Rs 2 lakh to money lenders. They have asked me to repay the money in a few months. If we are unable to pay up, we may be have to leave the village,” he said. Somanna, who lives in the same village, has invested more than Rs 1 lakh on his sugarcane farm, but the fear of losing his crop has mounted with the water crisis. “I need Rs 40,000 more for fertilizers till I harvest the crop,” he said. But for now, Somanna depends on the milk from three milch cows to earn a living. Ramesh of Honanayakahalli in Mandya taluk  lost his cousin Shivalinge Gowda after he consumed pesticide. The family owns three acres of land. “I had bought seeds and decided to transplant paddy in two acres, but backed out when Minister D K Shivakumar announced that there was no water for irrigation purposes.” “Many other farmers in the village too stayed away from cultivation as it would cost them at least Rs 15,000 per acre. With no water, it would add to debts. Also, it is very tough to find farm hands as many youngsters in the village have moved to towns and cities in search of jobs,” he pointed out. Kamala, a widow from Mandya taluk, said, “We are ready to live on one meal, but we won’t borrow again.” (New Indian Express 19/9/2016)

 ‘CM has only given farmers suicide bhagya’ (20)

Bidar: The only thing that Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has done for the State’s farmers is grant them ‘Suicide Bhagya’, C.H. Vijay Shankar, BJP Raitha Morcha State president, said in Bidar on Wednesday. He was speaking at a meeting of Morcha leaders and members. Mr. Shankar said that the CM had failed the farmers on all accounts. “He has failed in protecting the interest of farmers, the poor and rural folk. As a result of his anti-poor policies and bad governance, farmers are being driven to suicide,” he said. He urged party workers to create awareness among farmers about the welfare schemes and development programmes of the Centre. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi has introduced path breaking schemes such as the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bhima Yojana and a transparent fertiliser policy to help farmers. This should be communicated to the people, and efforts should be made to increase the number of beneficiaries,” he said. District BJP president Shailendra Beldale, State Raitha Morcha leaders Shiva Prasad, Mallappa Gowda, Jagannath Chillabatte, Shankargouda Patil, Subhash Kallur and Channammallappa Hajjaragi, district Raitha Morcha president Suresh Mashetty, Yuva Morcha leader Gurunath Rajgira and others were present. (The Hindu 22/9/2016)

Agriculture loans a far cry for tenant farmers in Andhra (20)

VIJAYAWADA: The farm credit disbursal system in the state remains crippled for a long time now as a majority of tenant farmers, who constitute about 80 per cent of the cultivators in the state, are unable to avail of the loan facility. Experts say the latest recommendations by the bankers’ sub-committees also do not reflect the reality. In fact, they fear the recommendations will only aggravate the situation. After chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu’s instructions on September 12, five sub-committees have studied the farm credit system in the state and made recommendations to the government. While the recommendations seem to be ideal on paper, agriculture experts say that they will not fetch any benefit to tenant farmers. The bankers’ sub-committees recommended that tenant farmers be given loan eligibility cards (LECs) after land owners’ approval. “In case of absence of approval from the land owners, loans should be given after verifying the certificate of cultivation (CoC),” one of the recommendations says. However, experts say they are not at all realistic. “Firstly, no farmer will allow his tenant to obtain loans since the Andhra Pradesh Tenancy Act says that an owner cannot cancel tenancy no matter what the situation is. Unless amendments to the Act are made, the land owners will not take the risk of recognising tenancy on record. The recommendations made by the sub-committees are in no way useful to tenant farmers,” said former member of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) M V S Nagi Reddy. Reddy said that the other clause of disbursal of credit based on CoC will not be successful either. “During the erstwhile Congress regime too, the banks were asked to sanction loans based on the certificate of cultivation. But the banks have not come forward as to advance loans as they do not have any assurance of repayment,” he recalled.A banker, who is involved in giving away farm credits, on condition of anonymity, agreed that giving away loans based on CoC is not practical. “Based on the previous experiences, the default rates have been higher among tenant farmers. So it will not be feasible for the banks to provide credit just based on CoC. Moreover, the authenticity of CoC is also questionable,” the banker explained. According to information, 80 – 85 per cent of farmers in coastal districts and 55 – 60 per cent in four districts of Rayalaseema, Srikakulam and Vizianagaram districts are tenants. The sub-committee recommendations also specified that tenant farmers will not get credit if the owner of the land already has taken a loan. This will be an impediment in implementation of farm credits as a majority of land owners, even if they leased out their lands to tenant farmers, avail farm loans. “About 60 to 70 per cent of land owners avail loans. In such a case, what should the tenant farmers do?” Nagi Reddy questioned. With CM Chandrababu Naidu also asking the bankers not to advance gold loans, the farmers are at their wits end. “We will neither get gold loans nor credit from banks. Our land owner will not cooperate in getting LECs and the banks will not give a certificate of cultivation. The only option left for me is to abandon cultivation and take up farm work,” lamented Veera Babu, a tenant farmer from Pedapulipaka in Krishna district. (Times of India 24/9/2016)

Farmers in Raichur happy with healthy red-gram crop, but concerned about price (20)

RAICHUR: Lakhs of farmers in Raichur district who had suffered heavy losses last year thanks to pink bollworm pest that devastated their grown Bt cotton fields just before the harvest are happy that their decision to switch from cotton to red-gram this year proved to be a good one. Sown on time thanks to early onset of monsoon, the red-gram crop is opulently standing on vast tracts of fields across the rural area. Since the fear of recurrence of pink bollworm pest had driven the farmers to give up cotton and undertake red-gram cultivation, the area under red-gram cultivation has expanded from 40,000 hectares in the last kharif season to 96,000 in the current season. Similarly, the area under cotton cultivation has shrunk from 60,000 hectares to 43,000 hectares in the same period. The farmers were upset when their healthy red-gram crop began to sear due to heat stress caused by deficit monsoon in August and first half of September. Their faces, however, bloomed, just as their crop did, in the second half of September when their fields received satisfactory rainfall. “My red-gram crop has grown beautifully, just as others. I am expecting an yield of at least 7 quintal an acre. Hope, I recover the loss that I incurred last year in the cotton cultivation,” a farmer from Ashapur village.Many farmers, however, are apprehensive about uncertain prices of red-gram crop this year. The crop that had seen as high price as Rs. 10,000 a quintal last year, is currently being sold at Rs. 4990 – Rs. 6,500 a quintal. “With arrival of freshly harvested crop in December, the prices are likely to drop further. We may have to open red-gram procurement centres and buy the crop at Minimum Support Price (MSP) in the event of price cash,” Dr. M. Kiran Kumar, Joint Director of Agriculture, said. Speaking to The Hindu, Padmayya Naik, Managing Director of Karnataka Red Gram Development Board, said that he would shortly write a letter to Government on the matter. “We are going to discuss the matter in the meeting of Board of Directors and subsequently write a letter to the government. We will open procurement centres across red-gram growing areas and purchase the crop at MSP in the event of price crash. At present, the MSP for red-gram is Rs. 5050. It may be increased if the Union Government offers more financial support,” he said. (The Hindu 27/9/2016)


Singur Verdict: Land to be returned but farmers can retain compensation amount (4)

