Posted by admin at 27 February 2015

Category: Uncategorized

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Unique tool to track atrocities against Dalits (2)

NEW DELHI: To monitor atrocities perpetrated against Dalits and Adivasis and to ensure speedy justice, a unique web-based tool — Atrocity Tracking and Monitoring (ATM) System — has been launched. The initiative falls under the aegis of the National Coalition for Strengthening SC/ST PoA Act (NCSPOA) by the National Dalit Movement for Justice (NDMJ). A two-day training workshop will also be organised in the city next month to promote the use of ATM System among the stakeholders concerned. “The ATM System has been built with an objective to provide a tool in the hands of Dalits and Adivasis to report atrocities and avail of timely justice. We hope it will be useful for Dalit human rights activists and organisations, to create and maintain a repository of cases, track records, and facilitate information exchange for timely action,” said V.A. Ramesh Nathan, general secretary, NDMJ. “At present, more than 100 atrocity cases have been reported from different parts of the country. The users of the States concerned have sent e-mail and SMS notifications to the officials in their region regarding the cases of atrocities against Dalits,” he added. As per the National Crime Records Bureau (2001-12), the extent of atrocities committed against SCs & STs is enormous. Nearly 3,70,234 crimes have been committed against SCs & STs, 15,917 women have reportedly been raped, 7,900 murdered, 49,514 brutally attacked and severely injured, and 1,59,692 other forms of atrocities have been committed. Under the ATM System, anyone with Internet access can go to the website where a helpline number 9898915455 is given. As soon as a person sends a message on this number, the website automatically identifies its circle and sends a message. After the validation is done, the message goes to the authority concerned to facilitate necessary action against the case. The NDMJ, is a democratic non-party movement of Dalit survivors, defenders, academics, organisations headed by Dalits  to initiate advocacy and involve in mass action to address the issues of caste-based discrimination and violence (primarily untouchability and atrocities) to ensure dignity, equality and justice. (The Hindu 12/2/15)

2. 3 held for attacking Dalit who tried to fend off their dogs (2)

MEERUT: Three men were arrested from Khanjapur Kushaavli village of Meerut district after a Dalit man complained that he was attacked and insulted by them as he tried to fend off their pet dogs. The man complained that he had long endured the onslaught of pet dogs that belonged to a Rajput family, but on February 6, as two dogs set upon him, he warded them off with a stick. Gopal, the Dalit, said the dogs’ owners unleashed verbal abuse laced with caste-related insults. They also attacked him with knives and sticks. Gopal said he had taken the matter to police soon afterwards, but police were slow to react. “I was on the way to my shop when I was attacked by the dogs belonging to a Rajput family. Their dogs have always been a problem for my kids, who have often been attacked by the animals while passing by,” Gopal said. Dhanu Singh, Kaalicharan and Sanju, members of a Rajput family, had allegedly once told Gopal’s kids that the “dogs were better than them”. “On February 6, as the dogs grew aggressive, I tried to shoo them away with a stick. That was when Dhanu, Kaalicharan and Sanju came out of their house with knives and sticks. Angry that I had tried to hit the animals, the three of them thrashed me. I was cut in the face by a knife one of them used,” Gopal said. “Because I am a Dalit doesn’t mean they can call me what they like,” Gopal said, adding that he filed a complaint at the Sardhana police station that very day. Station officer Meher Singh of Sardhana police station said the three accused were arrested on Wednesday, and investigations were underway. Early Wednesday, Gopal had approached the office of the SSP seeking action in the matter. (Times of India 13/2/15)

3. All Dalits now Mahadalits, question is who’s their leader (2)

Patna: By expanding the Mahadalit bracket to include Dharis and Dhadis, sub-castes of Dusadh or Paswan, Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi has effectively staked his claim to being the leader of Bihar’s Dalits, a role so far associated with Ram Vilas Paswan. So far, Paswans were the only one of 22 Scheduled Castes kept out of the bracket. Mahadalit status entails benefits of over a dozen welfare schemes, including free land to the landless. And so far, Ram Vilas’s stand has been that Paswans, being the most “forward looking of Scheduled Castes”, did not need the Mahadalit tag. The LJP chief cannot, however, openly criticise the new move. He was the first prominent NDA leader to come out in support of Manjhi in his showdown with Nitish Kumar. “Manjhi is a fellow Dalit,” Paswan has said, describing him as a better CM than Nitish, but has steered clear of reacting to the cabinet decision. “In long-term politics, Ram Vilas Paswan and Manjhi are going to share same the Dalit space,” says a senior leader of Paswan’s LJP. “With Manjhi moving close to the BJP, there is bound to be competition between the two leaders.” “If Manjhi joins the BJP, the conflict would be less intense,” says a BJP leader, “but Ram Vilas Paswan can still lose some of his bargaining power with the BJP. If Manjhi floats a party, the BJP will have to deal with two allies with a similar profile. It will be a problem of plenty.” CM Manjhi said after the cabinet meeting: “The government saw no point in leaving Paswans out of the Mahadalit umbrella. In fact, we have proposed to appoint Paswans as chowkidars across the state.” The Nitish Kumar camp has already lodged a protest with Raj Bhavan, questioning how the cabinet of “a government of 13 MLAs” can decide ahead of a floor test. “It is not about what decisions have been taken by the cabinet but whether Manjhi can take such a decision when his government is in a minority,” says JD(U) leader Bijay Kumar Choudhary. As chief minister, Nitish had introduced the Mahadalit umbrella in 2007 after the Bihar State Mahadalit Commission recommended inclusion of 18 SCs in the category. Subsequently, three more SC groups were included, leaving out only the Paswans or Dusadhs. Following the inclusion of Paswans, there remains no distinction between Dalits and Mahadalits. Ravidas, Mushahar and Paswan are among the most dominant groups among the Scheduled Castes, accounting for 18 per cent of the population. And a caste conglomerate created with meticulous social engineering by Nitish Kumar now has three claimants to their leadership —  Nitish, Manjhi and Paswan. (Indian Express 16/2/15)

4. Dalit man’s nose cut off for breaking bread with upper castes (2)

Lucknow: Upper caste anti-social elements in a village in Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh cut off a Dalit man’s nose only because he had displayed the temerity to break bread with them at a ‘barat’ (wedding party). Upper caste anti-social elements in a village in Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh cut off a Dalit man’s nose only because he had displayed the temerity to break bread with them at a ‘barat’ (wedding party). This virtually god-forsaken area in southern UP bordering Madhya Pradesh is one of the remotest and most backward regions of the state, and is infamous for continuing social evils like untouchability, dowry and female infanticide. The latest episode has been reported from Surpati village in Madhogarh area of Jalaun district where Amar Singh, a labourer, was dealt the horrific punishment by his masters belonging to the upper caste. The incident is even more alarming as the village is a Dalit-dominated one. The Surpati gram panchayat of three villages accounts for as many as 2,500 Dalits out of the total population of about 5,000. Dalits in this region are barred from even touching the utensils used by upper castes. They are also not allowed to draw water from the same well. Amar Singh had gone with his master’s family in the ‘barat’ (wedding procession) for a wedding to another village and had committed the “crime” of having food along with his feudal masters there. “Some people on the bride’s side raised the issue with them which created quite a scene at the wedding as the other guests threatened to leave without having food on discovering that a Dalit was also breaking bread with them,” Daddu Prasad, ex-minister and a prominent Dalit BSP leader told dna. Once they returned to their village, they decided “justice needed to be done”, he said. Their justification was simple, though rather gruesome. “Tumne hamaari naak katwa di. Ab hum tumhaari naak kaatenge. (since you caused us such humiliation, you shall get equivalent punishment),” they are reported to have told Amar Singh before pinning him down and cutting off his nose with a domestic knife. Family members rushed to his rescue and took the profusely bleeding Amar Singh to Jhansi for treatment. On being informed, Jhansi DIG AK Singh got a case registered against the named accused. He told reporters that they would soon be arrested. However, till late evening no arrest had been made as, sources said, the feudal landlords responsible for the ghastly act were “politically well connected”.Bundelkhand has witnessed such horrific incidents earlier, too. But, since it is a remote area, most of these incidents don’t even get reported in the mainstream media. “I know of places (in Bundelkhand) where Dalits go to other villages incognito to get a shave or buy things for daily needs as they can’t dare to do this in their own village,” says Vivek Singh, former Congress MLA from Banda. (DNA 17/2/15)

TRIBALS

5. Govt Okays IFAD Loan for Primitive Tribal Groups (6)

BHUBANESWAR:The Odisha Government has agreed to a Rs 312-crore loan from International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) for the Rs 800-crore Odisha PVTG Empowerment and Livelihood Improvement Programme (OPELIP). While conveying its consent to the Department of Economic Affairs, the Government has stipulated that the project must contain separate micro projects for each primitive tribal group. The project is aimed at changing the socio-economic condition of 62,356 households in 12 districts of the State. These households comprise 32,090 particularly vulnerable tribal groups (PVTGs) who would directly benefit from the programmes. Thirteen PVTGs are targeted to be covered under the eight-year project. The OPELIP will address issues of socio-economic backwardness through community empowerment, natural resource management, livelihood enhancement, community infrastructure and drudgery reduction. Over the project period, it is expected to trigger a 300 per cent increase in food production per household and net income by several times. Since most of the habitations of these primitive groups are characterised by poor housing, virtually no access to potable water and electricity, absence of sanitation and road connectivity, the project will support construction of over 300 drinking water projects, 542 school toilets, 4,000 housing units, 500 km of road connectivity and 50 km of electrification apart from other rural infrastructure. It will also focus on homestead production and forest-based livelihood by encouraging kitchen gardens, backyard poultry, goat rearing and other income generating activities. “A database for all 13 PVTGs to assess their exact population will be drawn up as part of the project. Besides, an approach paper for each group will be formulated so that their identity, sensitivity and uniqueness of culture can be acknowledged along with actual response to development,” the ST and SC Development Department said in the letter. Under the OPELIP, a community nutrition assessment will be conducted and all its activities will be investigated through a nutrition lens to ensure that crops and activities promoted result in household nutrition security. The project will also involve sustainable development and improvement of natural resources covering 20,000 hectare of land. (New Indian Express 11/2/15)

6. Tribal people allege harassment (6)

ERODE: Members of a tribal community residing in Sholagar Colony on Bargur hills have petitioned the district administration, seeking its intervention for extricating them from ‘bonded labour’. According to Madhammal, a representative of the 20 affected families, adults were compelled to work for a wage of Rs. 50 per a day at a 150-acre-farm owned by two persons hailing from Karnataka. The affected families charged the two persons with encroaching on the farm provided by the district administration to the tribal people. The mutt management had confiscated a buffalo belonging to one of the affected families. (The Hindu 16/2/15)

7. Med Camp Need of the Hour to Identify HIV-infected Tribals (6)

PALAKKAD: The demand to conduct a medical camp in Attappadi Adivasi hamlets to identify people with AIDS has been slowly gaining momentum as tribal patients have started enrolling at the Kottathara Tribal Hospital for treatment. The tribal promoters who work with the Adivasis here told Express that there are many in Attappadi living with AIDS, but stress and fear are the major deterrents that prevent them from accessing medical care. The tribal promoters of Attappadi allege that the officials of Kottathara Tribal Hospital are reluctant to reveal the exact number of AIDS patients in Attappadi owing to pressure and HIV could be the reason behind the deaths of many here. “The statistics available with the hospital show that the number of AIDS patients in Attappadi is alarmingly high. “However, the report has not been published by the Department probably to avoid attracting yet another controversy in addition to the potential Maoist threat and infant deaths in Attappadi,” said one of the tribal promoters on condition of anonymity. However, the CDPO of Attappadi, Mayalakshmi said that she was told as many as 10 people were undergoing treatment for AIDS at Kottathara Tribal Hospital. “I am not sure whether the figure is correct or not. No camp has been conducted yet to identify people with AIDS, but it is on the cards and we will conduct a medical camp soon. “Even if we conduct a camp, we are apprehensive if tribals will cooperate due to the fear factor. As far as I know, no one has taken an initiative to identify Adivasi people with AIDS. In the Adivasi settlements of other districts, the officials concerned maintain proper data in this regard, but in Attappadi nothing concrete is available. “The Social Welfare Department cannot do anything now as we are at present occupied in implementing measures to prevent malnutrition deaths in Attappadi,” said Mayalakshmi. The manager of National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) Seema Bhaskar opined that it is high time a medical camp is conducted in Attappadi. “The existing system has not been beneficial to tribals in any way and tribals do not feel the need of availing the facilities and medical expertise available at the Kottathara Tribal Hospital. This attitude must change. Only then the tribals will come forward to get their blood sampled and receive treatment if diagnosed with HIV/ AIDS. The National Rural Livelihood Missionwill start conducting an awareness camp from February 27 onwards with the support of the National Rural Heath Mission (NRHM). The camp aims at making them aware of a healthy sexual life, the myths associated with treatment, AIDS and child health,” adds Seema. (New Indian Express 16/2/15)

8. Manipur tribals ignore verification exercise (6)

IMPHAL: The verification of the nationality of migrant workers staying in Manipur is continuing in Thoubal district. Such exercises by activists had already been done in other valley districts. However, people in tribal dominated districts are not interested since they enjoy a constitutional protection against possession of land by non-tribals. The government is not intervening as it fears that it would provoke the activists to launch various forms of agitations. Over 36 organisations in Manipur had joined hands to demand the reintroduction of the Inner Line Permit which was lifted from Manipur in 1950. The migrant workers are required to furnish details including their photographs to the activists. (The Hindu 18/2/15)

WOMEN

9. Women under represented in higher education in India: Report (8)

New Delhi: Women continue to be under-represented in India’s higher education leadership despite nine-fold increase in the government expenditure on the sector between 2007 and 2012, according to a British Council report. While women constitute 44 per cent of the 27.5 million students in country’s higher educational institutions, they constitute just 1.4 per cent of the professoriate and 3 per cent of vice-chancellors in the universities, it noted. In most Indian universities, the representation of women academics is less than 40 per cent, added the report, titled ‘Women in Higher Education Leadership in South Asia: Rejection, Refusal, Reluctance, Revisioning’. “While in all categories of academic positions women are under-represented, this increases for higher positions. Thus, only 25.5 per cent of professors, 31.1 per cent of readers and associate professors, and 38.5 per cent of lecturers or assistant professors are women,” it noted, analysing a 2013 report of the government. The report, prepared by the British Council in collaboration with the Centre for Higher Education and Equity Research (CHEER) of the University of Sussex, was released here at a two-day deliberation on the representation of women in higher education in South Asia. The event, organised by the British Council, concluded on Wednesday. An analysis of the government data also indicated that women with disability represent only 1.9 per cent of the overall total number of academics in India. “Muslim women are also under-represented in Indian higher education, both in relation to male academics and overall. Of the Muslim academics, only 33.5 per cent are women, which is only 14.9 per cent of the total number of academics in India,” underlined the report. The report found that women in higher education in South Asia, including India, were not prepared for leadership. There was also evidence that when they did aspire for leadership, they were frequently rejected for the most senior positions. Referring to interactions with women faculty, the report highlighted how the country’s universities’ selection procedures were “exclusionary and discriminated” against women. “First and foremost, most selection committees have only men. Very few have women. Most that I’ve gone through, have all men on the committee, for any position,” the report quoted a senior woman faculty. The British Council suggested that educational institutions should adopt changes in work practices. (Deccan Herald 11/2/15)

10. Men willing to stand up to parents against dowry, finds online survey (8)

MUMBAI: The results of an online opinion poll indicate that the youth seem to have taken matters into their own hands to end the social evil of dowry. A recent survey by a matrimonial website has shown that 44% of prospective brides would report their in-laws to the police if they sought dowry. Another indicator of a paradigm shift is that not just women, even men are willing to stand up to their parents against this practice. The online poll received 5,800 responses from single Indians aged between 25 and 36 years of which 3,318 were men and 2,482 women. The aim of the online survey was to determine what the modern generation thinks of dowry. An overwhelming 72.1% of male respondents said they would stand up against their parents if they demanded dowry, while 14.3% said they were unsure. While 87.3% of the female respondents said they would refuse to give dowry, 10.6% replied “may be”.When prospective grooms were asked what they would do if their own parents demanded dowry, 63.8% respondents said they would raise their voice strongly against it. Another 31.3% said they would try to convince their parents to not demand dowry and a smaller, but significant, 4.9% said they would report the crime to the police. Of the polled single women, 53.3% said that they would refuse the proposal if their parents agreed to give dowry, 44.2% said they would file a police complaint, but 2.5% expressed willingness to go along with their parents’ decision. The 5,800 respondents were those who had registered themselves with the marriage portal, shaadi.com. “We have always been clear about our intolerance towards the social evil of dowry. This survey reaffirms our belief that Indian men and women today believe in a marriage based on love and equality,” said Gourav Rakshit,chief operating officer of the website. Psychiatrist Anjali Chhabria was “extremely pleased to know that our Indian bride has finally evolved into a mature thinking adult”.She said, “The man, too, is finally accepting that accepting dowry is a crime. These small changes help us to grow and evolve as a society where gender equality will soon be the norm and the girl child will no longer be abhorred but respected.” (Times of India 12/2/15)

11. Violence against women cause for child marriages (8)

VIJAYAWADA: The increasing atrocities against women and young girls are forcing parents to marry off their daughters even before they complete schooling. The situation is grim in Krishna district where nearly 30 child marriages were reported in the last fortnight. Officials prevented more than 20 weddings, while some took place even before they reached the venues, police said. Child marriages were prevented at Vijayawada, Avanigadda, Gudivada, Machilipatnam, Vissannapet, Mudinepalli, Mandavalli and Tiruvuru in the district. “We hear pathetic stories from brides and their parents. But, most of them [parents] express fear of sexual assaults on minor girls as reported in the media,” said counsellor Ch. Vijaya Lakshmi. Krishna District Women Development and Child Welfare (WD&CW) Project Director K. Krishna Kumari said child marriages were rampant in the district, and that officials were holding awareness camps in villages with the support of NGOs to curb the practice. “Parents cite a number of reasons for marrying off their minor children, but we explain the other side of the practice,” said Child Welfare Committee Chairman B. Nagesh Rao. According to psychologist T.S. Rao, child marriages are common among lower castes. He stressed the need for creating awareness about health implications for girls. “My sister asked me to take care of her 14-year-old daughter two years ago, as she had fallen sick. Not able to give dowry, we did not send her to school and married her off. But, the WD&CW, Revenue and police officials counselled us, as my daughter was just 16,” said Sakkubai, the mother of a bride. Child Protection Officer Rama Devi said Sakkubai had been told not to send her daughter to her in-laws’ house till turned 18. “We counselled the bride, and officials will follow up the case,” she added. (The Hindu 16/2/15)

12. Kashmir to Kanyakumari on a bike to promote girl child (8)

CHANDIGARH: With just a bicycle, Hiralal Yadav had been touring the country to spread the message of saving the girl child – to cover its length from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. On Monday, Yadav was hosted by the Peace Club of Dev Samaj College of Education, Sector 36, in collaboration with NGO Yuvsatta. Here, the cyclist interacted with students as part of his countrywide ‘Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao Abhiyan’. Yadav is promoting rights and dignity of girls and women in society. “Our traditions and rituals outline the existence of the Indian girl child. Amidst uproars of gender equality and law enforcement, female infants are still found dumped in trash by the dozen, while unborn lives continue to be sniffed out in the womb,” Yadav said, talking about female foeticide in the country. “Wrought with discrimination and prejudiced by rituals, our society has dealt the girl child a rough hand, starting even before birth, till the fag end of life. This is why despite all efforts, over six lakh cases of female foeticide happen annually in India,” Yadav added. He also quoted some lines of his self-composed poem on female foeticide which left the entire audience in tears. Addressing the students, he quoted a message of the late NASA astronaut, Kalpana Chawla, “The path from our dream to success exists; provided we have the sight to search, courage to walk on it and willpower to persevere”.Principal Jyoti Khanna shared that Yadav in the past had also undertaken many such campaigns in support of promoting national harmony, de-addiction, against drug abuse and prisoners of wars, for which he has been awarded by former president APJ Abdul Kalam. (Times of India 17/2/15)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

13. Rights groups to reach out to children in slums (14)

VISAKHAPATNAM: Exactly four months ago, when Hudhud ravaged the city, life came to a standstill for many. And the impact was severe for those residing in slums. More than 100 children from several slum areas narrated their nightmarish experience on that day, at a consultation meet organised jointly by the Child Rights Advocacy Foundation and the Visakha Forum for Child Rights (VFCR) on Tuesday. Students studying in classes VI and X in slum areas such as Kobbarithota, Jalaripeta, Ambedkar Colony, and Bukka Veedhi came forward to share their experiences. “There was no proper drinking water for almost one week. Our houses were submerged due to overflowing storm water drains. Except for a few NGO representatives who turned up to help us push things through, we did not receive any other help,” says Padma a resident of Bhupesh Nagar. Most of the slum-dwellers said that they were not able to afford vegetables and milk. Some of them said that there were no toilet facilities in their localities. Joint Collector J. Nivas, who attended the meeting as chief guest, explained the features of the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan, under which the government had increased the unit cost of the individual household latrine to Rs.12,000 from Rs.10,000. He said that people should consider construction of toilets more seriously and ensure that every household had one. As part of the relief measure, Mr. Nivas said that textbooks would be distributed to schoolchildren after conducting a review meeting with the DEO. Reaching out to the disadvantaged groups, convener of VFCR R.D. Sampath Kumar said that the forum would be distributing notebooks, geometry boxes, and a pair of shoes to 1,000 schoolchildren in a couple of weeks. (The Hindu 11/2/15)

14. Panel appointed to look into sexual abuse in Delhi schools (14)

NEW DELHI: To curb incidents of sexual abuse of school students, Delhi government has told the Supreme Court that it has asked all schools to have CCTVs, especially in corridors and at entrances, in addition to administering a pledge to boys to respect women. The government said it has also constituted committees at three levels—school, district and headquarters—to address issues relating to sexual abuse of students. Women members would be in majority in all these committees, it said. In an affidavit, the Directorate of Education said it has directed schools to appoint a nodal officer who would stay back in school after children leave to look into complaints of any child not reaching home. The government filed its response in compliance with a court order which on December 5 had issued notices to states on a PIL by advocate Vineet Dhanda expressing concern over safety of girl students in schools. The government said 70,000 teachers have been trained in gender sensitization in the last two years. It also said schools have been directed to talk to the local police to ensure a PCR van is stationed near schools at the time of opening and closing. It said a pledge has been included in the students’ diary saying they would respect and protect the dignity of women and the pledge was being repeated by students on numerous occasions in schools. The court last year had agreed to examine the arrangement made by states in schools to prevent cases of sexual abuse and had issued notices to the Centre and states. The PIL had sought direction from the court to the government to frame laws, guidelines and policies “fixing liability of educational institutions on whose premises sexual abuse takes place”. It had said the liability of schools should be spelt out in cases of physical and mental abuse. (Times of India 13/2/15)

15. Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal Urged to Take Up Issues of Street Kids (14)

NEW DELHI: An organisation of street children has urged Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to address their issues and include them as part of the government’s agenda. The organisation, ‘Badhte Kadam’, today said that it had faxed the letter to the CM’s office yesterday. “We are hopeful that he will successfully carry out his tenure while helping us to address our issues,” 16-year-old Chandni, a member of the group, said, adding that they had written a similar letter during the previous AAP government. Another member Jyoti, 14, said, “Our demands include ensuring legal identity to street and working children, proper implementation of all government schemes for underprivileged children and action against people involved in child labour.”   Director of Childhood Enhancement through Training and Action (CHETNA), of which ‘Badhte Kadam’ is a part, said, “Children have a lot of hope from this government and I hope they take up the issues highlighted by them on a priority basis.”  (New Indian Express 16/2/15)

16. Child brides serve ‘probation period’ before marriage in Odisha village (14)

BHUBANESWAR:  Prior to marriage, teenaged brides in Odisha’s capital city are forced to spend time in their prospective in-laws’ house in order to assess if they fit the role of a suitable bride. This crude form of child marriage is still practised by many in the snake-charmer community residing in Padmakesharipur village in Bhubaneswar. Many girls are withdrawn from school, some even at elementary level, and forced into marriage alliances. “My daughter was just 12 when I arranged a groom for her. She has been helping her in-laws in household chores for the past four years. Finally, her in-laws have agreed to organise a formal marriage next week,” said Bharati Das, who is now busy arranging bridal gifts (dowry) for her daughter. The worrying aspect of teenage marriage practice in the community is that if at some point of time the would-be in-laws feel the bride lacks the physical ability to perform daily household assignments or the mental attitude to match the groom’s mindset and theirs’, the proposal gets rejected. “After the engagement, we send our daughter to work in the in-laws’ house in the daytime and give them the freedom to mingle with the groom,” Bharati said. This period, which is almost like a probation before marriage, is of concern for the bride’s family. Due to this free interaction, girls often risk dangerous pregnancies. Once a girl becomes pregnant, family members of the bride are left with no option but to adhere to the terms set by the groom’s family. “This is a tradition we have been following since time immemorial. Although the community is aware of the legal implications of child marriage, we don’t have leadership to assert and put an end to the practice,” said Shankar Das, a member of snake charmer community of Padmakesharipur. Jyotsna, a mother, said, “Since the marriage has to take place within the community which is confined to a single village in Odisha, the bride’s family has to look for a suitable groom. The desperation for a groom within the community, which has a higher percentage of girls forces the parents to opt for early marriage.” Many girls give birth long before they are physically and emotionally ready. Bharati, who is in her late thirties, already has a large family having several grandsons and granddaughters. The 752-family-strong community, which has lost the main occupation after a ban on snake charming, is now finding it difficult to eke out a living. While many end up begging, some daily wagers from the community seek solace in alcohol. (The Hindu 18/2/15)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

17. Central fund for minority welfare (7)

HYDERABAD: Union minister for minority affairs Najma Heptullah assured that the Telangana state has her full support with regard to schemes for the welfare of minorities, according to a press communique issued by deputy chief minister Mohammed Mahmood Ali’s office. Interacting with a delegation of officials of the minorities welfare department, including the deputy CM, special secretary Syed Omar Jaleel, State Wakf Board (SWB) special officer M J Akbar and State Minorities Finance Corporation vice-chairman and managing director S A Shukoor, Heptullah said that senior officials of the ministry of minority affairs would visit the state on February 18 and take part in a dialogue with both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh government representatives to expedite the bifurcation of the SWB. The delegation apprised the minister of increase in the number of applications for pre-matric scholarships, which was more than the stipulated target. They urged her to consider releasing funds so that all applicants could avail the scholarships. Heptullah said that Rs 38 crore would be sanctioned for the multi-sectoral development programme (MsDP). The programme seeks to improve the socio-economic conditions of minorities by initiating schemes for healthcare, education, sanitation, skill development and income generation in districts, where they comprise 25%.In what could be a shot in the arm for Daairatul Maarif, a repository of Arabic manuscripts in Osmania University, she assured funds for digitisation of manuscripts so that they can be preserved better. In addition, the minister said that the Centre would also consider starting coaching programmes for various competitive exams. (Times of India 11/2/15)

18. BJP must better understand the India it seeks to govern (7)

Who knew that the BJP’s party offices would wear a deserted look on counting day in the capital, just eight months after Narendra Modi swept into power in the general elections? The ruling party and millions of its faithful will take a while to recover from the enormity of the defeat in the Delhi elections. They will come to terms with the fact that for all their relish about the Congress getting only 44 seats in the Lok Sabha, they themselves narrowly avoided a blank result in Delhi polls. For their own and the nation’s sake, the BJP should absorb the right lessons from this defeat. A combination of factors worked against the BJP even though it marshalled the Prime Minister and 120 MPs into a campaign that left few stones unturned. For all its rhetoric about development and aspiration, the party failed to connect with the poor in ways that Arvind Kejriwal and the AAP have managed to, through sustained contact with neighbourhoods across the city. That was in a way expressed in the absence of local leadership beyond a few high profile leaders like Harsh Vardhan. That is a significant failing for a party in a country that is still largely poor. The BJP will need to, at the very least, rethink its narrative which is currently freighted towards the interests of the middle and upper classes. What should particularly shock the BJP is that it has lost support among the middle class which it had come to take for granted. The party’s development agenda has been consistently undercut by its own elements and its ideological affiliates who frequently indulge in misogynistic commentary, unleash unacceptable anti-minority rhetoric and violence while pursuing pointless campaigns against occasions like Valentine’s Day. The Sangh parivar seems completely out of step with what India’s cities and youth want. They are not interested in renaming minority festivals, nor in declarations by the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat that India is a Hindu Rashtra that needs to have “one language, one God and one religion”. Not only do such statements fly against the reality and idea of India, they fundamentally violate notions of fairness and individual freedom that young people intuitively embrace. The BJP must urgently seek to understand the India it seeks to govern, which formidable forces like the AAP seem to have a better handle on. It is time for Prime Minister Modi to speak out more explicitly against the regressive agenda that some of his party colleagues and allies espouse – and return to a singular focus on the development platform for which he was elected. (Hindustantimes 11/2/15)

19. Finally, Modi breaks silence, says won’t allow religious intolerance (7)

NEW DELHI: Breaking his silence over the rising incidence of attacks on churches and aggressive religious conversions, the Prime Minister said on Tuesday that his government will ensure complete freedom of faith. Narendra Modi asserted that everyone had the right to retain or adopt the religion of his choice without coercion. He also warned that his government would not allow any religious group, of majority or minority communities, to incite hatred against other. “Mine will be a government that gives equal respect to all religions,” Modi said. The PM’s comments come not just in the wake of hate speeches by fringe Sangh elements, but also after repeated concerns raised by US president Barack Obama about growing religious intolerance in India. In a strong warning to the fringe elements, Modi said, “We cannot accept violence against any religion on any pretext and I strongly condemn such violence. My government will act strongly in this regard.”He appealed to all religious groups “to act with restraint, mutual respect and tolerance in the true spirit of this ancient nation which is manifest in our Constitution”.Addressing a meeting organized by the Syro-Malabar Catholic church to celebrate Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Euphresia being declared saints by the Vatican, the PM’s comments would put to rest any speculation about any changes in conversion laws or in India’s constitutional commitment to secularism. The PM’s silence on the rising anxiety had led many observers to warn that Modi’s development agenda could be washed away by such controversies. Finance minister Arun Jaitley, who was also there for the meeting, said that the recent attacks on churches were “unacceptable aberrations”, and that the culprits would be punished. In one case, the guilty had been identified and brought to book, and in all other cases strong action would be taken. Mischief makers will have no place in our country, he said. The PM recalled the words of Swami Vivekanand — “We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true.” The principle of equal respect and treatment for all faiths, Modi said, has been part of the Indian ethos for thousands of years, adding: “And that is how it became integral to the Constitution of India. Our Constitution did not evolve in a vacuum. It has roots in the ancient cultural traditions of India.” Modi pointed out that India was the land of Buddha and Gandhi and “equal respect for all religions must be in the DNA of every Indian”.The PM said he had a vision for a modern India, and its mantra was development. “In simple terms it means food on every table, every child in school, a job for everybody and a house with toilet and electricity for every family. This will make India proud,” he said. The PM referred to the declaration adopted at the interfaith conference held on December 10, 2008 at The Hague to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the universal declaration of human rights by the UN. “We consider the freedom to have, to retain, and to adopt, a religion or belief, is a personal choice of a citizen,” he quoted from the declaration. (Times of India 18/2/15)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

20. Kiran Bedi writes to Election Commission over ‘fatwa’ (7)

New Delhi: After a humiliating defeat in the Delhi Assembly polls, BJP CM candidate Kiran Bedi has written to the Election Commission saying fatwas impact the freedom of choice to vote. On Wednesday, Ms Bedi blamed the “fatwa” by Jama Masjid Shahi Imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari appealing to Muslims to support AAP for her defeat in the BJP’s traditional stronghold of Krishna Nagar in East Delhi and sought a probe into it by the poll panel. She said the Election Commission should inquire the issue to find out whether the Shahi Imam’s appeal to Muslims a day before the polls had any impact on the electoral outcome. Ms Bedi claimed that though she was leading in the vote count, her vote share started dropping when counting of votes in a Muslim-dominated area of her constituency was taken up. “I was told that during the vote count in Krishna Nagar I was leading, but when the counting of votes of the area where the fatwa might have an impact was carried out, it started to drop,” Ms Bedi said, adding, “I lost by 2,000 votes when the counting reached that area.” A day ahead of the polls, Shahi Imam Bukhari appealed to Muslims to vote for AAP but the party promptly rejected the offer. Though it was an appeal by Bukhari, several BJP leaders called it a “fatwa”. “Fatwa means a diktat, a directive, it also means a hukumnama in a way. EC should examine whether fatwas issued last minute before the elections are good for the democratic process or not,” said Ms Bedi. However, the comments of the former IPS officer drew instant criticism from the Congress camp. “BJP saw a downfall (sic) since the day Kiran Bedi was nominated,” Congress leader J.P. Aggarwal said, dismissing her “fatwa” remark. Ms Bedi’s statements were noticed on Tuesday after the results were announced, when she said, “I have not lost. I gave it all my best. Let the BJP introspect. They will assess for themselves.” This after she took full responsibility for the poll debacle. (Asian Age 12/2/5)

21. U.P. villagers reject communal politics (7)

Nayagaon Akbarpur Chhendri (Kanth), A loudspeaker was installed in a small temple at Kanth in Moradabad last Friday. Muslim and Hindu villagers sat together with the local authorities and agreed to install it for a few days on the occasion of Mahashivratri. What happened in just an hour of discussion would have appeared “almost impossible” a few months ago, the villagers said. They spoke of the “mutual distrust” between the two communities and attempts of political players to polarise the region over the issue. Last June, the situation became tense after BJP workers violently protested against the removal of the loudspeaker by the administration, which acted on complaints registered by a member of the minority community. Tragically, during the protests, the then Moradabad District Magistrate Chandrakant lost vision in one eye. Residents of Kanth, where Dalits and Muslims live in a closely knit society, told The Hindu that political players in the region were trying to polarise the village by engaging in “competitive communal politics” ahead of the by-polls in western Uttar Pradesh in September. Alok, a scrap seller on the outskirts of the village, felt quite strongly about the peace of the village being a “casualty” in the aftermath of the controversy. “The issue of loudspeaker over a temple or a mosque is a simple issue that we could have sorted out had the political parties not jumped and made it a Hindu-Muslim issue,” he said. Despite being a high-school dropout, Alok said he was “wise enough” to see that political parties tried to cash in on the controversy. “You must notice the fact that no political leader visits the village once the by-polls were over in September last year,” he added. Moradbad MP Kunwar Sarvesh Kumar Singh of the BJP had promised the Dalit community, which worships in the temple, to ensure that the temple got a permanent loudspeaker, Alok said. Mr. Singh along with other BJP MPs and Anisurrahman — the local MLA from the Peace Party, a relatively new political outfit — were at the forefront of an agitation against the decision to remove the loudspeaker. The BJP also planned to organise a Mahapanchayat over the issue, but the local administration banned it, leading to the protests in which Mr. Chandrakant lost sight in one of his eyes. (The Hindu 15/2/15)