While Justice Gowda slammed the hurried manner in which the Left Front government decided to go about acquiring land for Tata Motors for public purpose, Justice Mishra did not fault the acquisition and said it was for public purpose as the project would have generated largescale employment. “The acquisition of land of landowners/cultivators in the instant case is declared illegal and void. Since nature of the acquired land has been changed in view of the acquisition, we direct the survey department of the West Bengal government to conduct a survey and identify mouzas of lands acquired with reference to layout plans, other connected records, village maps and survey settlement records of the lands in question,” it said. While directing return of the land, the bench was unanimous in its view that land owners would also keep the compensation paid to them in lieu of acquisition. The SC also permitted those who had not taken the compensation amount to claim it now. “The compensation which has already been paid to the landowners/cultivators shall not be recovered by the state government as they have been deprived of the occupation and enjoyment of their lands for last 10 years.” Mamata Banerjee had launched a massive protest against the Singur land acquisition that had resulted in violence and turned the site into a battle ground between Trinamool Congress and the CPMled Left Front government. Protests and violence forced Tata Motors to shut shop at Singur on October 3, 2008 and relocate to Sanand, Gujarat. Immediately after coming to power, the TMC government had passed the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act, 2011 empowering the state to return the land to farmers. This was struck down by the Calcutta high court as “unconstitutional and void”. But the SC’s verdict on Wednesday went much beyond the 2011 act passed by the West Bengal assembly and termed the 2006 land acquisition bad in law, intent and execution…. (Times of India 1/9/2016)

Land acquisition was a mistake, says CPI (4)

Hyderabad: The Communist Party of India (CPI) on Friday said the erstwhile Left Front government in West Bengal made a “mistake” in the land acquisition process in Singur for the proposed Tata Motors project, which helped Mamata Banerjee politically. The Singur episode created a “negative impression” of the Left Front’s attitude towards farmers and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee, now West Bengal Chief Minister, took “full advantage” of it politically, CPI general secretary S. Sudhakar Reddy told PTI. He was responding to queries on the Supreme Court verdict which, on Wednesday, quashed the entire land acquisition process carried out by the erstwhile Left Front government in West Bengal. “She [Mamata Banerjee] was successful in creating a negative impression about the Left but on the whole, Bengal lost [a big industry]. I believe that even in the coming period, there will be a negative impact [on industrial investment],” he said. “Though the government had taken over the land with the good intention of bringing in a big industry which would have provided employment and revenue to the State, but the method adopted was not correct,” he said. They [the Left government] should have convinced the peasants, he said. —PTI (The Hindu 3/9/2016)

If people of Singur want industry, they should tell Mamata: Bengal minister (3)

Kol;kata: Raising fresh hopes of industry returning to Singur, from where Tata Motors had to shift its proposed Nano factory eight years back, a West Bengal minister on Thursday said industry would be set up in the rural pocket if the people there so desire. Days after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the power transmission and distribution tower set up in the area by the erstwhile Left Front government over 40 acres will be dismantled, Power Minister Sovandeb Chattopadhyay said the transmission centre will be rebuilt in a nearby area. “I have asked officers to carefully remove the machinery of the transmission towers. We have discussed with the Hooghly district administration about availability of land near the project area,” the minister said. “The stations are reusable. We have to build power stations in the area… only the destination may change,” he said. The minister said around Rs 80 to 85 crore was spent for building the power infrastructure. The LF government had set up the infrastructure to cater to the need of the then proposed factory and its ancillary units. The plant and the towers had remained unused after Tata Motors shifted the factory to Sanand in Gujarat. “If the people of Singur want industry and they tell the Chief Minister, industry will be set up here. It was for the people that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee fought such a long battle,” Chatterjee said. Now work is all at full steam to carry out a land survey after the Supreme Court on August 31 set aside the land acquisition by the Left Front regime and ordered to return the 997.11 acres of acquired land to the owners within 12 weeks. Banerjee had undertaken a 26-day hunger strike in Kolkata in December 2006, against the “forcible land acquisition” in Singur, and demanding 400 acres taken from farmers unwilling to part with their land be returned to them. She later travelled to the rural pocket and laid siege on the factory for 14 days in 2008. On October 3, 2008, then Tata Sons’ chairman Ratan Tata announced the factory will be shifted out of Singur. (Business Standard 8/9/2016)

Half of NHAI’s 600 contracts disputed, chief seeks remedy (4)

NEW DELHI: With the highway authority finding half of its 600 contracts in the last 10 years locked in disputes, its chairman has exhorted National Highways Authority of India officials to take a leaf off private developers to see how they can minimize such legal challenges. NHAI chairman Raghav Chandra was referring to the fact that private developers have been more nimble in strengthening their legal cells unlike the highway authority . NHAI has 123 cases for a claim amount of more than Rs 25,000 crore pending before arbitration tribunals. Another 30 cases involving disputed amounts of Rs 14,500 crore are pending before its internal dispute resolution committees. There are also over 2,000 cases that are pending before different high courts and the Supreme Court. Nearly 43,000 cases, mostly related to land acquisition, are pending in different lower courts across the country. “It’s a mammoth task as the number of litigations is increasing. We have to find ways to minimize them at every level from the field officers to those sitting at the headquarters,” said an NHAI official. Speaking at the inauguration of a conference organised by the highway authority , Chandra said disputes in highway projects should be resolved expeditiously and ideally always on the ground. “The fewer the disputes, the faster they are resolved, the better the governance,” he said. (Times of India 11/9/2016)

Singur: Mamata returns lands to farmers (4)

Kolkata, Sept 14 : Observing Singur Diwas, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday returned 9,117 land records to farmers and compensated 800 peasants from whom land were taken against their will for the Tata Motors’ Nano project in the state during the tenure of the previous Left-Front government. Mamata Banerjee handed over the documents to many farmers. The Singur Diwas was observed at Sanapara where Banerjee had held a 16-day sit-in protest in 2008. Banerjee said she was ready to sacrifice her life for the cause of the farmers who were protesting for their lands in Singur. I was ready to sacrifice my life but I was determined to establish democracy, Banerjee said. This is a big victory. We have delivered on our promise of returning land. This is peoples victory. Soil is a big asset for humanity. This soil is purer than gold, she said. Banerjee said: This land belonged to farmers. It will remain with them. She said industry and agriculture will co-exist. We have a land bank and a land use policy. Had all procedures been followed Tata babus would have been able to set up industry, she said. The Supreme Court on Aug 31 directed the state government to take the land into its possession and distribute it to the original land owners in 12 weeks. The apex court reached the verdict as it was hearing petitions challenging the quashing of Singur Land Acquisition Act by the Calcutta High Court. The Supreme Court questioned the way in which more than 400 acres of land was allotted to the car manufacturer by not adhering to the section 4 and 5 of the Land Acquisition Act.A total of 997 acres of land in Singur was given to the Tatas for their dirt-cheap Nano car factory by the previous Left Front government, triggering a wave of protests led by Mamata Banerjee and supported by various civil society groups. (New Kerala 14/9/2016)

‘Forcible’ land acquisition for solar power plant decried (4)

KURNOOL: CPI(M) Polit Bureau member B.V. Raghavulu has charged Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu and District Collector Ch. Vijayamohan with forcibly taking over lands of farmers for the solar power plant proposed between Sakunala in Orvakal mandal and Gani in Gadivemula mandal. Addressing villagers in Sakunala on Wednesday, Mr. Raghavulu also accused them of acting dictatorially to benefit industrialists and in contravention of the Land Acquisition Act.Lands of over 800 farmers, who had been cultivating for seven decades, were taken over. Hardly 180 farmers were paid compensation so far, Mr. Raghavulu said. The district administration was denying compensation to the remaining farmers on the pretext that they had been cultivating government lands. “The aggrieved farmers have been agitating for the last one year,” he added. The Sakunala villagers climbed on the bonnet of a police vehicle and protested when Mr. Raghavulu was taken into custody on the village outskirts on the charge of violation of prohibitory orders imposed under Section 144 IPC and Section 30 of the Police Act. Earlier, Mr. Raghavulu took different modes of transport to reach Sakunala village, even as the police were all out to arrest him en route. The CPI(M) leader was, however, arrested on the outskirts of Sakunala during his return journey after addressing a meeting there. Party State Committee member T. Shadrak, district secretary K. Prabhakar Reddy, and Panyam divisional unit secretary T. Ramakrishna were arrested at Orvakal and prevented from going to Sakunala. Even as party leaders and activists were awaiting Mr. Raghavulu’s arrival from Hyderabad, the police swooped on the party office in a bid to arrest him. On being tipped off by partymen, Mr. Raghavulu did not come to the party office, but proceeded along the Kurnool bypass road till Nannur toll gate. On spotting policemen there, Mr. Raghavulu and two other activists boarded a Palle Velugu bus till Pudicherla. They then took an auto-rickshaw to proceed to Hussainpuram, from where he pillion-rided a motorcycle of a party activist to reach Sakunala. (The Hindu 15/9/2016)

Tribals protest raising height of Sardar Sarovar (4)

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

Dalit agitation for land rights intensifies (4)

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

Compensate displaced of Alur within a week: HC (4)

HYDERABAD: Justice Suresh Kumar Kait of the Hyderabad High Court on Thursday directed the Telangana government to pay compensation and extend all rehabilitation benefits to displaced persons of Alur village in Gattu mandal of Mahabubnagar district within a week. The judge was passing these orders in a writ petition filed by Harijan Nagesh and 224 other displaced persons of Alur village. When the orders were passed, Mahabubnagar District Collector Sridevi and Joint Collector Ramkishan appeared with relevant records. The petitioners complained of discrimination by authorities in disbursing their entitlements under R&R package as per GO 68 dated April 8, 2005. After perusing the records pertaining to extending the rehabilitation and re-settlement benefits to land-losers and farmers formulated as per GO 68, the judge directed the government to pay compensation by depositing the amount into the accounts of the petitioners and extend all the rehabilitation benefits to them within a week. The judge adjourned the matter by one week. (The Hindu 23/9/2016)

Hyderabad High Court stays Singareni land acquisition bid (4)

HYDERABAD: Justice Suresh Kumar Kait of Hyderabad High Court on Monday stayed the land acquisition process initiated by the government to enable Singareni Collieries set up its open-cast mine in an area of 175 acres in Kasipet village near Mandamarri of Adilabad district. The judge passed an interim order after hearing Kurusinga Atchuta Rao and four other farmers of the area who had challenged the acquisition. According to the farmers’ counsel B Rachna Reddy, the acquisition was in violation of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, and flouted the provisions of the Acts that prevent transfer of ownership of land in Scheduled areas. “The gram sabha was not consulted, approval from the tribal advisory council was not obtained and the people were not adequately briefed about the impact on environment of open-cast mining,” she said. In 2013 when the then state had hurriedly concluded a public hearing with an allegedly fabricated environment assessment report and without informing the people adequately, the Telangna Rashtra Samithi had opposed it tooth-and-nail and spoke against open-cast method of mining, Rachna said. Ironically, after coming to power, the same TRS was now trying to dislodge people from their homes and harm the environment. The judge stayed the land acquisition process seeking a counter from the state. Don’t interfere in people’s live, says HC: Coming down heavily on the Telangana government and its police, Justice M S Ramachandra Rao of the Hyderabad High Court on Monday directed them not to interfere in the lives of the people of Vemulaghat village in Medak district in the name of section 144, that is being continued for the last two months. Several farmers filed a petition against land acquisition in their village and the consequent imposition of section 144. The farmers of this village were opposing the government’s move to take away their land under GO No 123 for the proposed Mallannasagar irrigation project. (Times of India 27/9/2016)

Land acquistion: Government to transfer compensation to owner’s account (4)

BENGALURU: Eight years ago, Basavarajappa Ballappa sold his two-and-a-half-acre land in Ballari district to the government for Rs 12 lakh for a proposed steel plant. He hoped it would help him lead a comfortable life. His dream has been crushed. Ballappa, 75, was reportedly cheated by a middleman, who swindled his money after drawing the compensation amount and paying him only Rs three lakh. He told him he paid a lot of money to get the cheque released from government officials. Ballappa’s misery is shared by landowners across the state, who not only lose their land for development/power projects but are also cheated of compensation by middlemen. To put an end to such frauds and ensure transparency, the government has decided to credit the compensation amount directly to the bank accounts of landowners when their property is acquired under the 2013 Land Acquisition Act. “Earlier, payments were done either by cheque or demand draft and landowners had to pay multiple visits to revenue offices and grease the palms of officials to get their money. Now, we will directly transfer the amount to the landowner’s account through the real-time gross settlement (RTGS) system,” said a senior revenue officer. The system is likely to benefit landowners who have no knowledge about compensation,” the government said in a notification issued recently. Quoting the notification, a senior official from Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board (KIADB) said several landowners are poor farmers who are either illiterate or lack financial knowledge. “Most of them take the help of middlemen and often end up getting duped. The new system will not only be convenient for landowners but also check corruption,” he added. After the notification for land acquisition is issued, officials of the department concerned will first verify the credentials of landowners. “They will note down the landowner’s bank account details and assist him in opening an account if he doesn’t have one,” said an official from the land survey department. (Times of India 28/9/2016)


PMO seeks report from Odisha on denial of hearse (3)

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sought a report from the Odisha government on the incident in Kalahandi where a tribal man, Dana Majhi, had to carry the body of his wife for at least 12 km as a hearse had not been made available to him. She had died of tuberculosis a day before at the government hospital in Bhawanipatna in Kalahandi district. Senior officials in the PMO confirmed that a letter seeking a report had been sent to the Odisha government on August 26, the day television channels first aired a story. A senior official in the PMO said no response has been received so far from the Odisha government. (The hindu 1/9/2016)

Cabinet Secretary review meeting on Dengue and Chikungunya in Delhi (3)

NEW DELHI: Amid rising cases of Dengue and Chikungunya in the National capital, the centre on Thursday directed the Delhi Government to run awareness programmes and accelerate action for prevention and management of the twin diseases, which have plagued the capital since the beginning of monsoons. The high-level meeting, which was chaired by Cabinet Secretary P.K. Sinha, reviewed the preparedness for Dengue and Chikungunya at a meeting of Committee of Secretaries of the Union Government and representatives of the Delhi Government as well as local bodies such as New Delhi Municipal Corporation and Delhi Municipal Corporation. Sinha asked the participants to accelerate action for prevention and management of Dengue and Chikungunya and said that these actions should be further facilitated by running public awareness programmes, availability of medicines and doctors, helpline facilities to the people and use of mobile clinics. The Delhi administration was also asked them to put an effective monitoring system in place. They were also asked to ensure that residents will participate by taking necessary preventive measures by maintaining cleanliness and the local bodies will carry out necessary increased fogging in the area. The committee was also informed by the Delhi government that there was no shortage of testing kits and medicines. Hospitals in the national capital are bursting at the seams, as a large number of people are visiting vector-borne fever clinics daily, with AIIMS itself confirming nearly 200 blood test samples for chikungunya per week. According to a municipal report, 432 chikungunya cases have been diagnosed in the national capital this year till August 27. However, experts said the number could be actually much higher. Meanwhile, 487 cases of dengue have so far been reported in the national capital this season, with 368 of them being recorded in August. (New Indian Express 2/9/16)

Nagaland, Tripura top in reducing infant mortality among small states (3)