22. Muslim clerics pose six questions to RSS (7)

KANPUR: A delegation of Muslim clerics led by the Sunni Ulema Council’s general secretary met RSS functionary Indresh and posed six questions to the Sangh including whether it has prepared a format to turn India into a Hindu ‘rashtra’, which he claimed left the saffron outfit irritated. The Muslim delegation claimed that Indresh refused to answer their questions and instead said that a conference of Muslim organisations should be called where he would give the answers. “We had a meeting with senior RSS functionary Indreshji last night during which we asked six questions, but he did not have any answer,” Sunni Ulema Council general secretary Haji Mohammed Salees said on Tuesday. He alleged that Indreshji, who is pracharak and looks after minority affairs in the organisation, got “irritated” with the questions. “Our first question was whether RSS considers India a Hindu country. The second one was whether RSS has prepared a format to turn India into a Hindu ‘rashtra’. The third one was whether this Hindu ‘rashtra’ will be according to Hindu religious texts or RSS has chalked out a new philosophy,” he said. Salees said, “The fourth question was what they want on religious conversion. The fifth one was what type of ‘rashtra prem’ (patriotism) RSS wants from Muslims. The sixth one was how RSS views Islam,” he said. He said that these were the six questions which Indreshji “failed” to answer. “They (RSS) did not have any format. They are shouting about ‘Hindu rashtra’ only on the basis of propaganda,” he alleged. Salees feared that if Hindu rashtra was built on Hindu texts, Dalits could once again not be allowed to enter temples. “We asked whether a new philosophy has been chalked out by RSS. If a new philosophy has been chalked out that means Hindu religion is not religious culture. In that case, anyone can convert,” he said. Salees said when the Constitution provides freedom of religion, why is the RSS afraid of bringing a bill. “We are not afraid. If any Muslim does not like Islam and wants to leave, he can go. We don’t have any law to keep anyone Muslim by compulsion,” he said. Salees said as far as love for the country was concerned their ancestors rejected Jinnah and Pakistan. “In 1947, when the concept of two countries was decided, our ancestors rejected Jinnah and Pakistan and accepted Gandhiji as our leader, India as our country and expressed faith in the Constitution,” he said. “What do they want from the Muslims? They should sing Vande Matram and bow before the picture of Bharat Mata, which they have visualized? We won’t accept it. It is against Islam,” he said. “The ultimate result of the 90-minute meeting was they (RSS) asked us to call a ‘sammelan’ of Muslims and they will reply (to our posers),” Salees said. “I said that when you cannot answer these questions in a room, then how will you do so in a conference. We then asked as to why should we call a conference,” he said. Salees said there was restlessness among Muslims over these issues and “I came to take reply to these questions being raised in our community.” “I believe whatever be our religion, we should be honest towards the Constitution. Religion is our personal thing. It is not an issue of the nation. We don’t even support the statements of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader Asaduddin Owaisi. “Those flaring communal passion are not loyal to the country. The country will run on the principles of Gandhiji, it will not run on the statements of Owaisi or Sangh,” he added. Meanwhile, a city cleric, who skipped a meeting between Indresh and a delegation of Muslim leaders on Monday night, said there “was no point” in meeting a representative and that he would only meet RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat to highlight issues pertaining to their community. “Salees had called me for the meeting but I have already met Indresh before and there was no point in meeting him again. I will respond to the request of a meeting only if Bhagwat will call us,” city cleric Alam Raja Noori said. “If we had met Bhagwat, we would have put forth our issues with their agenda of a Hindu nation. Talking with Indresh about our concerns will not affect organisation’s perspective,” he said. The cleric further said he was out of town when the meeting took place but even if he were here he wouldn’t have met Indresh. Meanwhile, Salees said Noori’s name was not included in the list of members who were to meet the RSS functionary and was only added later. Elaborating on the meeting, Salees said, on being questioned by Indresh on their alleged silence over remarks by AIMIM Asaduddin Owaisi, the delegation told him that Owaisi does not represent the views of the community. Equating him with the likes of BJP MPs Sakshi Maharaj and Sadhvi Nirajan Jyoti, Salees said, “Owaisi is “just a Member of Parliament”. (Times of India 17/2/15)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

23. 8 Dalit Christians Re-convert to Hinduism at Pudukottai (7)

PUDUKKOTTAI: Eight Dalit Christians of  Ramanathapuram district re-embraced Hinduism in a Pudukkottai temple on Wednesday aided by Hindu Munnani cadre and a priest from Madurai Seva Ashram. According to Hindu Munnnai sources, Pudukkottai district, the ‘home coming’ was organised at Villayuthamudaiya Ayyanar temple as it was the dalits’ kuladeivam (family deity). Ramamoorthi, district secretary, Hindu Munnani told Express that the dalits wished to re-embrace Hinduism as they worshipped Hindu deities for more than two decades even though they were officially Christians. The group’s letter to Hindu Munnani stated that the eight wanted help to reunite with their ancestor’s religion. Muruganandamji, a priest from Seva Ashram, Thiruparankundram, Madurai district did the rituals. Ramamoorthi said, “Their Christian names have been changed to Hindu names.” Meanwhile, Sudalai Mani, state secretary of Hindu Munnani told Express, “To avoid police torture in Ramanathapuram district we selected Pudukkottai district and the exact place was chosen by the eight as the temple is said to be their kuladeivam (family deity).” “In Chennai we had to face several hurdles by police when we planned a ‘home coming ceremony.’ Following this we selected another district,” Mani said, adding, “We never forced anyone and we organised the programme after the group requested. They visited Sabarimala for the last two decades though they were Christians. Now they have changed their religion officially.” The district police have begun questioning various Hindu activists, sources said. (New Indian Express 13/2/15)

24. Delhi convent school vandalised, PM summons Police Commissioner (7)

NEW DELHI: The Holy Child Auxilium School was vandalised in the early hours of Friday in the sixth attack on Christian establishments in the city in three months. Though the Delhi police are under the Union Home Ministry, it is rare for the Prime Minister to summon the Commissioner directly. The action comes after a series of attacks on churches and Christian leaders, resulting in accusation of Delhi police inaction despite representations to the Prime Minister and the Home Minister. The attacks and the allegation that the government did little to assuage the feeling of fear among the community are suspected to have contributed to the BJP’s rout in the recently concluded Assembly elections. Home Minister Rajnath Singh was in Manipur on Friday. Mr. Modi spoke on the phone with Home Secretary L.C. Goyal, virtually directing him to personally monitor the Delhi police action. “The Prime Minister asked the Home Secretary to pay special attention to the rising incidents of crime and vandalism and to work towards ensuring the safety and security of women in the Capital,” a senior ministry official said. (The Hindu 14/2/15)

25. 36 Re-Convert at Ghar Wapsi Drive (7)

KOLLAM: In yet another massive ‘Ghar Wapsi’ drive held in the district on Sunday, 36 people including members of a Roman Catholic family reportedly returned to Hinduism. The number of re-converted people in the district during the past two months has reached 115 with this drive organised by various Hindu organisations in the area. The drive was reportedly led by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad local committe. In a massive drive held at Areekkara near Uzhavoor, members of as many as 25 families from Uzhavoor, Ramapuram, Monippally, Veliyannoor, Kadanadu, Kuryanadu, Kudakkachira, Melukavu, Kurichithanam and Marangattupilly took part. The participants were mainly from Cheramar Christian, Roman Catholic and Vedar castes. The drive was reportedly organised by the Uzhavoor Unit of VHP, the Areekkara Branch of SNDP Yogam and Sree Ramadasa Ashram, Chenkottukonam. The ritualistic ceremonies were held under the aegis of Brahmapadananda Swaraswathi Theertha Padar, the head of the Chenkottukonam Math and Brahmachari Praveeth Kumar, general convener of the Math. The first massive ‘Ghar Wapsi’ drive in the state was held on last Christmas Day. As many as 58 took part in the programme held at Thirunakkara and Ponkunnam then. Later, another re-conversion programme was held in Uzhavoor on January 15, in which as many as 16 persons reportedly returned to Hinduism.As part of the efforts to forge the greater Hindu alliance initiatives, the Hindu conference organised under the aegis of the district unit of the Viswa Hindu Parishad (VHP) here the other day, resolved to bring in place various changes in ritualistic performances and activities in temples. According to VHP functionaries, the decisions of the conference will be implemented in 12 temples under the VHP district unit.  K P Prakash, VHP district seva pramukh, said that the main decision of the conference was to convert the temples as service centers to carry out social services to the public. “This will be implemented in 12 temples under VHP district unit in the first phase of the initiative. We also decided to allow the male devotees to have ‘darshans’ in the temples with tops (shirts, vests etc),” he said. (New Indian Express 16/2/15)

26. CBCI Hails PM’s Assurance on Religious Freedom (7)

KOCHI: The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India  (CBCI) welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement that  the government would not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority and minority categories, to incite hatred against others. It was the first time the Prime Minister reacted to the recent incidents of attack on Christian places of worship in the capital city. CBCI president Cardinal Baselios Cleemis in a statement said those who attempt to sabotage the country’s secularism should understand the significance of the Prime Minister’s statement to bring in a change in their attitude and actions. The Cardinal had urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to issue directive to the law enforcement agencies to provide protection and security to religious minorities so that they could follow faith according to their respective religions. Meanwhile, the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council (KCBC)  stated that the Prime Minister’s statement assuring religious freedom was a great relief for the minorities, among whom a feeling of insecurity was growing in the wake of the recent developments, including the ‘ghar vapsi’ programme and the attack on churches and church-run establishments in Delhi. “The proactive statement by the PM will definitely help to ease the tension prevailing in many places,” a KCBC spokesperson said. The KCBC further stated that the global developments  should be an inspiration for the people of India to maintain the country’s great tradition of secularism’’. (New Indian Express 18/2/15)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

27. Rajnath to Visit Tripura on Repatriation of Reang Refugees (13)

AGARTALA: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Union Minister of State (Home) Kiren Rijuju will visit Tripura on Saturday to review the law and order situation and discuss the repatriation of Reang refugees, housed in six evacuee camps in the state, official sources said today. The Union Home Minister would arrive here by chopper from Imphal and then again fly by chopper for Khanthlang border outpost, a remote area in Kanchanpur subdivision of North Tripura district to hold meeting with BSF officers, SP, Police Control, Uttam Bhowmick said. From Khanthlang he would visit the evacuee camps of the internally displaced Reangs from neighbouring Mizoram and then return to Agartala to hold meeting with Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar and Mizoram Chief Minister Lalthanhawla at the Civil Secretariat, Bhowmick said. More than 32,000 Reang/Bru refugees were huddled in six camps after they took shelter in Tripura since 1997 following ethnic clashes with the local Mizos over possession of land. The Union Home Minister would return to Delhi on the same day. (New Indian Express 11/2/15)

28. Rajnath Singh visits Bangladesh border in Tripura (13)

Agartala: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh accompanied by his deputy, Kiren Rijiju, Saturday visited the India-Bangladesh border in Tripura and discussed issues with officials and BSF troopers. The two ministers also met Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar. “Rajnath Singh with Rijiju (minister of state for home affairs) and home ministry officials visited Khantlang in Tripura along the India-Bangladesh-Mizoram border,” a Border Security Force (BSF) officer said. The home ministers interacted with the BSF officials and troopers at the Khantlang border outposts (195 km from Agartala), along the Bangladesh`s Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). The militants set up camps in CHT and used the unfenced borders for their trans-border movements. “Senior BSF officials briefed both the ministers about the border issues and militancy related problems,” the BSF official told IANS on condition of anonymity. The home minister appreciated the BSF troopers for their role in maintaining security in the mountainous areas. Earlier both the ministers accompanied by senior home ministry officials arrived here from Manipur, capital Imphal and left for the bordering areas by an Indian Air Force helicopter. After visiting the border areas, the union ministers met Sarkar and senior state government officials in Agartala to chalk out a plan to repatriate the tribal refugees to Mizoram. Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla was scheduled to attend the meeting but could not make it. About 32,000 Reang tribals, locally called “Bru”, are staying in seven camps in Tripura since October 1997 after fleeing their villages in Mizoram, following ethnic troubles after the killing of a Mizo forest official. Home Ministry`s Joint Secretary Shambhu Singh Jan 30 held a meeting in New Delhi with Tripura and Mizoram officials and discussed the repatriation of Mizoram`s tribal refugees. The Tripura government has been asking both Mizoram and the union home ministry to repatriate the tribal refugees to their homes in Mizoram. (Zee News 14/2/15)

29. Rajnath Singh assures all possible help in repatriation of all Bru migrants (13)

Kanchanpur: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has assured all possible help in repatriation of all Bru migrants in Tripura. The Home Minister was interacting with the representatives of Bru migrants living in relief camps at Kanchanpur during his visit to Tripura. The Government has released fund amounting to Rs. 242.35 crore for the year 2014-15 for maintenance of the Bru migrants living in relief camps. Earlier, Rajnath Singh has visited border areas along Chittagong Hill tracts to meet BSF personnel at Khantlang (North Tripura). BSF jawans have explained the functioning of monitoring equipments used at the BoPs. While addressing, Rajnath Singh has underlined the importance of their presence in border areas and saluted their courage. “I salute these brave men who stay away from home to perform their national duty,” he added. The Union Home Minister has met the Chief Minister of Tripura Manik Sarkar and reviewed the security situation in the state. While addressing a press conference, Rajnath Singh has said that Insurgency was the biggest problem facing the North-Eastern region. “Our government is committed to the North East development but insurgency and militancy hamper its progress,” he added. The Union Home Minister has appealed to insurgent groups operating in the North-East to shun violence and give the region a change to progress and develop. The Union Home Minister has assured Tripura government of all cooperation to deal with the issues of insurgency and other security related issues. The government is planning 100 percent repatriation of all Bru refugees and the Centre will provide all assistance to expedite the process, he added. The Union Home Minister appealed to Mizoram government to provide adequate security to Bru refugees and help them in their rehabilitation. (New Kerala 16/2/15)

30. Myanmar conflict: China rules out intervention (13)

BEIJING: China has assured Myanmar that it will not interfere in its domestic affairs, despite a cross-border surge in the Yunnan province of refugees, who are escaping fighting following a military offensive in northern Myanmar. Heavy fighting between the Myanmar army and Kokang rebels for control of Laukkai township in the northern Shan State, is causing civilians to flee across the border, Myanmar’s newspaper, The Irrawaddy , quoting a rebel source, reported. Despite the close ethnic ties between the Kokang people and mainland groups, China has made it plain it will not be drawn into the conflict. The Chinese are also debating whether a win-win partnership for durable peace in Myanmar with India and Thailand is possible, which could reconcile China’s “One Road, One Belt” strategy with New Delhi’s “Look East” policy. Analysts say that China wants to quickly restore stability in Myanmar, which is central to the fulfilment of the its grand strategy of the developing the 21st century Maritime Silk Road and the Silk Road Economic Belt, which aims to integrate the economies of Asia and Europe, anchored by China. A strongly worded editorial in Global Times , the newspaper affiliated with the Communist Party of China (CPC), stressed that the Kokang people are not entitled to the rights that Chinese citizens exercise. The write up follows an appeal in an open letter by Kokang leader Pheung Kya-shin for support from Chinese people all over the world, spurring speculation in sections of the western and social media that a situation similar to Crimea has developed along China’s border with Myanmar, following the refugee rush. The editorial warned that that there “are no grounds for comparing Kokang to Crimea”, and those “who are stuck in such comparisons are either spouting nonsense, or have ulterior motives”. It added that, “China should play a role in fostering peace in northern Myanmar and persuading Myanmar government troops and ethnic armed forces to solve the problem through negotiations”. Recognising Myanmar’s criticality to the fulfilment of “One Road, One Belt” strategy, another commentary, appearing earlier this month in the Global Times , advocated joint efforts by China, India and Thailand to restore win-win peace in Myanmar. The commentary added that all three countries will benefit from stability in Myanmar, which can” become a hub that connects China, India and Thailand”. (The Hindu 18/2/15)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

31. Over 96 p.c. of RTI pleas cleared (1)

MYSURU: Karnataka has disposed of 96.84 per cent of more than 4.25 lakh applications received under the Right to Information Act (RTI) last year. Information Commissioner Shekar D. Sajjan said here on Tuesday the maximum number of applications for information under the RTI Act pertained to the Revenue Department, which got 1,46,715 requests of which 1,32,358 were disposed of. The Department of Urban Development got 89,026 applications of which 83,550 were cleared, while 74,001 applications were received by the Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department of which 70,839 applications have been disposed of so far. During 2013-14, the government accrued a revenue of Rs. 59.95 lakh by way of fee collected from applicants. There is a proposal to establish two regional offices in the State. (The Hindu 11/2/15)

32. Info commission flays CMO officials for ‘negligence’ (1)

HYDERABAD: The chief minister’s office (CMO), it appears, is not interested in upholding the spirit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The information commission recently came down heavily on public information officers of the CMO, the minorities welfare department (MWD) and the AP State Wakf Board (APSWB) for not having furnished information under the RTI Act concerning the action taken with respect to mismanagement of wakf properties. The applicant, Khaja Aijazuddin, a lawyer, citing a 2008 SC order which directed the government of undivided Andhra Pradesh to probe the mismanagement of the APSWB in the last two decades, its issuing of no objection certificates and leasing of properties in its custody, sought a status report. According to Aijazuddin, the CMO forwarded the query to the MWD citing that no information was available. The MWD subsequently forwarded the application to the APSWB. When information was not forthcoming, the applicant filed the first appeal with the CMO, only to find out that it was transferred to the MWD. The applicant approached the commission with his second appeal. In his order (a copy of which is available with TOI) given on Monday, information commissioner S Imtiyaz Ahmed noted that the PIO of the CMO, “negligently” and “blindly forwarded” the application to another PIO with “malafide intention”. This, he reasoned, was akin to denying information. He also noted the information should be available with the CMO as the SC had ordered the state government to take necessary action. Ahmed described the attitude of the PIO and first appellant authority (FAA) of the CMO as “negative” with respect to the implementation of the RTI act. “This case is a classic example that even officials of the CM’s office are unaware of provisions of the Act and the procedure to be followed,” he lashed out in the order. “The PIO is seriously warned for not warning the procedure. Similarly the FAA (is) also warned for not adhering to the procedure contemplated under the act. He observed that it was “high time” the government conduct awareness programmes “particularly in the CMO periodically, in order to implement effectively the provisions of the RTI Act.” Issuing a show cause notice to the CMO, Ahmed directed the PIO and the FAA to provide the information to the applicant within 15 days of the order and submit to the commission a compliance report. “I was aggrieved with the functioning of the CMO with respect to the furnishing of information. How can they deny simple but crucial information? Hence I appealed before the commission, Aijazuddin told TOI on Thursday. (Times of India 13/2/15)

33. CBI misconstrues RTI Act exemption clause (1)

New Delhi: In an apparent misinterpretation of the RTI Act, CBI has claimed before the Delhi high court that it can only share information pertaining to allegations of corruption against its own officials and not the graft cases probed by it. The explanation not only goes against the preamble of the Act, which says that an informed citizenry is vital to hold governments and their instrumentalities accountable, but also contravenes Section 24 of RTI Act under which CBI has been included in the list of exempted organisations by the previous UPA government, which was facing serious corruption charges probed by the agency. Recently, CBI has even started returning RTI applications citing the exemption clause despite clear orders from the CIC and its former director, A.P. Singh. Section 24 says that nothing in the Act will apply to exempted organisations provided the “information” sought by an application pertaining to allegations of corruption is not excluded under it. The definition of “information” says it is “any material in any form held by or under the control” of a public authority and, as per the definition, it may not necessarily be about the organisation from which the information was sought. The agency, while challenging the order of chief information commissioner Satyananda Mishra through a writ petition before Delhi high court, apparently misconstrued the clause which exempts it from the RTI Act by only highlighting the portion of it which goes in its favour. Experts are of the view that the Right to Information Act is not about records of an organisation or its employees. The Act is about any information which is “held by or under the control” of a public authority. “A citizen can demand the information (any material in any form held by or under the control of a public authority) from CBI if it pertains to allegations of corruption. The claim that it will give information only where allegations are against its employees is a complete abuse of the law,” said noted activist Venkatesh Nayak. (Asian Age 16/2/15)

34. Can high court insist on its rules on RTI pleas, SC asks Gujarat (1)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Monday issued notice to the registrar of the Gujarat High Court on a plea by the State Information Commission saying that the high court could not insist on adherence to its rules for sharing information sought under the Right to Information Act. A bench of Justice J. Chelameswar and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman issued notice to the registrar as well as former medical officer Mahendra Bhatt who had sought information from the high court under the RTI Act but was told by its public information officer that he should seek the information under the relevant provisions of the Gujarat High Court Rules, 1993 instead of the RTI Act. Bhatt was also told that if he was not a party to the proceedings in respect of which he was seeking information, then he would have to file an affidavit stating reasons for which the certified copy and other documents were required. This response came in reply to his application in 2010 seeking certain information along with documents and certified copies. The PIO told Bhatt to approach the high court for the required information either personally or through his lawyer on the payment of fee of Rs.3 to the deputy registrar, decree department. (New Kerala 17/2/15)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

35. 1,400 students to get admissions under RTE (11)

VADODARA: As many as 1,400 students from poor families will be given admissions in private schools under the provisions of Right to Education (RTE) Act. The forms for the admissions under the system will be available from the district education office from Thursday. The state government awards a quota to each city for admissions under the RTE act since the last couple of years. A committee headed by municipal commissioner looks into the admission process after accepting forms. Chairman of the primary school education committee of Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) Keyur Rokadia who is also a member of the admission committee said that last year the state government had given a quota for 800 students for the city. “We were the only municipal corporation area in the state that admitted students on all the seats,” he said. District education officer and member secretary of the admission committee Navnit Mehta said that the children would be admitted in 82 Gujarati medium, 33 English medium schools as well as 11 CBSE and international schools. He added that forms for eligible students would be given till March 10. (Times of India 12/2/15)

36. AAP govt good news for RTE activists, pvt schools worried (11)

NEW DELHI: Having Aam Aadmi Party back in power is good news for Right to Education activists. They now have a government that’s “interested.” This was one area of governance that AAP had successfully stirred up during its 49-day stint. The activists didn’t approve of all the measures but agree that the “hulchul” helped. “Within three days, the government managed to get data with the help of volunteers on the status of compliance with the RTE Act’s infrastructure norms in over 900 government schools,” says Kumar Ratan of National Coalition for Education (NCE). While the volunteer system undermined the RTE-mandated school management committees, it also signalled AAP’s willingness to actively involve the community in the running of schools. “Education systems need participation of people and AAP gave civil society that space,” observed Ambarish Rai, national convener, Right to Education Forum. He intends to meet the new minister and ask him to “do it right” this time and begin with child-mapping—another RTE Act requirement that wasn’t fulfilled; strengthen the grievance redress and monitoring systems; and bring ordinary government schools to the standard of the special category ones. NCE is also thankful to AAP’s Manish Sisodia who, in his first stint as Delhi’s education minister, had halted the PPP project envisioned by a municipal body. “Sisodia has repeatedly stated that education is the state’s responsibility,” said Ratan. “AAP’s win is good news but they should uphold legal arrangements like school management committees and not further marginalize them.” Private school managements are reacting to AAP’s victory with cautious optimism. One school association chief admits he’s “apprehensive.” When AAP was in power, they had fully supported the nursery admission guidelines based on the LG’s order and took steps to tighten the screws on private schools. When HC upheld the autonomy of private schools in deciding nursery criteria in November, Sisodia had issued a statement against it. All this—together with talk of fee regulation—has one principal saying, “I know we’ll be troubled for the next five years.” Private school associations are willing to assist the government. “There could be an interesting interdependence between government and private schools. We could share resources, have common training programmes. Private schools will be happy to help out,” says Ameeta Mulla Wattal, chairperson, National Progressive Schools Conference. Members of the action committee for Unaided Recognized Public Schools, which fought in court the LG guidelines that AAP had so strenuously backed, will meet the new minister to “tell them about us (private schools), our performance and our problems.” “I hope they’ll think of the interest of the people and ensure that government schools are functioning,” says action committee president, SK Bhattacharya. “The government’s policy shouldn’t be based on rumours such as private schools fleece parents and have discriminatory admission policies,” comments Sushil Salwan, chairperson, Salwan Education Trust. Interestingly, Salwan believes that the first AAP government “neither expressed nor took steps that were anti-private schools.” He feels they were simply trying to “plug loopholes” in the existing system. (Times of India 14/2/15)

37. Primary Education Still Eludes Many (11)

BHUBANESWAR:Despite massive expenditure under Sarva Sikshya Abhiyan (SSA) and introduction of Right to Education (RTE) Act, primary education in the State still remains inaccessible to children in many areas. Shortage of teachers and dilapidated school buildings are major issues which are yet to be addressed by the Government though adequate funds are available under different Central and State schemes. Out of 36,399 primary and 21,945 upper primary schools in the State, at least 45,846 schools are yet to be provided a teacher for each class. Besides, rooms for each class are not available in 43,973 schools. Independent rooms for each class is available only in 2,885 schools. There is a teacher for each class in only 3,453 schools. The statistics provided by School and Mass Education Minister Debi Prasad Mishra in a written reply to a question from Dilip Ray (BJP) paint a bleak picture of the primary education system in Odisha. Due to non-availability of rooms and teachers in most of the schools, students of two-three classes are taught in a single room by a single teacher, the reply stated. Though there is requirement of 2,24,330 regular teachers for both primary and upper primary schools as per the norms of RTE, only 1,15,833 teachers are available. The situation is being managed by the appointment of 73,736 siksha sahayaks and gana sikshaks. However, there is still a shortfall of 34,779 teachers. In Ganjam district alone, more than 8,000 posts of regular primary school teacher are vacant. About 6,000 vacancies have been filled up by siksha sahayaks. In Mayurbhanj district, posts of more than 7,000 regular teachers are vacant while in Kalahandi it is more than 6,000. The Minister has also admitted in response to another question that 1,721 high schools are functioning without regular headmasters. A large number of posts, including science teachers, are vacant in high schools. (New Indian Express 16/2/15)

38. How is education cess used, asks NHRC (1)

CHENNAI: The National Human Rights Commission has given four weeks to the Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu to provide details regarding the use of its share of Education Cess provided by the Central government. The notice, available in the Commission’s website, seeks to know how the cess was used and whether it had provided facilities such as toilets in schools. The Chief Secretary has also been directed to inform the Commission about the amount of money “lying unused and how the State government proposes to use this money.” The NHRC member Justice D. Murugesan, had taken up the issue following a complaint by the Catalyst Trust, a non-governmental organisation, which had alleged that the apathy by the State government had affected girl children. Mr. Murugesan observed that the Right to Education, guaranteed under Article 21A of the Constitution, includes the right of students to have conducive atmosphere. Such rights should be ensured to all students and the responsibility lay with the State more so when a cess was collected for that purpose. Chairman Emeritus of Catalyst Trust R. Desikan said he took up the issue following a study which revealed that 80 per cent of the time people in the country sought medical treatment for food-and-water-related infections. (The Hindu 19/2/15)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

39. 15 key promises AAP has made to people of Delhi (21)

Since the Aam Aadmi Party is all set to form the government in Delhi, TOI enlists key promises the party has made. (1) Delhi Janlokpal Bill: Resolved to bring Delhi Jan Lokpal Bill on coming to power. Delhi Lokpal will have the power to investigate and prosecute those charged with corruption. (2) 2.: Swaraj Bill AAP will also bring the Swaraj Bill to devolve powers to the people.Decisions affecting the local community will be taken by citizens and implemented by their secretariat. (3) Full statehood for Delhi: AAP will push for full statehood for Delhi. This will make bodies like DDA, MCD & Delhi Police accountable to the elected Delhi government. (4) Electricity bills to be cut by half: AAP will ask CAG to do an audit of discoms, and convinced that they are fattening the costs, AAP will reduce electricity bills by half. (5) Discom portability: AAP has promised to provide consumers the right to choose between electricity providers.This, they say, will create competition, leading to better services and lower tariffs. (6)

Delhi to be made a solar city: AAP will facilitate a phased shift to renewable and alternate sources of energy. (7) Water as a right: AAP will provide universal access to clean drinking water at an affordable price. This, they say, is every citizen’s right. (8) Free water: AAP to give free ‘lifeline’ water of up to 20 kilolitres (20,000 litres) per month to every household. But once consumption exceeds 20 kilolitres, full amount to be charged. Annual 10% tariff hike will be abolished & hikes will be after due consideration.(9) Reviving Yamuna: Will ensure 100% collection and treatment of Delhi’s sewage through an extensive sewer network and construction of new functional sewage treatment plants. (10) Public loos: AAP will build 1.5 lakh toilets in slums across the city and 50,000 toilets in public spaces.Of them, 1 lakh toilets will be for women. (11) New schools: AAP will build 500 new schools with a special focus on secondary and senior secondary schools to ensure that every Delhi child has easy access to quality education. (12) New colleges: AAP will open 20 new colleges under Delhi administration on the outskirts of the city in partnership with the villages of Delhi. (13) Regulate fees: AAP to regulate private school fees by publishing the fee structures & accounts online.Capitation fee will be abolished. (14) E-governance: All govt services & forms to be available online & on cellphone.Data on govt projects, progress, accounts & personnel will be posted online. (15) Smart Delhi . AAP promised free Wi-Fi in city. It will also install 10,000 CCTVs in DTC buses, bus stands and in crowded places as a deterrent against crime. (Times of India 11/2/15)

40. No Toilet in 80 Lakh Rural Households in Odisha (21)

BHUBANESWAR: Even as jaundice is spreading to new regions of the State, nearly 80 lakh households in the rural areas do not have toilets in their houses while as many households do not have drinking water connection. The situation in urban areas is similar where outdated pipelines and lack of garbage disposal have led to outbreak of jaundice which the State Government is finding difficult to bring under control. Official sources said only 1.59 per cent of the households in rural areas have pipe water connections while the figure is less than one per cent in 17 out of 30 districts in the State. As per the 2011 Census, 81.44 lakh households reside in rural areas out of 96.61 lakh households in the State. Only 1.29 lakh houses have water connections and 32.39 lakh families collect drinking water from the stand-posts in their villages. About 47.75 lakh families do not have drinking water facilities. These include tribal and inaccessible villages in Western and Southern Odisha districts. Coverage under piped water connectivity is less than one per cent in Sundargarh, Sonepur, Sambalpur, Rayagada, Puri, Nuapada, Nayagarh, Koraput, Khurda, Keonjhar, Kandhamal, Kalahandi, Boudh, Bhadrak, Bargarh, Balangir and Angul districts.  Similarly, only 10.38 lakh families out of the total 96.62 lakh have toilet facilities as enumerated in 2013 baseline survey. Less than five per cent houses in Kalahandi, Nuapada, Kandhamal, Keonjhar, Koraput, Malkangiri, Mayurbhanj, Nabarangpur, Rayagada, Sundargarh, Sonepur, Sambalpur, Balangir, Boudh, Deogarh, Gajapati, Ganjam and Jharsuguda have toilet facilities. The issue cropped up in the ongoing budget session of the Assembly several times as jaundice has affected more than a thousand people in Sambalpur, Cuttack and other areas. (New Indian Express 15/2/15)

41. Malnourishment high among children of migrants: study (21)

JAIPUR: The level of malnourishment is high among children whose parents migrate in search of livelihood. Inherent malnourishment in mothers, lack of food and nutrition security, feeding and dietary practices and illnesses are some of the reasons identified for high levels of malnourishment. A study ‘Understanding hunger and malnutrition among high migrant communities’ conducted in south Rajasthan by Aajeevika Bureau and EdelGive Foundation has revealed that more than half the children were underweight in those communities where migration was high. Stunting or retarded growth was reported in 53 per cent of the children with 28 per cent of them severely so; 33 per cent are wasted (debilitated growth) with over 9 per cent of them severely so and one-fourth severely underweight. South Rajasthan — broadly Udaipur division — is a semi-arid region with a largely tribal population which owns small land holdings. Small land holdings are unable to help them sustain a livelihood which results in high levels of migration. Each panchayat, where the study was done, had 550-600 migrants. The study was done in four panchayats in one block — two had high levels of migrations and the other two low migration. The sample of 884 households, which had less than three children, was picked up from 13 villages. A total of 695 children under the age of three were weighed and measured as were 607 mothers. The median BMI (body mass index) of mothers was 18.1 with 58 per cent having a BMI of less than 18.5. An analysis has suggested inter-generational transfer of under-nutrition. When the mother is under-nourished, children are 1.8 times more likely to have severe malnutrition. Also, less availability of food items, small land holdings resulting in low produce and caring practices caused malnutrition. Roti was the only food item eaten by children daily and more than 60 per cent had access to it. Only 58 per cent were breastfed, and less than one per cent had daliya (porridge) which is supposed to be highly nutritious. The study further shows that children of migrating families were less likely to be enrolled at the anganwadi centres where the government provides supplementary food to pre-school children. Importantly, the anganwadi centres were less functional in areas with high migrating population. When a mother goes for work, the primary caretakers are grandparents in 57 per cent of the cases, father in just 4 per cent and elder brother in 5 per cent. (The Hindu 16/2/15)

42. Centre in no hurry to cut PDS cover for poor (21)

NEW DELHI: The Narendra Modi government is not in a hurry to accept the controversial recommendation of the Shanta Kumar panel to cut the public distribution system beneficiaries for subsidised foodgrains to 40 from 67 per cent under the National Food Security Act, highly placed government sources have indicated to The Hindu. With several crucial Assembly elections in the offing this and the next year and the resurgence of the Aam Aadmi Party which is waiting to spread its wings in Punjab and Bihar, the Modi government is treading cautiously on important policy decisions. Assembly elections in Bihar, where the BJP is hoping to make a bid for power, is scheduled for later this year, and any backlash on account of reduced coverage under the NFSA is not something that the Modi government would like at this juncture. Incidentally, Union Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan whose Lok Janshakti Party is a BJP ally at the Centre and in Bihar, has strong reservations about the suggestion to cut down the priority beneficiaries from the Targeted PDS.The Shanta Kumar committee recommendations have already drawn flak from several opposition parties. “Even if the UPA’s National Food Security Act was a Lok Sabha poll-eve gimmick, the NDA cannot be seen tinkering with it so as to reduce the percentage of beneficiaries. It will be a highly unpopular proposal on which there will be no political consensus,’’ highly placed sources told The Hindu. But some recommendations regarding the re-structuring of the FCI, modernisation of the PDS, conversion of godowns into silos, de-centralised procurement and raising the quantum of foodgrains to 7 kg per person from the present 5 kg may be taken on board. So far only 11 States have rolled out the National Food Security Act but none has the requisite infrastructure in place. The NDA has given time till June for States to get their act together. The NFSA includes the Mid-Day Meal Scheme, Other Welfare Schemes and the Targeted Public Distribution System. The 67 per cent TPDS coverage includes 75 per cent population in rural areas and 50 per cent in urban areas. Under the scheme, rice is priced at Rs. 3 per kg, wheat at Rs. 2 per kg and coarse grains at Re. 1 per kg. States have to identify the beneficiaries as per a criterion and cap worked out by the erstwhile Planning Commission. The panel which was set up by the Modi government in August to make recommendations for re-structuring the Food Corporation of India, has suggested that the Centre “re-visit’’ the National Food Security Act to incorporate its recommendations. Among other key recommendations are raising the quantum of rationed foodgrains to seven kg per person instead of five, raising the cost of rationed foodgrains, shifting to cash transfers in lieu of foodgrains, a re-look at the regime for giving minimum support price for farm commodities, an open-ended procurement system, outsourcing of foodgrains storage and entry of private players into bulk handling of foodgrains. It justified its recommendations on the consideration of large foodstocks, lack of storage space and high food subsidy bill, budgeted at Rs. 1,02,476 crore for 2014-15. The allocation of foodgrains under the Act is estimated at 62.1 million tonne. (The Hindu 19/2/15)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

43. Provide details of ‘missing’ bonded labour: NHRC (14)

VIJAYAWADA: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) directed the Krishna district officials to submit the details of bonded labourers who went missing in three weeks. Deputy Commissioner of Labour (DCL), N. Suryanarayana, who appeared before the Commission on February 9, at New Delhi, submitted the documents related to the relief provided to 672 bonded labourers, who were rescued from different stone quarries in the district a few years ago. But, the Commission grilled Mr. Suryanarayana for failing to produce the details of the remaining 248 labourers who went missing. NHRC which was not satisfied over the poor implementation of Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976 in Krishna district, directed to submit the information in three weeks, said sources in the Commission.Following a petition filed by a Visakhapatnam-based NGO, alleging poor implementation of Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, the Revenue Department officials raided the quarries at Ibrahimpatnam, Kanchikacherla and G. Kondur mandals. The officials identified 920 bonded labourers and issued release certificates to 672 labourers as per the Act. However, the officials could not find the whereabouts of 248 labourers and submitted the same report to the Commission.The NHRC which was serious about the negligence of the district administration in providing Rehabilitation and Relief (R&R) to the rescued labourers, directed to submit the details of the missing labourers. When the officials failed to respond in the stipulated time, the Commission served summons on the district Collector to present before it on February 9. Speaking to The Hindu on Tuesday, Collector A. Babu said the DCL submitted the available information to the Commission and the case is under inquiry. (The Hindu 11/2/15)

44. Consultations begin to prepare comprehensive labour policy (14)

Bengaluru The labour department has begun the consultation process with various stake holders to gather inputs for a comprehensive labour policy that will cover both the organised and unorganised sector. This is the first time a policy initiative has been taken for the labour sector, which is governed by an array of central and State legislations. “We have started the consultation process with trade unions, employers, industrialists, industry bodies among others for their feedback and inputs for the policy. The basic framework of the policy will be completed in two to three weeks. We plan to come out with the policy document after another round of consultation and discussion,” Labour Commissioner D S Vishwanath told Deccan Herald. The labour department will also consult other related departments including industries, urban development, rural development and panchayat raj, agriculture marketing among others. He said the policy will be progressive, reflect the changing times and will cover both the organised and unorganised sector with a focus on giving a thrust to the economy. The officer said the policy will fix responsibilities of various stakeholders like the employees, employers and officials of the department. The State’s policy will go into various micro-level aspects of the labour sector including creating more employment opportunities, skill based training programmes to improve employability among others.Vishwanath said not many states in the country have comprehensive labour policies. Karnataka’s neighbour Tamil Nadu was among the first states to come out with a  policy for labour and employment. The Tamil Nadu policy for instance covers industrial relations, labour welfare board, unorganised workers labour welfare board, consumer protection, eradication of child labour, industrial safety and health issues, vocational guidance activities and private sector placements. It also deals with skill development initiatives, apprenticeship training schemes, Industrial Training Institutes (ITI) and Employees State Insurance (ESI). Asked whether the State government will amend various legislations pertaining to the labour sector like the Karnataka Shops and Commercial Establishments Act, 1961, Karnataka Industrial Establishment Act, 1963, Karnataka Labour Welfare Fund Act, 1965, Vishwa nath said a final decision in this regard can be taken after the completion of the consultation process and after taking the view of labour and legal experts. (Deccan Herald 15/2/15)

45. Fast by construction workers (14)

NAGERCOIL: Members of the Construction Workers’ Association affiliated to the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) observed a fast in front of the Collectorate here on Monday protesting against the “anti-labour attitude” of the Labour Welfare Office dealing with social security schemes here. They wanted the Department of Labour to implement a five-point charter of demands, which included immediate disbursal of pension to those who had applied before December 2014. They urged the authorities to formulate a simple mechanism to hear grievances of employees and trade union representatives and ensure renewal of identity cards without delay. The fast was inaugurated by C. Robert Bruce, district Congress committee president . P.S.J.B. Jose, president, Kumari District Unorganised Workers’ Association, presided. C. Anandakrishnan, district secretary, INTUC, concluded the fast. Labour Welfare Officer (SSS) D. Lakshmi Narayanan clarified that applications received up to February 10 for renewal and new registration were processed and ID cards given to beneficiaries instantly.In a special drive, steps had been taken to issue pension orders to over 800 to 1000 beneficiaries soon. So far, the Labour Welfare Office (SSS) had extended benefits, including education, death, maternity and marriage benefits, to over 21,000 beneficiaries, Mr. Lakshmi Narayanan added. (The Hindu 17/2/15)

46. Miles away from home for livelihood (14)

HATNOORA (MEDAK DISTRICT): Ram Lal is in his mid 40s. He is native of Palama in Jharkhand, a tribal dominated area. His village is about 1,300 kilometres from here. Pradeep, in his 20s is from Purulia in West Bengal. His native place is about 1,500 kilometres from this tiny mandal headquarters located in Medak district. While Ram Lal is one of a 10-member team, Pradeep is part of six member team that came from Purulia. It takes about 48 hours to travel all the way to reach here for both of them. An both are here in search of a livelihood. A local contractor in Jharkhand hired them promising work and paid them an advance ranging between Rs. 1,000 and Rs. 3,000. They were being offered regular work without any break. “We also can get work at our native place but is generally not continuous but here we are assured of work the entire month,” said Mr. Pradeep. Usually, workers being roped in from outside the State are being forced to work more. “The working hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. with a break for lunch and tea,’’ said another migrant labourer. They were not ready to disclose the problems they face as it may cost their job and contractor may send them back again. While they were being paid about Rs. 200 per day part of the amount goes to contractor as commission. “This old man’s payment per day is about Rs. 220 and he actually gets Rs.160 whereas the remaining amount goes as commission to the contactor,” said another labourer. “We will send part of the amount we generate here to our native place so that our family members live happily,” they say. The workers are being provided shelter in thatched huts or asbestos sheet covered temporary accommodation, which saves rent for them while the contractor can have over control over their movement. (The Hindu 18/2/15)

RESERVATION

47. Brinda Karat bats for quota for SCs/STs in private sector (25)

VISAKHAPATNAM: Reservation must be provided for SCs and STs in the private sector too in such a way it improved their livelihood, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat has said. Speaking at a seminar on reservations in private sector organised as part of preparations for the party’s 21{+s}{+t}all-India conference to be held during April, Ms. Karat dwelt deep into the reservation policy, the conditions in the past and present, and how the downtrodden Dalits were still being denied their due in the capitalism-driven conditions. The “Indian band of reservations, the undeclared reservation for SCs and STs” was there by confining them to menial jobs and denying them an opportunity to grow in the country’s caste system. After Independence, the capitalist path adopted had coexisted with this “reservation policy,” she said, and felt that had India adopted the socialist path, this undeclared reservation would have gone and everyone would have secured employment. There was no truth in the argument that free market would make some Dalits capitalist, as capitalism cooperated with caste and discrimination and intensified the rate of exploitation. “It is a shame that even now reservation in jobs of sweeper and sanitation worker is oversubscribed,” Ms. Karat observed. Caste-based and work-based reservation excluded Dalits while the huge backlog of vacancies for the reserved categories was mounting. She said that the CPI(M) demanded in Parliament a legal mechanism to solve the issue. It also sought reservation in contract and outsourcing jobs. “The number of employees from SC and ST categories in private industries was less,” she said quoting figures. A senior surgeon and president of Government Doctors’ Association G. Arjun urged unity among Dalit Bahujans in developmental activities for the communities. Dalits were being suppressed because they would start questioning and take over administration in future, he said. Secretary of district unit of CPI(M) K. Lokanadham presided. State secretariat member Ch. Narasinga Rao, city secretary B. Ganga Rao, district secretariat member P. Sesharatnam, and former Superintendent of Government Hospital for Chest and Communicable Diseases P. Subba Rao participated. (The Hindu 12/2/15)

48. STs reservation to be increased to 7.5 per cent (25)

CHITRADURGA: National Commission for Scheduled Tribes Vice-President Ravi Thakur has stated that the reservation for Scheduled Tribes in different States had been increased to 7.5 per cent and the same would be implemented in Karnataka. Instructions in this regard would be given to the State government shortly. Addressing reporters here on Friday, Mr. Thakur said that commission members were touring the country to study whether the facilities extended by the commission have reached the actual beneficiaries or not. After the tour’s completion, a meeting would be held with State-level officers and steps would be taken to rectify the loopholes in the system. The people belonging to Scheduled Tribes in some States have already come to mainstream of the society and in some other States the condition of Scheduled Tribes is pathetic. “Keeping this in view, the commission has decided to implement new schemes and ensure their overall development,” he added. Mr. Thakur stated that steps have been taken to provide four acres land to people residing in forest areas and there are no such families of Scheduled Tribes residing in forest areas in Chitradurga, he added. Deputy Commissioner Shrirangaiah, zilla panchayat CEO N. Manjushri and district-level officers were present. (The Hindu 14/21/15)

49.  ‘Banjara community must give priority to education’ (25)

KALABURAGI: Minister for Higher Education R.V. Deshpande has called upon the Banjara community to give priority to education in order to improve its socio-economic condition. Inaugurating the Santh Sevalal Study and Research Centre in Gulbarga University here on Monday, Mr. Deshpande stressed on the need to educate children. “Education is the only tool for the empowerment of the community,” he said. He said the State government has allocated adequate funds to the Banjara Development Corporation for the uplifting the neglected community. Mr. Deshpande expressed displeasure over the fact that children were deprived of education much before being able to benefit from the reservation facilities provided for them.Out of 70 lakh people in the age group of 15 to 35, only 17 lakh pursued their higher education. “Only by increasing the gross enrolment ratio can the State can achieve real development,” he said. He assured that he would take up with the State government to establish Santh Sevalal Bhavan at Gulbarga University. Religious head of the Banjara Community Ramrao Maharaj donated a set of books relating to the Banjara community in their original dialect. (The Hindu 17/2/15)

50. States can’t amend laws with retrospective effect: SC (25)

New Delhi: State governments cannot amend a procedural law with retrospective effect to provide for quota in posts after commencement of selection process, the Supreme Court on Wednesday held. “In any case, the State Government cannot pass any order amending a procedural law regarding reservation in the matter of selection to posts, with retrospective effect, once the procedure of selection starts,” a bench of justices S J Mukhopadhya and V Gopala Gowda said. The verdict came on a batch of appeals filed against the 2004 judgement of the Andhra Pradesh High Court. The High Court had upheld the finding of the Andhra Pradesh Administrative Tribunal saying the government can amend the procedural law with retrospective effect to provide reservation in the selection process to fill up certain posts. The state government, in pursuance of 1975 ‘Presidential Order’, had said that 70 per cent of “non-gazetted category posts other than Lower Division Clerk or equivalent posts were reserved in favour of local candidates.” As per the government order, a combined merit list a local and non-local candidates shall be drawn up to fill up the vacancies. Later, state government, on March 7, 2002, amended its order by “bifurcating combined merit list into two parts i.E. one reserved for local candidates and another for both local and non-local candidates.” Setting aside the HC order, the apex court said, “we hold that the G.O.Ms.No.124 dated 7th March, 2002 is prospective and is not applicable to the process of selection started pursuant to Advertisement No.10 of 1999 including the 973 executive posts which were ordered to be filled up by the High Court pursuant to the advertisement. “The Tribunal erred in directing the APPSC to re-cast the merit list pursuant to G.O.Ms.No.124 dated 7th March, 2002. The High Court by the impugned judgment dated 27th December, 2004 rightly held that the order passed by the Court will not affect the appointments already made to the executive post between 2001-2002 but erred in holding that the selection is to be made in accordance with G.O.Ms.No.124 dated 7th March, 2002.” (Zee News 18/2/15)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

51. Nepal sets up panels to probe civil war crimes (1)

Kathmandu: Nepal set up two commissions on Tuesday to investigate long-simmering allegations of human rights abuses and disappearances during the Himalayan nation’s decade-long civil war, a government minister said. State forces and Maoist rebels alike have been accused of grave war-time abuses, including unlawful killings, arbitrary arrests, disappearances, rape and torture, during the years of conflict which ended under a 2006 peace agreement. Both sides pledged to look into the crimes within six months after signing the peace deal. But subsequent governments failed to investigate the accusations, fearing doing so would derail a tenuous peace between politicians and former rebels, leaving alleged perpetrators to rise through the military and political ranks. “This matter had been entangled for more than eight years,” law minister Narahari Acharya told reporters on Tuesday in Kathmandu after a Cabinet meeting during which the panels were set up. Mr Acharya said a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, modelled after the one set up in South Africa after the end of apartheid, would investigate abuses committed during the conflict. A second panel, the Commission on Enforced Disappearances, would investigate the disappearances of more than 1,300 people still missing eight years after the end of the conflict. Last month, New York-based Human Rights Watch condemned Nepal for failing to keep promises of post-conflict justice and accountability, saying political parties were seemingly “intent on ensuring ongoing impunity” for crimes. Despite the long wait for action, advocates for victims’ rights were less than optimistic on Tuesday that the panels would deliver justice. Human rights lawyer Hari Phuyal said a flawed provision in the legislation under which the commissions were set up could be used to let perpetrators off the hook by employing ambiguous wording which could be used to grant amnesty. (Asian Age 11/2/5)

52. U.N. report on Sri Lanka rights record deferred (1)

JAFFNA: The U.N. Human Rights Council will defer the key report on Sri Lanka’s conflict, due in March, to September 2015. In what appears to be a clear shift in stance, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Monday said he had made a recommendation to the Council “to delay the consideration of a long-awaited report into alleged human rights violations during the conflict in Sri Lanka for six months until September 2015.” Earlier, while addressing the Council’s 27th session in September 2014, the High Commissioner said: “I attach great importance to the investigation on Sri Lanka mandated by this Council,” urging Sri Lanka to cooperate with the process in the interests of justice and reconciliation. He had then said: “I am alarmed at threats currently being levelled against the human rights community in Sri Lanka, as well as prospective victims and witnesses,” also voicing concern over apparent threats on religious freedom in the island. Less than six months later, during which time Sri Lanka witnessed a regime change, he said that deferring the report was the best option to allow space for the new government to show its willingness to cooperate on human rights issues. Mr. Al Hussein pledged his “personal, absolute and unshakable commitment” that the report will be published by September. The Sri Lankan government — which under former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had refused any cooperation — was now “prepared to cooperate”, he said. The newly-formed Sri Lankan government, according to key sources in Colombo, has been lobbying Washington and New Delhi for support in Geneva. The United States, which backed the U.N. resolution, seems to have already softened its position. Following a meeting with Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera in Washington recently, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry remarked that Sri Lanka’s January 8 election was a vote to “open up greater accountability and possibility for the preservation of human rights.” India too was keen on putting off the resolution in order to give the new government time. (The Hindu 17/2/15)

53. Politicians of all hues speak out against growing attacks on social activists (1)

MUMBAI: The attack on senior Communist leader Govind Pansare and his wife, Uma, sent shock waves across the state and sparked demonstrations at various places. People from all walks of life and politicians across the ideology spectrum spoke out against the growing culture of violence, especially against social activists. The incident brought back memories of the fatal attack on anti-superstition campaigner Narendra Dabholkar in Pune in August 20, 2013. Soon after the attack on the Pansares, shops and commercial establishments in Kolhapur downed shutters. Pansare spearheaded several popular agitations in Kolhapur, in keeping with the city’s long link with the leftist movement. Communist veteran and former MLA Narsayya Adam called for a concerted crusade against communal forces. Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said his government would leave no stone unturned to catch the assailants. He said the possible role of a radical right-wing group would also be looked into. He also said in a tweet that he had asked for the use of an air ambulance to bring the Pansares to the city for treatment if required. NCP president Sharad Pawar said the attack on Pansare was an assault on the progressive ethos of the state. Leader of the Opposition in the assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil said the law and order situation in the state was deteriorating day by day. “We want director general of police to be transferred immediately,” he said. Shiv Sena minister Divakar Raote said his party chief, Uddhav Thackeray, spoke to Fadnavis on the phone and urged him to thoroughly investigate the case. Minister for education and cultural affairs Vinod Tawde described the attack on the Kolhapur couple as “cowardly”.Senior Shiv Sena leader and MP Sanjay Raut said: “Ideological differences cannot and should not be resolved through bullets…. Now we are in office. It is our responsibility to bring the Pansares’ attackers to book without any loss of time.” RPI-A chief Ramdas Athavale and Swabhiman Shetkari Sanghatana president Raju Shetti rued the climate of intolerance they said had been steadily growing in the state in the past few years. MNS chief Raj Thackeray said the attack went against the state’s robust ideological tradition. Senior left ideologue Ajit Abhyankar said the attack was proof of the growth of fundamentalist forces in the state. CPI leaders attended a protest march at Azad Maidan. The Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights urged the government to take action and “dispel the impression” that it was sheltering casteist-communal elements. (Times of India 17/2/15)

54. NHRC notice to DoT over delay in payment of retirement dues (1)

New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission on Tuesday took “serious view” of delay in payment of retirement dues to a BSNL employee and directed the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to thoroughly enquire the case and fix responsibility of delinquent officials. “The Commission, taking a serious view of the delay in disbursement of retirement benefits, including pension and gratuity to a retired BSNL employee, has asked the Secretary, Department of Telecommunications, Union Ministry of Communications and Information Technology to get this matter thoroughly enquired and fix the responsibility of delinquent officers/officials,” an official statement said today. He has been given six weeks time to respond with the action taken report. The Commission had received a complaint from the wife of the retired official belonging to the Scheduled Tribe that after serving BSNL for nearly 40 years, her husband had superannuated on the March 31, 2014 but his terminal benefits were withheld by the Chief General Manager, BSNL, Jaipur. According to the petitioner, both of them were not keeping good health and were facing severe financial constraints. They had requested for the Commission’s intervention into the matter. In response to the Commission’s notices to the Secretary, Department of Telecommunications, the Commission was informed that on the 21st January, 2015 some terminal benefits, including Death-cum-Retirement Gratuity and Commutation Value of Pension were paid to the retired employee. However, the pension payment order was to be dispatched shortly. “On perusal of the material on record, NHRC Member, Justice D Murugesan, observed that terminal benefits were paid only after the Commission sought the report from the concerned authorities on the complaint of the employee’s wife,” the statement said. The pension orders were yet to be dispatched. The Commission takes a serious view of the fact that the DoT neither gave any explanation behind the delay in disbursement of the terminal benefits nor furnished any action taken report against the delinquent officers/officials, it added. (Zee News 18/2/15)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

55. Supreme Court rejects CAG appointment plea (19)

The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a public interest writ petition filed by former Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami and eight other eminent citizens challenging the appointment of Shashi Kant Sharma as the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) of India. A three-judge bench of Chief Justice H.L. Dattu and Justices A.K. Sikri and Arun Mishra dismissed the PIL after hearing counsel Prashant Bhushan for the petitioners and Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi for the Centre. In their writ petition, Mr Gopalaswami, Admiral R.H. Tahiliani (Retd), former Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral L. Ramdas (Retd), former Chief of Naval Staff, Dr B.P. Mathur, former deputy CAG, Ramaswamy R. Iyer, and four others sought a declaration that the appointment of Mr Sharma was non est or void as it was made arbitrarily by a procedure that did not withstand the test of constitutionality and also on the ground of conflict of interest. Mr Bhushan submitted that the process of selection of CAG was arbitrary and the zone of consideration had been restricted to civil servants, a limitation not found in the Constitution. In the present case, he said Mr Sharma had been arbitrarily selected without any transparency and without any criteria. The counsel said before being appointed as the CAG, Mr Sharma had served in key positions in the ministry of defence that involved decision-making powers over purchases running into tens of lakhs of crores of rupees. During the period 2003-2007, he was the joint secretary in the ministry of defence. He remained defence secretary when he was appointed as the CAG by the government. He said the court could interpret the Constitution as it had done in the “judges case” (when collegium system was introduced) to ensure a transparent procedure was followed and lay down guidelines for such key appointments. The CJI referred to Mr. Bhushan’s arguments and asked the AG whether the court was competent to interpret the Article relating to CAG’s appointment. The AG said “I don’t agree with the interpretation made by the court in the judges case. We can have a debate on this issue some other time. Can we say that all judges who were appointed on the advice of the Executive between 1950 and 1980 were bad and all appointments subsequent to 1980 were good. Under Article 148 of the Constitution the power of appointment of the CAG vested with the government through a proper procedure and persons only with highest integrity are considered for selection. As there is nothing wrong with Mr. Sharma, the petition should be dismissed.” Taking note of the submissions the Bench dismissed the PIL. (Asian Age 12/2/15)

56. Minimal use of building cess for workers ‘shocks’ Supreme Court (19)

NEW DELHI: The government collects thousands of crores through construction cess, ultimately paid by people who booked flats, but less than 10% of the amount has been spent for the benefit of daily wage earners in the construction sector for whose welfare the tax is levied, a fact which has “shocked” the Supreme Court. The Centre told the court that around Rs 4,179 crore construction cess was collected in the last three years by eight states out of which only Rs 361 crore have so far been spent for the welfare of construction workers. A social justice bench of justices Madan B Lokur and UU Latit expressed serious concern over the miniscule amount spent on welfare of construction workers. “This is shocking,” the bench remarked saying it will examine how the money was being spent from the fund. It directed additional solicitor general P S Narasimha to provide details of all the schemes framed by the state governments for the welfare of workers. The Building and other Construction Workers’ Welfare Cess Rule provides for levy and collection of cess on the cost of construction incurred by employers and the amount would be deposited with the Building and Other Constructions Workers Welfare Boards. The affidavit filed by the Centre said that the states of Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Delhi, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh have collected Rs 868 crore in 2011-12, Rs 1,606 crore in 2012-13 and Rs 1,705 crore in the last financial year. However, it said that the boards of eight states spent only around Rs 361 crore in three years. Maharashtra collected Rs 1,991 crore cess during the last three years but spent only 57 crore on welfare of construction workers. According to data the board in the state runs 17 schemes for workers. In Delhi, Rs 484 crore was collected under the scheme in three years out of which only Rs 38.60 crore has been spent so far on 18 welfare schemes launched by the board. Similarly, in Rajasthan, Rs 579 crore came to government coffers through cess during 2011-14 but only Rs 38 crore was spent for benefit of workers. The Supreme Court is monitoring the implementation of the social welfare act and it had earlier directed all the states to set up the board to frame and implement welfare schemes for the benefit of construction workers. Under the act every state is required to constitute a state welfare board to provide financial assistance for children education, medical treatment etc. The board is also supposed to give financial help in case of accidents and provide pensions, loans and group insurance to workers. The court took the task of ensuring implementation of the welfare law after a PIL was filed by an NGO, National Campaign Committee for Central Legislation on Construction Labour, alleging that the state governments which collected the cess was not passing on the amount to the welfare boards to extend benefits to workers as contemplated by the act. (The Hindu 15/2/15)

57. Supreme Court fixes 90-day limit for suspension of govt employees (19)

NEW DELHI: Protracted period of suspension of delinquent government employee has become a norm and such practice must be curbed, the Supreme Court on Monday said while fixing a period of ninety 90 days for authorities to complete proceedings against such an employee. The court said that an employee suffered ignominy and scorn of society due to prolonged period of suspension. “We, therefore, direct that the currency of a suspension order should not extend beyond three months … if within this period the memorandum of charges/chargesheet is not served on the delinquent officeremployee,” a bench headed by Justice Vikaramajit Sen said. It said suspension, specially preceding the formulation of charges, is essentially transitory or temporary in nature, and must be of short duration. “If it is for an indeterminate period or if its renewal is not based on sound reasoning contemporaneously available on the record, this would render it punitive in nature,” the bench said. “Protracted periods of suspension, repeated renewal thereof, have regrettably become the norm and not the exception that they ought to be. The suspended person suffering the ignominy of insinuations, the scorn of society and the derision of his department, has to endure this excruciation even before he is formally charged with some misdemeanour or offence,” the bench said The court passed the order on a petition filed by defence estate officer Ajay Kumar Choudhary who was kept suspended for a long time. (Times of India 17/2/15)

58. Delhi High Court rejects PIL seeking marital rape be made criminal offence (19)

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday refused to entertain a PIL challenging a provision in the penal law which does not consider rape as the sexual intercourse of a man with his wife who is a minor noting that a similar matter has been junked by the apex court. A bench headed by Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice RS Endlaw dismissed as withdrawn the plea of an NGO highlighting the exception in Section 375 of the IPC which states that sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under 15 years of age, is not rape. “Similar matter has been dismissed by the Supreme Court. We don’t see anything into this petition,” the bench said after which the NGO withdrew its plea. A bench headed by Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice RS Endlaw dismissed as withdrawn the plea of an NGO highlighting the exception in Section 375 of the IPC which states that sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife who is not being under 15 years of age, is not rape. Rit Foundation had submitted that the exception in section 375 was brought by way of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 2013, which was enacted after the horrific gangrape case of December 16, 2012. In its petition, it had claimed that the exception to Section 375 of the IPC was to the extent that it grants immunity to a husband by raping his own wife, who is above age of 15 years, was unconstitutional. It submitted that the exception was “unconstitutional and violative of the Right to Equality guaranteed to married women under Article 14 of the Constitution as it decriminalises rape when the perpetrator is the lawfully wedded husband of the victim.” It had said that even though the law made a distinction between married and unmarried woman in this case, the basis of distinction does not have any rational nexus with the object sought to be achieved by the law, which is to protect women from sexual assault. The petition had also stated that marital rape has been criminalised in almost all major common law jurisdictions throughout the world, including in the US, the UK, South Africa and Canada. IBN Live 19/2/15)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

59. Custodial death reported in Vijayawada, another attempts suicide (1)

VIJAYAWADA: A suspect chain snatcher, Pulla Ramesh (28), allegedly committed suicide by consuming poison when the police apprehended him in the wee hours of Wednesday even as the victim’s family members cried foul over his death. Ramesh, a native of Gannavaram, was arrested in motor cycles theft cases in 2009. On information that a chain snatchers’ gang was moving at Ramavarappadu Ring Road, a police team under the supervision of Penamaluru Circle Inspector Jagan Mohan Rao, reached the spot. When the police caught Ramesh, he reportedly consumed some poison. He was rushed to the Government General Hospital, where the doctors declared him dead. But, the victim’s family members alleged that Ramesh died in police custody.In another incident, a suspect in a theft case, Govind, allegedly cut his throat with a sharp-edged instrument during interrogation in Chilakalapudi police station under the limits of Machilipatnam police sub-division in Krishna District in the early hours on Wednesday. The victim was rushed to a hospital where his condition is stated to be stable. Govind is a native of Rajahmundry in East Godavari district, said Chilakalapudi SI Nabi. (The Hindu 11/2/15)

60. Govt must answer for plight of undertrials (1)

NEW DELHI: Concerned over the plight of prisoners, the Delhi high court on Wednesday issued notice to the Centre and Delhi government on deplorable condition of undertrials, including women and mentally challenged. A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice R S Endlaw gave the authorities’ time till March 5 to file their replies, taking suo motu cognizance of the issue after Supreme Court referred the matter to HC. The apex court, while deciding a PIL in November 2014, sent a reference to the high court in January to decide the issue as far as it concerns jails in Delhi. SC dealt with the PIL that raised the issue of the plight of undertrial prisoners, who are languishing in jails for a long time. SC had also observed that, while some work has been done by the state governments and other authorities towards implementation of the apex court directions, a lot remains to be done in the future. It had identified nine problem areas including overcrowding, delay in trial, torture, neglect of health and hygiene, food and clothing, management of open air prisons and deficiency in communication system. It had further asked all high courts of India to register a PIL and continue the proceedings. HC has also been dealing with two PILs to ensure that the inmates of Tihar Jail have their basic human rights fulfilled. Due to overcrowding, undertrials are being affected by numerous diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and typhoid, the PIL claimed. Of 3.81 lakh prisoners across the country, 2.54 lakh are undertrials. In many cases, the accused have spent more time in jail than the actual sentence which might be awarded to him in case of conviction. (Times of india 12/2/15)

61. Every effort will be made to repeal AFSPA: Paswan (1)

Imphal, February 14 2015 : Every possible effort will be made to repeal the Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA), 1958, assured Ram Vilas Paswan, Union Minister Consumer Affairs Food & Public Distribution during a felicitation programme hosted by Lok Jan Shakti (LJS) State Unit at Chajing Mairenthong, Langthabal on Saturday. The minister asserted that the LJS takes the fourteen-year-long struggle of Irom Sharmila for repeal of AFSPA very seriously. He stated that after his return to Delhi, he will talk with PM Narendra Modi and impress him on the need to repeal AFSPA. At the same time, special initiatives will be taken up to stop violence against people from Northeast particularly in Delhi and other cities of India, Paswan said. He also informed that during the regime of the previous NDA government he had made special efforts for the protection of people from Northeast. Later in day while addressing a press conference at Hotel Imphal, the minister said contrary to the charges from the people that essential items under Public Distribution Systems (PDS) do not reach them, the state authorities had claimed that essential items are being distributed regularly to the beneficiaries. He assured that the Central government will investigate why PDS items are not reaching the people. On Centrally Sponsored Scheme of National Food Security Act, Paswan said there are high chances that the Act will be implemented in the state soon as 77 per cent of data entry work had been completed. Once the scheme is implemented, the minister explained, details of the beneficiaries will be made available in the website and to ensure availability of items, vigilance committees will be instituted, even at Panchayal level. The minister also reviewed the works that are being taken up for National Food Security Act in the sates of Assam, Tripura, Mizoram and Manipur. Ninety per cent of data entry is completed in Tripura and 62 per cent in Assam. He stated that according to information collected from relevant authorities, 77 per cent of data work has been completed in Manipur and the exercise is expected to be completed by July, paving the way for implementation of the Act. On Sunday, Paswan will lay the foundation stone for the ten metric ton capacity storage house at Imphal and five metric ton at Bishnupur. Prior to the press conference, Paswan interacted with officials and employees of Food Corporation of India (FCI) for a firsthand account of the methods employed in PDS distribution in the state. (Manipur R PAO 15/2/15)

62. Army washes hands off Sonitpur firing (1)

Guwahati: The Army on Monday said Sunday’s firing in Sonitpur district, in which an Assam Rifles (AR) jawan allegedly shot dead two men, was not a part of any counter-insurgency operation. The duo — Gautam Das and Babu Das — was allegedly shot dead by the jawan after they refused to serve him liquor, said Lt. Col. Suneet Newton, PRO (defence). “According to information available, the AR jawan got into a scuffle with the civilians,” he said. Sonitpur Police have arrested the accused, Karnel Singh Kapoor. “A woman, Jinu Das, also received injuries and has been admitted in Tezpur civil hospital. Family members told police that Kapoor opened fire when they refused to serve him liquor,” police sources said. Locals said the jawan was accompanied by other AR personnel who fled after the firing. (Times of India 17/2/15)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

63. Former editor facing death threats over cartoon (1)

MUMBAI: Shirin Dalvi, former Editor of Urdu daily Avadhnama had filed a petition in the Bombay High Court seeking quashing of complaints against her and clubbing of all the FIRs. She has said that her life is in danger as she has received several death threats. Five FIRs have been filed against her in three districts of Maharashtra, including Mumbai, Thane and Nashik, under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code pertaining to “deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.” She has obtained anticipatory bail in one case, while she was granted bail after arrest in another. Complaints were filed against her after Avadhnama reprinted Charlie Hebdo’s cover page in its January 17 edition. After readers’ complaints, the paper issued an apology on January 18. But it closed down from January 19. Thereafter, Ms. Dalvi has said, she was hounded by a few people, making her go underground. “She has had to change her style of dressing, switch off her mobile phones, and lock up and leave her residence out of fear for her life,” her petition has said. “She is the only woman editor of an Urdu daily in the country. Today, there are multiple FIRs against her. She can’t stay at home, her children can’t go home, or can’t pursue their education,” senior counsel Mihir Desai, who represented Ms. Dalvi, told the court on Monday. He pleaded that all the FIRs against her be transferred to one police station and the State not take any coercive action against her. But the Maharashtra government, represented by Public Prosecutor Sandeep Shinde, opposed her plea. (The Hindu 11/2/15)

64. Women journalists more suited for off-field roles: Rathore (1)

New Delhi: Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore Friday said women in media would be better off pursuing off-field roles like that of news analysis as opposed to field reporting in view of safety, challenging conditions and odd hours of work. In contrast to the “reducing importance” of factual news business practiced by TV journalism, Rathore called for women scribes to take to print that is more about “analysis of the implication of the news”.In print, “your (women journalists) role could be far better utilized without going out in the field. Not that you should not go out. In the sense of safety and security, the working hours, conditions, and different roles attached as a mother, sister, or a wife,” Rathore told women journalists in a media interaction at Indian Women’s Press Corps here. Stressing the fact that his suggestion was free of any gender bias, he said avenues “like sports, battlefields, Maoist-infested areas become issues for women journalists to be present there”. (Business Standard 13/2/15)

65. Media Boycotts Manish Sisodia’s Press Conference After Entry Denied to Delhi Secretariat (1)

NEW DELHI: Media today boycotted the press conference of Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia after journalists were denied entry into the Delhi Secretariat, even as officials claimed that the new government has not issued any direction in this regard. After a Cabinet meeting, Sisodia was scheduled to address the media about the government’s decisions at 5 PM. When the deputy chief minister entered the media room adjacent to a main entry gate of the Secretariat, journalists from both electronic and print media tried to first seek his response as to why they were not allowed inside. When Sisodia tried to pacify the journalists, photographers and cameramen, they didn’t relent and refused to attend the press conference. Seeing this, Sisodia walked away from the media room and then went towards his office. Journalists from print and electronic media were denied entry into the Delhi Secretariat throughout the day. When security personnels were asked about the reasons behind the ban of media’s entry, they said that they have directions from government officials in this regard. “We have orders from senior government officials not to let mediapersons enter the premises,” a security person said, claiming having received verbal instructions from the officials to that effect. Earlier in the day, Nagendra Sharma, media-adviser to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, also came to pacify angry media persons, saying that new government has not issued such direction which favours to ban the entry of journalists inside the Secretariat. “Before new government took charge, a circular was already in place which banned the entry of media into the Delhi Secretariat. “New government has issued no direction in this regard. Give me one or two days, I will sort out this matter,” Sharma told reporters here. Meanwhile, Delhi Police Commissioner BS Bassi met Kejriwal at the Secretariat around 11.45 AM. It was described as a courtesy call. (New Indian Express 17/2/15)

66. India need to focus on privacy & data collection laws: Software Freedom Law Center (1)

New Delhi: As India moves towards becoming the world’s second largest Internet market, the need for privacy and data protection is of critical importance to safeguard interests of netizens, activists have said. According to Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC), which provides free legal services to developers of free and open source softwares, Europe is having an “intense” debate on the right to privacy and protection of data, something which is missing in India. In wake of the global uproar caused by Edward Snowden’s revelations on US surveillance and increasing interest around data protection and privacy, it is time for a comprehensive review of India’s legislations that regulate surveillance, SFLC India Founding Director Mishi Choudhary said. “Europe is fighting for data protection and privacy, but here in India, we are not talking about these issues. I think the time is ripe to have a decision on to have a law on privacy and data collection,” she said.. SFLC is a donor-supported legal services organisation that brings together lawyers, policy analysts, technologists and students to protect freedom in the digital world. Quoting SFLC’s report “Communications Surveillance in India’, Choudhary said the language of the law needs to be considerably narrowed down to specify objectively verifiable situations under which surveillance may be legitimately undertaken. According to the report, the procedure to be followed while conducting surveillance of communications must be “clearly spelled out in its entirety” and any opportunity for “misuse of authority must be done away with by holding the concerned agents of intercepting agencies to highest standards of accountability. The provision for an independent oversight of the surveillance process is a necessity and the regime of blanket denial of surveillance-related information requests made by the public must also be done with, the report added. Choudhary emphasised on the need to make the surveillance regime in India needs more transparent. The report said: “Citizens must have a legislatively recognised right to privacy, the violation of which will entitle them to constitutional remedies.” IBN Live 18/2/15)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

67. Supreme Court stays Teesta arrest after High Court rejects bail (7)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday afternoon stayed the arrest till Friday of social activist Teesta Setalvad of Centre for Justice and Peace and her husband Javed Anand in a “misappropriation case”. The Gujarat high court rejected their anticipatory bail petitions in the morning and they faced imminent arrest. A three-judge bench of Chief Justice H.L. Dattu and Justices A.K. Sikri and Arun Mishra restrained the Gujarat police from arresting Ms Setalvad and others on an urgent oral mention made by senior counsel Kapil Sibal that the Gujarat police had already reached Mumbai to arrest them following the dismissal of their petitions by the high court. He said the Gujarat police was to arrest her anytime and sought protection. The bench, while directing the matter to be listed for hearing on Friday, stayed the arrest till then. According to the Gujarat police, some former residents of Gulberg Society had alleged that Ms Setalvad and her NGO had restrained them from disposing of their properties after the Gujarat riots by promising them to purchase land and construct a memorial. However, the properties were never purchased on the ground that there was not enough funds. It was alleged that Ms Setalvad and her NGO had collected money from abroad by showing their condition and that the money collected would be used for their upliftment. The Gujarat police registered a criminal case against Ms Setalvad, her husband Javed Anand, former MP Ehsan Jafri’s son Tanvir and two office-bearers of Gulberg Society, Salimbhai Sandhi and Firoz Gulzar, for embezzlement of Rs 1.51 crore. (Asian Age 13/2/15)

68. Court acquits 68 for lack of evidence in 2002 Gujarat riot case (7)

Ahmedabad: A trial court on Friday acquitted all the 68 accused due to lack of evidence in a case related to the 2002 post-Godhra riot at Seshan village in Deodar tehsil of Banaskantha district. Fourteen persons, including two children, were killed in the violence at the village — which is about 150 km from here — in the aftermath of the Godhra train-burning incident. Additional District and Sessions Judge V K Pujara of Taluka court, Deodar, said the statements of the witnesses did not support other evidence. 190 witnesses had deposed before the court. The first charge-sheet was filed in 2002, while 12 supplementary charge-sheets were filed subsequently. The prosecution had argued that accounts of the eye-witnesses clearly showed that all the accused persons were involved in the killing of 14 persons. But the defence pointed out that the witnesses could not recognise the accused during the identification parade. According to police, a mob of around 5,000 people, armed with swords and sticks, had attacked the village on March 2, 2002. The village had about 200 people of Baloch Muslim community, who had been living there since 1947. The mob killed 14 Muslims, including two girls who were five-year-old and 11-year-old, respectively, and two women. Two persons from the mob were killed in police-firing. Additional Public Prosecutor D V Thakor said the victims made representations before Justice G T Nanavati Commission, probing the riots, seeking a speedy trial. Following which an inquiry was conducted by Banaskantha SP S M Katara, while earlier the probe had been conducted by Deputy Superintendent of police Ravindra Patel. Ten out of the 68 accused were in jail for the last 12 years. (Zee News 14/2/15)