Agartala: The northeastern states of Nagaland and Tripura have topped among the small states in India in reducing Infant Mortality Rate (IMR), an official said here on Thursday. According to latest official data, the IMR in Nagaland is 17 per 1,000 live births (0-1 years) while in Tripura it is 21 against the national average of 40 deaths per 1,000 live births. “The best performing large states for decline in IMR award was given to Haryana and West Bengal. In this category the best performing small states were Nagaland and Tripura,” Tripura’s National Health Mission (NHM) director Shailesh Kumar Yadav told reporters. Union Health and Family Welfare Minister J.P. Nadda gave away the awards to the best performing states at the third National Summit on “Good and Replicable Practices and Innovations in Public Health Facilities” at Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh last week. The official said that to further reduce the IMR, the Tripura government has adopted 13-point steps. These include, 60 delivery centres were made into ideal delivery centres with upgraded labour rooms, new born care corners established in all 102 delivery centres and eight new born stabilisation units set up in sub-divisional hospitals. Yadav said that a special scheme “Mayer Ghar” (mother’s house), under which the labour rooms will be equipped with all facilities, are being operationalised to reduce home deliveries in selected interior and tribal areas and thereby cut down on maternal and infant deaths. “The percentage of institutional delivery (delivery in hospitals and health centres) in Tripura is 89 per cent against the national average of 80,” he said quoting the data of Health Management Information System under the union Health and Family Welfare Ministry. Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry Secretary Bhanu Pratap Sharma in a letter to Tripura Chief Secretary Yashpal Singh informed that the state government would be given one per cent incentive over and above the stipulated resource envelope for performing well in the last financial year (2015-16) in timely utilisation of central funds and in undertaking health sector reforms. According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) 2015-16 report, IMR of less than 51 deaths per 1,000 live births took place in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Goa, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Tripura, Nagaland, Uttarakhand, West Bengal and Union Territories of Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Puducherry, with Andaman recording the lowest of 10 deaths and Madhya Pradesh recording 51. (Business Standard 8/9/2016)

600 kids die from malnutrition: So what, asks Maharashtra Minister (3)

Palghar (Maharashtra): Maharashtra’s Tribal Welfare Minister Vishnu Sawra faced the ire of tribals whose children have perished due to malnutrition in Palghar. When he visited a tribal hamlet in Khoch village in the worst-hit Mokhada sub-district on Thursday evening, angry locals confronted the minister and demanded answers. Some infuriated tribals asked him: “600 children have died here (in 2016) what have you done for us?” “So what? The government is doing its work, implementing schemes…,” Savra retorted, as some of the enraged villagers virtually asked him to ‘get out’. One grieving young tribal woman, whose two-year-old son died due to severe malnutrition late August, accosted the minister at the doorstep of her hut: “Where were you so long… My son died 15 days ago and you come now? You want to click pictures? We don’t want to meet you. No need to come here.” Other villagers also joined the chorus and said there was no need for the minister to come, and Savra arrogantly shot back: “If you don’t want me to come, then I won’t.” Savra’s comments were dubbed “insensitive” by the Congress, Nationalist Congress Party and even ruling alliance partner Shiv Sena besides many others. Several leaders, including Leader of Opposition in Assembly (Congress) Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil and Leader of Opposition in Council (NCP) Dhananjay Munde, demanded his resignation or dismissal from the cabinet. As the minister faced flak from various quarters, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis asked him to give an explanation about his comments, even as video clips of Savra versus tribals went viral on social media. Both Vikhe-Patil and Munde will visit Palghar this week to mollify the angry villagers. Later, Savra alleged that some activists of Shramjeevi Sanghatana, a local organisation, were instigating the tribals and that his comments were being “twisted out of context”.Expressing their anger, the locals said though claims are made of huge funds being allocated for their welfare, they received no funds and had to even ‘beg’ for money to treat the child of the young tribal woman. The child’s condition suddenly worsened in August and he was rushed to a Nashik government hospital, but succumbed due to suspected malnutrition symptoms. Stung by the villagers’ aggressive attitude, the BJP leader who is also Guardian Minister for the district, beat a hasty retreat along with his motorcade from the village. On September 14, Governor C.V. Rao had directed three ministers — Minister for Women and Child Development Pankaja Munde, Tribal Welfare Minister Vishnu Savra and Minister for Public Health Deepak Sawant — to take urgent remedial steps to tackle malnutrition not only in Palghar but in other parts of the state also. (Business Standard 16/9/2016)

Attappady infant deaths worrying: Chennithala (3)

Thiruvananthapuram: Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala on Sunday expressed concern at the increasing cases of infant mortality in the tribal hamlets of Attappady owing to malnutrition. In a letter to Scheduled Castes and Tribes Welfare Minister A.K. Balan, Mr. Chennithala wanted the government to initiate urgent steps to tackle the problem. The repeated reports about malnutrition deaths from the area clearly indicate that government programmes in the region are failing.Four infant deaths have been reported this year, but deaths must have remained unreported, he said. In health surveys conducted in a higher secondary school in Sholayur hamlet, 110 out of the 567 students were under nourished. Mere cosmetic treatment would not be enough and a lasting solution needs to be worked out. He wanted the government to initiate an awareness programme for tribal mothers and implement development projects that suited the tribal environment. Steps should be taken to prevent dropouts from schools. Another immediate action was to seal the crossborder trade in illicit liquor, he said.In another statement, Mr. Chennithala accused the State government of being inactive in spite of the mound of complaints against malpractice in the admissions to self-financing and private medical and dental colleges. He termed mysterious the continued silence of the Chief Minister on the issue. In no other State has medical admissions become such a huge mess. No other State has a high fee structure as Kerala. The developments have vindicated the Opposition allegation that the government and the private managements are hand in glove. (The Hindu 19/9/2016)

Delhi’s dengue bluff: Just 4 died officially, but HT finds 19 in one locality (3)

New Delhi: Abuzar, 14, died at Apollo Hospital on September 13. His death certificate says he died of “dengue shock syndrome with multiple organ failure”. But the 14-year-old does not figure in the city’ s municipal records of dengue deaths. Nor do the names of 18 other residents of Shaheen Bagh and Abu Fazal enclave in Jamia Nagar who died of the mosquito-borne disease. Death certificates of 10 of these victims and blood test reports of seven others show they died of dengue, but civic bodies have refused to budge from their official count of four deaths and 1,378 infections in the Capital this year. The locality in south-east Delhi has a population of around 100,000. According to activist Sameer Khan, at least 30 people have fallen to dengue in the area in the last two months. Families of two victims have left for their ancestral village, neighbours said. Questioning the official toll, local lawmaker Amanatullah Khan said three of his relatives had died of dengue and more than thousand other residents were unwell. “Every family in our neighbourhood has someone or the other unwell. How can there be only four deaths? Three of my relatives have died. I meet MCD officials every day and we are using 10 fumigation machines across the area,” Khan told HT. Three deaths were reported from Shaheen Bagh’s D Block and almost every other lane has either lost a resident or is suffering from fever. Area councillor Shoaib Danish is also learnt to have been down with fever. “Why is the government hiding the deaths when they should be identifying the problem and solving it?” asked 30-year-old Mohammed Javed, who lost his four-year-old daughter to the disease on September 12, two days after she was hospitalised with fever. The South Delhi Municipal Corporation, however, continues to live in denial. “We declared four deaths because the case history of all other deaths has been sent to a committee probing the cause of death. The final reports are yet to come out,” said SDMC additional commissioner (Health) Meeta Singh. (Hindustan Times 20/9/2016)

651 mosquito breeding places identified in dengue survey (3)

Visakhapatnam: The Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation (GVMC) has identified dengue-causing mosquito Aedes Aegypti in 651 breeding places of 12,625 houses surveyed in the last two days. The survey began on Monday and a total of 372 fever cases were reported in the two-day survey. This is the second such move of the corporation to survey houses in select areas to check the reach of such diseases. On Monday, 159 fever cases were reported and 305 dengue breeding places were identified in around 6,000 houses and on Tuesday, the survey team identified 346 dengue breeding places and 213 fever cases by surveying 6,625 houses. GVMC commissioner M Hari Narayanan said they are taking all possible measures to ensure that the dengue-causing mosquitoes are destroyed. The commissioner said dengue mosquitoes were found in refrigerator’s drip box, ornamental plants, money plants, traditional wet grinders, tyres and other sources in the houses. The GVMC team advised residents about the importance of keeping their houses free from such dengue mosquitoes, the civic chief added. Meanwhile, Vizag collector Pravin Kumar instructed teachers to publicise the ill-effects of fevers like dengue. The interaction took place when the former met with teachers from 10 mandals at Swarna Bharati Indoor Stadium here on Tuesday. (Times of India 21/9/2016)

Malnutrition Deaths: NHRC issues notice to govt, seeks report (3)