69. Government may make laws stringent (7)

New Delhi: The government is planning to initiate inter-ministerial discussion on the issue of attacks on religious places soon to ascertain whether the existing laws are sufficient or there is need for a special clause to specifically focus on this crime which will attract stringent punishment. “As of now, these offences are covered under different sections of the criminal law but the Centre plans to make it more stringent. Though the state police can initiate action under existing criminal laws also, but there is need to make it stringent to send out a strong signal,” a senior government functionary said. The spate of attacks on churches had evoked strong protests from Christian groups and both the PM and home minister Rajnath Singh had expressed concern over the incidents. The Delhi police chief is believed to have assured the PMO and the home ministry that these cases will solved in the next few days. But over the last few months, there has been a pattern to such attacks in the national capital, which also became an issue during the recently-concluded Delhi Assembly elections. There is a view within the government now that the Centre needs to focus primarily on governance and economic growth, which were getting influenced by fringe elements that were indulging in such incidents of desecration of religious places or conversion events like “ghar wapsi”. On its part the saffron outfits will also be told to strictly rope in its functionaries and stop them from making inflammatory speeches targeting religious minorities. (Asian Age 15/2/15)

70. Violence And Blame Traded Over Communal Tension in Kerala’s Nadapuram (7)

Thiruvananthapuram:  Charred walls and broken windows, this is the home 39-year-old Sulekha Mustafa has returned to three weeks after it was set on fire, forcing her to flee with her three children. Her’s is one of 40 Muslim homes in Nadapuram in Kozhikode, that was targeted allegedly by CPI (M) loyalists. The attacks had reportedly been in retaliation to the murder of a CPI (M) youth wing worker, allegedly by workers of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML). “I am still scared. My children are still troubled mentally. We can’t sleep. We have horrible dreams,” says Ms Mustafa. The violence escalated during the funeral procession of 19-year-old Shibin, a CPI (M) youth worker. Six other youths were attacked along with Shibin, but escaped with injuries and have been hospitalised. Shibin’s family and the CPI (M) blame the IUML for the attack, that claimed the youth’s life. “What does Muslim League get by killing people like this? They will rebuild their houses. Where will we get our son from?” asked Bhaskaran, Shibin’s father, standing by his son’s funeral pyre.The CPI (M) and IUML however are both trading blame for the violence and are accusing each other of colluding with the police. “Muslim League is behind this brutal attack. Where was the police? It is Muslim League and police hand in hand,” alleges Mohanan Master, CPI (M) district secretary. It is the exact same charge that the IUML is levelling against the CPI (M). “This has been done by the CPI (M) and police hand-in-hand,” says Muslim Youth League state secretary Subair.The police however say they were outnumbered 10 to one when tensions escalated during Shibin’s funeral procession, but that the situation has been under control since. “”We couldn’t use arms or tear gas because of the procession for the dead body. We were outnumbered by 10 times. But no life was lost, and not a single incident has happened since that day till today,” said Kozhikode District’s Superintendent of Police, PH Ashraf. Nadapuram has a history of communal unrest and violence fuelled by political vendetta. The town has a special police control room to specifically address its communally sensitive nature. (NDTV 15/2/15)

COMMUNALISM

71. BJP’s Hindutva is ‘fake’, says Mutalik (26)

HUBBALLI, Estranged member of Sangh Parivar and Sri Ram Sene Chief, Pramod Mutalik has termed BJP’s Hindutva as ‘fake’. Addressing presspersons here on Wednesday, Mr. Mutalik said that the convention of Hindus being held under the banner of ‘Virat Hindu Samavesh’ in Hubballi should not become a ‘BJP convention’. He however added that Sri Ram Sena would support the Virat Hindu Samavesh. Mr. Mutalik sought to know why the BJP leaders’, who are now crying foul over ban on entry of Praveen Togadia into Bengaluru, did not utter a word when he (Mutalik) was banned from entering Goa. “BJP is following double standards on issues related to Hindutva”, he said.Mr. Mutalik said that Sri Ram Sene would oppose any ‘commercialised’ celebration of love on Valentine’s Day. “We will be celebrating February 14 as ‘Mata Pitru Dina’, he said. Clarifying that Sene was not opposed to love, he said that already the Sene volunteers had conducted awareness programmes against celebrating ‘Valentine’s Day’, which was being promoted for commercial reasons. The Sene volunteers would again be visiting schools, colleges and hotels in the twin cities and create awareness about the ‘Mata Pitru Dina’, he said. On February 14, the Sene volunteers would give roses to young boys and girls and the parents as part of their awareness drive. However to a query, Mr. Mutalik said that they would arrange the marriage of lovers with the consent of their parents. “But we will not allow any indecent expression of love in the open”, he warned. (The Hindu 11/2/15)

72. 35 people convert in Kerala under VHP’s ‘ghar vapasi’ (26)

Kottayam, Kerala: A group of 35 people on Sunday “re-converted” to Hinduism as VHP continued with its ‘ghar vapasi’ programme despite criticism from various quarters, with the outfit claiming that they hailed Dalit families who had converted to Christianity a few generations back. The rituals for “welcoming” these people to “their original faith” were held at a temple at Uzhavoor near here, said Aneesh Balakrishnan, a spokesman for pro-VHP “Kerala Hindu Helpline.” They belonged to 12 families of Cheramar community, “who had converted to Christianity a few generations back,” he said. With these ‘re-conversion’, in Kottayam district alone 120 peopled had “returned” to the Hindu faith in the last three months, Balakrishnan said. The VHP has also organised ‘re-conversion’ programmes in Alappuzha and Idukki districts in the last three months. He said the VHP with the cooperation of other Hindu outfits would be organising ‘ghar vapasi’ programmes in different parts of Kerala on all Sundays. The conversion issue has been in limelight in Kerala and was raised in Parliament too in December with the opposition attacking the government. The central government had said nether it nor BJP was involved in it and that it was for the state government to take necessay action. Chief Minister Oommen had then said the situation in the state on conversion did not warrant any government intervention. “There is no compulsory conversion or recoversion in the state and it will not take place also. If somebody voluntarily takes any decision, what can the government do,” he had said. (Deccan Herald 15/2/15)

73. People might belong to different castes, but their ideologies, values same: Mohan Bhagwat

Kanpur: Following controversies over “ghar wapsi” campaign and statements on increasing Muslim population by its affiliates, RSS on Sunday sounded a conciliatory tone, with its chief Mohan Bhagwat saying that people might belong to different castes and religions, but their ideologies and values as well as “ancestors” were the same. Bhagwat said “ancestors” for him meant those people who have sacrificed their lives for the country. He also asserted that RSS does not teach to “fight”, but trains people in self-defence and skills to protect others. Addressing Rashtra Raksha Sangam, a gathering of RSS workers, here, Bhagwat said certain forces want to divide people on different lines, but RSS believes that entire country is a single entity despite diversity in language, caste, sub-caste and place of living.The RSS chief said: “People may belong to different castes, religions or regions, but ideologies and values of all Indians are the same. They all have the same ancestors — those who have laid down their lives for the country.” Invoking socialist ideologue Ram Manohar Lohia, he said, “Lohia too said that lord Ram connected north and south, Krishna connected east and west and Shiva is present in every particle of the country.” The mention of Lohia by Bhagwat in his speech was significant because Samajwadi Party claims Lohia to be its ideologue and different wings of RSS, including BJP and VHP, have been accusing the SP government of Muslim appeasement and being responsible for communal riots in UP. Bhagwat also appealed swayamsevaks to unite Hindus and make them free from fear. “These views have been expressed in various speeches so far at different forums but only these speeches will not work any more. You will have to develop a habit to unite Hindus and shakhas are a medium to do that by creating such swayemsevaks who can unite Hindus. In shakhas, we never ask caste and religion of people,” he said. Over rising incidents of crime against women, the RSS chief said: “Not just education but how a man treats a woman reflects his character and that every woman must treated with respect.” Around 11,000 swayamsevaks attended the Sangam, organised at the Railways ground in Kanpur. (Indian Express 16/2/15)

74. Modi’s sermon on tolerance aimed at Christians, VHP says (26)

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remark on religious tolerance is widely being seen as an assurance to the minorities in general and government’s outreach to Christians in particular in the wake of recent attacks on churches. Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), however, said the media is reading the message wrong and the sermon of religious tolerance is actually aimed at “Christians who have been attacking Hindus”.It said the very fact that Modi chose to address a gathering of Christians on a day the Delhi Police brought out a report saying that 206 temples had been attacked as against seven Churches proved that the PM was asking Christians to exercise religious tolerance and “respect the Hindu religion”.VHP joint general secretary Surendra Jain told TOI, “The Prime Minister did not say ‘minorities’ nor did he mention any particular religion. The news traders are misreading his message to suit their agenda. When he has not taken any names, you have to see in what circumstances he has made the statements. The supposed attacks on churches have been going on for a while now but the PM never came out and spoke. He spoke only after the Delhi Police pointed out that 206 temples were attacked. He spoke on a day a temple was vandalized in the US.” Jain denied that Modi’s message was in any way an assurance to the minorities that their interests would be protected. He also said since it was not directed towards Hindu groups, VHP’s programmes of ‘ghar wapasi’ and protests against ‘love jihad’ would continue. “The PM’s message was aimed at those who attack other religions. It’s the Christian missionaries which publish literature insulting Hindu deities, run hate campaigns and insult Hinduism in general. This way they insult the nation. That is why Modi did not say these things addressing a congregation of Hindus. This means he has indicated to the Christian community that you should start respecting the Hindu religion,” Jain said. Addressing the national celebration function marking the elevation to Sainthood of Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Mother Euphrasia, Modi on Tuesday said, “My government will ensure that there is complete freedom of faith and that everyone has the undeniable right to retain or adopt the religion of his or her choice without coercion or undue influence. My government will not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or the minority, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly. Mine will be a government that gives equal respect to all religions.” In what was seen as a stern warning to fringe elements, he said, “We cannot accept violence against any religion on any pretext and I strongly condemn such violence. My government will act strongly in this regard.” (Times of India 18/2/15)

TERRORISM

75. Boko Haram abducts 30 people in Cameroon, Nigeria (12)

Yaounde: Nigeria’s Boko Haram Islamic extremists have abducted about 30 people including eight Cameroonian girls and killed seven hostages in two bus hijackings in Cameroon and Nigeria, Cameroon residents and a Nigerian intelligence officer said. Boko Haram, who kidnapped nearly 300 schoolgirls in Nigeria last year in an incident that ignited international outrage, have taken eight Cameroonian girls hostage, said Chetima Ahmidou, the principal of a school in the area. The girls range in age from 11 to 14 and come from the town of Koza, he said yesterday. The bus attack took place Sunday about 18 km from Cameroon’s border with Nigeria. Seven other hostages were slain and their bodies scattered near the border, said Ahmidou, whose brother was the bus driver and was among those killed. Also Sunday, across the border in Nigeria, the Islamic extremists held up a bus in Akada-Banga village of Bama district and made off with about 20 people, including women and children, according to a security officer who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to give information to reporters. Boko Haram has fought a 5-year insurgency against the Nigerian government, launching scores of attacks that left 10,000 people dead last year alone. In recent weeks, the terror group has intensified its assaults on neighboring Cameroon and Niger. Together with Nigeria’s other neighbors, Benin and Chad, they have pledged to form an 8,750-strong multinational force to confront the Islamic extremists. On Monday, Niger’s parliament voted to approve supporting the mission. The vote came just hours after a car bombing in the town of Diffa, which was blamed on Boko Haram, who had launched three other attacks on the town since Friday. The United Nations said yesterday that a small team of five experts from its peacekeeping department has deployed to provide support in readying the force. (Zee News 11/2/15)

76. Islamic State to be banned under UAPA (12)

NEW DELHI: The Union Home Ministry may soon issue a notification banning Islamic State, a terror outfit, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. “It has been proposed to ban the IS, which was earlier known as Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL). A notification may be issued soon,” said a Home Ministry official. The outfit has already been proscribed in India, as it is listed in the Schedule to the United Nations Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism (Implementation of Security Council Resolutions) Order. “The notification will explicitly put the outfit on the list of banned organisations,” the official said. (The Hindu 14/2/15)

77. Christians’ execution by IS: Egypt reserves right to respond (12)

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said Monday that his country reserves the right to respond at the proper time to the killing of 21 Coptic Egyptians in Libya by Islamic State (IS) militants, according to a Xinhua report. The president said that Egypt would be able to defeat terrorism because “Egypt is defending humanity”.On Sunday, the IS militant group published a video purportedly showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians abducted in Libya. Later, the Egyptian Orthodox Church confirmed the killings. The Egyptians were abducted in the Libyan city of Sirte in two separate incidents in December and January, only a week apart from each other. Sisi held an urgent meeting of the National Defence Council Sunday to discuss the killing of the Egyptian Christians. He urged the government to move swiftly to assist the families of the victims. “We all need to be united to fight terrorism,” Sisi said. The Egyptian president declared a seven-day mourning and also ordered the government to enforce a travel ban on Libya. Libya has been mired in chaos and civil war since October 2011, when the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) began supporting anti-Gaddafi rebels, ultimately resulting in the toppling of the Gaddafi regime. (New Kerala 16/2/15)

78. India among 60 nations to attend White House summit on terror (12)

Washington: Over 60 countries including India will participate in a White House summit on “countering violent extremism” beginning today in the backdrop of alarming growth of ISIS and recent terrorists’ attacks in France and Denmark, senior administration officials have said. While the first two days of the three-day summit are primarily focused on domestic extremism given that there was substantial increase in home grown terrorism, the final day, Thursday would see full participation of more than 60 countries including several ministers to focus on foreign fighters among others. India, which for the past several decades has been a victim of foreign supported terrorism and faces a challenge of domestic violent extremism that include Naxals and Maoists in particular, would be represented by R N Ravi, Chairman of the powerful Joint Intelligence Committee. “It’s a very full and very ambitious agenda to expand and deepen our global coalition to counter and prevent violent extremism,” a senior administration official said yesterday. The conference would highlight domestic and international efforts to prevent violent extremists and their supporters from radicalising, recruiting, or inspiring individuals or groups in the US and abroad to commit acts of violence, efforts made even more imperative in light of recent, tragic attacks throughout the world. Led by US President Barack Obama, top officials of his administration including Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Advisor Susan Rice would be addressing the White House Summit. Obama would be addressing the gathering twice in the summit. The significance of the summit has gained in the last few months in particular with the alarming rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, terrorists attacks in France and Denmark recently. “Countering violent extremism is only one element of all of the different tools that we’re bringing against terrorists, and specifically groups like ISIL,” the official said, adding that the focus would be on sharing information, how to make sure that all governments know those who may cause harm and what action can be taken. Noting that the US remains particularly concerned about the possibility of groups like ISIL recruiting Americans to fight, the official said the message at the White House and the agenda itself is not entirely focused on ISIL itself. “ISIL is the near-term threat that we all are focused on, but we also recognise in the United States there has been violent extremists that come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and so the agenda for all three days is going to show a wide array of speakers and participants from all backgrounds who combat radicalisation, violent extremism and terrorism in its many forms,” the official said. (Deccan Herald  17/2/15)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

79. Chhattisgarh: Naxal Training Camp Busted, Cache of Arms Seized (12)

RAIPUR: Security forces have busted a naxal training camp and recovered a cache of arms and ammunitions besides the material used in making explosives in Dantewada district, a senior official said today. The seizure was made in forested Gonderas hills under Aranpur police station limits by a joint team of security personnel last evening, Dantewada SP Kamlochan Kashyap told PTI today. The cache included thirty seven gelatin rods, eleven detonators, two hand grenades, a country-made gun, a tiffin bomb, a pipe bomb, explosives, gun powder and materials used in making bombs, he said. A squad of Special Task Force (STF) and district force was on a three-day long anti-naxal operation in south Dantewada, around 400 km away from the state capital Raipur, since Tuesday, the SP said. While cordoning off Sopiras area in the region, they were tipped off about the Maoist training camp on the hill following which they started zeroing on at the location. On sensing the security personnel, ultras fled to core forest leaving behind their belongings which included ammunitions and explosives, the SP said, adding the seizure also included a huge number of naxal literature, some Maoist-related documents and magazines. (New Indian Express 12/2/15)

80. In G’chiroli, informers paid Rs 40L for getting Naxals arrested (12)

NAGPUR: Total cash rewards amounting to over Rs 40 lakh have been disbursed among secret informers who helped Gadchiroli district police nab Naxal cadres in the last six month. Rewards of around Rs 94 lakh have become due against 18 arrests since the policy came into force from August last year but Rs 54 lakh are still awaiting sanction. Gadchiroli police last week netted two Naxal cadres having cumulative reward of Rs 20 lakh on their heads, which included divisional committee (DVC) member Mainu Posudi alias Shivaji of north Gadchiroli division, from Etapalli. He was nabbed along with Platoon No 3 and Kasansoor area committee member Asmita Tumretti alias Savita. As per the state government policy, DVC Posudi’s arrest meant a reward of Rs 20 lakh for the informer and Savita’s arrest another Rs 4 lakh. In 2009, Gadchiroli police had caught DVC Jagdish Madavi. The arrest of Shivaji is second such top ranking cadre being netted by police in Gadchiroli after six years. SP Gadchiroli Sandip Patil stated the state government’s reward policy had triggered substantial enthusiasm among both civilians and government personnel to inform cops regarding Naxal. He stated that even government personnel were entitled for 50% of the reward amount and that had made the officers even more motivated. SP Patil stated six Naxals were arrested between January and February 15. After the reward policy was announced, some top cadres of Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh have been netted in the district. Prior to Shivaji, Gadchiroli police had nabbed another DVC member, Jethuram Dhurva, alias Raju, who belonged to Oundhi Dalam of Rajnandgaon of Chhattisgarh in September 2014. Chhattisgarh’s Madanwada Dalam commander Kamlesh Gavde, alias Shamlal, too was nabbed in Gadchiroli in September 2014. In October 2014, Gadchiroli police had foiled a Naxalite plan of blowing up a polling booth in Dhanora by arresting Yesu Tekam alias Dunga who was a Platoon No 15 commander. “We are taking special precaution to maintain secrecy regarding the persons who generated the input,” said Patil. He stated that officers of SP rank could approve rewards of only Rs 10 lakh while the IG rank officer had the power to approve rewards between Rs 10 and Rs 20 lakh. Above it, they must be approved by the senior most officials of the state. (Times of India 16/2/15)

81. ‘Charging states for Maoist menace not logical’ (12)

Bhubaneswar: Disapproving the Union government’s move to ask Maoist-hit states to foot the bill for deployment of central forces, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has asked the Centre to wave the charges.PTI File Photo for representation purpose only Disapproving the Union government’s move to ask Maoist-hit states to foot the bill for deployment of central forces, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has asked the Centre to wave the charges. “The claim of Rs 1,450.29 crore by the Union government towards deployment of central forces appears to be quite unreasonable,” Patnaik said in a strongly worded letter to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. “In the present internal security scenario, joint and coordinated operations of the state and central security forces are the need of the hour. Such demands should not take precedence over the urgent operational requirements so far as deployment of central police forces is considered”, the chief minister said in the letter circulated to the media. Requesting the Centre to consider waving the charges completely, Patnaik, who also heads the state’s home department, reminded Singh that Odisha is training its own police force to fight the Maoists at a considerable expense. CRPF’s Director General (DG) had recently asked the Odisha government to pay up Rs 1,450.29 crore as deployment charges for its forces. Several divisions of the central reserve police force are engaged in operations against the Maoists in Odisha, where at least half of the 30 districts are in the red zone.  “Deployment of central police forces is considered essential to supplement the efforts of state police to counter left wing extremism which covers a large number of states. In this regard, the Odisha government has also recruited, trained and deployed a large number of police personnel for anti-naxal operations bearing huge expenditure from the state exchequer,” Patnaik has said in his letter. “It is the responsibility of both the Union government and the states to fight the left wing extremism by pooling together their resources”, Patnaik added. (Deccan Herald 16/2/15)

82. Landmines recovered in naxal infested Medininagar in Jharkhand (12)

Jharkhand: Security personnel on Wednesday ecovered four landmines from Kelkargarh-Dwarika Road of naxal-infested Palamau district, police said. The recovery was made when the district police force and Jaguar personnel were on a poppy-destroying campaign in the area, Superintendent of Police Mayur Patel said. The security personnel stumbled upon an exposed wire during their operation and launched a search in the vicinity, he said, adding that they spotted four landmines including three connected in a series. Later, the explosives were defused with the help of bomb disposal squad, he added. (DNA 18/2/15)

TRAFFICKING

83. Minor girls trafficked, raped yet Chhattisgarh cops fail to register FIR (1)

RAIPUR: In two separate incidents, minor girls were sexually assaulted, trafficked and repeatedly raped at Raipur and Raigarh districts respectively on Wednesday. While no FIR was lodged in both the cases, police excused themselves saying investigations were underway for authenticity of minors’ complaints. While on one hand state commission for protection of child rights was conducting workshop to sensitize police on dealing with issues related to crime against children, juveniles and child trafficking, police in state capital and Raigarh seemed untouched with the mandate to file FIR immediately after the complaint by child. According to Gudiyari police, a 12-year-old went missing on January 14 after she was scolded by her parents. The girl went to an old neighbour’s home near her locality. According to girl’s statement, she was adamant about returning home after which the woman neighbour Simran with the help of her relative Nagma, sent the girl to a household in Bhilai, Gudiyari TI Bhushan Ekka said. While he resisted divulging details to TOI, he added that the girl was trafficked to a family for money where the minor worked as domestic labour and was later sexually assaulted. He said that FIR wasn’t lodged against anyone except for registration of a missing complaint. We will have to investigate to find the authenticity of complaint and then FIR will be lodged, he said. In another case at Raigarh, a 17-year-old girl approached child welfare committee complaining that she was repeatedly raped by her cousin while she stayed with his family. Talking to TOI, Raigarh CWC chairperson Jessy Phillip said, “The girl was being raped for last two years and she said that she had delivered a baby whose whereabouts are not certain. The girl stayed with her father’s sister’s family after his death as her mother is mentally retarded. Her cousin, meanwhile, had repeatedly raped her and her aunt tried to cover up the matter which encouraged him. Driven to desperation, she came running to Jessy late on Wednesday and reported the matter. According to Raigarh police in charge Dilip Singh Sisodia, FIR wasn’t lodged till evening as the girl was sent for medical examination. While the time lost between lodging FIR to nab the accused and getting medical test done could play a crucial role in giving sufficient time to accuse to escape, a child rights expert in city says that it isn’t a pre-condition to get the medical, since the complaint came directly from the child. (Times of India 12/2/15)

84. Trafficking a social issue, courts alone can’t resolve it: Justice Sikri (1)

New Delhi: Calling human trafficking the “worst form of violation of human dignity,” Supreme Court Justice A K Sikri said the various laws and judgments issued by the apex court and the high courts on trafficking cannot regulate the problem as it is a “social issue”. Justice Sikri was speaking at the valedictory function of a three-day international consultation on Human Trafficking, organised by the Campus Law Centre (CLC), Faculty of Law, Delhi University, on Sunday. In his speech, he emphasised that judicial action alone was not enough to combat the problem. “The judiciary alone cannot monitor every case. Implementation of guidelines is in the hands of enforcement agencies,” Sikri said.He also said news reports showed that police were aware of traffickers, and those involved in trafficking also openly admitted to bribing police personnel. “Over 33,000 children go missing in the country every year. The UN has put China and India on the watch list of countries where human trafficking occurs,” Sikri said, citing statistics that indicated the extent of the problem. The judge also mentioned that two separate PILs were being heard by the Supreme Court on the issue. Delhi High Court Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Former Solicitor General of India Mohan Parasaran, in their speeches, also emphasised the socio-economic situation that allows for human trafficking. “Riots and sexual violence are a reminder that we continue to be a sick society,” Justice Nandrajog said. Parasaran stated that law enforcement officials were usually involved in trafficking and “veiled” the traffickers. “There is a need to bring the problem in the open and address it strategically,” he said. During a session on the challenges faced in rehabilitating victims of trafficking, Justice Nandrajog also mentioned studies which indicated that 22 per cent of traffickers had political backing. He also said more than 54 per cent of police personnel did not see trafficking and forced labour as a problem. The international conference was attended by delegates from various countries including Australia, Austria, Nepal, UK, USA, Egypt, Indonesia, and Korea, among others. The various papers presented at the conference will now be published and placed before the National Human Rights Commission, the Supreme Court and other agencies for consideration, CLC professor in-charge Usha Tandon said. (Indian Express 16/2/15)

85. Traffickers eye labourers in Ranchi (1)

RANCHI: The focus of traffickers is gradually shifting from interior villages to the state capital. Traffickers are not just operating in rural areas but are also targeting labourers in Ranchi. Over the past few months there have been several cases of women and girls being trafficked from Ranchi, which have gone unreported. Early Saturday morning a group of daily wage earners who assemble at a designated spot to search for work or leave for their respective work sites, informed that some people approach them almost every day and try to convince them to go to Delhi to work as domestic helps. Sohri Devi, who comes to Lalpur Chowk of Ranchi from Jonha to work as a domestic help, suffered a loss due to a trafficker named Lakshmi. Talking to ToI, Sohri revealed that her 12-year-old sister who used to accompany her to work every day was taken to Delhi by Lakshmi. She said, “Lakshmi used to come and talk to my sister every day and convinced her to go to Delhi promising good payment. I used to tell my sister not to talk to her but two weeks later Lakshmi managed to come to our house and take my sister with her when I was not around. Since then my sister’s phone is continuously switched off.” Sohri was too scared to lodge an FIR against Lakshmi but after being convinced by a social activist, she agreed to lodge the FIR.  Like Sohri, Mantu Mahato, a daily wage earner has also suffered due to these traffickers when her 16-year-old sister-in-law was taken away from the roundabout when she had gone there alone to find work. He said, “One day I was not well and my sister-in-law came to work alone and never returned home. Next day other labourers at the chowk informed that she was taken by somebody called Raju to work in some other state.” Social activists believe that traffickers shifting their focus to the state capital, is not a good sign. Baidnath Kumar, a social activist said, “Traffickers have suddenly got the courage to operate in the state capital. I have come across many such cases in which girls have been trafficked from roundabouts of the city, right under the nose of police. Police should take the matter seriously. It is shocking that the girls who should be in school, are being trafficked. Instead of talking about awareness generation, the government should actually include awareness against trafficking in the syllabus.” Meanwhile, CID officials claim that if such complains come to their knowledge, they would immediately take action. IG CID, Sampat Meena said, “This is the first time that I have heard of such cases. If the relatives of the victim inform us about it, we will immediately take action.” She added, “Now that the traffickers are approaching roundabouts in state capital, we will also plan awareness drives among the daily wage earners at these roundabouts, so they get to know about the situation and do not fall into the trap of traffickers.” (Times of India 18/2/15)

CORRUPTION

86. After Kejriwal, here are other anti-corruption crusaders in global politics (5)

New Delhi: Alexei Anatolievich Navalny, leader of the Progress Party in Russia, has been a staunch critic of President Vladimir Putin and is leading a campaign against corruption in the country.Alexei Anatolievich Navalny, leader of the Progress Party in Russia, has been a staunch critic of President Vladimir Putin and is leading a campaign against corruption in the country.The emphatic victory of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has set a new benchmark for the anti-corruption crusaders all over the world who are struggling in their own ways to challenge the establishments plagued by the menace. AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal’s rise in Indian political system catapults him to the league of international leaders striving to fight social inequalities. AAP was launched as a political party on November 26, 2012 as an outcome of a mass movement in favour of a strong anti-corruption legislation, Jan Lokpal. The club of anti-corruption crusaders is small but its leaders have managed to gain popularity to deliver clean politics. An immediate parallel can be drawn between Russia’s Alexei Anatolievich Navalny and Arvind Kejriwal. Navalny, a former lawyer, has emerged as one of the biggest critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He is the leader of the Progress Party and also contested elections to become mayor of Moscow in 2013. He was runners-up in the elections but surprised many with an impressive vote share. The anti-corruption crusader has been arrested several times and was also accused of fund fraud.In Spain, Partido X, a relatively new political party, is spearheading an anti-corruption campaign. Just like AAP, Partido X also came into prominence through street protests.In Spain, Partido X, a relatively new political party, is spearheading an anti-corruption campaign. Just like AAP, Partido X also came into prominence through street protests. If Russia has Navalny, Spain’s anti-corruption campaign is spearheaded by a relatively new political party Partido X which, like AAP, came into existence from street protests. Partido X emerged to challenge the established People’s Party and the Spanish Socialist Workers Party that have been in power for three decades. In Slovenia, bordering Italy, lawyer-turned-politician Miro Cerar is leading the crusade against corruption. Miro Cerar formed the party in his own name last year and registered impressive results, getting a good vote share in the Slovenian parliamentary elections. Cerar went on to become the Prime Minister of Slovenia.AAP’s victory in Delhi has been covered extensively by the Western press which has seen it as a blow to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government at the Centre. The rise of AAP is also being followed closely by neighbouring Pakistan where the frustration against traditional ruling parties like the Pakistan Muslim League (N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which was in power till recently, has been challenged by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI). Khan has also emerged as a symbol of clean, anti-corruption politics in Pakistan. The electoral gains for AAP will set a telling example for similar crusades across the world. If Kejriwal is able to deliver what he and his colleagues have promised, AAP can set global anti-graft standards. (India Today 11/2/15)

87. 79% rise in graft complaints to CVC; crosses 63,000 mark in 2014 (5)

More than 63,000 corruption complaints were received by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) in 2014, a rise of 79% over the preceding year. The anti-corruption watchdog said it received 63,288 complaints last year as against 35,332 in 2013. These complaints include those filed by whistleblowers and anonymous complainants. “The commission has processed a record number of corruption complaints in the last year. All of them were dealt with within the prescribed time-frame,” a CVC official said. The complaints were related to allegations of corruption in various central government ministries and departments, he said.  The total of 63,288 is based on CVC’s monthly reports for 2014. The final figure may go up or come down. “The final figure will be mentioned in the Commission’s annual report, which is tabled in Parliament after June every year and then made public,” the official said. Most of these complaints did not require any action due to lack of verifiable allegations and were merely filed as per the CVC corruption handling policy. Rest of them were sent to Chief Vigilance Officers of the ministries concerned for necessary action and report, he said.    The anti-corruption watchdog had received 37,039, 16,929 and 16,260 complaints in 2012, 2011 and 2010, respectively, according to its annual reports. Similarly, 14,206 and 10,142 complaints were received in 2009 and 2008, respectively. In 2007 and 2006, the Commission had received 11,062 and 10,798 complaints, respectively. Also, 9,320, 10,735, 11,397 complaints were received by it during 2005, 2004 and 2003, respectively, as per the annual reports. (DNA 15/2/15)

88. Maha Sadan scam: Nephew, son of Bhujbal summoned (5)

MUMBAI: Nationalist Congress Party leader Chhagan Bhujbal’s son Pankaj and nephew Samir have been summoned by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to record their statements on the alleged illegalities in granting of contracts for the construction of Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi. A week ago, the ACB had recorded the statements of two senior officials of the Bhujbal-controlled Mumbai Education Trust. The state guest house was built when Bhujbal was the PWD minister. ACB director-general Pravin Dixit on Monday confirmed Pankaj and Samir have been summoned. “Our sleuths will record their statements,” he said.  The Bombay high court has directed the ACB to submit a report on the status of the probe on or before February 28, said a senior official. “We will record the statements of Pankaj and Samir this week and if there is a need, we will summon Chhagan Bhujbal too,” he added. The case started after BJP MP Kirit Somaiya lodged a complaint with the ACB alleging largescale corruption in allotment of contracts to a Mumbai-based developer for construction of Maharashtra Sadan and sent a copy to then chief minister Prithviraj Chavan. Somaiya and Aam Admi Party leader Anjali Damania also filed a PIL before the HC, saying a special investigation team should be set up to probe the scam. The ACB sought an open inquiry against Bhujbal, then public works minister, but Chavan did not take a decision. Devendra Fadnavis took the reins of the state on October 31, 2014, and within a month approved the open inquiry. Prima facie, investigators have found suspicious transactions in the companies controlled by Pankaj and Samir that have been linked to the allotment of the Sadan contract. “The SIT will secure information from Pankaj and Samir on massive transactions in companies controlled or owned by them. The amounts are very huge, hence it was felt that the source of these funds should be probed,” the official said. (Times of India 17/2/15)

89. Information commissioners not disclosing their movable assets (5)

NEW DELHI: The Central Information Commission may have ordered Supreme Court judges to declare their assets but it has shied away from disclosure of its own “movable assets.” Responding to a recent Right to Information application filed by Bengaluru-based activist Arun Agrawal seeking to know movable assets of the information commissioners, the CIC said, “No such information is maintained by it.” CIC is the transparency watchdog for all central government ministries. The stand taken by the CIC is in contravention to the recently enacted Lokpal Act which makes it mandatory to declare movable and immovable assets of every official working in the government. The website of the Central Information Commission has a column under which assets of all the seven Information Commissioners have been given summarily mentioning only properties owned by them and do not mention cash and other movable assets held by them. Declaration of assets including cash is mandatory for MPs, candidates contesting elections and public servants including Supreme Court judges. After the orders of the Central Information Commission, the Supreme Court judges have started declaring both their movable and immovable assets which are updated every year and posted on the website of the apex court. The order was upheld by Delhi high court. The commission had recently also directed the SEBI chairman to disclose assets and liabilities. Agrawal in his appeal sought disclosure of movable assets of the information commissioners saying if the CIC does not declare their movable assets, then adverse conclusion may be drawn which is not good for the institution of the CIC which is the last bastion of transparency. (Times of India 19/2/15)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

90. Carbon release from oceans leads to climate change (9)

London: Giving a fresh insight into how oceans affect climate change, a new study shows that carbon stored in deep in the Southern Ocean, re-connected with the atmosphere, drives a rise in atmospheric CO2 and climate change. There were heavy concentrations of dissolved CO2 in surface waters of the Southern Atlantic Ocean which coincided with the rises in atmospheric CO2 at the end of the last ice age. So, these regions acted as sources of CO2 to the atmosphere. Currently, the oceans contain around 60 times more carbon than the atmosphere and that carbon can exchange rapidly between these two systems. “The magnitude and rapidity of the swings in atmospheric CO2 across the ice age cycles suggests that changes in ocean carbon storage are important drivers of natural atmospheric CO2 variations,” said Miguel Martinez-Boti from the University of Southampton. While a reduction in communication between the deep-sea and the atmosphere in Southern Atlantic Ocean locks carbon away from the atmosphere into the abyss during ice ages, the opposite occurs during warm interglacial periods. They studied the composition of the calcium carbonate shells of ancient marine organisms that inhabited the surface of the ocean thousands of years ago in order to trace its carbon content. “Our new data confirms that natural variations in atmospheric CO2 between ice ages and warm inter-glacials are driven largely by changes in the amount of carbon stored in our oceans,” pointed out Gavin Foster from the University of Southampton. “These results will help to better understanding the dynamics of human-induced CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere since the ocean is an important carbon sink and the largest reservoir of carbon on our planet” concluded Patrizia Ziveri, professor at ICTA, UAB, Barcelona. (ZEE News 12/2/15)

91. Eco-activists to drag JLR into court over ‘illegal’ resorts (9)

Bengaluru: Environmentalists are planning to drag the state-owned Jungle Lodges and Resorts (JLR) into court in a week, contending that it does not have necessary permissions to operate its properties in various forests of Karnataka. They will file a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the High Court. Information obtained under the Right To Information (RTI) Act has revealed that eight resorts of JLR were neither given permission by the State Board of Wildlife (SBWL) or the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL), nor have they got the approval of the Supreme Court. Thus, as per the guidelines of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and those given by the top court in 2012, these resorts must be shut down or shifted out if they have not obtained permission, Santosh Martin, former honorary wildlife warden, Ballari, told Deccan Herald. Under the RTI, information was sought about the K Gudi wilderness camp in the BRT Tiger Reserve, the Bheemeshwari Nature Camp, the Galibore and Doddamakali fishing camps in the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary, the Devbagh Beach Resort in Karwar, the River Tern Lodge in Chikkamagaluru district, the JLR in Bannerghatta and the Dubare Elephant Camp in Kodagu district. The K Gudi camp was found lacking forest clearances. Bheemeshwari, Galibore and Doddamakali camps do not have permission from the SBWL, the NBWL and the SC. Forest Clearance (FC) wasn’t applied for. Devbagh was not applicable for permission from the SBWL and the NBWL and didn’t apply for FC. River Tern, Bannerghatta and Dubare too do not have FC clearance, Martin claimed.  As per the MoEF guidelines on taking up non-forestry activities in wildlife habitats and the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, no construction of commercial tourist lodges, hotels, zoos and safari parks can take place inside national parks, tiger reserves and national parks. According to Martin, a letter was also written to the Additional Chief Secretary, Forest, Ecology and Environment, in December 2014, seeking details of the JLR running resorts inside sanctuaries, national parks and reserve forests without forest clearance from the MoEF and other approvals from the SBWL, the NBWL and the Supreme Court. But no reply was received to date. When contacted, Additional Chief Secretary, Forest, Ecology and Environment, M Madan Gopal, promised to take up the matter with the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), Vinay Luthra. He said JLR properties were launched by converting existing forest guesthouses into resorts and nothing new was constructed. They were launched to promote eco-tourism activities, which is a part of forest activity, he added. (Deccan Herald 13/2/15)

92. Need for increasing forest cover stressed (9)

SALEM: Mass sapling planting campaign, competitions, distribution of seedlings to farmers marked the environment protection awareness programme held at the Government School, Kamalapuram near here on Saturday. The programme was organised by the Green India Foundation NGO. Pazhanivelu, forest ranger, Danishpet, spoke on the need for increasing the forest cover for protecting the environment. The forests will bring adequate rainfall, which in turn will improve the ground water level in the surrounding areas, he said and urged the students to extend a helping hand by planting more saplings. A large number of students participated in the oratorical and other competitions held in connection with the event, prizes were distributed to the winners. The highlight of the event was the distribution of seedlings to the farmers who participated in the programme. Led by Sumathi, secretary of the Green India Foundation, students planted saplings on the school premises. (The Hindu 17/2/15)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

93. Green pepper does a star turn for tribal farmers (20)

ANCHIYAL (IDUKKI DISTRICT): The tribal farmers of Vancvhivayal, a settlement inside the Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR), are a happy lot. For, they get the highest price for green pepper in the State as the entire lot is exported to Germany. In this hill-locked fertile forestland, all farmers grow organic pepper thanks to the effort of the Periyar Tiger Conservation Foundation. The 63 families at Vancvhivayal are busy harvesting the crop and the yield is expected to be over 20 tonnes this year. They get Rs.270 a kg this season for their produce, which Rs.110 more than the local market rate. V.Radhakrishnan, secretary of the Eco-Development Committee (EDC), said the committee prompted the farmers to take up green pepper cultivation. In 2005, 20,578 kg of organic pepper fetched Rs.5,14,470 and last year, the farmers got Rs.52,63,940 selling 23,027 kg. “Every year, an international agency gives organic certification after testing the soil and the farmers are advised to stick to the organic mode. Moreover, it is their way of cultivation as they do not use chemical pesticides or fertilizers as the soil is rich. The farmers clear the weeds twice a year and the decayed leaves and weeds are the main agents that fertilise the soil,” says P.N. Sebastian, EDC facilitator. A PTR official said the foundation used to directly export the produce to Germany. However, due to official constraints, it invited bids from private agencies to procure pepper before the harvest season every year. “In 2013, 23,565 kg of pepper was sold at Rs.35,34,750 at Rs.150 a kg (market price Rs.129). Since we get a decent price, we are all happy to be pepper farmers,” says Remakutty, wife of Radhakrishnan. Valsa Yesodaran, a farmer, said every week the price of the collected pepper would be remitted in their bank account. “Other than arranging the organic certification and inviting quotations, the foundation does not have a role in collecting the material or transferring the money to the account holder. It is for ensuring transparency. All tribal farmers of Vancvhivayal are members on the EDC, which procures pepper from them,” a PTR official said. (The Hindu 13/2/15)

94. Farmers Enumerate Benefits of Bt Cotton (20)

BENGALURU: The debate over genetically modified crops rears its head every now and then, but for many farmers, it is an open-and-shut case. Take the example of Basavaraj F Rudagi and Kallanagouda Patil, of Saunshi and Uppinabetegere villages in Dharwad respectively. Basavaraj grows cotton on 15 acres of the 40 acres he owns, while Kallanagouda grows the crop on 10 acres. Both of them say Bt cotton has almost doubled their yield, increased their earnings and reduced the investment on pesticides and labour. According to experts, debates on GM crops are often riddled with ill-informed remarks about the risks of such crops. Genetic modification is a technology that cannot be ignored and may come handy to feed the 9 billion people expected to populate the planet by 2050, they say. The farmers appear to agree. They say Bt cotton seeds are easily available at agro centres and fertiliser shops. They are usually sold at `930 a packet, which includes 450 gm of Bt cotton seeds for the main field and 120 gm for non-Bt seeds that act as refugee seeds along the periphery of the main field. ‘Helps in Pest Control’:  Basavaraj says, “Bt cotton has been very helpful in reducing the damage caused by bollworm (an insect that damages the part of the cotton plant that can be sold).” “Earlier, farmers growing traditional cotton  had to spray pesticide 10 to 15 times during the peak growth period of cotton to control bollworm infection. Now, with Bt cotton, pesticide sprays have come down by 70 per cent, to just 3-4 rounds,” he adds. Kallanagouda says non-Bt growers used to get a yield of four to five quintals, which is a low return. “With Bt cotton seeds, we are actually investing less on pesticides and labour and getting a yield of 8-10 quintals,” he says. He puts the rise in earnings at 50-60 per cent, and adds with happiness that today, 90 per cent of the cotton generated in India is from Bt seeds. (New Indian Express 15/2/15)

95. UP govt to launch 1,000 agri-junctions across state… (20)

LUCKNOW: Going pro-farmer in a big way, the SP government is all set to launch 1,000 ‘agri-junctions’ across the state. The state budget to be tabled on February 24 is likely to have provision for the same. The aim is to provide not only farm inputs and equipment to farmers but also business opportunity to rural youth and employment to agriculture graduates. The scheme will be announced by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav soon and the government expects that kisan junctions would dot the entire agricultural landscape of the state opening business opportunities for the rural youth in large numbers and protect the innocent farmers from their exploitation from the banks to the retailers!  The one-stop will not only cater to all kinds of requirements of farmers, but also guide them in procuring loan from banks for the farm needs and to set up small-scale food processing units and availing technical facilities. Graduates with agriculture background would be shortlisted to run these junctions. According to reliable sources, the chief minister has ordered to provide a subsidy of Rs 60,000 each to the selected candidates to set up their own business .The agri junction will cost nearly Rs 4 lakh and apart from the subsidy, the remaining amount would be funded as loans by the NABARD and other nationalised banks. The State Agricultural Management Extension Training Institute (SAMETI) at Rehmankhera , Lucknow, is gearing up to provide a 12-day training programme for the shortlisted applicants. The government hopes that the agri shop promoted by it will take the chain of such marts being run bu corporate houses. “Agri junctions would not only provide all farm inputs to farmers, but also assist them in bank loans, and help them in availing the agriculture programmes of the UP government and the Central governments,” says a government official. The agri junctions can add on services like maintenance and repairs of farm machinery, animal feed, retailing of agriculture produce and processed agriculture products and even information technology kiosks. (Times of India 17/2/15)

96. 93 farmers committed suicide in 45 days in Marathwada region (20)

AURANGABAD: Forty-five days, 93 suicides. 2015 has started quite ominously for farmers in the perennially parched Marathwada region and activists blamed the fickle weather and the delay in release of government compensation for this. The divisional commissionerate has reported as many as 93 farmers’ suicides in Marathwada in the last 45 days since January 1. Last year, the region had reported 569 farmers’ suicides as against 207 in 2013. A committee of each taluka comprising the tehsildar, police officer, taluka agriculture officer, sarpanch and a panchayat samiti member probes a suicide case to confirm if the death was due to debt burden. A farmer committing suicide is eligible for compensation only if he possesses land and is debt-ridden. Moreover, he should have taken loan only from either nationalized or co-operative banks and registered money-lenders. There has to be follow up from the banks concerned for the repayment of the loan. Divisional commissioner Umakant Dangat said, “Farmer suicide is one of the biggest challenges before the administration. Crop failure and debts are considered the main reasons for farmers’ suicide. This is common in an area where the single crop pattern is in practice. Ensuring water security for the farmers via water management is the solution to the problem in a region like Marathwada.” He added that the farmers should be introduced to some sustainable means of farming system. Agriculture here needs to be supplement by allied activities like vegetable production, diary, so that farmer suicides are brought down to a great extent. Of the total farmers’ suicides committed this year in the region, 26 have been reported from Beed, closely followed by Nanded (20) and Osmanabad (18). Parbhani has reported one farmer suicide, while Jalna, Hingoli, Aurangabad and Latur districts have reported three, four, nine and 12 farmer suicides, respectively. “The delay in distribution of compensation is the biggest reason for the farmers to take the extreme step. Besides, the vicious cycle of crop loan in combination with erratic monsoon in the region leaves the farmers with no option but to take the extreme step,” said farmer activist Jayajirao Suryawanshi. Of the 93 deaths, the administration has 26 cases pending for inquiry because of which compensation has not been granted. District collector Naval Kishor Ram said, “Once a farmer suicide is reported, we send it to the block level committee including tehsildar, police inspector and agriculture officer. There are two levels of inquiries conducted and they ideally take at least one month. We ensure there is no delay in the release of compensation.” (Times of India 19/2/15)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

97. State may extend land pooling deadline (4)

GUNTUR: The State government is likely to extend the February 15 deadline to complete the land pooling process as less than 50 per cent of land has been pooled so far in the capital notified region covering 26 villages in the three mandals of Thullur, Mangalagiri and Tadepalli. According to reports, a little over 18,000 acres had been pooled so far with 46.95 per cent of farmers submitting consent letters (form 9.3). The government still has to acquire 19,000 acres. “At this point, the government is left with no other option but to extend the deadline by another 15 days. I don’t think the government will invoke provisions under the Land Acquisition Act when 50 per cent of land has already been pooled,” said a senior official. The APCRDA had issued notification in January first week but with most of the deputy collectors not reporting for duty, the process was off to a sluggish start. The total extent of land in the capital notified area according to the Revenue Settlement Registrar (RSR) is 53,720 acres. The CRDA notified 45,625 acres, out of which 8,001 acres is government land, 37,624 acres patta land. The number of khatadars in 1-B register is 24,818, of which 15,548 farmers gave consent letters as on February 9. As of now, land owners in Thullur, Nelapadu, Sakhamuru, Ananthavaram have shown enthusiasm in giving away their land. In contrast, those from the villages abutting the river bed such as Rayapudi, Undavalli, Penumaka and Tadepalli were reluctant for the same. For instance, the percentage of farmers who had given consent letters was 72.02 in Thullur-2, 65.42 in Nelapadu, 64.50 in Ananthavaram and 50.35 in Dondapadu. But the situation is different in riverfront villages, where farmers cultivate three to four crops. For instance in Rayapudi-1 and Rayapudi-2, the percentage of farmers who gave consent letters is 17.33 and 48.11 respectively, 14.56 in Uddandarayanipalem. But the initial resistance appears to have subsided owing to reconciliation. In Krishnayapalem and Lingayapalem, the percentage stood at 47.56 and 38.57 respectively. “We are determined to retain our lands and there is no way we are going to part with them,” said Mallela Harindranath Chowdary, president of PACS, Rayapudi. (The Hindu 11/2/15)

98. Anna Hazare to protest against Modi govt’s ordinance on Land Acquisition (4)

New Delhi: Anti-corruption campaigner Anna Hazare said on Sunday that he along with farmers from northern India will hold a protest, scheduled to be held on February 24, against the land acquisition ordinance, adding that he will request the Modi government to withdraw it keeping in mind the farmers’ cause. “I will participate in massive movement of farmers against land acquisition ordinance, to be held on Feb 24 in Delhi,” Hazare told reporters here, as per ANI. Hazare further said, “We will request the Govt to withdraw this anti-farmers ordinance through this movement.” The veteran social activist added that the BJP government has done injustice to poor farmers by allowing their land to be acquired for industrial purposes without their permission. A farmers’ body, last month, had announced that it would lay siege to Parliament on February 20 to protest the new Land Acquisition ordinance. The Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangthan had described the ordinance as a “kaala kanoon” (black law). The Union Cabinet in December 2014, had approved the ordinance to amend the Land Acquisition Act, adding five more areas which will be exempted from the requisites given in the act. Five areas were granted clearance for land for Defence purposes, rural infrastructure, affordable housing and housing projects for poor, industrial corridors, and infrastructure or social infrastructure projects, including those in public-private projects in which ownership of land will remain with the government. (Zee News 15/2/15)

99. Medha Patkar asks Mohan Bhagwat about how RSS plans to conserve Narmada (4)

Indore: Medha Patkar said that she and anti-graft crusader Anna Hazare would participate in a ‘Maha Dharna’ on February 23 and February 24 at Jantar Mantar in Delhi to protest amendments made to the Land Acquisition Act using the ordinance route, by Narendra Modi’s government. Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar on Monday asked RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat what his organisation plans to conserve Narmada and alleged that tracts of land along the holy river were being handed over to private companies under the pretext of implementing government schemes “Government policies have been charted out to hand over tracts of lands along river Narmada to private companies after grabbing them, but people displaced by big dam projects have not been compensated with land yet,” Patkar said at a press conference in Indore. “I want to ask Bhagwat what the RSS plans to do to conserve Narmada,” she said, seeking to know what was the RSS’ stand on big dam projects on the Narmada. “Bhagwat said that some organisations working on rivers where involved in anti-national activities. He should specifically name these organisations,” Patkar said. The activist said that she and anti-graft crusader Anna Hazare would participate in a ‘Maha Dharna’ on February 23 and February 24 at Jantar Mantar in Delhi to protest amendments made to the Land Acquisition Act using the ordinance route, by Narendra Modi’s government. She said that these amendments were made merely to favour private companies and real estate developers. These amendments have been initiated to grab the lands of farmers, labourers, urban poor and fishermen, she said. (DNA 16/2/15)

100. AAP to fight ‘low’ compensation for land acquisition (4)

CHANDIGARH: Confident after their impressive show in Delhi, the Aam Aadmi Party on Tuesday announced not to let Haryana’s BJP government acquire even a single inch of land if it didn’t amend rules to offer low compensation to farmers. The law – Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 – has given liberty to the states to frame rules for award of compensation to farmers in lieu of land acquisition. The states have an option to multiply the price of land in the rural areas up to two times its market value. The Haryana government decided that it would multiply the value of land with one – prevailing market rates – to offer compensation to property owners. A formal notification was issued on December 4, 2014 in this connection. These rules were made for entire rural Haryana. Explaining the impact of the decision, an official said, “As per adopted version of the compensation formula, the government pays Rs 100 crore to the farmers, it would have to pay Rs 200 crore for the same land if its value was raised by a multiple of two.” AAP national spokesperson Yogendra Yadav said the price fixation was to be on the basis of distance of rural land from urban areas but the Manohar Lal Khattar-led government adopted the lowest standard of compensation for the entire state. “For example, a farmer, who gets just Rs 50 lakh for a piece of land as per new rules, would have got Rs 1 crore if the upper limit of the compensation was adopted,” said Yadav, adding that now the compensation would be just 50% in comparison to the upper side reimbursement formula. “Even the previous Congress government in Haryana had opted for the upper side of land compensation in Gurgaon district on the pattern of the Land Acquisition Act, 2013. The Khattar government has opted the lower limit of compensation despite strong objection from farmers,” the AAP leader claimed. Accompanied by Haryana AAP leaders Ashawant Gupta and Rajiv Godara, Yadav said the state government must withdraw the anti-farmer rules on land acquisition. “We won’t allow the government to acquire any piece land on the basis of these rules,” he said. Additional chief secretary (revenue) Dalip Singh said the government has adopted the rules of compensation for land on the basis of recommendations of a committee. Sources said the procedure for framing rules to acquire land was initiated during the previous Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led government but final notification was issued by the current regime. An official claimed that many projects would have become unviable, if the government adopted higher limit of compensation. “Haryana has adopted the same compensation model as by many other states,” he added. Jawahar Yadav, officer on special duty (OSD) to CM, said they would welcome if the AAP could give some suggestions on the issue. AAP would launch ‘Jai Kisan Abhiyan’ from February 21 in Haryana. Party workers would offer packets of salt to MPs from Haryana asking them not to betray farmers, who produced food for them. Terming the land acquisition ordinance introduced by the Narendra Modi government in 2014 as anti-farmer, AAP workers would urge the MPs to raise their voice against it. (Times of India 18/2/15)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

101. Health Ministry holds review meeting on H1N1 (3)

NEW DELHI: The status of H1N1 influenza being reported from different states was reviewed by the Health Ministry at a high-level meeting held here on Wednesday. Director General Health Services (DGHS) Dr Jagdish Prasad, representatives of leading government hospitals such as Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, Safdarjung, AIIMS, and from Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and National Center for Disease Control (NCDC) were present in the meeting that was chaired by Health and Family Welfare Secretary B.P. Sharma. It was noted that that during the period from January 1 to February 10 this year, the total number of H1N1 cases is 5,157 and number of deaths is 407. Largely the cases are from Delhi, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Telangana whereas largely the deaths due to H1N1 are in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Telangana. The current trends of morbidity and mortality, the diagnostic and test algorithms being followed, availability of diagnostic kits and drugs, and other preventive measures were discussed. Based on the advice given by experts, it was decided that various health institutions treating H1N1 cases be advised for vaccination against H1N1 influenza for the concerned health workers in the hospitals in contact with H1N1 patients. This will be in addition to the proper personal protective measures being followed at the hospitals. Guidelines are being drafted for vaccination of healthcare workers and these will be shared with the states for dissemination to all health institutions. The Government of India has already placed an order for enhancing stock of diagnostic kits to be supplied to the lab network under Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) being used for testing H1N1 influenza. To enhance the level of preparedness, additional 60,000 Oseltamivir medicines and 10,000 N-95 masks are being procured. In addition, NCDC has floated a tender for additional 10,000 diagnostic kits. In case of need, labs under ICMR have been identified across the country to provide additional testing facilities. In order to prevent panic and inconvenience to people, and to encourage only those cases requiring H1N1 testing are actually taken up for testing, it was decided that the communication strategy should create awareness among the general public regarding this aspect. (Times of India 11/2/15)

102. Maharashtra continues to face swine flu’s onslaught, toll rises to 58 (3)

Pune: With the alarming acceleration of swine flu, Maharashtra continues to face the onslaught of the lethal H1N1 virus with 13 people succumbing in the second week of February, taking the toll to 58. 11 of these cases, whose average age was around 50 years, suffered from other underlying ailments like diabetes and hypertension. Of the 58 deaths recorded, 35 people died in the first two weeks of February itself, while there have been more than 220 cases in the second week alone, said medical sources. The present toll has alarmingly exceeded the total of 43 deaths registered in 2014. Since January, a total of 415 people have been affected by swine flu and are undergoing treatment, with most of the cases concentrated in Pune and Nagpur. Scientists at the Pune-based National Institute of Virology (NIV) observed a dramatic 22 per cent rise in swine flu transmission since the beginning of February as opposed to the two per cent positivity rate in January. The districts of Pune, one of the epicenters of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, and Nagpur, have already recorded more than 20 deaths each and the number is expected to rise with the onset of summer, said State medical authorities. (The Hindu 16/2/15)

103. Why rural children in India die of diarrhoea and pneumonia (3)

CHENNAI: The reason why a large number of children under the age of five years die of diarrhoea and pneumonia, generally in rural India and especially in Bihar, has become clear. Diarrhoea and pneumonia are the biggest killer diseases in children in India. With 55 per 1,000 live births, Bihar has the highest infant mortality rate in the country. But 340 health care providers in rural Bihar rarely practice what little they know about treating children suffering from these two diseases. “Vignette” interviews with the providers were conducted to assess their knowledge of diagnosing and treating children with these diseases. Later, the actual treatment offered by the health care providers was assessed by sending “patients” pretending to suffer from the same symptoms as in the interviews. If the providers’ exhibited “low levels” of knowledge about the two diseases during the interviews, it was even worse in practice. Though during the interview 72 per cent of them correctly reported they would prescribe the cheap, life-saving oral rehydration salts (ORS) to children suffering from diarrhoea, in practice, none prescribed the correct treatment — only ORS. In practice, almost 72 per cent did not give ORS. Instead, they prescribed harmful drugs or antibiotics. The 17 per cent providers who did prescribe ORS also added antibiotics to the regimen, which is unnecessary, says a Duke University release. Antibiotics were prescribed despite the “patients” not asking for them. Eighty per cent of providers in the study did not have a medical degree. While those with medical training did have large gaps between what they knew and what they practiced, they were “significantly less likely” to prescribe harmful drugs. The results were published on Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. (The Hindu 17/2/15)

104. Swine Flu H1N1: Signs, symptoms, diagnosis and prevention of the deadly H1N1 virus (3)

Swine Flu (H1N1) is the new virus that is killing people at large with no proper vaccination for the deadly disease. A total of 5157 H1N1 cases were recorded from January to February 2015 of which 407 patients died. The disease was first detected in Mexico in 2009 and then spread to many countries in the world. The influenza was earlier referred to as H1N1 because of the virus which was found in the lanoratory testing which were similar to those found in the pigs in North America. The scientists calls this a ‘quadruple reassortant’ virus and hence this new (novel) virus is now called ‘influenza-A (H1N1) virus’. While the virus is spreading across the country, here we is all you need to know about the the deadly virus. In pigs, influenza infection produces fever, lethargy, sneezing, coughing, difficulty breathing and decreased appetite Although mortality is usually low (around 1–4%), the virus can produce weight loss and poor growth, causing economic loss to farmers. Direct transmission of a swine flu virus from pigs to humans is occasionally possible (zoonotic swine flu). Swine flu deaths cross 620, chemists asked to stock Tamiflu In humans the symptoms of “swine flu” H1N1 virus are similar to those of influenza and of influenza-like illness in general. Symptoms in humans fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Because these symptoms are not specific to swine flu, a differential diagnosis of probable swine flu requires not only symptoms, but also a high likelihood of swine flu due to the person’s recent history. The oral or nasal fluid collection and RNA virus preserving filter paper card is commercially available. This method allows a specific diagnosis of novel influenza (H1N1) as opposed to seasonal influenza. Former Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot tests positive for swine flu The most common cause of death is respiratory failure. Other causes of death are pneumonia (leading to sepsis), high fever (leading to neurological problems), dehydration (from excessive vomiting and diarrhea), electrolyte imbalance and kidney failure. Fatalities are more likely in young children and the elderly. Swine Flu: Government to vaccinate health workers against H1N1 virus.. (India.com 18/2/15)

 105. ‘India yet to recognise healthcare as fundamental right’(3)

VELLORE: Sixty-seven years after winning Independence, India is yet to recognise and realise healthcare as a fundamental human right, as an entitlement for all is citizens and residents, observed N. Ram, Chairman of the Kasturi & Sons Ltd. and Publisher of The Hindu Group of Publications. Delivering the address at the graduation function of the College of Nursing (CON) of the Christian Medical College here on Tuesday, Mr. Ram said that India ranked very low in any objective international ranking of countries by health status. “Despite the advances made in the tertiary sector in the development of several large multi-speciality commercial hospitals, and also in the provision of a decent level of primary healthcare in a few States such as Kerala and Tamil Nadu, health deprivation on a mass scale stands out as one of the country’s intractable challenges”, he said. Quoting from the Ninth Kolkata Group Workshop chaired by Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen in February 2011, he said, “India’s public spending on health is among the lowest in the world. This has led to an extremely high burden of out-of-pocket health expenditures, which a huge part of the population cannot afford”. Mr. Ram said that the goal of publicly provided healthcare for all eludes us. It continues to recede from the sights of policy-makers who seem calamitously wedded to the idea that (as the Kolkata Group puts it) “private healthcare, properly subsidised, or private health insurance, subsidised by the State, can meet the challenge”. Quoting the statement of the Kolkata Group at the end of its Eleventh Workshop in February 2014, he said that what is absent is the political will to go beyond words in treating healthcare as a fundamental human right, where the essential need is “an integrated approach, with guaranteed access for all to qualified doctors trained in modern medicine. A comprehensive understanding of healthcare that must include provisioning of clean water, nutrition, sanitation and waste disposal is also essential”. Mr. Ram distributed Special Awards to the meritorious graduates. They included the CON Gold Medal for The Best Outgoing Student in B.Sc. Nursing Programme and the Alice Gnanamuthu Memorial Gold Medal for the Best All-round Student in B.Sc. Nursing Programme to Jyothi Merin George, and the CON Gold Medal for the Best Outgoing Student in Post-Basic B.Sc. Nursing Programme to P. Raju. Dr. Sunil Thomas Chandy, Director, CMC welcomed the gathering. Dr. Selva Titus Chacko, Dean, CON, CMC gave the charge to the graduates. A total of 211 undergraduate and 28 postgraduates received their degrees. (The Hindu 19/2/15)

HIV/AIDS

106. Apprehensions over blood safety interventions (3)

GUWAHATI, Feb 13 – The rate of new HIV infections through transfusion of contaminated blood in Assam has doubled the national average in 2014, casting serious apprehensions on the existing blood safety interventions in the State. While about one per cent of the total transmission of HIV is through contaminated blood in the country, in Assam it has risen to 2 per cent in the year 2014. Significantly, the rate of such new detections has increased in the last one year, unlike what is being witnessed in the country as a whole, a latest report of the Assam State AIDS Control Society stated. The State has a recent history of transmission of HIV infections through blood transfusions, where four people got infected after receiving blood from a government-run blood bank in Mangaldai in June, 2013. Reports available with The Assam Tribune reveal that as many as 1,077 new detections were confirmed by the health institutions during 2014 and that majority of the HIV infections (as on December 31, 2014) were effected through unprotected sex of heterosexual (multiple partners), followed by infections from parent to child (for children). As of today, the total number of HIV-positive cases detected till December 31, 2014 is 9,991, of which 6,082 were males, 3,445 females, 455 children and 9 transgenders. Among the districts, Kamrup (Metro) has 3,820 detections of HIV positive (status as on December 31, 2014), followed by Cachar and Dibrugarh with 2,137 and 652 detections respectively. However, if the place of origin of those infected is taken into account, Cachar tops the list with 24.43 per cent, followed by Kamrup (M) with 14.81 per cent. A senior official of the Health Department, when asked to comment on the disturbing trend, said the government is taking all necessary steps in this regard and as part of it licenses of five blood banks have been cancelled in the span of last one year or so. (The Assam Tribune 14/2/15)

107. Med Camp Need of the Hour to Identify HIV-infected Tribals (3)

PALAKKAD: The demand to conduct a medical camp in Attappadi Adivasi hamlets to identify people with AIDS has been slowly gaining momentum as tribal patients have started enrolling at the Kottathara Tribal Hospital for treatment. The tribal promoters who work with the Adivasis here told Express that there are many in Attappadi living with AIDS, but stress and fear are the major deterrents that prevent them from accessing medical care. The tribal promoters of Attappadi allege that the officials of Kottathara Tribal Hospital are reluctant to reveal the exact number of AIDS patients in Attappadi owing to pressure and HIV could be the reason behind the deaths of many here. “The statistics available with the hospital show that the number of AIDS patients in Attappadi is alarmingly high. “However, the report has not been published by the Department probably to avoid attracting yet another controversy in addition to the potential Maoist threat and infant deaths in Attappadi,” said one of the tribal promoters on condition of anonymity. However, the CDPO of Attappadi, Mayalakshmi said that she was told as many as 10 people were undergoing treatment for AIDS at Kottathara Tribal Hospital. “I am not sure whether the figure is correct or not. No camp has been conducted yet to identify people with AIDS, but it is on the cards and we will conduct a medical camp soon. “Even if we conduct a camp, we are apprehensive if tribals will cooperate due to the fear factor. As far as I know, no one has taken an initiative to identify Adivasi people with AIDS. In the Adivasi settlements of other districts, the officials concerned maintain proper data in this regard, but in Attappadi nothing concrete is available. “The Social Welfare Department cannot do anything now as we are at present occupied in implementing measures to prevent malnutrition deaths in Attappadi,” said Mayalakshmi. The manager of National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) Seema Bhaskar opined that it is high time a medical camp is conducted in Attappadi. “The existing system has not been beneficial to tribals in any way and tribals do not feel the need of availing the facilities and medical expertise available at the Kottathara Tribal Hospital. This attitude must change. Only then the tribals will come forward to get their blood sampled and receive treatment if diagnosed with HIV/ AIDS. The National Rural Livelihood Missionwill start conducting an awareness camp from February 27 onwards with the support of the National Rural Heath Mission (NRHM). The camp aims at making them aware of a healthy sexual life, the myths associated with treatment, AIDS and child health,” adds Seema. (New Indian Express 16/2/15)

108. NGO working on AIDS gets $350,000 aid (3)

New Delhi: Global NGO, International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), has received a grant of $350,000 from leading pharmaceutical and healthcare firm Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK) to support implementation of the Human Vaccines Project that seeks to transform disease prevention across the world. The GSK grant is aimed to help the NGO establish the project’s global consortium and plan its research programme. “For all that we have achieved with vaccines, there are still far too many diseases that we can’t prevent and which have a devastating impact, particularly in the developing world,” said Emmanuel Hanon, senior vice president, vaccines research and development, GSK. “The more we can do – both individually and collectively – to overcome the current scientific challenges the better. We are very pleased to support the Human Vaccines Project and we encourage others to join us in this potentially ground-breaking initiative,” he added. The project aims to address the common scientific obstacles preventing development of vaccines against major and emerging infectious diseases and cancers and complement ongoing disease- specific vaccine development efforts. (Business Standard 16/2/15)

109. HC directs HIV-affected man to pay maintenance (3)

MADURAI: The Madras High Court Bench here has observed that a person cannot seek exemption from paying monthly as well as annual maintenance amount to his estranged wife and children just because he happened to be a HIV patient. Disposing of a revision petition filed by a Government Health Inspector suffering from HIV, Justice M. Sathyanarayanan said: “Being a parent, the revision petitioner is also bound to maintain and educate the children so that they can come up in their life.” The judge pointed out that the petitioner had entered into wedlock in 1991 and begot one daughter and two sons in quick succession. He continued to live with his family until 2006 when his wife was reportedly driven out of her matrimonial house along with the three children. The woman filed a petition for restitution of conjugal rights before a Sub-Court in Kumbakonam and obtained an ex-parte order in her favour. Yet, the petitioner neither agreed to live along with the family nor did he challenge the ex-parte order before the appropriate appellate forum. Hence, she sought maintenance in 2012 and a Judicial Magistrate at Papanasam ordered payment of Rs. 2,000 a month to the woman and Rs. 1,000 every month to each of the two minor children. It was also ordered to pay Rs. 25,000 annually towards educational, medical and festival expenses. Holding that the monthly maintenance amount awarded by the Judicial Magistrate could not be termed exorbitant in view of ever-increasing cost of living, Mr. Justice Sathyanarayanan reduced the annual payment amount alone from Rs. 25,000 to Rs. 20,000. (The Hindu 18/2/15)

 

Posted by admin at 19 February 2015

Category: Uncategorized

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Dalit IAS and IPS officers neglected: Puthiya Tamilagam (2)

MADURAI: Puthiya Tamilagam founder K. Krishnasamy, on Monday, wanted the Centre to frame rules which ensured that important posts for IAS and IPS officers in all States were given in rotation to officers belonging to Scheduled Castes. Addressing the media, he accused the AIADMK Government of neglecting the senior IAS and IPS officers belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the State in appointment to important posts. “When both the Dravidian parties have never posted a Dalit officer as Home Secretary, the AIADMK Government does not appoint them in any of important positions,” he said. After 1967 not even a single Dalit IAS officer has become Home Secretary in the State. Similarly, the AIADMK Government ignored Dalit IPS officers for top posts in the Police Department, he said. The Centre’s role is only in recruitment of the civil servants who are then deployed at the mercy of the State Governments. “The Centre should issue a standing order that would ensure that the posts like Home Secretary and Chief Secretary are given to Dalits on a rotation basis,” he said. Though he said that he was not completely in agreement with the senior IAS officer C. Umashankar on his contention for taking up religious preachings, he said it could be out of neglect by the Government that the IAS officer, known for his integrity, converted to Christianity. Dr. Krishnasamy said that Tamil Nadu stood second in rime against oppressed classes in the entire nation, next only to Uttar Pradesh. “Among those incidences, the southern districts accounted for the majority,” he said. “Southern districts have turned into a field for atrocities against Dalits,” he said. He said that he would seek the intervention of President of India for a setting up a special investigation team to probe into atrocities against Dalits. Dr. Krishnasamy sought the Government to set up special courts to try cases registered under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act expeditiously. (The Hindu 3/2/15)

2. Dalit families facing discrimination: AGM (2)

KANNUR: Adivasi Gothra Mahasabha (AGM) convener M. Geethanandan has alleged that Dalit families in a village near Azhikkal here are facing discrimination in connection with a local temple festival. Mr. Geethanandan said at a press conference here on Monday that the Dalits in the area were facing threats of violence and caste polarisation following the announcement of a stir by the Kerala Pattika Jana Samajam (KPJS). The KPJS stir was against what it called “untouchability” in connection with the “ezhunnellippu” ritual at Azhikkal Pambadiyal Temple.Mr. Geethanandan said that the KPJS would organise a fast from February 4 to 7 against the alleged caste discrimination in the temple. A rally by the Dalits would be held on February 7. The AGM convener also said that the exclusion of Dalit households from the annual ritual was a violation of the Civic Rights Protection Act, 1955 and the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.The response of the temple authorities to this was that the annual ritual would by custom be performed by the Thiya community alone. He said that nearly 400 Dalit families lived in the neighbourhood.The samajam would participate in the talks convened by District Collector P. Bala Kiran on February 3 to discuss the issue, he added. KPJS general secretary Thekkan Sunil Kumar was among those present at the press conference. (The Hindu 3/2/15)

 3. ‘Protect Dalits of Kalayarkoil’ (2)

MADURAI: The Sivaganga Superintendent of Police should review the action taken on complaints of atrocities against Dalit families living around Kalayarkoil, a fact-finding team has said. The three-member team, led by former MLA R. Krishnan, which visited Kalayarkoil and surrounding villages on Tuesday, alleged that many attacks on Dalit families did not come to light due to police inaction. When there was an attack on Dalit habitations in Gandhi Nagar in Sembanur panchayat on January 16, instead of booking the culprits, the police filed cases against 10 Dalits, including four women. The residents alleged that a tea shop in the village was practising two-tumbler system and wanted the police to set up an outpost as they were living in fear. A release from the fact-finding team said that Dalits of Easanur were denied their traditional right to worship at the Ayyanar Temple during the annual festival through promulgation of prohibitory orders. Dalits were prevented from using the common cremation ground at Velarendal village by the dominant castes. A family of eve teasing victim had to leave Indira Nagar in Maravamangalam after the police filed a cast against it. The release also referred to the attack on Kanchipatti panchayat president Sekar by dominant castes. The team urged the Collector, T. Munusamy, to initiate action against the police personnel who did not act on complaints of atrocities against Dalits and for withdrawal of cases foisted on Dalits. The SP should be instructed to review the action taken on complaints filed by Dalits. The team comprised P. Kavitha Kumar, journalist, and Viduthalai Veeran of Adi Tamizhar Viduthalai Iyakkam, besides Mr. Krishnan. (The Hindu 5/2/15)

4. VHP to promote interdining with Dalits (2)

HOSUR: Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Praveen Togadia on Saturday said his organisation would launch a movement for Hindus of all communities to remove untouchability and promote interdining with Dalits. “Up to the point where Togadia is allowed inside a temple, a Dalit will also be allowed entry,” he told The Hindu, when he was asked if he would launch a temple entry movement where Dalits were denied entry. “The VHP will launch a movement in six lakh villages to interdine with Dalits, to drink out of the same well, and to have common graveyard,” the VHP’s international working president said. Mr. Togadia was denied entry into Bengaluru for the VHP’s national conference scheduled for Sunday. Arriving in Hosur, he launched the VHP’s ‘Happy Healthy Hindu Scheme’ — a six-point action plan to ring in “prosperity for the Hindus by providing food, health care, education, job, trade and security.” The action plan was to ensure that every Hindu would act to remove untouchability and dine with Dalits. Criticising Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, Mr. Togadia said he was due to launch the scheme in Bengaluru, but he had to do it from Hosur. “Mr. Siddaramaiah does not want health and prosperity for the Hindus of Karnataka,” he said. Steering clear of any controversy, he said the only VHP activity for Valentine’s Day was “to bring prosperity for Hindus.” Earlier, in his speech, Mr. Togadia touched upon issues such as ‘love jihad’, conversions, cow slaughter and Haj subsidy. (The Hindu 8/2/15)

TRIBALS

5. Forest Officials Attacked Us, Gotti Koyas Tell Visiting HRF Team (6)

MADEPALLI (KHAMMAM DISTRICT):“More than 20 forest officials descended on our settlement suddenly and started attacking each and every house. Some of the houses were set on fire and some others were razed to the ground. They threw the utensils and clothes out, and drove us away from our houses,” said Kunjam Jogaiah, a Gotti Koya tribal, from Madepalli village in Enkoor mandal. Jogaiah was explaining an alleged attack by forest officials to a team of the rights activists led by VS Krishna, general secretary, AP and Telangana Human Rights Forum (HRF), who visited his tribal settlement on Saturday. The tribals said the attack was carried out by the Tallada subdivision forest officials on Tuesday. “Since there is no shelter left for us to even to sit, we are currently living under the shade of the trees,” the Gotti Koyas said. According to sources, around 30 families consisting of 200 members have been living at Madepalli village in Enkoor mandal since the year 2000. Some of them have even have ration cards registered under the state’s name even though they are from Chattisgarh state. “This is not their first attack. They have done the same in the past, four to five times, demanding that we leave the place,” Jogaiah said and alleged that some forest staff had even stolen our Rs 14,500 cash and took away some utensils. It is said that the locals were awarded an interim order on October 24 in 2014 which gave them permission to stay at the same place till the case is resolved. “But the forest personnel did not stop their harassment. They carried out the attack on us despite the HC order,” said Kunjam Jogaiah. We are being forced to live on the trees, said Kursam Ramesh, a tribal. The Gotti Koyas claim they are eligible for pattas for their ‘podu’ lands under the Forest Rights Act 2006,. “The forest officers have no right to vacate us,” they said. HRF leader VS Krishna condemned the act of the forest department. He said the attack on the Gotti Koyas should be considered as a contempt of court. (New Indian Express 1/2/15)