Mumbai: Taking suo motu cognisance of the deaths due to malnutrition in Palghar, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued a notice to the Maharashtra government, giving the state a month to submit a detailed report on the deaths. “The commission has observed that the state authorities are required to be conscious about the plight of residents, especially children and elderly people. Such a huge number of children deaths in a year amount to violation of right to life and health,” the NHRC observed. Several cases of malnutrition had also been reported among the tribal population in Jawahar and Mokhada — part of Palghar district — in the past. This year, however, cases of under-nourishment have also been recorded in the adjoining Vada and Vikramgad talukas as well. The NHRC has now demanded a report on case detection, treatment and allocation of funds from the chief secretary of Maharashtra. “The area having tribal population are the most vulnerable because the tribals are already affected by poverty, illiteracy and lack of awareness towards government welfare and healthcare schemes,” the NHRC said. A report by Integrated Child Development System (ICDS) shows that Palghar reported deaths of 63 children aged less than six years due to various health reasons in August alone. ICDS data till August shows that of 1.39 lakh children weighed for the survey, 5,899 are severely underweight and 29,599 are moderately underweight. The worst-hit taluka in Palghar is Dahanu, where 1,674 children were found to be severely underweight. Jawahar taluka follows Dahanu with 1,506 such cases. Vikramgad has 112 severely underweight kids, Talasari has 428, Wada has 965 and Palghar town has 761 severely underweight children. In total, Palghar has 2,213 anganwadis for 1.26 lakh children who are beneficiaries of nutritional programmes. According to the NHRC report, at least 600 children have died due to malnutrition in Palghar this year. Recently, a tribal family who lost their two-year-old child to malnourishment in August confronted Tribal Welfare Minister Vishnu Savra during his visit to Palghar. According to anganwadi workers, counselling over health issues poses a serious problem in tribal pockets where parents are not receptive towards issues of undernourishment of their children. Additionally, while take-home ration is available for children aged less than three, it is not utilised by children to full capacity, anganwadi workers said. (Indian Express 23/9/2016)

409 dengue deaths in 2015, only 60 confirmed (3)

New Delhi: Last year, as the scourge of dengue went on a rampage across the national capital and Delhi’s hospitals reported 409 deaths due to dengue, the Dengue Death Review Committee confirmed only 60 deaths. Out of the about 68,000 positive deng-ue cases reported by the city’s hospitals, the SDMC, the nodal body, intimated only 22,436 cases. From 2013 to 2015, advertisements to create public awareness against dengue were released between September and November — after the outbreak of dengue which defeated the objective of creating awareness to measure to prevent the disease’s outbreak. This was after spending Rs 10 crore on awareness campaign during the period. These are among the damning findings of the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) report on dengue in Delhi, accessed by this newspaper, and which is expected to be submitted in the Delhi Assembly in the upcoming Winter session. The performance audit report, “Prevention and Control of Dengue in National Capital Territory of Delhi”, covers the period from January 2013 to December 2015 and was conducted to assess whether he steps taken by government agencies and municipal corporations to control dengue were adequate and effective. Dengue has been a recurrent problem in Delhi from 1967 onwards and since then the number of cases and deaths have been rising over the years. “The institutional mechanism and steps taken by the departments and municipal corporations were not commensurate with the magnitude of the problem though funds were not a constraint,” the report says. Till date, no standard operating procedure has been developed for effective surveillance that could provide early warning of an impending dengue outbreak. “Nor was the-re a laboratory for the purpose,” the national auditor said, adding that only 289 of 967 reporting units repo-rted data of dengue pati-ents to the state surveillance units. In order to target mosquito larvae in houses, the municipal corporations engaged 3,358 unskilled people at a cost of Rs 110 crore. “However, there was no monitoring or supervision of the work done or an assessment of their effectiveness.” While a lot of insecticides, diluents, and equipme-nt were bought, there was no definitive policy or a system to test the suitability of insecticides or techniques. This was despite spending Rs 88 crore on the-se items from April 2013 to March 2016. Of the 84 lakh houses treated with six different types of insecticides using different techniques, 72 lakh houses were treated adopting techniques and chemical formulations “that were not prescribed or recommended by either the Directorate of National Vector-Borne Disease Control Programme or the Programme Guidelines for Containment of Chikungunya and Dengue”. While outdoor fogging is recommended only in eme-rgency situations to suppress an ongoing epidemic or to prevent an incipient one, the authorities “unde-rtook outdoor fogging during 2013-15 as a routine exercise”, the CAG report said. (Asian Age 26/9/2016)

India accounts for 75% of casualties due to air pollution: WHO (3)

New Delhi, Sep 27 () Air pollution is killing nearly eight lakh people annually in the South East Asian Region with India alone accounting for over 75 per cent of the casualties caused by cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer, according to a new WHO report today. The report said nine out of 10 people globally are breathing poor quality air while nearly 90 per cent of air pollution related deaths occur in low and middle-income countries, with nearly two out of three occurring in WHO’s South-East Asia including India and Western Pacific regions. “It is a public health emergency,” said Maria Neira, the head of the WHO’s department of public health and environment. The report also called for strengthening measures against inefficient modes of transport, household fuel and waste burning, coal-fired power plants and industrial activities some of the major sources of air pollution. It said that 94 per cent are due to noncommunicable diseases notably cardiovascular diseases, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and air pollution also increases the risks for acute respiratory infections. A WHO South East Asian Region (SEAR) statement said: “Air pollution is the world’s biggest environmental risk to health and must be addressed on a priority basis as it continues to rise, causing long lasting disease and illness in addition to around 7,99,000 deaths annually in countries of the WHO SEAR.” WHO SEAR statement quoting the WHO Report on Ambient Air Pollution 2016 said that 6,21,138 people died in India of air pollution due to Acute lower respiratory infection (ALRI), Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), Ischemic heart disease (IHD) and Lung Cancer. The highest – 2,49,388 died of IHD in India, the report said adding that 1,95,001 people died of stroke. Similarly, 11,05,00 people died of COPD while 26,334 people died of lung cancer. However the data for India is of 2012. “The new WHO burden of disease estimates shows that 94 per cent of the premature deaths caused by air pollution are due to cardiovascular diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancers. “The remaining are from acute respiratory infections in children under five years of age. The magnitude of the health impact of air pollution calls for urgent action to prevent these avoidable risks and deaths,” said Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director for WHO South-East Asia. The report represents the most detailed outdoor (or ambient) air pollution-related health data, by country, ever reported by WHO. (Times of India 27/9/2016)


10 AIDS deaths in two months in Kasargod (3)

Kasargod: As many as 10 patients suffering from AIDS have died in Kasargod district of Kerala owing to lack of treatment facilities. The patients from Manjeshwar, Dharmathadka, Bandyodu, Kasargod, Vellarikundu and Neeleshwar were dependant on the Antiretroviral Therapy Centre (ART) at Kasargod, which lacked specialist doctors to treat the disease. But for the apathy of the government in appointing specialist doctors, these patients might have been saved. Out of the 10 AIDS deaths reported, eight patients were registered at the Kasargod ART Centre and died in July and August. The remaining two were registered at the Kasargod District Network of People Living With HIV and AIDS (KNDP). There were no doctors at the ART Centre for the last four months. Normally, the patients visit the Centre once a week, undergo tests and the specialist doctors prescribe nutritious food besides the medicines. Sans treatment and nutritious diet, the condition of the patients had started deteriorating. The supply of nutritious food to strengthen the immune system of the patients had also been stopped for the last five months. There are 970 HIV affected persons registered with the ART Centre in Kasargod. Out of them, nearly half the patients regularly visit the centre every week and avail treatment. The services of a specialist doctor at the Centre was suspended in the month of May by the health department. In addition to the absence of a specialist doctor, the CD-4 count test facility is also absent at the Kasargod centre.  Those patients whose CD count is less than 350 have to undergo specialised treatment. However, the CD-4 count machine purchased two years ago at a cost of Rs 10 lakh has been lying idle for want of trained staff. The patients from Kasargod have to go to Wenlock Hospital in Mangalore for testing the CD count. Thereafter, once the CD-4 count is less than 350, such patients are sent to ART Centre of Thrissur Medical College Hospital, some six hours’ journey by train from Kasargod, for further treatment. This apart, expert opinion is also needed to avail the viral load test at the Centre of Excellence at Tambaram in Chennai. The sum total of all these deficiencies is that patients lives are put on the line. (Deccan Herald 1/9/2016)

85 infected with HIV after blood transfusion in 3 years (3)

Mumbai: The city’s AIDS control body, in an RTI, has revealed that 85 people were infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) while getting blood transfusion in the last three years. The numbers, though based on voluntary disclosure of clients visiting HIV testing centres, have raised serious concerns about safety and testing protocols at blood banks in the city. The RTI response by the Mumbai District Aids Control Society (MDACS) shows that 18 got HIV through infected blood in 2015-16. The infections more than doubled (42) in 2014-15. In 2013-14, 25 infections were attributed to blood transfusion. The disclosure came as the National Aids Control Organization (NACO) claimed that transfusion-transmitted infections are largely restricted to rural areas with limited medical infrastructure. Government agencies fighting HIV in the city are clueless about the source of the untested blood. “We were told there is no mechanism to trace the source of the infected blood or find out which bank supplied it. It is a worrying situation,” said Chetan Kothari, who filed the RTI. The numbers were collated from integrated counselling and testing centres (ICTC) at all major public hospitals of the city. MDACS said only a miniscule percentage of HIV cases in the city are caused by infected blood. “The heterosexual route is still responsible for more than 90% infections. Out of the 8,000-odd cases detected in the city annually, only 0.02% is attributable to blood transfusion,” said Dr Shrikala Acharya, additional project director, MDACS. Activists, however, felt blood banks have a major role to play. “As per rules, when a donor turns out to be HIV positive, he/she must be informed and referred to the centres. But most blood banks don’t do it,” said an employee of a leading blood bank who has been advocating safe blood. He insisted the blood donor, unaware of his status, continues to donate blood. “If he is within the 3-6month window, the ELISA test used to check blood in most banks won’t be able to detect the virus,” he said. Therefore, a huge emphasis should be on pre-donor counselling. “A detailed history of the donor before blood donation, where they are asked open questions about their lifestyles, can significantly bring down infection. But, unfortunately, at most blood camps, it is looked at as a waste of time,” said Dr Zarine Bharucha, chairperson, Federation of Bombay Blood Banks (FBBB). Dearth of infrastructure and manpower at blood banks are additional challenges. A pathologist told TOI there is a staff shortage at most banks. “Blood is not tested for days or there is shortage of kits. This can lead to false negativity or positivity,” the doctor said. (Times of India 1/9/2016)

HIV positive woman gives birth to still born after hospital denies admission (3)

BAREILLY: HIV positive woman gave birth to a still born in Bareilly after the district hospital in Uttar Pradesh’s Badaun allegedly denied her admission. The woman was rushed to the district hospital earlier on Saturday night after she complained of severe labour pain, but the hospital staff denied her treatment after learning that she was HIV positive. Maneka steps in to ensure treatment for HIV positive woman who gave birth to stillborn  The victim’s husband said that the hospital in Islam Nagar earlier denied treatment to his wife and referred her to the district hospital in Badaun where they were denied admission.“She has AIDS, they told me to take her to Bareilly. We were there the whole day and when her condition deteriorated at night, the hospital staff asked us to take her to Bareilly district hospital. At around 12 a.m., I took her to Bareilly and at 5 a.m. they did her operation,” he told ANI. “They said that my wife has AIDS and that they cannot treat her. They also asked me to arrange for blood,” he added. Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of Bareilly district hospital Dr Alka Sharma said that they immediately attended the patient but were not able to save the child. “The child was already dead when they arrived here. The doctors are taking care of the mother. The woman had an obstructed labour and required an immediate surgery. Had they come to us earlier, the child could have been saved. The condition of the woman is stable now,” Dr Sharma said. (ANI) (New Indian Express 2/9/2016)

Skits mark Red Ribbon Colleges campaign on AIDS (3)

PUDUCHERRY: The Pondicherry AIDS Control Society recently reached out to youth to spread awareness about HIV/AIDS and voluntary blood donation. A series of events at Gandhi Thidal that coincided with International Youth Day featured a motorcycle rally, mime, and skit contests by college students and staff of the AIDS Control Society. Student-members of 24 Red Ribbon Colleges participated in the skit and mime competitions. The winners were selected based on the performance, theme, and presentation skills, said S. Jayanthi, Project Director, Pondicherry AIDS Control Society. Chief Minster V. Narayanasamy presided over the function and distributed prizes to the winners of the competitions and Red Ribbon Clubs. The Chief Minister, who appreciated the efforts of the Puducherry AIDS Control Society, to control the HIV epidemic and raise awareness about the risks as well as to popularise voluntary blood donations, said the HIV affected people in the Union Territory would soon get financial assistance. A pledge was administered to the youth in the presence of Kali Muthu, Mission Director, National Health Mission, and officials from Health Department. About 300 students from various colleges participated in the activities. The following colleges were selected as winners and issued certificate, shield with cash prize: In the skit section, Shines Institute of Paramedical College took first place, followed by Idhaya College of Arts and Science for Women (English Skit), and the District Institute of Education and Training (DIET). Mother Theresa Post Graduate and Research Institute of Health Sciences and College of Nursing East Coast Institute of Medical Sciences got consolation prizes. In the mime category, Indirani College of Nursing bagged first prize followed by Mahatma Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Dental Sciences in second spot while Bharathidasan Government College for Women took the consolation prize. The prizes for the best performing Red Ribbon Clubs for 2015-16 went to Kasturba Gandhi Nursing College, Pillaiyarkuppam, Puducherry, Mahatma Gandhi Government Arts College, Mahe, and Pondicherry Engineering College, Puducherry. The winners later got back on stage to perform skit and mime entertainment. (The Hindu 4/9/2016)

Kanpur hospital wrongly declares woman HIV+, denies admission (3)

KANPUR: Doctors and staff of a community health centre (CHC) in Kanpur Dehat district allegedly refused to treat a 22-year-old woman after wrongly declaring her as HIV positive. The woman and her family members heaved a sigh of relief when she was declared HIV negative after a second medical test conducted a few days ago. Parvez Alam, a native of Pukhrayan, said, “We had started making preparations for the baby. The staff announced that my wife was HIV positive and her delivery could not be facilitated in the CHC. They suggested that we take her to the special AIDS patient ward at Lala Lajpat Rai Hospital in Kanpur.” When family members reasoned with the staff that the woman had been getting prenatal treatment in the CHC for the past seven months, the staff members humiliated them. “Shocked over it, my wife fainted,” Alam said. “We went to the LLR Hospital for delivery. The staff there also did not bother to verify the reports and straight away admitted her in the HIV patient ward, where she delivered a baby,” he said. He alleged that the doctor on duty did not come for the delivery, proper facilities were not available in the labour room and worst of all, the entire staff showed insensitivity in a case demanding care and compassion. The family members said they would apprise CM Akhilesh Yadav and also lodge a complaint on the CM Window. (Times of India 5/9/2016)

2,234 get HIV via blood transfusion; government claims ignorance (Special to IANS) (3)