6. Tribals Threaten Jail Bharo against Ash Pond (6)

ROURKELA: The members of Adivasi Mulbasi Bachao Samiti (AMBS) have threatened to court arrest to protest construction of ash pond of NTPC-SAIL Power Company Pvt Ltd (NSPCL) at Barkani village under Bondamunda police limits here. Speaking to mediapersons on Monday, Birmitrapur MLA and Samata Kranti Dal president George Tirkey said, “AMBS members will participate in the ‘jail bharo’ on February 6 and stay in jail till their demands are fulfilled.” Alleging that the tribals were exploited by the Government, Tirkey said the company would not be allowed to go ahead with the NSPCL project at Barkani as it would displace the villagers who have been living there for several decades. The Rourkela Steel Plant (RSP) has provided about 140 acres to NSPCL to set up the ash pond at Barkani, but a section of tribal villagers claims that the land belongs to their ancestors. Tirkey said thousands of acres of land of the tribals acquired by RSP long time back still remain unutilised. Tirkey was accompanied by former JMM MLA Halu Mundari and AMBS convenor Letha Tirkey. Besides the ash pond, NSPCL has proposed to set up power plants of 250 MW on 148 acres of land provided by the RSP in the second phase. Sources said after considerable delay due to protest by tribal villagers of nearby areas, earth digging work was started last week amid tight security. About a fortnight back, a section of tribals, led by George Tirkey under the banner of AMBS, had disrupted train services for 29 hours to protest formation of Rourkela Municipal Corporation (RMC) and inclusion of Jagda and Jhartarang gram panchayats in it. A high-level meeting, held at Bhubaneswar on January 29 to discuss the issue, was attended by Housing and Urban Development Minister Pushpendra Singhdeo, Tirkey and AMBS leaders. Citing Constitutional provisions, Tirkey had claimed that formation of RMC and inclusion of the two GPs in the ‘Scheduled District’ of Sundargarh violate special protection given to the tribals and the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act. After the meeting, it was left to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to take a decision on the issue. (New Indian Express 3/2/15)

7. Scheme for protection of tribal culture on the anvil: Jual Oram (6)

MYSURU: Pointing out that several tribal practices and languages in the country were facing the threat of extinction, Union Minister for Tribal Affairs Jual Oram said the Centre will launch a scheme aimed at protecting tribal culture after the conclusion of the Budget session of Parliament. Mr. Oram, who attended the 5th International Conference and Gathering of Elders at Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Ashram here on Wednesday, said there were 598 scheduled tribes in India, who spoke 432 languages and dialects, many of which did not have a script. “Unless efforts are made to conserve and protect them, they will become extinct soon,” Mr. Oram said.Speaking to reporters, Mr. Oram said the government had planned to protect languages as well as tribal practices as part of a scheme they were launching to protect the rich tribal culture of the country. There are several songs and dance programmes of the tribal people, which had not been documented. The proposed scheme will ensure that these practices are documented, he said. Mr. Oram said the Centre will also launch a scheme to promote sports among the tribal people. As the tribal youth excelled in sports, Mr. Oram said the government will provide necessary financial support for creating sports infrastructure for archery, kabaddi, football and hockey.21 outlets He said the Tribal Co-operative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED), which helps in marketing tribal products, now had 21 outlets across the country. TRIFED, which made a turnover of Rs. 18 crore last year, also provides employment to 300 tribals, he said. He said the government, which recently decided to fix minimum support price (MSP) for minor forest produce (MFP) that ensures that nobody purchases the products for less that the fixed MSP, has also integrated the information on MFP into the Kisan Call Centre. “Anybody can obtain information about various MFPs in different places by calling the call centre,” he added. Responding to a question on tribals being driven out of forestland, Mr. Oram said the Forest Regulation Act ensures the tribal people their right to livelihood if they are practicing the same occupation for 25 years. “Such people will be provided with ‘patta’. During my next visit to Karnataka, I will review how many people have been issued such pattas and how many are pending”, he said. (The Hindu 5/2/15)

8. 250 Tribals from C’garh Visit CRPF HQ (6)

HYDERABAD: A group of tribal youths from neighbouring Chhattisgarh state visited  CRPF group headquarters at Chandrayangutta here on Monday. The youth are part of the seventh Tribal Youth Exchange Programme which is being organised by the Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan (NYKS) working under the aegis of Union ministry of youth affairs and sports in collaboration with Union ministry of home affairs. The exchange programme started on February 5. On Monday, the participants visited CRPF group headquarters in Chandrayanagutta and the deputy commandant SP Tripati addressed the tribal youth and spoke about CRPF and how tribal youth recruitment takes place in the CRPF and the available prospects. They were given a traditional welcome with a band. Later, the participants visited Technology Training and Development Centre of IKP/DRDA in Ranga Reddy district and also RUDSET training institute of State Bank of Hyderabad to understand about the various training programmes that are available for youth which would enable them to be self-sufficient by starting economic activities. The participants later proceeded to Bakaram where they staged cultural programmes. Nearly 250 youth from Dantewada, Sukma, Bijapur, Narayanpur, Kanker, Bastar and Kondagaon are taking part in the programme. (New Indian Express 10/2/15)

WOMEN

9. Take Rs 41,000, forget rape: Bihar panchayat tells victim (8)

Patna: In a shocking incident, a panchayat in Bihar has ordered one of its members accused of raping a Mahadalit woman to pay her Rs. 41,000 and asked the victim to not report the incident, police said on Saturday. The incident occurred in a panchayat under Kodha police station in Katihar district. But the accused, a local muscleman, refused to pay the money. When she protested about his refusal to pay amount, the accused set her husband on fire injuring him badly, said a police official Sunil Kumar. This forced the victim to approach Katihar superintendent of police Kshatraneel Singh two days ago. Singh has ordered an investigation into the incident. “One of the accused Naresh Ravidas has been arrested while the main accused Prakash Ravidas is absconding,” police said. According to police, the incident occurred last month when the victim was called to panchayat building by the Prakash on the pretext of readying documents related to Indira Awas Yojana. “In her complaint to police she has informed that she was raped by him and threatened not to disclose it,” police said. Last year, a panchayat in Kishanganj district had ordered a minor girl, who was raped by four brothers and was seven months pregnant, to take Rs. 50,000 and undergo an abortion. When she approached police, an FIR was lodged and accused were arrested. In a similar case in September 2014, a panchayat in Muzaffarpur district ordered a minor rape victim to take Rs. 2 lakh and undergo abortion. (Hindustan Times 1/2/15)

10. Man seeks Rs 1cr as dowry, throws wife out (8)

BAREILLY: Dowry demands seem to have gone up in the city. For some, nothing less than Rs1 crore will do. This is evident from the fact that within a fortnight, two incidents have been reported wherein local girls from well-to-do families allegedly have been thrown out of their homes by their in-laws because they failed to pay a sum of Rs 1 crore as dowry. In the latest case, the daughter of a prominent businessman became a victim of dowry. The bride’s family is reported to have gifted valuables, including an Audi car of the latest version to the groom, But it was not enough. They could not give Rs 1 crore cash as dowry and their daughter had to bear the brunt. Earlier, in another case, an NRI businessman had also reportedly sent back his wife to her maternal home after her family failed to cough up Rs 1 crore as dowry. In the latest incident, Neetu, daughter of a prominent city businessman Narendra Singh, has filed a complaint with the Baradari police station against her husband and in-laws, accusing them of demanding Rs 1 crore as dowry after marriage and subjecting her to metal and physical abuse. In her complaint, Neetu alleged that she was married to Mayank, son of a well known jeweller of Meerut on January 20, 2014. At the time of marriage, Neetu’s parents had gifted cash and valuables, including an Audi car valued at around Rs 30 lakh to the groom. The total expense in the marriage came to around Rs 1 crore, claimed Neetu. According to her, once she stepped into her husband’s house, his family members, including her in-laws, came up with an additional demand of Rs 1 crore as dowry. They warned of serious consequences if their demand was not met by her family, claimed Neetu.. However, she and her family expressed their inability to pay Rs 1 crore. Then, Neetu claimed, she started facing harassment on a regular basis. Her family tried to bring about a compromise but after a short-term respite, she was tortured again, she claimed. On January 14, Neetu was allegedly brutally assaulted and thrown out of the house by her husband and in-laws. Neetu had to return to Bareilly. On Saturday, she along with her parents filed an FIR at Baradari police station. Talking to TOI, inspector, Baradari police station, Mohd Qasim said, “The matter is serious and we have registered a case under Section 498A (Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) and the Dowry Prohibition Act against her husband, Mayank, his brother and parents. We will be summoning them for questioning soon to ascertain their role in the incident.” (Times of India 1/2/15)

11. More Indian women than men hit by cancer (8)

MUMBAI: More Indian women than men are diagnosed with cancer every year and it is reflected in insurance statistics that show more women in our cities claim medical insurance for cancer treatment. Blame it on physiology or the stereotypical image of an Indian woman who chooses to ignore her symptoms for long, the Big C exhibits a clear gender divide. But when it comes to fatalities, the figures turn upside down: more men die due to cancer annually than women. In all, 5.37 lakh Indian women got cancer in 2012 as against 4.77 lakh men, said the World Cancer Report. The same year, 3.56 lakh men died of the disease in comparison to 3.26 lakh women. In the past four years, 62-65%of cancer-related insurance claims were for women while it was only between 35-38% for men, said data released by private insurance firm ICICI Lombard. The claims were more for cancers of the cervix and breast, which are, according to the Indian cancer registry, the leading cancer types among women. The main reasons for the gender divide in cancer are hormones and habits. “Physiologically, women’s cells are exposed to more hormones and more hormonal fluctuations, leading to an increased susceptibility of cell dysplasia (abnormality),” said Dr Boman Dhabar, medical oncologist with Wockhardt Hospital in Mumbai Central. He believes “oppression of Indian women” leads them to neglect their own health. “There are also socio-economic reasons such as lack of hygiene and toilets that lead to an increased incidence of cervical cancer,” said Dr Dhabar…. (Times of India 4/2/15)

12. Bihar woman sells 15-day-old to arrange for dowry (8)

Patna: In a shocking incident, an elderly woman allegedly sold her infant grandson for Rs.50,000 to arrange for dowry for her daughter`s marriage in Bihar`s Muzaffarpur district, police said Saturday. An FIR was lodged by Rukhsana Khatoon, whose 15-day-old child was allegedly sold by her mother-in-law to raise money for dowry for her daughter`s marriage, district police official Pramod Kumar Singh said. “Police have began an investigation into the incident after a case was lodged,” said Singh. This incident took place at Chainpur Wajid village under Manyari police station in Muzaffarpur, about 70 km from here Friday. Rukhsana`s husband is a daily wage labourer, who is currently working outside the state. Singh said that main accused mother-in-law and her daughter were absconding from the village after the incident came to light. “Police have began operations to arrest them,” he added. According to police officials, Rukhsana in her complaint said that her mother-in-law persuaded her to accompany her to show the child to a doctor in Muzaffarpur town. “My mother-in-law went inside doctor`s clinic with my child and soon returned empty handed. When i asked about my child, she told me that she had sold him to raise money for my sister in law`s dowry.” Rukhsana also informed police that her mother-in-law repeatedly accused her of not bringing dowry when she got married to her son three years ago. “My mother-in-law justified her decision to sell my son by saying that it was compensation for my failure to bring in dowry,” Rukhsana said. Village panchayat mukhiya (head) Aariful Rahman confirmed the incident to local police officials. (Zee News 7/2/15)

13. Himachal Government to Honour 50 Panchayats for Better Sex Ratio (8)

SHIMLA: Himachal Pradesh government has decided to honour 50 Panchayats in the state for achieving better female sex ratio. The state government will honour the 50 gram panchayats who succeeded in improving child sex ratio in the age group of 0-6 years as per the census of year 2011, Health minister Kaul Singh today said. Presiding over a meeting of Supervisory Board constituted under PC and PNDT Act, 1994 here, he said that district level functions would be organised to honour these panchayats and to start with, the first function would be organised in Una district. He said that state government was committed to ensure strict implementation of provisions of PC and PNDT Act and maintaining the balance in the sex ratio. For creating mass awareness, camps would be organized at district level in which public representatives, ASHA and Anganwari workers along with the stakeholders would be educated about the importance of maintaining balance in sex ratio, who would further educate the people in their respective panchayats and areas. The Health minister said that any person could inform or report the cases of illegal abortion or sex determination on toll free number-102 and the name of the informer would be kept secret and a provision of rewarding him with Rs 10,000 as incentive had also been made. The minister said that for bringing further improvement in sex ratio in the state, the research work would be assigned to Central University, Dharamshala and first samples would be taken from Una district. He said that Lahaul and Spiti district had excelled in maintaining the best sex ratio in the state with 1033 girls against 1000 boys. The Supervisory Board has also suggested for enhancing the incentives to the families adopting family planning measures after the birth of single girl child from Rs 25,000 to Rs 40,000 and to those after the birth of two girl child from Rs 20,000 to Rs 40,000. (New Indian Express 10/2/15)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

14. 103 Child Labourers Rescued From Jaipur Brought to Gaya (14)

GAYA:  Altogether 102 child labourers rescued from Jaipur (Rajasthan) were brought today to Gaya in Bihar. The kids were working in cottage and small scale industries in Jaipur and were rescued in December last year. Confirming their arrival, Gaya District Magistrate Sanjay Agrawal said a seven-member team was sent to bring the rescued children after officials in Rajasthan informed about them.        “The children were working as labourers in bangle and handicraft industries. 53 of them are from Gaya, 13 from Samastipur, two from Muzaffarpur and the rest are from Banka, Nawada, Katihar, Madhubani, Sitamarhi, Darbhanga, Khagaria and Aurangabad districts,” Agrawal said adding, they belong to poor families and were trafficked to the Pink City by middlemen and labour contractors with promises of money and better living. The District Magistrate said the rescued children have been handed over to an NGO, Rescue Junction and efforts were being made to locate their addresses and reunite them with their families.  (New Indian Express 1/2/15)

15. 3-year-old girl kidnapped, raped and hung from tree in Bihar (14)

Patna: A three-year-old girl was allegedly kidnapped, sexually assaulted and hung naked from a tree by men posing as employees of a private nursing home in north Bihar’s Madhubani district, police said on Saturday. The incident took place late on Thursday at a village in Madhubani, about 190 km northwest from state capital Patna. Reports said the girl had gone to the private nursing home, located under Bisfi police station, for a check-up along with her mother on Thursday evening. Police investigations suggest the abductors offered toffees to lure the victim. She was then taken to a nearby village, assaulted and hung upside down from a mango tree. “It appears the miscreants, after committing the crime, hung her upside down from the tree in the hope she would eventually die from the ensuing distress,” said Aunsi police outpost in-charge Sanjay Kumar. Kumar said the girl’s family had initially registered a missing person’s case when she could not be located at the nursing home for several hours. However, more serious sections of Indian Penal Code became applicable after she was found. An FIR has been lodged at the Bisfi police station of Madhubani. The girl was rushed to the Darbhanga Medical College and Hospital (DMCH) in the district headquarters town of Darbhanga, near Madhubani, where her condition is stated to be critical. Doctors treating the girl said she has multiple injury marks on her body, indicating she was assaulted both physically and sexually. “There are injuries on the victim’s private parts. Her condition is critical but stable,” said Dr Bhuvan at DMCH. One of the prime suspects in the case was caught by villagers on Saturday and handed over to the police. Madhubani’s assistant superintendent of police, AK Pandey, told HT the police were able to identify the suspect as Mohammed Tabrez, a 35-year-old married man. “We are questioning the suspect. He is believed to have played a role in the incident. However, information about the role of any other(s) in the crime will be known only after we have interrogated this man,” said Pandey. (Hindustan Times 1/2/15)

16. West Bengal: Panel wants child rights and laws in school syllabus (14)

Kolkata: To make children understand what rights they are entitled to, West Bengal’s child rights panel wants the students to be taught about them as part of the school curriculum. Ashokendu Sengupta, chairperson of the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, said they will recommend the state government to include various laws related to right to education and protection from sexual abuse a part of the school syllabus. “We do not want to put any extra load on the children but there should be at least one page somewhere in their book which tells them about their rights in a simple language. This will increase awareness. Only we know about child rights and laws but they must also know,” he told a news agency. The panel will soon meet the state school syllabus committee to impress upon them the need to include child rights at primary and secondary school level. Teenager Sikha Patra, who works as a peer leader and educator with child rights NGO Prayasam, said she would never have been aware of her rights as a child had she not been associated with activists. “My friends don’t know what are their rights as a child. Those in English medium schools are aware of these things but not those in Bengali medium ones. Therefore, child rights should be included in the school curriculum,” she said. UNICEF’s West Bengal chief Asadur Rahman also supported it saying basic rights about children should be there in the school syllabus. Rahman said that the Right to Education Act advocates for child-friendly schools where children and their parents are consulted in the institute’s planning. The child panel, which has constituted two sub-committees for studying the issue, said they are selecting parts of the Convention on Rights of The Child (CRC) which can be included in the curriculum. CRC was adopted by the United Nations’ General Assembly in 1989 and serves as a global index on child rights. Sengupta said that every school should tell the children that whenever they are in distress they can call 1098 – a 24-hour child helpline. “This is the most important thing. A child should know that when he is in danger he can call this number or can seek help for other children,” he said. They also want the inclusion of Right to Education (RTE) Act, which ensures free and compulsory education for children in the age group of 6-14 years, and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012 in the syllabus. “At the school level, they must have literature, posters and other materials to promote child rights,” the panel’s chairperson said. (Zee News 5/2/15)

17. 25 bonded child labourers rescued in city (14)

LUCKNOW: As many as 25 boys working as bonded labour were rescued from a bangle-making factory in Khajua locality of the city here on Monday evening. Aging between 8-14 years most of these boys hail from villages in Bihar and were making bangles in hazardous conditions for the past three years. They were all living in a ten-by-ten room besides being made to work illegally. They boys claimed they were never given enough to eat and were made to work for 12-14 hours a day for a meager Rs 1,500 a month. There were no off-days and health facilities. The boys were rescued in a joint operation undertaken by state police department’s Anti-Human Trafficking cell and social organisation Childline. Besides saving the boys, the team recovered dangerous chemicals compounds which are known to cause pulmonary infections like tuberculosis from the place. The police also arrested two persons named Mohsin and Jugal Kishore for making children work and risk their lives. FIR was also registered against the two for violating provisions of Juvenile Justice Act 2000, Child Labour Prevention Act 1986 and bonded labour prevention act 1976. Inspector Om Prakash Singh who headed the operation cited example of the youngest child Salman who got the job through a relative. TOI saw him bare-foot braving the chilly breeze in a t-shirt. “I have worked in Hyderabad and Jaipur too,” the boy told TOI. Oldest among the children Mohammad Akeel said they all were working to support their families. “Our parents do not have enough to feed the whole family,” he stated. Manoj Verma, member of Childline associated with the operation, informed that the children would be sent to shelter homes now and would later be re-united with their families. (Times of India 10/2/15)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

18. Minorities commission says Agra Muslims had ‘not converted’ (7)

AGRA: The UP Minorities Commission that was probing the December 8, 2014 ‘ghar wapsi’ incident in Agra — in which 200 Muslims from a slum colony were ‘converted’ to Hinduism by an RSS affiliate — has now said in its final report that no conversion had actually taken place on that day. The incident had triggered a national storm, with proceedings in both houses of Parliament disrupted for days over it. Members of the panel said on Monday that none of the Madhu Nagar slum people went through the conversion done by the Dharam Jagran Samiti. Maintaining that the people in question “remain Muslims”, the commission said that there was, however, “betrayal and cheating”. It also held the Local Intelligence Unit (LIU) responsible for the incident, and termed it a grave failure. The commission has recommended action against the LIU, seeking “vulnerable areas” be identified in future so that such incidents do not recur. “No conversion has taken place in Madhu Nagar on December 8, 2014. The people living in there are still Muslims and are following Islamic culture and religion,” said Shafi Azmi, spokesman of the UP Minorities Commission and one of the four members to have visited Agra to probe the conversion incident. The other members who conducted the probe were Suhail Ayub Zinjani, Mufti Zulfkar Ali and Nassifful Hassan. At a press conference on Monday, the members said they will now submit the report to the state government. The committee also gave a 10-point recommendation to the UP government to avoid such incidents in future, including identification of vulnerable areas and providing proper education to those living there. Strengthening the LIU, conducting awareness drives and strengthening peace committees were also recommended. “Living in 6 feet/4 feet huts that allow barely enough space for two people, Madhu Nagar slum residents were fascinated with the idea of getting BPL ration cards,” Azmi said. A team of the minorities commission had visited the Madhu Nagar slum on December 20, 2014, after 57 Muslim families allegedly took part in a ‘ghar wapsi’ ritual conducted by the Samiti. Many of the Muslims later said they were promised ration cards and BPL cards in return, an allegation that was denied by the Samiti which insisted the Muslims wanted to convert on their own. (Times of India 2/1/15)

19. Religious intolerance in India would have shocked Gandhiji: Obama (7)

Washington: US President Barack Obama has said that if Gandhi were alive, the acts of religious intolerance in India would have shocked him while he also reminded Americans of the acts of the terrible deeds committed by Christians too in history. In the National Prayer Breakfast address on Thursday, Obama said “India was full of magnificent diversity – but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs.” He said such acts would have “shocked Gandhiji, the person who helped to liberate that nation.”Obama, who is an admirer of Gandhiji, is just back from his India visit where he bonded well with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi but in a speech before leaving had expressed his concern over the religious intolerance in India and had said for the country to succeed it should not splinter along religious lines. Obama spoke of how “professions of faith [is] used both as an instrument of great good but twisted in the name of evil.” “From a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris we have seen violence and terror perpetrated by those who profess to stand up for faith – their faith – profess to stand up for Islam but in fact are betraying it,” he said. He called ISIS a “brutal, vicious death cult that in the name of religion carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism.” He also warned the Christians saying “and lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place – remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.” “No god condones terror,” Obama said adding that “we are summoned to push back against those who would distort our religion for their nihilistic ends. Tibetan leader in exile and Nobel laureate Dalai Lama was present at the venue whom Obama addressed as a person who “inspires us to speak up for the freedom and dignity of all human beings.” (new Kerala 6/2/15)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

20. Hyderabad’s Muslim groups launch ‘Eradication of evils’ drive (7)

Hyderabad: Muslim leaders and organisations from various schools of thought came together on a common platform to launch a campaign here to eradicate evils from the society. The eight-day “Eradication of evils” campaign was launched with a public meeting here Sunday night. Addressing a huge gathering of men and women at Khilwat Ground in the old city, the Islamic scholars voiced concern over the fast spreading evils like alcohol, drug addiction, interest, dowry, and immorality. The speakers called on all Muslims, especially the youth, to not only protect themselves from this “flood of evils” but also save others by participating in such movements. Expressing concern over misuse of social networking sites by youth to indulge in immoral activities, they felt that instead of using technology as a tool for development, the new generation itself has become a tool in the hands of such sites. They underlined the need to evolvr a mechanism with the participation of all to help poor Muslims and thus save them from exploitation by financers. Renowned Islamic scholar Maulana Mufti Sadiq Mohiuddin Faheem, who presided over the meeting, advised parents to ensure that their children are educated and trained in accordance with the teachings of the Holy Quran. Khaja Arifuddin, president of Jamaat-e-Islami, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha units, said that the Quran describes Muslim ummah as the best nation produced for mankind, who enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong. He said it was high time that the community realised its responsibility and worked to fulfil it. M.K.M. Zafar, president of Jamaat’s Greater Hyderabad unit, said they made the campaign a collective effort by involving all sects of the community. During the campaign, Jamaat would organise various programmes for college students and youth and create awareness against the evils.(Business Standard 2/2/15)

21. ISIS are murderers and rapists, have to be condemned: Owaisi (7)

HYDERABAD: Condemning the deadly deeds of ISIS, AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi on Thursday said the activities of the terror group have nothing to do with the religion of Islam. “What they have done so far, all the Islamic scholars of various schools of thought have condemned it. They have raped people, killed people. Not only killed, in a bloody way, they have decapitated bodies, they have cut heads. They have burnt a person. “These are nothing to do with Islam or teachings of Islam. They have to be condemned. They are bloody murderers and rapists,” the Hyderabad MP told reporters here. As for some youth from Hyderabad reportedly trying to join ISIS, Owaisi said none can break law and that the youth should speak to religious scholars. Owaisi was speaking at a press conference held here in connection with the “centenary death anniversary” of Hazrat Anwarullah Farooqui, founder of Jamia Nizamia, a 144-year-old institution of Islamic studies. As part of the events, a seminar would be held on February 14 and 15 and a public meeting on March 20, organisers said. (Times of India 5/2/15)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

22. Church in South Delhi vandalized (7)

New Delhi: A Catholic church in south Delhi’s Vasant Kunj area was reportedly targeted by unidentified men during the early hours of Monday. This is the fifth incident of attack on Delhi churches since December, Though the Christian community called it an act of vandalism, the police insisted that it was an incident of burglary and have accordingly registered a case. The suspects are yet to be identified. There were no CCTV cameras inside the church and the police are scanning the footage from the nearby localities. The church authorities said that the culprits messed around with prayer items but did not take any valuable items. No money was robbed from the donation box either, said priest in-charge of the church, Father Vincent Salvatore. “The attackers ransacked the sacristy cupboards, opened the tabernacle and took the ciborium. They emptied it by putting the hosts on the table,” said A C Michael, former member, Delhi Minorities Commission. The incident took place between 2 and 3 am on Monday. The church authorities said the culprits jumped in from the main gate wall, broke open the church’s gate and ransacked the sacristy cupboards and other items. The matter came to light in the morning when the parish priest reached the church and saw the main door broken. He immediately informed the police control room upon which a team from Vasant Kunj (South) police station was rushed to investigate the matter. A senior police officer, who visited the site, said the church was not vandalised. “It is a case of burglary and we have registered a case. It looks like the handiwork of some drug addicts whom we should identify soon,” the officer told Deccan Herald, adding that the handiwork of three to five people is suspected. (Deccan Herald 2/1/15)

23. Christians allege authorities indifferent to their concerns (7)

New Delhi: Dismayed at the lack of response of the Central government and the administration to the unbridled attacks on its churches, the minority Christian community in the national capital feels threatened. Monday’s vandalism of a church in Vasant Kunj was the fifth such incident in the capital in the past two months. A “deeply disturbed” Christian community will be holding a “silent protest march” on Thursday from the Delhi Archdiocese on Ashoka Road to Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s residence. What has caused grave concern to the community has been the attitude of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whom they met in December and found him not receptive to their concerns. The incidents, seen in the backdrop of the saffron brigade’s strident “ghar wapsi” programme for religious reconversion, has sent shockwaves through the community, which accounts for less than two per cent of Delhi’s population. Father Savarimuthu, spokesperson for the Delhi Catholic Archdiocese, says, “We are being perceived as a soft target, and what is striking is the silence of the prime minister on such issues.” The local police and the administration, alleges Savarimuthu, too have been attempting to downplay the attacks as isolated cases. Only in one of the five incidents have arrests been made, that too because of CCTV footage available at the Vikaspuri church. “Even in the Dilshad Garden incident in December in which the church was completely burnt down, without even probing the case, the police initially dismissed it as an incident of short circuit. However, police were later compelled to take the incident seriously,” said Savarimuthu. On Christmas eve when the community leaders met the prime minister to greet him, they also used the occasion to highlight their concerns, but allege it was dismissed as “media hype” and the “over-hyped reactions of a community that is educated and computer literate.” Opposition parties that had raised the issue in Parliament of a silent approval by the BJP government to the saffron brigade’s ‘ghar wapsi’ programme, have again highlighted the attempted polarisation on the cusp of Delhi election. Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi lashed out at the PM questioning his silence. “I am not talking of cases in Odisha, this is the 5th such incident of vandalisation of a church in Delhi. I think it is reprehensible that you are making such tall promises and making such great statements about how lucky you are, and under your very nose without your comment, your rejection, your condemnation, not even a single word by you, this is happening time and again. It is an overall divisive agenda.”Delhi Archbishop Anil J T Couto, in a statement on Monday, accused the government of “failure to give protection to minorities and their religious structures.” He said the attacks were “aimed at creating a fear psychosis and tension among different communities.” In what can be read as a harking back to visiting US President Barack Obama’s departing words cautioning India against religious divide, the Archbishop said India’s image in the world of religious tolerance and religious diversity would be “irreparably damaged” if such incidents were not checked. (Business Standard 4/2/15)

24. Delhi Church attacks: Home minister assures Christians of impartial enquiry (7)

NEW DELHI: Acknowledging the concerns of Christians over the recent attacks on churches, Union home minister Rajnath Singh has directed the Delhi Police to ensure adequate security of Christian institutions in the capital. He also assured the community leaders, who met him at his office here on Thursday afternoon, of an impartial enquiry into the alleged vandalisation of five churches over the past two-and-a-half months. The six-member delegation of Christian community leaders, including former All India Catholic Union president John Dayal and advocate Jenis Francis, put three main demands before the home minister. This include adding Section 153 A (promoting enmity on grounds of religion), Section 295 and Section 295A (defiling a place of worship) to the FIR relating to the recent vandalization of a church in Vasant Kunj. The second demand is a court-monitored probe by a special investigation team (SIT) into the attacks on Christian institutions. Thirdly, the delegation sought security cover for churches, as part of which at least a couple of policemen would be deployed on the premises.”Police has done little and they describe the incidents as simple theft, burglary and trespassing. We told the home minister that these were not simple incidents but attack on our religious places,” Dayal told newspersons after meeting Singh. He claimed that the minister had directed Delhi Police commissioner B S Bassi to include Section 153A, 295 and 295A in the Vasant Kunj attack FIR. (Times of India 5/2/15)

25. 7,000 Christians faced threats in 2014, says Catholic body report (7)

Bengaluru: A report released by the Catholic Secular Forum has documented 120 attacks on Christians and their institutions across India in 2014. The report, which was made available to HT, lists five murders across India in little over a year. Madhya Pradesh (23) and Chhattisgarh (19), both BJP-ruled states, along with Congress-ruled Karnataka (14) account for nearly half of all incidents across India. Between December 2013 and December 2014, 7,000 Christians faced threats, violence and displacement. These included 1,600 women and 500 children. 300 members of the clergy and community leadership were also targeted during this period. The report also expresses concern over certain moves of the Union government such as making Christmas ‘good governance day’ and foreign minister Sushma Swaraj’s call to make Bhagwad Gita the national book of India. Joseph Dias, general secretary of CSF, told HT that the details of the report had been shared with human rights groups across the world. The CSF’s annual reports and their global reach offer some clues into the circumstances that led President Barack Obama to call for greater religious tolerance in India. The CSF’s 2013 report, which counted 4,000 offences against Christians in India, was used by Indian Christian groups in California to lobby for minority protection as one of the terms of reference for India-US talks. In a February 2013 memorandum, these groups sought a “house resolution that would make human rights and justice for religious minorities a priority in US-India talks.” Former judge of Bombay and Karnataka high courts Michael Saldanha told HT, “Representatives of countries such as France, UK, Australia, Italy as well as the Vatican have approached us for information. These countries have then proceeded to take these matters up with the Indian government.” Although several groups have met home minister KJ George in Karnataka over the attacks in the state, George claimed ignorance about the attacks. “I don’t think there have been those many attacks in Karnataka,” he said. (Hindustan Times 10.2.15)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

26. Refugees given higher cash dole (13)

CHENNAI: The Tamil Nadu government has been providing higher cash dole to Sri Lankan Tamil refugees living in the State than what has been allowed by the Union government. This was conveyed by a team of senior officers of the government to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice on Saturday. The State also brought to the notice of the committee the Centre’s decision on reduction in the sanctioned strength of staff to look after refugee camps. What was 280 had been brought down to 32, an official said. Chief Secretary K. Gnanadesikan and Director General of Police Ashok Kumar were among those who represented the State before the Committee, headed by E.M. Sudarsana Natchiappan. (The Hindu 1/2/15)

27. CPI(M) urges for aid to Lankan refugees willing to return (13)

Chennai: Observing that the Centre and the state governments have a responsibility to ensure a secure and dignified life for Sri Lankan refugees, CPI(M) on Monday said financial assistance must be extended to those willing to return to the island nation. “The Centre and state governments should extend financial assistance for their return home and guarantee a support structure for their livelihood such as house to ensure that they lead a new life,” a resolution passed at the end of the party’s three-day state committee meeting said. The governments have the responsibility to ensure a secure and dignified life for the refugees, who wished to return to the island nation, it said, adding various schemes, including those with specific provisions to aid their return, should be created. Senior party leaders P Sampath, Prakash Karat, K Varadarajan, G Ramakrishnan, T K Rangarajan, U K Balakrishnan, A Soundararajan participated in the meeting, which concluded today. (Zee News 2/1/15)

28. For Lankan refugees, time may have come to return (13)

Karthigaichelvan: The Indian government is mulling the idea of sending Lankan Tamil refugees like Sujivani – over one lakh still live in India -back home to Sri Lanka. This is not the first time that a refugee-return operation is being mounted. The earliest was in 1987-90 after the signing of the India-Sri Lanka accord. But unlike previous attempts the biggest positive now is that the war is over and there’s little chance of armed conflict breaking out or an imminent danger to the lives of Tamils in Sri Lanka on a mass scale. The new regime has been making the right noises whether in bringing normalcy to Tamil homelands, providing powers to the provincial government, or in taking up substantial measures for political rights. In the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora, the most likely candidates for return are those in India. Though better off than the poor in India, many Lankan Tamils believe return is a possible option for the future since as refugees they will never be able to lead the life of a citizen in India. Things have not been easy for those who have returned until now. Based on their experiences the refugees in India have come up with a range of proposals that would help the process of repatriation. The key question that they ask is the assurance of a livelihood since those who came back have reported that as the biggest problem in their homelands. Tamil leaders in Sri Lanka advise caution -much like the Tamil Nadu government that has stayed away from trilateral talks in New Delhi. “The permanent solution for the refugees is coming down to the mmother land. Though the new government has been showing some positive signs, it is too early to say that the situation in North has come to normalcy,” said Mano Ganesan, TNA MP, over phone from Colombo. Activist and executive producer of documentary film “Waiting in Hop”, Gladston Xavier said that the changes are visible in the northern areas of the country. “There has been steady progress in the returnees’ life in Sri Lanka. The progress has speeded up in the last six months. They say early bird catches the worm,” Gladston told TOI. “We have been screening the documentary in all refugee camps in Tamil Nadu as well as among diaspora Tamils. Many refugees who watched the film expressed a longing to go back home,” says Gladston. But nearly every refugee family has a Sujivani -who were born and raised here. Some 24,000 children were born in Indian camps. Raised in India, they are apprehensive about taking a risk. Sujivani is positive, however. “The army is less interfering now. Inflation is high and livelihood is still a challenge. But we are hopeful of the future,” she says. (Times of India 5/2/15)

29. Afghan families flee persecution in Pakistan after school attack: IOM (13)

KABUL: Thousands of Afghan families are fleeing Pakistan to escape harassment after a deadly Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar last December, the head of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Afghanistan said on Saturday. More than 22,000 undocumented Afghans flocked across the border at Torkham in January, more than twice the figure for the whole of 2014, said Richard Danziger, the IOM’s mission chief in Afghanistan. Almost 1,500 others were deported in the same month, double the number of deportees in December. “It all started with the attack on the school in Peshawar,” Mr. Danziger told Reuters. “When something horrible happens, people start taking it out on foreigners.” Taliban militants attacked a school in the north-western Pakistani city of Peshawar in December, killing more than 130 children and prompting Pakistan to step up operations against insurgent hideouts along the border with Afghanistan. Cooperation between Afghan and Pakistani security forces has also improved since the attack and has led to the arrest of suspects in Afghanistan, where officials believe it was planned by the Pakistani Taliban. However, Afghans living in Pakistan are reporting incidents of harassment such as raids on their homes and police coercion, the IOM and other officials said. Most of the Afghan families settled in Pakistan decades earlier and have nowhere to go once they return, Mr. Danziger said. “Their lives are in Pakistan,” he said, adding it was unclear how long they would remain in Afghanistan. The flow of undocumented returnees increased steadily in January, from around 350 in the first week to 1,400 in the final week of the month. Mr. Danziger said it was difficult to predict when the numbers of refugees would ease. The unexpected arrival of thousands of people is pressuring Afghanistan’s limited resources and only the most vulnerable are receiving assistance. “We are down to helping the most desperate there,” Mr. Danziger said, adding that resources had been diverted from the Iranian border. Families lucky enough to qualify for help receive medical care, food and temporary shelter, but the IOM says it needs another $1.6 million to cope with an additional 17,000 vulnerable returnees this year. Most refugees are moving to nearby provinces including Kunar, the IOM said, where fighting between Afghan forces and Taliban militants has recently intensified. Others are heading for Kabul, where resources for thousands of internally displaced people settled there are already seriously strained. (The Hindu 7/2/15)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