As many as 2,234 people contracted the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) after receiving blood transfusions in hospitals between October 2014 and March 2016, according to data released by the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), but the government told Parliament it did not know of these infections. The information was made available by NACO when it replied to a right-to-information (RTI) request filed by activist Chetan Kothari earlier this year. “No,” was the reply the Ministry of Health — NACO’s parent organisation — gave on August 16, 2016, to a question from Congress member of Parliament and former minister Jyotiraditya Scindia asking if the government was aware that “a large number” of people nationwide had been infected with HIV while getting blood transfusion. “The limitations of available testing methods while screening blood units for HIV in blood banks as a result of which possibility of HIV transmission during blood transfusion cannot be completely ruled out,” the ministry said in its reply. India fell 9 per cent short of its blood requirement in 2015-16, IndiaSpend reported September 3, with prosperity dictating availability; Bihar, for instance, was 84 per cent short of its blood requirements and Chhattisgarh 66 per cent short, while Chandigarh was over-supplied nine times and Delhi three times. NACO disputes the reliability of the data it released, claiming that it “refers to information on self-reported transmission of HIV”, and is “not corroborated by any scientific means to confirm that transmission is indeed due to blood transfusion”.Blood transfusion is deemed “as an acceptable way of getting infected, rather than others showing bad lifestyles”, said Zarin Bharucha, pathologist and chairperson of Federation of Bombay Blood Banks. Only South Africa and Nigeria have more HIV patients than India, where more than two million people are infected, according to a 2015 NACO report. Despite a 5 per cent decline in the number of patients testing positive for HIV since 2007, 86,000 new infections and 68,000 AIDS-related deaths are reported every year. Up to 95 per cent of India’s HIV transmissions are caused by unprotected sex, according to a December 2015 answer to the Lok Sabha. Blood transfusions account for 0.1 per cent of HIV infections, according to data released in the Lok Sabha reply, but based on NACO figures, it would account for 1.7 per cent. … (Business Standar 6/9/2016)

Junagadh HIV case: Court grants seventh extension to CBI for report (3)

AHMEDABAD: A special CBI court on Friday extended the deadline for the seventh occasion for CBI to come up with its report on further probe in connection with thalassemic kids contracting HIV through blood transfusion in Junagadh civil hospital. The court has been granting time to CBI after it submitted that it has obtained names of 1,700 persons from state’s AIDS Control Society, who are HIV positive and found out that out of them, 21 persons had donated blood in blood banks in Junagadh and neighbouring districts. Since the data is not maintained about people who donated blood to the Sarvoday Blood Bank, which supplied blood to the Junagadh Civil Hospital, it might take some time to identify those persons, whose blood was transfused to thallasemic kids. Advocate Paresh Waghela, who represents parents of the victim children, once again opposed granting further time on the ground that the CBI probe in this direction would not yield any result and the court should go ahead framing charges against people found suspect in the probe conducted hitherto. The court granted more time to CBI on the ground that any breakthrough would only fetch justice for the thallasemic children, and any restriction would only hamper the probe. With this as a last chance, CBI has now got time till October 13. Last year, the CBI court expressed dissatisfaction with CBI’s closure report and ordered further probe. Since then, CBI has got three extension to submit its final report. In 2014, CBI had filed a closure report and given clean chit to Mahendra Mashroo, local BJP MLA, who runs Sarvodaya blood bank. Parents of 34 such thalassemic kids fought a lengthy legal battle and finally sought further probe after CBI filed closure report claiming that there could be various reasons behind the thalassemic kids contracting HIV. (Times of India 8/9/2016)

HIV positive woman ‘driven out’ of village in Mau (3)

VARANASI: An HIV positive woman was allegedly driven out of a village by locals in Mau district on Thursday, compelling her to spend night in the fields. Though the district administration ordered a probe into the matter, no police case has been registered in this connection. The woman, a native of a village in Mau district, tested positive for HIV recently. Her husband too was HIV positive and had died in 2012. The woman and her three children were living a life of penury since then. Her relatives and locals too boycotted them. On Friday, Mau DM Nikhil Chandra Shukla said the SDM (Sadar) has been asked to probe the matter. Contacted, the SDM, Jagdamba Singh, said that the matter is being investigated. SHO Haldharpur Sandeep Yadav said that no case was registered in this regard. Terming the incident as a rumour, he said that he met the woman to know the fact. “As she did not have a ration card, she wanted to have one,” he said adding that the officials were looking into her demand. (Times of India 9/9/2016)

A lifesaver for babies of HIV-positive mothers (3)

Nagpur: Transmission of HIV from a mother to child accounts for over 90% of new HIV infections among children. The NGO Saathi is working across the country to prevent newborn children from getting the virus from their mother. By roping in 50 private hospitals of the city, the NGO has prevented around 150 pregnant women from passing HIV to their foetus. The NGO presented a stall at the first ever two-day women health exhibition of the city ‘Stree Aarogyam’ organized, from Saturday, by the Nagpur Obstetrics and Gynaecology Society and Women’s wing of Indian Medical Association (IMA), at IMA House. The National Aids Control Organisation (NACO), under the Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission (PMTCT) project is providing pregnant women a short-term therapy at district hospitals to prevent the virus gtom getting transmitted to the foetus. Across the country, Saathi has been supporting the initiative by tying up with private hospitals. As soon as the doctor at any hospital detects an HIV-positive pregnant woman, the NGO is called to counsel the women and connect her to the district hospital to get the treatment to prevent her child. Saathi’s local chapter started functioning from 2010. “Until now, we have prevented around 150 newborns from HIV infection,” said programme coordinator Pradeep Marchettiwar. In the absence of a district hospital, the city has three centres which offer treatment, including Indira Gandhi Government Medical College and Hospital (IGMCH), Government Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) and the government hospital at Kamptee. During the exhibition, NOGS president Anuradha Ridhorkar said, “Most issues related to women’s health are correlated. At the clinic, it’s not possible for us to counsel every single patient. Through this exhibition, we have formed a common umbrella under which various issues related to women health can be discussed on spot between doctor and patient.” A stall conducted by gynaecologist Dr Kshama Kedar talked about mensuration and hygiene. “Using one sanitary napkin for long hours can cause an infection. But what many girls don’t know is that the same infection is the rising cause of female infertility,” she said. A lot of girls visiting the stalls were told about hygienic measures they should take during their periods. Other stalls were related to issues like HIV, hypertension, AIDS, anaemia, contraception and obesity. (Times of India 11/9/2016)

Why 1.1 million HIV+ve Indians don’t get drugs they need (3)

Each of an estimated 2.1 million Indians infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) should be getting a cocktail of drugs to prolong their lives and reduce infections, but no more than 44 per cent do, the Minister of Health told the Lok Sabha in April 2016. In India, the drug cocktail is given to patients with a count of less than 350 CD4 cells per mm3 of blood — CD4 cells are white blood cells, a count of which indicates the health of a person’s immune system. The Health Ministry said 940,000 (70 per cent) of 1.3 million HIV-infected patients with a CD4 count less than 350 are on anti-retroviral therapy (ART). The situation is worse among children, with no more than 36 per cent getting ART. ART are drugs that — when taken in combination — can stop the HIV virus from growing, slowing the disease. They do not kill or cure the virus. A World Health Organisation (WHO) guideline says everyone with HIV should get ART drugs, regardless of their clinical stage and a white-blood-cell tally that India uses to determine who will be treated. An early start to ART is associated with reduced mortality, morbidity and HIV transmission outcomes, according to the WHO. India has fewer HIV cases than only South Africa and Nigeria. In South Africa, 48 per cent of HIV patients get ART, in Nigeria 24 per cent, according to 2016 data from UNAIDS, a United Nations programme on HIV/AIDS. The evidence also suggests that “untreated HIV infection may be associated with the development of several non-AIDS defining conditions (including cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, liver disease, several types of cancer and neurocognitive disorders) and that initiating ART earlier reduces such events and improves survivals”, according to the WHO. Chances of getting these diseases fell 57 per cent among HIV-positive patients treated early, according to a study called the Strategic Timing of Antiretroviral Treatment, conducted among more than 4,500 people across 35 different countries, between 2011 and 2016, by the International Network for Strategic Initiatives in Global HIV Trials, a US-government-funded research organisation…. (New Indian Express 13/9/2016)

Antibody that may combat HIV infection under trial (3)

New York: Single antibody infusions found promising against HIV New antibody therapy may transform HIV treatment New antibody therapy to better treat HIV Single antibody infusions found promising against HIV Parasitic worm infection may increase HIV risk In a first study of its magnitude, researchers in the US aim to infuse an antibody into human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-negative men and transgender individuals to determine whether it will prevent the infection from developing. The Antibody Meditated Prevention (AMP) study — led by an Indian-origin scientist — aims to recruit a combined 2,700 HIV-negative men and transgender individuals whose sexual partners are men — the highest-risk demographic for HIV infection — to test the efficacy of antibody VRC01 in the large clinical trial. “It is the first study of this magnitude to see whether an antibody infusion can help prevent new HIV infections. If it proves effective, it could potentially pave a way for developing a vaccine for HIV infection,” said Shobha Swaminathan, an infectious disease specialist from Rutgers University in New Jersey, US. The VRC01 antibody was initially detected in an individual who was able to successfully control HIV infection without taking any medications for HIV. Further, in laboratory tests, VRC01 antibody has shown to be effective against 90 per cent of HIV-1 isolates that were tested, the researchers said. Those enrolled will either be given intravenous infusions of VRC01 or a placebo every eight weeks for a total of 10 infusions. Participants will be closely monitored for approximately 22 months for safety and also to determine whether they have remained HIV-negative. HIV continues to be a major global public health issue, though the rate of infection has fallen significantly in recent years. In 2014, gay and bisexual men accounted for an estimated 83 per cent of all new HIV infections among men in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Though the number of new HIV diagnoses fell 19 per cent from 2005 to 2014, certain demographic groups showed increases in the infection, CDC noted. “According to CDC estimates, only about 25 per cent of people who are HIV-positive have it under control,” says Swaminathan. (Business Standard 16/9/2016)

African faces deportation for infecting Australian women with HIV (3)

Sydney: An African acrobat accused of having unprotected sex with several women while being infected with HIV-Aids had his Australian permanent residency cancelled and faces deportation, a media report said on Friday. The 38-year-old Godfrey Zaburoni had failed the character test under section 501 of the Migration Act and is currently awaiting deportation to his native country, Zimbabwe, Xinhua news agency quoted Immigration Ministry spokesman as saying. Zaburoni came to Australia in 1997, was accused of having unprotected sex with at least 12 Australian women, between 2007 to 2008 without informing them of his medical condition. He was diagnosed with the disease in 1998 while touring with a circus in Adelaide. The former Australia Got Talent participant was originally sentenced to a nine-and-a-half year’s jail term in 2013 by the Southport District court after becoming the second person in Queensland to be convicted of intentionally infecting someone with HIV. However, in April the High Court overturned Zaburoni’s sentencing after finding no evidence that he had intended to infect deliberately with the virus. Zaburoni was re-sentenced on a lesser charge, a five-year suspended sentence and had been released from prison to be deported to his country. (Bsiness Standard 16/9/2016)

Man told to pay 6,000 monthly maintenance to HIV+ wife (3)

THANE : A 25-year-old Kalamboli resident who had sought to dump his wife after she was diagnosed with HIV, invited the wrath of the district sessions court, which rejected his plea to reverse an earlier magistrate court order to pay the woman a monthly maintainance of Rs 6,000. Last week, district sessions Judge P P Jadhav admonished the petitioner in the courtroom and reminded him that the husband was duty-bound to protect and secure his wife in times of difficulty. The couple had exchanged vows in their hometown of Uttar Pradesh on May 20, 2013, and her parents had gifted him gold jewellery and other valuables worth Rs 1 lakh, besides Rs 75,000 cash for a vehicle. Months after the couple moved to Mumbai and the woman conceived their first child, a series of blood tests revealed that she was HIV positive. The revelation soured relations between the couple as the husband accused her of infidelity and asked her to leave their home and refused to foot her medical expenses. After all pleas by her family members failed to soften the husband’s stand, the woman approached a lower court for interim relief, including maintenance of Rs 37,000 per month. After hearing both the parties in May 2015, the magistrate ordered her husband to pay Rs 6,000 as maintenance, after finding him guilty of harassment under the Protection of Women From Domestic Violence Act, 2005.Terming the lower court’s order as harsh, the husband approached the district sessions court, seeking to get it reversed. Judge Jadhav pointed out that the woman was diagnosed as HIV positive after marriage, which is sufficient to conclude that she must have got infected through her marital relationship. Kadam pointed out that under such circumstances, the husband and in-laws were duty-bound to look after her and the child, and she was entitled to maintenance. The judge said that following the observations, facts and evidence on record, the order passed by the magistrate court is proper, correct and legal. It does not require any interference and rejected the appeal, the court concluded. (Times of India 27/9/2016)

Posted by admin at 1 September 2016

Category: Uncategorized

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bhavnagar tense over dalit sweeper’s suicide (2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dalits thrashed again for refusing to lift carcass (2)

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

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

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

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

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


Activists to express solidarity with tribals’ stir (6)

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

In Delhi, Hemant fans tribal land fears (6)

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

Survey of ooru bhumis to prove game changer (6)

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

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

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

Nomadic tribes and their tales of woe (6)

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

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

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

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

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

Assam: The troubling dynamics of Tribal identity (6)

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

Chakma tribals observe ‘black day’ (6)

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

Forest rights under siege in Nagada (6)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New law to book cheating husbands mooted (8)

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

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

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

AISA expels member booked for raping scholar (8)

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

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

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

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

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

Woman burned alive for dowry in Muzaffapur (8)

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


High incidence of child abuse in Telangana (14)

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

TOI-Unicef drive on child labour (14)

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

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

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

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

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

Proposed amendments to Child Labour Act need review (14)

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

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

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

245 child labourers rescued (14)

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

UP child rights body starts adoption of anganwadis (14)

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

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

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

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

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

Rescue operation brings smile to 18 child labourers (14)

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Impart lessons on tolerance in schools’ (7)

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

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

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

Judicial power given to state minorities panel (7)

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

Centre committed to development of minorities: Naqvi (7)

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

Intellectuals must unite against intolerance: Nitish Kumar (7)

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

Minorities panel slams Bombay HC verdict (7)

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


Call for Muslims and Dalits to unite (7)

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

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

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

Muslim families threaten migration from Agra (7)

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

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

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

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

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

Persecuted Muslim families get new homes in UP (7)

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

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

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

Tension during rally to Islamic conversion centre (7)

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

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

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

SC entertains another petition on triple talaq (7)

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

Body to appeal Surya Namaskar decision (7)

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


Church demolition triggers protest (7)

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

SC orders additional compensation to Kandhamal violence victims (7)

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

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

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

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

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

Catholic Church official concerned over new tax bill (7)

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

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

Christians observe ‘black day’ (7)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

‘State no dumping ground for migrants’ (13)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Data on refugees difficult to find? (13)

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

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

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

Tripura ready to send back Brus to Mizoram (13)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sri Lankan refugees stage dharna against patta cancellation (13)

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Order on providing info on cabinet decisions stayed (1)

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

13,000 RTI applications pending: CIC (1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chennithala objects to denial of Cabinet info (1)

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

RTI activist arrested for accepting bribe in Doon (1)

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


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

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

Delhi to oppose draft education policy (11)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Draft new education policy and Minorities (7)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Delhi hits education low with failure rate (11)

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Centre cuts Rs 165 crore Livelihood fund (21)

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

Restore rice quota: Ramesh to Centre (21)

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

MGNREGA workers demand pending wages (14)

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

Delhi government plans major overhaul of labour laws (14)

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

Focus on problems of women at workplace (14)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

77 return from Saudi labour camps (14)

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

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

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


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

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

Gujarat HC quashes 10% upper caste quota (25)

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

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

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

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

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