30. RTI earns govt. bigger bucks than estimated (1)

HYDERABAD: Estimates of revenue generated through RTI (Right to Information) queries and actual revenue generated by the State government, has revealed great disparity over the years. Each RTI applicant is required to pay a sum for information demanded. Going by data from the last few years, revenue estimated by the GAD (General Administration Department) of united Andhra Pradesh is several times lesser than the proceeds the government actually mopped up. Even then, the officials did not raise the estimates, choosing instead to stick to targets of the previous year for the subsequent financial year. In 2010-11, the estimate for revenue raised through RTI applications was Rs.5 lakh, whereas the government ended up earning Rs.89 lakh. In 2011-12, the projected figure was again Rs.5 lakh, but the revenue generated was Rs.26 lakh. In 2012-13, the estimate was slightly increased to Rs.5.25 lakh and consequently the government received Rs.20 lakh that year. Reacting to the issue, P.V. Ramesh, Principal Secretary (Resources and Expenditure) at the Andhra Pradesh Government’s Finance Department said the target may have been ‘deliberately kept low’ since the State government did not expect to generate much revenue from the applications. Another finding is that the amount generated is not proportional to the number of applications, which has been increasing steadily. The number of RTI applications has increased steadily from 65,973 in 2009-10 to 1.45 lakh in 2012-13. However, revenue over these years has either remained stable or decreased instead of rising. “There can only be two reasons for this,” said RTI activist Rakesh Reddy Dubbudu. “Either there are a lot of Below Poverty Line (BPL) citizens who have made RTI applications, since it is free for them. This is a positive sign. But, the low revenues can also be because the officials are not providing information on time. If the information is not provided within 30 days, then it has to be handed over free of cost. If this is what is happening then it is of serious concern.” (The Hindu 3/1/15)

31. Cops net eight gangs, 56 gangsters in two years (1)

NAGPUR: Right to Information Act (RTI) query has revealed city police have managed to rein in eight gangs, sending 56 gangsters behind bars in 2013 and 2014. Abhay Kolarkar’s query also brought to fore the fact that while total number of crimes in city increased by 451, the detections also went up by 294 in 2014 in comparison to 2013. Reply to RTI query showed number of robberies rose to 249 in 2014 from 244 the year before but cops managed a higher detection rate for them (61% in 2014 compared to 55% in 2013). City police had better detection rate in cases of burglaries in 2014. It was 24% in 2014, up from 19% in 2013. RTI exposed a contrast in cases of motor vehicle thefts that rose in 2014 by 174 cases than the previous year with detection rate also going down. City police had a shocking wake up call in June last year when three people died in separate gang wars within a short period. The gang war had sparked off a debate in state police headquarters in Mumbai too. City police chief KK Pathak ensured the crime branch totally focused on the problem resulting in collection of data on two dozens gangs and their members. A city police officer stated several gangs were nabbed and stringent Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act (MCOCA) was slapped on its members. Gangs of Kosurkar brothers and Nitin Shimle were slapped with MCOCA. Amar Lohkare’s ‘Maya gang’ was also sent to jail after being booked under MCOCA. In 2013, city police had tightened screws on gangs of Wasim Cheera and Tirupati Bhoge for clashing in Shanti Nagar. City police’s another major success was sending Raja Ghouse and his gang behind bars charging them under MCOCA in 2013. District government pleader Vijay Kohle, also special public prosecutor for MCOCA cases, stated the police should not slacken their approach once MCOCA was applied but rather focus on gathering concrete evidence to make charges stick. “MCOCA cases often become loose due to poor investigation. Police should take legal help while approaching the cases,” he said. City police’s law officer Shashank Choubey stated that focus has been now turned to taking stringent preventive actions against criminals with provisions like Maharashtra Prevention of Dangerous Activities Act and sending them behind bars for a long period. RTI information also underlined that fact that 134 offenders were externed in a period of two years. There is also a rise in rape and molestation cases but some senior officials attributed the development to several cases being registered after a failed relationship. The information also reflected a spurt in cases of minors being abducted to 178 in 2014 from 130 in 2013. Cops stated the Supreme Court guidelines to register missing complaints of minors as kidnapping was the cause behind the rise. (Times of India 4/2/15)

32. ‘BJP utilised funds from debt-ridden PSU for PR’ (1)

New Delhi: The Congress party on Wednesday alleged that hundreds of crores of funds from a debt-ridden Gujarat PSU were utilised for public relations of the BJP in 2014, at a time when Mr Narendra Modi was made the prime ministerial candidate. “The miscellaneous expenses of Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC) were to the tune of Rs 503 crore last year and the Gujarat PSU’s Delhi office spent huge amounts on liquor, gift articles and flowers,” party spokesman Shaktisinh Gohil told reporters. Mr Gohil, a known detractor of the Prime Minister since his days as the Gujarat chief minister, said that the “misuse” of money by the PSU which has debts totalling Rs 22,000 crore was “just a trailer”. Mr Gohil, also the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of Gujarat Assembly, also detailed the expenses made by the PSU, which he claimed distributed gifts worth Rs 25 lakh in Delhi in one year. The Congress leader said he has got the information through RTI but has failed to get the names of beneficiaries despite seeking information. The PSU has only last year took a long term loan of Rs 5,000 crore. (Asian Age 5/2/15)

33. State awarded contracts worth Rs 20 crore to ‘blacklisted’ firm: RTI (1)

Nainital: Uttarakhand government in 2013 awarded contracts worth more than Rs 20 crore to a blacklisted public sector construction company, the reply to a RTI query filed by Haldwani-based activist Gurvinder Singh Chaddha has revealed. The state had boycotted the services of Uttar Pradesh Rajkiya Nirman Nigam (UPRNN) earlier in 2012 after several reports were lodged complaining of irregularities in projects handled by the firm from UP. However, it seems government officials are unaware of the decision. “The company has been blacklisted four or five times, but as far as I know, they have been permitted to complete the pending works,” said Naneet Pandey, additional director of urban development directorate. In 2012, UPRNN had been awarded contracts worth Rs 1.86 crore by Dehradun, Haridwar and Haldwani-Kathgodam municipal corporations to construct state-of-the-art restrooms in these locations. Later on, it was awarded another contract worth Rs 21.5 crore for construction work at Dr Sushila Tiwari Medical College in Haldwani. These contracts are in violation of a government order dated April 24, 2012, banning all services from the firm. Dr R C Purohit, principal of the medical college in Haldwani said all such decisions are taken by the administration and he is not involved in the process, while officials at Haldwani-Kathgodam municipal corporation claimed to be ignorant of the company’s services being boycotted three years ago. UPRNN officials, meanwhile, denied being blacklisted. “As far as I know, we are no longer blacklisted. If that would have been the case, the Uttarakhand government would not have been awarding us contracts. There must have been some confusion,” said D C Bhatt, assistant engineer, UPRNN and in-charge of the construction work at Dr Sushila Tiwari Medical College. (Times of India 8/2/15)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

34. RTE anthem featuring cine stars released (11)

Bengaluru: The Education department released an anthem here on Monday to spread awareness about the Right to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act. The four-minute Kannada RTE anthem’s video song features actors Puneeth Rajkumar and Radhika Pandit. Kimmane Ratnakar, Minister for Primary and Secondary Education, released the CD of the anthem. Adoni Syed Saleem, State Project Director (SPD), Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Karnataka, Mohammed Mohsin, Commissioner for Public Instruction and other education officials were present. “There is a one-minute version of the song that would be given to various media outlets such as TV and radio channels. The anthem will be made available to all the schools across the State,” said Adoni Syed Saleem, State Project Director, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Karnataka. Around 94,000 such CDs will be distributed across the State and it will also be a prominent feature in the DPI’s programs. This song will also be used as a caller tune on phone numbers of educational officials in future, officials said. (Deccan Herald 2/2/15)

35. Activists seek better utilization of seats reserved under RTE (11)

MUMBAI: As yet another year of admission for the 25% seats reserved under the RTE Act nears, several parents and activists have decided to send a list of demands to school education minister Vinod Tawde. They said that they are upset over the “unsatisfactory” pace and outcome of efforts made by authorities on this front even three years after the Act has been in place. “Last year, of 8,300 seats reserved in the city, only over 2,000 students got admission in private unaided schools,” said K Narayan of Anudanit Shiksha Bachao Samiti (ASBS). This group, which includes RTE activists along with over 400 parents, met on Wednesday to discuss and draft a list of demands. A resolution will be submitted to Tawde. In its draft resolution, the group has demanded that the upper limit of annual income to be eligible for a seat under the quota be increased from the current Rs 1 lakh to Rs 3 lakh. “There has been a sharp rise in inflation and it is necessary to revise the meagre income limit. The income considered must also be that of the parents and not the entire family as is being done now,” said Sudhir Paranjape of ASBS. “There must also be clarity on which financial year’s income certificate would be valid at the time of admission,” he added. (Times of India 5/2/15)

36. NHRC notice on closure of school for poor kids (11)

NEW DELHI: The National Human Rights Commission has taken suo motu cognisance of reports that a school for poor children, Deepalaya, run by a non-government organisation for the past 22 years in Okhla here was shut down for its inability to comply with the stringent rules framed under the Right to Education Act. The school had more than 600 students up to Class VIII at the time of its closure in 2014. The Commission has observed that the reports, if true, raised a serious issue of violation of right to education of children belonging to the lower income group. The NHRC has issued notices to the Delhi Chief Secretary and Education Secretary calling for reports in the matter within two weeks. The RTE Act requires the States implementing the law to recognise the schools. For this, the schools should have their own land or have it on lease. The NGO running Deepalaya did not own the land, nor did it have it on lease. The school was being operated from a plot of land provided to the NGO by the Basti Vikas Kendra in 1992 under the Community Development Programme. Moreover, the NGO could not pay the teachers’ salaries as per the Sixth Pay Commission, which is required under the RTE Act. In the absence of recognition, the school was shut down and was being run as a tuition centre. (The Hindu 6/2/15)

37. CBSE schools in city begin online admissions (11)

CHENNAI: Several leading CBSE schools in the city started online admissions for nursery sections on Monday. And, parents had only good things to say about the initiative. SBOA School and Junior College, Bhavan’s Rajaji Vidyashram, all three Chinmaya Vidyalayas in Anna Nagar, Kilpauk and Virugambakkam, and Maharishi Vidya Mandir were among those that opened counters so parents could buy and fill in applications online. Most of the schools are keeping counters open for two days, and some are keeping it open longer for candidates filing applications under the 25% reservation clause of the RTE. Many parents said they were satisfied with the new systems and thrilled at not having to stand in queues for hours together for applications. Architect C J Kosalraman said Monday’s experience, when he was able to seek admission for his second child by applying online, was very different from the ordeal he endured five years ago for his first child. “I remember standing in a queue in front of a school in Anna Nagar in the rain armed with just an umbrella at 2am to get the application. I am so relieved I didn’t have to go through the same experience this time,” said Kosalraman, who is seeking admission at Bhavan’s Rajaji Vidyashram in Kilpauk. Senior principal of the school, Ajeeth Prasath Jain, said the institution had perfected the system over the years to automatically avoid duplication, streamline application under the RTE, alumni and general categories and to include online submission of forms. “The online system has made the process easier for schools as well. Now, we can download the data easily and analyse it. Once the child is admitted his data can be uploaded into the school registry in a single click,” he said. A parent who downloaded an online admission application for Chinmaya Vidyalaya said the system appeared more transparent than the offline process. “There was always the fear of being left behind because of a first-come-first-served policy in the offline system. Here there is no such problem and we can log in from any part of the country or even overseas. The only thing left is for these schools to make admissions more transparent is to hold an open house before the admission process to tell parents what the school has to offer and field questions from parents,” he said. The online system has made the process easier for schools as well. Now, they can download the data easily and analyse it. Once the child is admitted the data can be uploaded into the school registry in a single click (Times of India 10/2/15)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

38. Modi govt readies to cut flab out of UPA’s flagship food security law (21)

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office has asked for a blueprint to implement the recommendations of a top panel that has suggested sweeping food reforms that include limiting subsidised grains to 40% of the population from the present 67%. The PMO directive gives the clearest signal yet that the Modi government is looking to amend the National Food Security Act — a cornerstone of the previous UPA regime’s welfare agenda. It could also set in motion the first real reforms in agriculture since the Indian economy opened up. The food ministry has been told to come out with “specific deadlines” for implementing the Shanta Kumar-led panel report, sources said. A former Himachal CM, Kumar was the food minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. The panel has called for an end to operations of the leakage-prone Food Corporation of India in traditional food-bowl states and raising the price at which all categories of beneficiaries get subsidised grains to 50% of minimum support price, barring the poorest households. The panel also favours a switch to a cash transfer-based food-subsidy system. The PM-appointed panel submitted its report on January 21. To boost growth, the government has moved swiftly to cut red tape, allow more foreign investment and make acquiring land easier. However, it had so far not said much about the reforms it would bring to the country’s antiquated farm sector. Implementing all the reforms suggested by the panel could be fraught with political risks in a country where millions rely on state-subsidised food. It is still early to predict if Modi would go the whole hog. Steps such as paring the food-security coverage and raising the price of cheap grains — for the first time in decades — are in line with the government’s goals of restricting all subsidies to the poorest. The government’s view is that for high growth, India will need to slash subsidies and re-direct the spending to infrastructure sector so that more people can join the workforce. The Ram Vilas Paswan-headed food ministry would meet on February 11 to start preparing the roadmap, sources said. In the last budget, finance minister Arun Jaitley had announced an expenditure management commission to suggest comprehensive subsidy reforms, which, too, is likely to propose changes in food subsidy. None of this can happen without altering the food security act. Yet, in a country where nearly half the children were either stunted or malnourished, ensuring access to food was critical. India spends close to Rs 1.25 lakh crore, or 8% of the total government expenditure of Rs 18 lakh crore, on food subsidy alone. According to ratings agency Moody’s, annual spending on food subsidies grew 20% on an average over the past eight years, compared with a 16% rise in overall expenditure during the period. The government’s spending on food in 2014 accounted for 18% of its fiscal deficit, which it is trying to curtail. (Hindustan Times 1/2/15)

39. India has Made Notable Progress on MDGs: UN (21)

NEW DELHI: India has made notable progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set for 2015, but much needs to be done on the fronts of poverty and education, a UN report said Wednesday. Though India has made notable progress towards reaching the MDGs, achievements across the goals vary, according to the report titled “India and the MDGs”.The report said India has already achieved the target for reducing poverty by half by official estimates and was close to doing so by international estimates. However, the progress was uneven. “Over 270 million people in India in 2012 still remained trapped in extreme poverty making the post-2015 goal of eliminating extreme poverty by 2030 challenging but feasible,” the report said. Similarly, though India has achieved gender parity in primary school enrolment, latest data suggests that India is off-track on targets to achieve universal enrolment and completion. “Large number of children still remain out of school and fail to complete primary education. The quality of education is also a major concern,” it said. India, the study said, was set to achieve the targets of reducing hunger by half, maternal mortality by three quarters and has halved the proportion of population without access to clean drinking water. Shamshad Akhtar, UN under-secretary general and executive secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia, said: “Over the years, the MDGs have pushed governments around the world to mainstream poverty reduction, gender parity, education and health and such basic needs as water and sanitation in their development agenda.” “India’s achievements towards the MDGs are beyond doubt considerable… yet the progress has been uneven across goals and across states, and inequalities have risen,” she said. “The key message is not to leave anyone behind.” The MDGs are eight international development goals that were established following the millennium summit of the UN in 2000. All 189 UN member states at the time (there are 193 currently), and at least 23 international organisations, committed to help achieve the goals by 2015. Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), said: “There was a problem with MDGs as they had aggregate indicators and they did not have gender and income segregation.” (New Indian Express 4/2/15)

40. 30 crore people still live in extreme poverty in India: Report (21)

New Delhi:About 30 crore people still live in extreme poverty in India even as the Millennium Development Goal (MGD) programme will expire in December, a United Nations report has said. “Still nearly 300 million people live in extreme poverty in India and face deprivation in terms of access to basic services, including education, health, water, sanitation and electricity,” the report — India and the MGDs: Completing the Task — said. India, which has a population of over 125 crore, adopted the United Nation’s MGD in 2000 with an aim to free millions from extreme poverty and hunger, illiteracy, poor health. The eight-point MGD among others targets promotion of gender equality and women empowerment, reducing child mortality, improve maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS and environmental sustainability. “India has made a great progress on MGDs, but there is no room for complacency, because there are gaps relative to the goals and targets. “There are enough opportunities and there is a lot of scope to catch up, and it is critical that by the end of the year when the MGD expires, we really accelerate momentum during this year so that we start the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) agenda,” said Shamshad Akhtar, UN Under Secretary General and Executive Secretary UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (ESCAP). India has an opportunity to become a leader in sustainable development. It has achieved the poverty reduction target, but the progress is uneven, said the report. “Being home to one-sixth of the world’s population, the world is not going to achieve the SDGs if India does not (achieve them),” Akhtar said. After MGD expiry, the UN will begin its SDG programme. India has halved incidence of poverty from 1990s. Still over 27 crore people in 2012 remained in extreme poverty, making the post-2015 goal of eliminating extreme poverty by 2030 challenging, but feasible, it said. It is significant that countries across the globe have made social development a public policy through MGD, said TCA Anant, Secretary, Ministry of Statistics and Planning and Chief Statistician. “We ourselves bring our report. From our report I can say that we have achieved progress on number of indicators,” he added. Seeing MGD an opportunity, he said, it allows India to sharpen its capability of data mining. “We realised we faced enormous challenges in our capabilities to measure. There are many indicators in the goal on which we still have limited information,” said Anant. (Deccan Herald 4/2/15)

41.Poverty removal, child care should be on post-2015 agenda: India (21)

New York: India has told the UN that poverty eradication and special attention to children’s needs should be the central goal for the post-2015 development agenda to ensure that youngsters get a protective and nurturing environment. India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Bhagwant Bishnoi said during a meeting of the executive board of UNICEF that 568 million children globally are still living in extreme poverty and persisting challenge of inadequate investment for their well-being is often exacerbated by economic crises, natural disasters and armed conflict. “Eradication of poverty and special attention to children needs to be central to the post-2015 Development Agenda. This has to be accompanied by focused cross-cutting strategies, including capacity development, partnerships, social inclusion and knowledge management aligned with national policies and priorities,” he said. Bishnoi said the focus should be to ensure protective and nurturing environments for all the world’s children. He added that India is home to 472 million children, nearly 20 per cent of the world’s child population and voiced the country’s commitment to the development of every child, ensuring his or her rights and protection from exploitation. He highlighted the recently launched ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ programme in India, which is aimed at ensuring protection of girls, increasing their participation in secondary education and their overall development. Another programme launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi ‘Sukanya Samriddhi Account’ seeks to provide economic assistance to the girl child. Bishnoi noted that sound financial health is integral to the effective and efficient functioning of UNICEF, which has its largest overseas presence in India. As the international community embarks on the post-2015 development agenda this year, he said the timely adoption of a global monitoring and oversight system for activities undertaken by country offices and the national committees will help in bridging functional and financial gaps. While UNICEF continues to be a “trusted development partner” for program countries, there is need to evolve clearer guidelines for managing and scaling up its programmes, including evaluation. A comprehensive resource mobilisation strategy that addresses funding concerns, especially for health and education programmes, would enable UNICEF to achieve targets in a more responsive manner, he said, adding that increased allocation is required in areas of health and education as these are imperatives for all developing countries. He also emphasised the importance of continuing to leverage South-South Cooperation in partnering with the countries of the South. “This would be additional to, and not a replacement, for North South Cooperation,” he added. (Zee News 5/2/15)

42. Mission for hunger-free city has many takers (21)

AURANGABAD: An initiative by a group of senior citizens to stop wastage of food is gaining momentum across the city. As many as 25 caterers and a city-based NGO have joined hands with the group to provide food everyday to those visiting the Government Medical College and Hospital (GMCH). The NGO, All India Majilise Tamer-e-Millat trust has been providing food free of cost to more than 500 patients and their relatives who visit the GMCH and Government Cancer hospital every day for the past one and a half years. Many of the visitors, who cannot afford to spend for stay and food, take shelter at a mosque near the GMCH. Taking the initiative further, the group of caterers will collect the food gathered from the initiative while the NGO will transport the food and serve it to the needy. The group of citizens had initiated the campaign to check food wastage at weddings, parties and meetings by installing boards displaying clear messages like “eat but please do not waste food” at various marriage halls in the city. The group said that some communities have even pledged to limit the food items at weddings. About 40,000kg food gets wasted at weddings held in over 170 marriage halls across the city. The campaign, which was launched about two years back, has been able to help control about 15-20% food wastage say experts. “Around 25 caterers have decided to share the left over food to the needy people. Meanwhile, an NGO which has been serving food to more than 500 people every day free of cost said it would make transport arrangements for the food,” said Anant Motale, the brain behind the idea of creating awareness. The secretary of the All India Majilise Tamer-e-Millat trust, Moid Hashar said, “The idea evolved when my father Hallem Hashar witnessed many relatives of patients undergoing treatment at GMCH taking shelter at a mosque near the GMCH.” “Many people belonging to economically backward community coming from nearby villages would live only on tea as they could not afford to spend on food along with the treatment expenses of their patients. My father decided to provide meals to the needy free-of-cost,” he said. “Everyday we serve home-cooked food like chapati, vegetables, pulses and rice. The food is served at the mosque twice a day between 12pm and 1pm and 7pm and 8pm. Many even take parcels for patients. Moreover, we also supply about 150 parcels to the patients and relatives at the Government Cancer hospital everyday,” said trust president Hamad Alamri. According to social activist Sundarrao Shinde, around 2,000 weddings and social events are held in the city per year. “Food wasted each day at one wedding can suffice the hunger of about 100 people and if we consider the total food wasted during wedding season in Aurangabad alone it would be enough to feed the city’s vast slum population,” he said. Hoteliers, however, aren’t too hopeful yet. “Hotels and hostels in the city too should join the cause. They can supply the leftover food to the orphanages and missionaries in the city and check that the food is not wasted,” said Purushottam Joshi. (Times of India 9/2/15)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

43. MNREGA: Centre to ensure uninterrupted flow of funds to states (14)

NEW DELHI: Allaying apprehensions of the state governments, the Centre today said it is committed to strengthening MNREGA and is taking all steps to ensure uninterrupted flow of funds for the implementation of the improvised version of the rural job scheme. Noting that MNREGA helped arrest distress migration of people from rural areas to urban centres, Rural Development Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh said he will request the Finance Ministry for more funds for implementation of the improved version of the scheme in which skill development is a major component. Addressing the 10th Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) Divas here, the Minister said, “We are talking about creation of quality assets and physical infrastructure but why don’t we have human assets under MNREGA?” Singh said the government did not want to keep MNREGA workers unskilled labourers forever and efforts would be made to turn them into skilled ones. “If 30 youngsters of a village are to be trained to become physically fit for joining Armed forces, and if such a training is given by a retired security personnel for two months, why they should not be treated at the same footing as MNREGA workers’ training?,” he asked. “He (the trainer) is creating that quality asset, which is a human asset,” the Minister said, emphasising the need for infusing skill componenent in MNREGA enacted for providing at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every household. Singh said, “If we want to stop distress migration from villages, we will have to take such kind of steps.” Responding to some states about about delay in release of funds, the Minister hinted that in most cases, states were to blame more than the Centre as they did not follow procedures like sending audit reports while seeking money from the central government. He also indicated that unspent money from one state will be sent to another state, which is in need of funds, because MNREGA is a demand-driven programme. (Times of India 2/2/15)

44. Govt seeks changes in 20 labour laws (14)

KOLHAPUR: The Devendra Fadnavis led government has asked the labour department to study 20 laws — some of them over 100 years old — and present a report suggesting changes in 30 days. The government has formed a committee of six bureaucrats of the department, including thw labour commissioner, and others to prepare a report on some sensitive laws such as minimum wage (1936), contract labour (1970) and Child Labour Act, 1986. The government issued an order on January 30, in which deputy secretary D S Rajput has asked the members to present the report within 30 days from the formation of the committee. The order mentioned that the Union government has adopted ‘Make In India’ mission to boost domestic manufacturing, production and research. “The state government has also adopted ‘Make In Maharashtra’ and ‘Digital India’ missions. The government was considering to appoint a committee to amend or change and simplify laws and acts of the labour department. The committee has been established under the labour commissioner,” Rajput stated in the order. Meanwhile, the order has irked labour leaders, who believe that the state government is tampering with the system to please the industrialists. Former labour minister Hasan Mushrif has alleged that the government is working at the behest of industrial lobbies. “This government is following the path set by Gujarat and Rajasthan governments that have modified, changed and made laws and acts suitable to the industries only. All the labour unions in the country have demanded that they should be consulted before making any changes. We have already opposed the changes suggested by the Union government,” said Govindrao Pansare, a veteran leftist leader. “Cutting across political affiliations, the labour unions are united over the proposed changes. We will oppose the changes which will harm the interest of labours,” he added. Anti-child labour activist Anuradha Bhosale criticized the bureaucratic approach of the government and demanded inclusion of social organizations in the committee. “Child labour and some of the other acts are sensitive and will impact larger section of the society. We cannot afford a bureaucratic approach. It seems the present committee is formed within the labour department. Besides, it is highly impossible to study and recommend changes in 20 laws in 30 days,” she said. Mushrif said unnecessary changes would harm labours in the state. “It (government) is working on the behest of industry tycoons. How are they going to change all these laws within 30 days? Everything is fixed already,” he told TOI. (Times of India 3/2/15)

45. Work generated in MGNREGS declines in West Bengal (14)

Kolkata: The number of person days of work per family under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) in West Bengal has decreased by nearly 25 per cent in a year. While the number of person days of work generated per family in 2013-14 was 37, it decreased to 28 in 2014-15. Expressing serious concerns over the issue, agricultural workers across the State have decided to protest in various parts in the State by observing Lazza Dibas. MGNREGS day is observed every year on February 2 and thus the workers have decided to protest in February before various offices involved in the implementation of the Central scheme. On Wednesday, activists under the banner of Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity (PBKMS) went to the office of the MGNREGS Commissioner after distributing black batches to his staff. “When we asked Dibyendu Sarkar, the MGNREGS Commissioner, whether he would also pay the workers compensation for late payment of wages, he claimed it was not his responsibility because the Centre was causing the delay,” said Anuradha Talwar, a social activist associated with the workers forum. Uttam Gayen, the general secretary of PBKMS, said that a good programme of the MGNREGS would have helped agricultural workers of Bengal to stay in the villages and stopped distress migration to other States for work. Last year, West Bengal Legislative Assembly had passed a resolution expressing apprehension on the curtailment of MGNREGS by the Centre. (The Hindu 6/2/15)

 46. ‘Ensure social security for unorganised labourers’ (14)

VIJAYAWADA: Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu asked the Labour Department to ensure social security to one crore labourers working in the unorganised sector in the State. At a review meeting on labour policy at the State Secretariat in Hyderabad on Monday, Mr Naidu suggested officials to explore the possibility of issuing licences to small-time shopkeepers through a hassle-free online process. He asked the authorities to prepare modalities for providing accident cover, ‘Aam Admi Bima Yojana’, driver’s insurance, vehicle insurance and other policies which will ensure security for these vulnerable sections. (The Hindu 10/2/15)

RESERVATION

47. Haryana to grant quota in promotion to SC (25)

Chandigarh: In a landmark decision, the Haryana Cabinet on Thursday decided to grant reservation in promotion to the Scheduled Castes. It also accepted the report submitted by the Committee constituted to assess or examine the backwardness and inadequacy of representation of Scheduled Castes in promotion in the State Government Services. Speaking about the Cabinet decision, Finance Minister Captain Abhimanyu said the Committee headed by Additional Chief Secretary P. Raghavendra Rao had submitted its report to the government based on data received from government departments and public sector undertakings. The Committee had analysed data of 3,81,847 employees of all categories in group A, B, C and D in public appointment of the State Government. Upon analysis of the data, it had concluded that there was inadequate representation of the Scheduled Castes in comparison to their proportional representation in the total population of the State. (The Hindu 1/2/15)

48. Forest College students’ protest enters Day 8 (25)

COIMBATORE: Students of the Forest College and Research Institute, Mettupalayam, continued their protest for the eighth day on Tuesday demanding that the State Government restore the higher quota of reservation they enjoyed in appointment to the forest rangers’ post. They have also been demanding reservation in appointment to the foresters’ post. The students’ representatives alleged that the college administration had denied access to toilets on Tuesday. A few of those students tonsured their heads and performed a few of the rituals that were performed for the dead. They said the performance was to symbolise the dead future they faced by the reduction in quota in appointment. A few students staged a protest in Chennai. (The Hindu 4/2/15)

49. Quotas do not hurt efficiency, says study (25)

NEW DELHI: A first-of-its-kind study of the impact of reservations in public sector jobs on productivity and efficiency has shown that the affirmative action did not reduce productivity in any sector, but had, in fact, raised it in some areas. Despite being widespread and much-debated, India’s reservation policy for the educationally and socially backward classes is poorly studied. While there is some research into the impact of reservations in politics and in higher education, there has been no study yet of its impact on the economy. In the pioneering study, Ashwini Deshpande, Professor at the Delhi School of Economics, and Thomas Weisskopf, Professor of Economics at the University of Michigan, measured the impact of reservation for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) on productivity and efficiency in the Indian Railways between 1980 and 2002. The study was published in the World Development journal. The Indian Railways is the world’s largest employer where affirmative action applies, Ms. Deshpande said. It employs between 1.3 and 1.4 million people at four levels of employment — Group A to Group D, with Group A employees being the senior-most. There is 15 per cent reservation for the SCs and 7.5 per cent reservation for the STs at all levels, with additional reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBCs). The study looked at SC and ST employees in Group A and B only, since people from marginalised backgrounds would have been unlikely to reach high levels of employment without reservation. Since an individual’s impact on productivity is impossible to estimate, Ms. Deshpande and Mr. Weisskopf compared zones and periods of time with higher numbers of SC and ST employees with those with lower numbers, keeping other variables constant. They found no negative impact on productivity and efficiency in any area, and some positive effects in some areas of work. “Beyond the numbers, we can speculate about the reasons for why there might be some positive impact of affirmative action,” Ms. Deshpande explained. “Individuals from marginalised groups may be especially highly motivated to perform well when they attain decision-making and managerial positions, because of the fact that they have reached these positions in the face of claims that they are not sufficiently capable, and they may consequently have a strong desire to prove their detractors wrong,” the authors suggested. This is a possible explanation which rings true for Scheduled Caste employees of the Railways whom The Hindu spoke to. “At every level where there is discretionary power, SC/ ST employees are systematically discriminated against,” said B.L. Bairwa, the president of the All-India Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Railway Employees Association. He cited a number of cases from across the country that he was battling, of deserving backward caste railway employees who had been passed up for promotions, transferred arbitrarily or given adverse records. “When an SC or ST employee rises, he has to prove himself and work extra hard. I am not surprised the efficiency goes up,” he said. (The Hindu 5/2/15)

50. MRPS to launch ‘yatra’ against Rajaiah’s dismissal (25)

HYDERABAD: The Madiga Reservation Porata Samiti (MRPS) will launch a four phase ‘yatra’ in Telangana to highlight the dismissal of former Deputy Chief Minister T. Rajaiah and lack of representation to Malas, Madigas and women in the Cabinet of K. Chandrasekhar Rao. The yatra will commence on February 16 from Station Ghanpur in Warangal, represented by Dr. Rajaiah, who belongs to the Madiga community.It will conclude here on April 3, and the next day, a dharna will be organised at Indira Park from where the crowd will march to the Chief Minister’s residence, MRPS president Manda Krishna said at a ‘Meet the Press’ programme organised by Telangana Journalists Union. He also gave a call for a State-wide dharna in all the mandal and district headquarters on March 7 and 8 in protest against the injustice meted out to Madigas, particularly Dr. Rajaiah, by the TRS government. The injustice showed up in the form of lack of representation to both Malas and Madigas in the Cabinet though their population in the State was 17 per cent. But Velamas and Reddys, who constituted a population of only 6 per cent, earned 10 Ministerial berths. The MRPS did not recognise Mr. Kadiam Srihari who replaced Dr. Rajaiah as Madiga because the former belongs to a sub-caste of the community. Terming the struggle by MRPS as something like ‘belling the cat’, Mr. Krishna said it was aimed at ensuring the defeat of the TRS in the next elections. He hoped all parties would follow suit. The struggle was proposed drawing inspiration from people’s poet Kaloji Narayana Rao’s lines asking people to “chase outsiders” and punish insiders if they went against the wishes of the people. The first part of the poet’s call was achieved but it was time the second was fulfilled. (The Hindu 9/2/15)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

51. NHRC notice to central govt on Vasant Kunj church attack (1)

NEW DELHI: The National Human Rights Commission has issued notices to the secretary, Union home minister, chief secretary, Government of NCT of Delhi and the Delhi commissioner of police calling for detailed reports including the status of investigation into allegations of desecration of the sanctity of the St. Alphonsa’s Church, Vasant Kunj, in the early hours of the February 2, 2015. They have been given 10 days time to respond. The commission intervened in the matter after taking suo motu cognizance of electronic media reports regarding the incident of breaking open the doors of St. Alphonsa’s Church and defiling of the place of worship and the objects held sacred. It also received a telephonic information from Manoj V. George – the advocate alleging that in spite of a formal written complaint by Fr. Vincent Salvatore, Parish Priest, the police was not taking necessary and appropriate action by registering a proper FIR and commencing effective investigation. The Commission has observed in its notice that “since the incident involves breaking open the door of a Christian Church and defiling of the place of worship and the objects held sacred by the faithful of the Church and since the intention of the offenders appears to be to insult a particular religion and to outrage the religious feelings and to insult their religious beliefs and since the incident is likely to promote disharmony, enmity, hatred and ill-will on the ground of religion, the matter involves serious issues relating to violation of human rights and requires the intervention of the Commission to ensure that prompt, efficient and impartial investigation is conducted by the police and the culprits are booked at the earliest to restore the confidence and sense of security of the religious minority and to protect their freedom of religion.” Earlier, the NHRC member, Justice Cyriac Joseph, accompanied by some officers, visited the Church, on Monday. Fr. Vincent explained to the NHRC team, the nature and the extent of damage caused to the Church. According to him, the miscreants entered the Church by breaking open the front main door. The tabernacle on the main altar directly below the main crucifix was opened and the Chalice and the Monstrance were removed from the tabernacle and the Holy Communion Hosts were thrown around the place. The adjacent room called the Sacristy in which vestements/clothing and valuable articles like Chalice were kept was ransacked. He alleged that the intention of the miscreants was not to commit theft or burglary, as neither the money kept in three offering boxes nor any valuable objects were taken away, but to desecrate the sanctity of the Church and to create a sense of insecurity in the minds of religious minority. He also expressed the apprehension that there was an attempt to downplay the incident as mere a theft or a burglary. However, the ACP and the SHO, present on the spot, during the visit of the Member, denied the allegation and reports that the FIR had already been registered showing the offence as theft or burglary. The ACP assured that FIR would be registered on the basis of the written complaint dated 2nd February, 2015 and in the light of the statement recorded by the police from Fr. Vincent Salvatore. The police officer asserted that there was no inaction on the part of the police and the investigation would be conducted strictly and accordance. (Times of India 3/2/15)

52. RTI activist killed in Orissa: Plea in NHRC for impartial probe (1)

Bhubaneswar: Two days after the body of a missing RTI activist was found buried near a river in Cuttack, a human rights activist on Monday moved the NHRC seeking an “impartial probe” into the murder. Krupasindhu Sahoo, 40, a farmer and father of two children had gone to the village market on January 26, but did not return. The next day, his vehicle was found deserted near a temple in the village, Naili. Two days later, his wife Gitanjali received calls from an unknown person who demanded Rs 30 lakh and three kg gold as ransom for release of her husband, prompting her to file a complaint with Niali police station. On January 31, police found his body buried near Tanla river. Sahoo’s wife Gitanjali alleged in her FIR that her husband was threatened by BJD workers over his filing an RTI application seeking information about funds spent for System of Rice Intensification farming and its beneficiaries. The reply had revealed corruption and misappropriation of funds by the beneficiaries who made money by submitting false bills in connivance with agriculture officials and Sanskar, an NGO. The beneficiaries had allegedly threatened to kill him.Police have arrested the nephew, sister and mother of the accused, Kartik Pani, who had returned from jail after serving seven years in a murder case. Pani, who is currently absconding, is suspected to have taken “supari” for eliminating Sahoo. Meanwhile, human rights activist Manoj Jena in his petition before the NHRC requested that the state be asked to order a high-level independent inquiry into the murder and the alleged role of an inspector at the Niali police station as well as BJD party members. After the incident came to light, Satyabrata Lenka, inspector-in-charge of the police station was sent on leave and a Sub-Divisional Police Officer was asked to probe the case. (Indian Express 4/2/15)

53. India: Enforce Ruling Protecting Transgender People (1)

India’s Supreme Court last year finally recognized the rights of transgender people to vote, to get an education, or to find a job. Now it’s up to the authorities to enforce the ruling by prosecuting those that target transgender people, denying their right to live in dignity and without persecution. (New York) – Authorities in India should fully enforce a Supreme Court ruling to protect the rights of transgender people and help end discrimination, social exclusion, and abuse, Human Rights Watch said today. They should also credibly investigate several recent incidents in which police allegedly abused transgender people. In April 2014, in a landmark judgment in National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) v. Union of India and Others, the Indian Supreme Court ruled that transgender people should be recognized as a third gender and not only enjoy all fundamental rights, but also receive special benefits in education and jobs. “India’s Supreme Court last year finally recognized the rights of transgender people to vote, to get an education, or to find a job,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director. “Now it’s up to the authorities to enforce the ruling by prosecuting those that target transgender people, denying their right to live in dignity and without persecution.” Nearly a year after the Supreme Court’s judgment, implementation has stalled, even as recent attacks on transgender communities highlight their vulnerability. In particular, section 377 of the Indian penal code, which criminalizes same-sex relations among consenting adults, has made both transgender people and homosexuals vulnerable to police harassment, extortion, and abuse. The nongovernmental organization Telangana Hijra Transgender Samiti, based in the southern city of Hyderabad, reported 40 attacks on transgender people in the last six months. In several cases, the police refused to even register complaints, the rights group told Human Rights Watch. Most recently, the group said that on January 20, 2015, police detained a young hijra, a distinct transgender and intersex community that has a formal system of shared residence and mutual support, for questioning about the murder of another hijra, Pravallika, four days earlier. The police brought the person, a friend of Pravallika who identifies herself as a woman, to a police station where she was allegedly stripped naked and verbally abused and humiliated. Without any female police official present, the hijra was kept at the station for four hours. The police might have beaten her, but when she revealed she was HIV positive, they covered their faces and shrank away. They still humiliated her and questioned her gender identity, and released her in the early hours of the morning insisting that she wear men’s clothes. In this case, the police held an inquiry and acknowledged wrongdoing, but activists say that transgender people across the country still live with fear of violence and police abuse. On January 22, police picked up a transgender woman in the southern city of Chennai for interrogation in a case of murder. At the police station, officers allegedly suspended her by her legs with a rope and penetrated her post-operative genitals with a baton. They left her bleeding overnight, releasing her in the morning. She is still in a government hospital recovering from her injuries….  (Human Rights Watch 6/2/15)

54. Garden BMI survey rings alarm (1)

Siliguri, Feb. 8: A survey on body-mass index done by several NGOs in the closed Raipur tea garden has shown that over 40 per cent of its residents have a BMI lower than 18.5, indicative of being underweight, and 140 people in had BMI lower than 14, a sign of malnourishment. Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties, an NGO of which rights activist and doctor Binayak Sen is a member, carried out the survey in Raipur garden with other local organisations. Raipur has been shut since 2012. According to the guidelines of the World Health Organisation, the ideal BMI range of a person is between 18.5 and 24.9. A BMI below 18.5 is deemed as underweight. The BMI is calculated by dividing the weight of a person in kg by the square of his or her height in metres. According to the data released by PUCL, of the 1,272 people surveyed at Raipur tea estate, 539 (42 per cent of the total) had BMI less than 18.5. Of the 539, 140 (11 per cent of 1,272) people had BMI less than 14, indicative of malnourishment. While a person with a BMI below 18 would be labelled as underweight, several studies have suggested that persons with BMI levels of 17 and sometimes 16 do not show any physiological or functional consequences of their lower-than-normal weight. “But a BMI of 14 is definitely alarming,” said Seema Gulati, a nutrition scientist with the Diabetes Foundation of India in New Delhi. “BMI levels near 14 would mean they are clearly not receiving adequate energy – they would need better nutrition than what they are getting,” she said. Families in closed tea gardens get weekly rations of rice, wheat and sugar under the Annapurna scheme. Most workers in Raipur, which is about 7km from Jalpaiguri, either earn as day labourers at construction sites in the town or do odd jobs in other tea estates. Sen, who toured some of the closed tea estates in the Dooars in the past two days, said the situation was “alarming” and he would soon write to the state and Centre seeking their intervention. “We have conducted an extensive survey to know the health status of people living in closed and sick tea estates in the Dooars. The survey reports appear to be alarming as a considerable proportion of people who were examined during the exercise have been found to have low BMI,” he said. “Our teams have visited some tea estates like Redbank, Bandapani, Diana and Kanthalguri. They have found that the sources of food and nutrition are seriously compromised. Children are unable to attend school and there are people who do not have any access to health care. Many of them are thriving on paltry sums obtained by breaking stones on the riverbed,” Sen said. The survey, Sen said, was conducted in association with five other NGOs – the Siliguri Welfare Organisation, Jalpaiguri Welfare Organisation, Dooars Jagaran, Forum for Peoples’ Health and Srijan. “It is a known fact that a BMI of 14 means that the risk of death from weakness and malnourishment is more than double for a person than for someone having a BMI of 18.5 or more,” Sen said. “In a similar survey conducted at Dheklapara tea estate in December 2012, we found that 111 people of the 202 surveyed had BMI less than 18.5.” He said: “People with low BMIs will be provided diagnostic facilities. We will also arrange for health care for these people.” (The Telegraph 9/2/15)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

55. Aadhaar encroaches right to protect self-information, says PIL (19)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday asked the government to look into a public interest petition contending that the Aadhaar scheme is “laden with fraud” and a danger not only to the citizen’s privacy and dignity, but also to his “right to protect self-information”. A Bench led by Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu summoned Solicitor-General Ranjit Kumar to the courtroom and sought a clarification on the government’s current position on the issue. “We heard the government itself is having second thoughts,” Chief Justice Dattu orally observed. Mr. Kumar sought time to study the petition and come back with an answer. The Bench scheduled the case for hearing on February 13, but did not issue formal notice to the government. The hearing came on a petition filed by Bangalore-resident and social activist, Mathew Thomas, demanding how the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), “which is not even a statutory body rolled out Unique ID (UID) scheme called “Aadhaar” Scheme, for collection of personal data of residents of India”. Mr. Thomas, represented by senior advocate Gopal Subramanium and advocate Aishwarya Bhati, pointed that various governmental bodies have made availing essential services as well as withdrawal of salary contingent upon possession of Aadhaar card. “It is not mandatory, but yes, there is some insistence,” Chief Justice Dattu orally observed at this juncture. “To ask anybody information, you should have authority by law. You should have a credible structure,” Mr. Subramanium continued. He argued that enlisting citizens in the Aadhaar scheme is not “exactly a government activity, but outsourced to private contractors”. “On the surface it (Aadhaar) is a simple document of identity, but it has linkages by means of iris scans and biometricdetails. God forbid if identities are exchanged or mistaken. the Executive’s scheme involves private partners. Who are these private partners?” Mr. Subramanium submitted. Submitting how the ordinary man is now prone to the perils of identity fraud, Mr. Subramanium said the “Sovereign State also has the duty to protect its citizens, to protect his identity, his personal information against possible misuse”. In this connection, the petition also sought the quashing of Section 14-A of the Citizenship Act, 1955 on the ground that “it does not prescribe to what extent private information of citizens shall be required and leaves it to the discretion of Executive”. (The Hindu 2/2/15)

56. Advocates rue poor representation of minorities in judiciary (19)

HYDERABAD: The Telangana Muslim Advocates’ Forum (TMAF) on Tuesday demanded a separate high court for the state of Telangana even as they underscored the poor representation of Muslims in the judiciary. “Soon after bifurcation the government had said that an HC for the state would come up at the King Kothi Palace. The people of Telangana are waiting for their due,” TMAF president Waheed Ahmed said. Highlighting the poor representation of Muslims in the judiciary, Ahmed said that in 1956, the number of Muslims in the judiciary and judicial services was around 50 per cent. This has dwindled drastically over the past couple of decades, he noted. “The Criminal Court Complex in Nampally has no Muslim public prosecutor. A similar scenario exists across all courts,” he claimed. The 12 per cent reservation for Muslims in jobs which the TRS promised before being elected to power could change this scenario, but this does not seem to be on the anvil, he lamented. The representation of Muslims in bar association is low and even the various joint action committees have very few people from the community, he added. Various analysts have expressed similar apprehensions with respect to the representation of Muslims in the judiciary. They have been advocating that members of the community step forward and instead of opting for engineering and medicine, they should appear in competitive exams. “Telangana is a new state and eventually there will be recruitments. Muslims must step forward to join,” an analyst (Times of India 4/2/15)

57. PIL against love marriages without parents’ consent dismissed (7)

Madurai: Madras High Court today declined to entertain a PIL petition which sought to forbear officials from solemnising love marriages without the consent and presence of parents of the couples to check honour killings. The petition, filed about a week ahead of Valentine’s Day on Feb 14, had sought a direction to the Tamil Nadu Government to issue a circular instructing the registration, police and temple officials not to perform marriages without insisting on the personal appearance and consent of the parents of the girl and the boy. Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice S. Tamilvanan ruled out the possibility of issuing such a direction, saying it would amount to the court making a new law. The judges said a major boy or girl had every right to choose their partner and the court could not intervene. K K Ramesh, a PIL litigant, submitted that following an “increase” in the number of love marriages, there had been an “alarming rise” in honour killings, suicides, kidnappings, caste clashes and divorces. Such unwarranted incidents could be prevented if the parents’ consent was made mandatory for solemnising as well as registration of love marriages, it contended. (Financial Express 7/2/15)

58. Christian marriage plea in SC (19)

New Delhi, Feb. 9: The Supreme Court today agreed to examine whether a Christian who gets divorce from the Catholic Church and remarries can be prosecuted for bigamy under the IPC Section 494. Under Section 494 of the IPC, whoever marries again during the subsistence of an existing marriage can be jailed up to seven years and fined. During the proceedings, the apex court wondered how long the country would be able to hold to its secular fabric and expressed concern at the growing cult of honour killings in the country. “Every religion will say we would like to carry along our personal law. We have to stamp out religion from civil law. Look at how honour killings are happening in the country. You have to ostracise it,” a bench of Justices Vikramjit Sen and C. Nagappan observed. The observation came on a PIL that has said since courts in India recognise the dissolution of marriage by pronouncing the word “talaq” three times under Mohammedan Law, the same acceptance should be extended to Christians who end their marriage under the Code of Canon Law. In a lighter vein, Justice Sen told senior counsel Soli Sorabjee, the petitioner’s counsel: “King Henry VIII had not only divorced his wives, but also beheaded them.” When Sorabjee persisted with the PIL’s argument, Justice Sen, heading the bench, asked: “How can you say ecclesiastical courts should prevail over civil law. Till now we are a secular state. We do not know how long it will remain?” The bench added: “In a lighter vein, we are saying they will be beheaded.” The bench asked additional solicitor-general Neeraj Kishan Kaul, appearing for the Centre, to file a counter-affidavit on the PIL within four weeks and the petitioner to file a rejoinder two weeks thereafter. The matter has been posted for further hearing on April 8. In 2013, the apex court had issued notices to the Centre but it had not filed a response so far. The PIL was filed by an 84-year-old Catholic advocate, Clarence Pais, from Bangalore, seeking validity of the decree granted by the Catholic Church in India to Christians married under the Canon Law. The petition said the issue was being raised in public interest for a declaration that the Canon Law was the personal law of Indian Christians and that a decree of dissolution of marriage granted by an ecclesiastical court is valid and binding on all courts in India. It challenged the jurisdiction of the criminal courts in India to prosecute Roman Catholics under Section 494 of the IPC for alleged bigamy and claimed that the issue affects over 1 crore citizens. Indian Catholics are governed by the Code of Canon Law on marriage as well as its dissolution. The Catholic marriage takes place in a Catholic church and in the event of either party seeking to nullify the union, an application needs to be filed under the Code of Canon Law before the canonical court in a diocese. “The Code of Canon Law regulates and provides for the solemnisation of marriage by the parish priest of a Church, as also declaration of nullity of marriage. The Christian Marriage Act provides for the solemnisation of marriage in a Catholic church in accordance with the provisions of the Canon Law. …The declaration of its nullity is regulated by the Code of Canon Law,” the petition said. According to the petitioner, hundreds of applications for declaring marriages null are pending before various ecclesiastical tribunals in India. “If the criminal courts, while considering prosecution under IPC Section 494, reject the application of the Canon Law as the personal law of the Catholics, a very serious result will follow and hundreds of spouses under the second marriage will have to face prosecution, jail and fine,” the petition said. The petition cited Article 372 of the Constitution, which provides for continuance of several existing laws and their adaptation even after the Constitution has come into force. “All the laws in force include not only the enactment of the Indian legislature but also the common law of the land which was being administered by the courts in India. This includes not only the personal laws – namely the Hindu and Mohammedan laws – but that of Indian Catholic viz., the Canon Law also Rules of the English common law…,” the petition said. “It is respectfully submitted that the Canon Law is the personal law of the Catholics of India and the Canon Law has to be applied and enforced by a criminal court while deciding a case under Section 494 of the IPC and sanction of prosecution considered for alleged bigamy of a Catholic spouse who has married after obtaining a decree for nullity of the first marriage from the ecclesiastical tribunal,” the petition added. In other words, it said if the decree of divorce is granted by a church, a person should not be prosecuted under Section 494 IPC. The petition said the Catholic community has made several representations to the government but they had not evoked a favourable response. Hence, the jurisdiction of the apex court was being invoked, it added. (Th Telegraph 10/2/15)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

59. Probe into death of mentally challenged man (1)

Bengaluru: An inquiry has been ordered into the death of a mentally challenged man who allegedly succumbed to injuries caused by torture inflicted on him by police, who had released him after detaining him for a day. The family members, with the help of the South Indian Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring, an NGO, filed a complaint with the State Human Rights Commission on Friday, accusing the Ulsoor police of illegal detention and custodial torture leading to the death of their kin. According to the complaint, Andrew Carroll, a resident of Austin town and a psychiatric patient, was picked up by Ulsoor police on January 12 for questioning. While the family was searching for him, Emile Carroll, father of Andrew received a call from Ulsoor police asking him to come to the police station. Emile went to the police station along with a local pastor and found Andrew there. The police allegedly refused to give any explanation about his detention, but asked Emile to take his son with him. After they reached home, Andrew complained of severe pain in the body. So, he was admitted to St. John’s Hospital. “The doctor, who examined Andrew, found bruises all over his body and Andrew admitted that he had been beaten up by the police,” the complaint states. As it was a medico-legal case, the hospital authorities informed the police and started the treatment. Tests showed that Andrew had renal failure. Then he was put on a ventilator, and he died on Thursday.Deputy Commissioner of Police (East) Satish Kumar told The Hindu that he had ordered an inquiry into the incident by the sub-divisional assistant commissioner of police.Sources say that Andrew was picked up by police for creating ruckus at a hotel in Ulsoor. Hospital records state that he was admitted to the hospital four days after the incident, and that he was injured in a road accident, a senior official said. (The Hindu 1/2/15)

60. Complain about errant cops to state panels soon (1)

MUMBAI: Police complaints authorities will be set up at the state- and district-level as provided for in the Maharashtra Police (Amendment) Act, 2014, in a few days, the Maharashtra government has said. This despite chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who as a legislator had strongly opposed the amendments and promised to revoke the amendments in his vision statement for the state. The amendments to the Maharashtra Police Act were passed in a rush by the legislative assembly in June 2014. “In case of transfers, the chief minister has already handed over the powers to the police, except in the case of IPS officers. For now, there will be no change in the constitution of the police complaints authority. It will comprise members of the civil society. We have already drawn up a list and it will be announced in a few days,” said the chief minister’s office. NGOs Police Reforms Watch and Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, which have been campaigning for police reforms, want Fadnavis to honour his commitment to completely revoke the amendments. “There must be an independent selection panel to decide on appointment of the chairperson and members of the state- and district-level authorities. There must be objective criteria and qualifications for member selection. This must be widely advertised to ensure transparency,” said Dolphy D’Souza, convenor, Police Reforms Watch. D’Souza said as complaints will be made against the police, serving officers should not be members of the authority as it was against the principles of natural justice. “How can they sit in judgment on their own actions? Besides, the Act mandates that members must work full-time. Serving officers will not be able to work full-time with the authority,” he said. The Act also provides for imprisonment against anyone filing false or frivolous complaints against police personnel. “This itself is a deterrent to file complaints. The section must be deleted,” said D’Souza. Activists pointed out the Act allows the state to reject the final report of the police complaints authority in exceptional cases. “This erosion of the binding nature of their recommendations weakens their effectiveness as accountability mechanisms,” said D’Souza. (Times of India 2/1/15)

61. HR panel orders probe into custodial death (1)

State Human Rights Commission has ordered probe into alleged custodial death of a man at Bahraich’s Jarwal Road police station on Monday.The commission issued notice to SP Bahraich on Saturday and asked him to appear before the commission within four weeks after taking action against SO Kapil Muni and other accused policemen. Dinesh Kumar Singh was allegedly tortured to death at the police station on Monday. The commission stated that the death in police custody is a violation of human rights. A panel of three doctors had performed postmortem of Dinesh on Tuesday. Although strangulation mark and five other serious injuries were found on the body, police claimed he died of choking. A resident of Bhartha Sahwajpur village under Kaiserganj police station, Dinesh was caught by Jarwal Road police on charges of stealing a bike and was subsequently found dead in police lockup. His family members had staged dharna at the police station. A team of three doctors performed the postmortem on DM’s order and found deep marks of injuries on the back, stomach and head of the deceased alongwith strangulation mark on the neck. The police had claimed that choking is the cause of the death. (Times of India 7/2/15)

62. Ishrat Jahan fake encounter: Gujarat top cop PP Pandey reinstated in service (1)

AHMEDABAD: Within four days of his release on bail in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case, 1980-batch IPS officer PP Pandey’s suspension has not only been revoked, but he is also given charge of the probe against investigator in this case, Satish Verma. The government notification issued on Monday said that Pandey is posted as additional DGP (law and order). It also bestows the responsibility of the investigations being carried out by an SIT into three cases of custodial deaths that allegedly happened in Porabandar district when Verma was the superintendent of police. Ahmedabad police commissioner Shivanand Jha was heading this SIT till now. It was Verma’s aggressive probe in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case upon Gujarat high court’s (HC) orders that nailed Gujarat cops including Pandey, who came to be arrested in August 2013. Now, Pandey is heading the probe against Verma, who is now on central deputation as CVO in North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO) in Shillong. In 1996-97, when Verma was SP of Porbandar, two people — Jasu Gagan Shail and Aher Ranmal — were killed in police encounters, while Aher Narayan Jesthi was found handing from the tree outside a police station, though he was in police custody. In 2011, Jasu’s brother Hira Shial moved the HC and demanded a fresh probe on the ground that Gujarat police did not carry fair probe on earlier HC orders in 1998. The HC asked the government to conduct fresh probe in three custodial deaths. However, these investigations were stayed later by the Supreme Court upon Verma’s appeal. (Times of India 9/2/15)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

63. Judicial probe sought in police action on media in Haryana (1)

New Delhi: Police action against journalists covering a stand-off between authorities and self-styled ‘godman’ Rampal in Haryana last year was “unprovoked” and “pre-meditated”, a media panel has said, recommending a judicial probe into the incident. The panel, set up by the Broadcast Editors’ Association (BEA) to look into the incident, has recommended probe by a Supreme Court judge into the alleged assault by police on the journalists in Hissar district in November last. In its report, the three-member committee has concluded that the police action against media persons was “unprovoked” and “pre-meditated”.It said the police had acted against media persons as it did not want the use of force against women and kids to be recorded by the media for showing it on channels. The panel emphasised that political executive should be sensitive to such incidents. The BEA, a body with editors of leading news channels as its members, had constituted the panel shortly after the incident that occurred in November last year. In its report, the three member committee said that it had met Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal, police officers, and also talked to the local villagers. It added that it found that not only the victim journalists but also police officers were categorical in their assertions that there was no provocation from or causing of functional impediment from the side of media persons with regard to police operation. The panel noted that it was the job of the media to cover the event but hardly had the operation begun by the policemen assisted by the para-military forces, when media persons were subjected to lathi-charge. “This attack was not confined to one place but all over the area ie in sprawl of over half-a-kilometer. The policemen started beating the hapless reporters, cameramen and other scribes mercilessly. The camera or I-cards shown by the media did not deter them from the sordid act. Rather it was taken by the police as a sign of identification for hitting,” it said. (Zee News 1/2/15)

64. News channels set agenda instead of mere reporting: Jaitley (1)

New Delhi: Emphasizing that media functioning has changed drastically after the advent of 24×7 news channels, Information and Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley today said they now set the agenda instead of mere reporting. “We suddenly found that we are beocoming a media-driven society. A society, whose agenda is pushed by the media. Media sets the agenda,” he said adding that now reporters feel they are not just to report but to “actually set the agenda” on issues to which the stakeholders will respond. Contrasting the functioning of Indian television news channels with that of BBC, he said the difference which he finds while watching them is that “in our channels, we get to hear the views of the same set of eight people evening after evening. News becomes anchor driven. “Where as when I switch on BBC, I get news items of 40-50 seconds on everything that is happening in the world.” Jaitley at the same time said that he believes that views are also important. “I am not going to denigrate that,” he said addressing a workshop for bureaucrats on communication here. (Deccan Herald 2/1/15)

65. Media targeted ‘with impunity’ in Libya: HRW (1)

Tunis: Journalists in post-revolution Libya face the constant threat of attack and have lost even the limited freedom that existed under slain strongman Moamer Kadhafi, Human Rights Watch said on Monday. A 54-page report by the New York-based rights watchdog released in Tunisia said journalists in Libya are “assaulted, kidnapped and killed with impunity”.”Journalists were among the 250 people killed in apparent politically motivated assassinations in 2014,” HRW said in the report entitled “War on the media: journalists under attack in Libya”.It also documented “at least 91 cases of threats and assaults against journalists, 14 of them women, from mid-2012 until November 2014″, including 30 kidnappings and eight killings. HRW reported “26 armed attacks” against media headquarters over the same period. It said evidence suggests that “the armed groups sought to punish journalists and media outlets for their reporting, their opinions, or their perceived sympathies”.HRW blamed authorities for failing to protect journalists, and said this “has wiped out much of the limited freedom that existed following the 2011 uprising” that toppled and killed Kadhafi. “Authorities failed to hold anyone accountable for attacks on journalists and media outlets since 2012,” it said, while “courts are prosecuting people, including journalists, for speech-related offences”.The situation worsened last year sparking an exodus of journalists, said HRW, while those who chose to stay have been forced into self-censorship. “The climate of impunity has allowed militias to assault, threaten, kidnap, or even kill journalists because of their reporting or views,” said HRW’s deputy Middle East and North Africa head Joe Stork. “Government authorities and non-state actors who control territory should urgently condemn attacks on journalists and where possible hold those responsible to account,” he added in the report. HRW researcher Hanan Saleh denounced a “culture of impunity”.”Many journalists don’t want to report (aggressions they experienced) to the police because they don’t think that the police or the judiciary can help them or do them justice,” she told reporters in Tunis. HRW cited several examples of media being targeted in Libya, including the separate murders last year in Benghazi of journalist Miftah Bouzeid, whom it said was a “prominent critic” of Islamist militias, and radio broadcaster Al-Mutassim al-Warfalli, who it said supported them. The North African nation has been wracked by conflict for the past four years, with rival governments and powerful militias battling for control of key cities and the country’s oil riches. (Zee News 9/2/15)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

66. Muzaffarnagar riots: Statement of then District Magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma recorded (7)

MUZAFFARNAGAR: The inquiry commission probing the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots has recorded the statement of the then District Magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma who asserted that authorities had effectively controlled the violence. The one-man inquiry commission of Justice (retd) Vishnu Sahai yesterday recorded the statement of Muzaffarnagar DM Kaushal Raj Sharma who asserted that district authorities had controlled the violence after taking steps to instill confidence in the people in the riot-hit district. The commission has also summoned the then DGP Deoraj Nagar and the then state Home Secretary R N Srivastava on February 5 for recording their statements. It would continue its sitting till February 6 here. The commission, which would submit its report to the state government on the cause of riots, action taken by the government officials at that time and measures to prevent riots in future, has so far recorded more than 450 statements including those of riots victims and senior officials. The one-member judicial inquiry commission of Justice (retd) Vishnu Sahai, former Judge of Allahabad High Court, was constituted by the Uttar Pradesh government in September 2013 to probe the Muzaffarnagar riots. Over 60 persons were killed and more than 40,000 displaced in communal violence in Muzaffarnagar and adjoining areas in September, 2013. (The Economic Times 1/2/15)

67. Praveen Togadia barred from Bangalore, VHP fumes (7)

Bengaluru: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s plan to organise a “Hindu rally” in Bangalore hit a hurdle on Tuesday when their star speaker Praveen Togadia was banned from entering the city.

Sources in the home minister’s office told Hindustan Times that the government is also considering banning Togadia, who has at least 19 cases of hate speech against him in over a dozen states, from entering Karnataka. The VHP said the ban was “undemocratic” and claimed it had mustered more than two lakh supporters for the event called Hindu Viraat Samavesha on February 8. “We have issued prohibitory orders banning Togadia’s entry into the city but we have decided to permit the event. We are in talks with the organisers to arrive at a mutually agreed format for the programme,” said Bangalore Police Commissioner MN Reddi.Reddi said Togadia had been barred from the city to “prevent a law and order situation”.The VHP plans to protest for Togadia. “We will move court to get justice and hold protests across Karnataka against the decision of this anti-Hindu government,” said VHP south India organising secretary Gopalji.”This is unconstitutional and undemocratic. Togadia has addressed many rallies in Karnataka over the last few months and there has been no trouble. The Congress is playing vote bank politics,” said former BJP chief minister Jagdish Shettar, who is leader of the opposition. Chief minister Siddaramaiah supported the police’s decision. “The government had nothing to do with it. The decision was taken independently by the police. But it was a good decision as Togadia’s previous visits to the State have triggered communal violence. The government is committed to preventing such attempts at polarization,” he said.A riot broke out during Togadia’s last visit to Karnataka on January 17 when he addressed a gathering of 25,000 supporters at Puttur, 60 km Mangaluru. More than 30 people were injured in the violence and property worth several lakh rupees was destroyed.Interestingly, the Majlis Ittehadul Muslimin has planned a massive rally on February 8 to counter the VHP’s event. As the main speaker, they plan to have the party president and MP Asaduddin Owaisi, who has nearly a dozen hate speech cases against him across Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Home Ministry sources said that Owaisi too will be prevented from entering the State although they said that his status as an elected representative might complicate matters. (Hindustan Times 3/2/15)

68. Trilokpuri residents want to get rid of ‘communal’ tag (7)

New Delhi: Residents of Trilokpuri — that had recently turned into a battleground due to communal clashes — want to move on from communal politics and see some development in the area. The locals were apprehensive that the election would bring back tension in the area as political parties would try to highlight the riots for polarization. But both the political parties and voters want to move on. Kiran Vaidya, whose husband Sunil Vaidya had suffered a heart attack and a brain hemorrhage during a political rally, was not ready to contest the election but agreed to the demand of her party’s top leaders. A month after her husband, the former BJP MLA of the area, died of a heart attack, she was asked by the Bharatiya Janata Party to contest the Delhi assembly election from the riot-hit Trilokpuri area of east Delhi. This may go against her as she is being seen as an inexperienced candidate. “I have been living in the area for over 30 years and have seen many such clashes. But in the name of development, nothing has been done. We hope the new government will work for development and at the same time ensure peace in the area too,” said Manzar Hasan, a 70-year-old resident of Trilokpuri. Residents said that the candidates did not highlight the riots during the election campaign, which is a positive change. “People from outside see Trilokpuri as a communally sensitive area and it has earned a bad name. We want the new government to change this image,” Sharda Singh, a local resident said. (Hindustan Times 8/2/15)

COMMUNALISM

69. Hindu outfit vows more ‘re-conversions’ in Tamil Nadu (26)

CHENNAI: The Hindu Makkal Katchi, which conducted a ‘ghar wapsi’ programme in the city on Friday, said they would be organising more such reconversions in future. The fringe group’s ‘re-conversion’ programme was intended to take forward Sangah Parivar’s Hindutva agenda in Tamil Nadu. While Tamil Nadu politics has been dominated by two Dravidian parties — AIADMK and DMK — and some regional players, observers say the Hindutva rhetoric is likely to be spurred by VHP and Hindu Munnani, besides some fringe groups, encouraged by Sangh Parivar’s ‘ghar wapsi’ programme. HMK chief Arjun Sampath, who presided over the reconversion of 11 dalit Christians into Hinduism, said, “Our target is dalit Christians, many of whom are fishermen living in coastal districts and in Chennai city.” Sampath said HMK had started reconversion of people from other religions into Hinduism much before Narendra Modi became Prime Minister. “Our first reconversion happened in the Nellaiappar temple in Tirunelveli in 2011,” said Sampath. Many Tamil Nadu parties are wary of the Sangh Parivar’s activities. DMK chief M Karunanidhi, in a statement, said the activities of Sangh Parivar shocked people. “It is unfortunate that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has the responsibility to take the nation forward in the economic front, is silent on the activities of Sangh Parivar,” he said. “It is a drama enacted by the fringe groups of Sangh Parivar to seek attention. They said more than 100 people will be reconverted, but only 11 are said to have re-converted,” said DMK spokesperson T K S Elangovan. He said the government should put down such activities with a firm hand. Echoing similar sentiments, CPM state secretary G Ramakrishnan said secular forces in the state should not allow activities like ghar wapsi or forced teaching of Hinduism to students. “Though dalits face discrimination, whether they are Hindus or Christians, reconversion cannot be allowed as it will lead to law and order problem. We will oppose such reconversions henceforth,” said Ramakrishnan. “Sangh Parivar is bent on creating problems, be it ghar wapsi or deletion of words like secular and socialism from the Preamble of the Constitution. Secular forces should fight against it,” said Ramakrishnan. A senior police official said, “HMK people did not say they were organising a reconversion programme and they did not seek any permission from us. We stopped them on the way and sent back many of them”. He said police are looking at steps to prevent such incidents in public places in future. (Times of India 1/2/15)

70. VHP leader Sadhvi Prachi stokes fresh controversy with communal rants (26)

Badaun: VHP leader Sadhvi Prachi has stoked fresh controversy by making inflammatory remarks on the issue of ‘love jihad’ and defending her statement that Hindu women should have four children. “They are trapping our daughters through ‘love jihad’. These people who give birth to 35-40…. Are spreading love jihad….. They are trying to make Hindustan into Darul Islam. “When I made the remarks, it was as if the country was hit by a quake. The media said you have sparked an uproar with your remarks on four children. I said I have only advocated four children for Hindus not 40…. And it is important because the country needs it,” the saffron clad leader said at a function organised here by Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) which “felicitated” Hindus who have more than four children. Prachi had contested the 2012 Assembly elections on BJP ticket from Purkazi constituency in UP. She was among persons accused of inciting riots through their provocative speeches in Muzaffarnagar in 2013 and was later granted bail. The latest hate speech came despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s warning to party leaders to restrain from making controversial comments which can overshadow his government’s agenda of development and economic reforms. The BJP was quick to distance itself from Prachi’s remarks, saying the party does not agree with such views and is not interested in discussing any such issue. “The BJP does not agree with any such comment. We do not think that the comments are correct. BJP does not want to discuss any issue other than good governance and even the people are not ready to accept any such discussion. “Under such circumstances, there is no significance of such remarks,” said chief of BJP’s Uttar Pradesh unit Laxmikant Bajpai. He asserted that the leader was not speaking at a party platform. Prachi felicitated 20 persons, who had more than four children at the ‘Virat Hindu Sammelan’ organised by VHP here yesterday. Those “honoured” included Dwarika Singh, who have 11 children, Rampal Singh and Surnam Singh, who have nine children each. Addressing the gathering on the occasion, Sadhvi Prachi said, “Why family planning is implemented for Hindus only.” On “Ghar Wapasi”, she said that if 1,400 years ago everyone was Hindu, “UP Urban Development Minister Azam Khan, Jama Masjid’s Imam Bukhari, former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and Yusuf Raza Gilani should also do ghar wapasi”, a term used for reconverting into Hinduism. Prachi said that she was not against love but against “Love Jihad”.”A campaign is being run to trap Hindu girls in the name of love,” she said. The sadhvi had drawn criticism last month over her remarks that Hindu women should have four kids. “Earlier we used to say ‘hum do hamare do’. But now we have started saying that ‘sher ka bachcha ek hi achha’ (for a lion, one offspring is enough). This is wrong,” Prachi had said at a gathering in Bhilwara. “If there is one child, where all will you send him? To protect the border… Or make him a scientist or he will take care of business…. So, we need four children. One can go to protect the borders, one can serve the society, give one to the saints and one to VHP to serve the nation and protect the culture. This is very important,” she had said. Demanding a law to ban forced conversions, Prachi had supported the VHP’s ‘Ghar Wapsi’ or reconversion programme. “If a son is angry due to the some reason and leaves the house, should he not be allowed to return. Should the family not accept him? “That’s why ‘Ghar Wapsi’ should be supported,” she said. Earlier, BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj drew criticism when he asked Hindu women to have at least four children, with the opposition accusing BJP of trying to polarise the atmosphere. BJP on its part had distanced itself from the remarks of Maharaj, who was also served a show cause notice, and urged its workers and public representatives to refrain from making such comments. (Zee News 2/1/15)

71. Fighting BJP govt, Hindutva forces main task: CPM (26)

New Delhi: The CPM has identified fighting “right-wing” offensive and the BJP government’s policies as its main task, even while emphasising that it will continue to oppose the Congress. The party’s Draft Political Resolution, to be presented at the 21st party congress at Visakhapatnam in April, also talks about building the independent strength of the party, while working to rally other left and democratic secular forces to form a united front. “The Draft Political Resolution deals with the political situation in the country. It has noted the big change with the BJP getting an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha. This has set the stage for a right-wing offensive comprising an aggressive pursuit of neo-liberal policies and a full-scale attempt by the RSS-led Hindutva forces to advance their communal agenda…The party has to fight against the BJP and Modi government’s policies. This is the main task at hand. This requires a concerted opposition to the Modi government’s economic policies and its Hindutva oriented social and educational policies. The party has to conduct a political-ideological struggle against the BJP-RSS combine,” it states. The draft resolution also spells out concrete steps to be taken in the political, social, cultural and educational fields  to counter “Hindutva forces”. It states the CPM will not have any electoral alliance with the Congress.  “It is the Congress-led UPA government’s anti-people policies and corruption which helped BJP acquire popular support,” it adds. Saying that the country’s political situation saw a major change after  Lok Sabha polls, CPM general secretary Prakash Karat told reporters: “The resolution has characterised this change as right wing offensive under the Narendra Modi government. This is fuelled by two forces. One by aggressive push for neo-liberal policies and second the offensive of the RSS-led Hindutva forces. Together they constitute right wing offensive which is detrimental for the interest of the people in our country,” While conceding that his party was under “serious” attack in West Bengal, Karat dismissed suggestions that the party’s base was being eroded there. He said “opportunist politics” by the TMC had helped BJP make some headway. (Indian Express 5/2/15)

72. VHP hits back at Obama, calls him ‘stooge of Church’ (26)

NEW DELHI: US President Barack Obama’s recent remarks on ‘religious intolerance’ in India has irked the Hindu right in the country. Criticizing his latest remark — that “acts of intolerance” experienced by religious faiths of all types in India in the past few years would have shocked Mahatma Gandhi —Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) on Friday called Obama a “stooge of the Church” and asked the Narendra Modi government to identify and weed out people in the Indian political class suspected to be batting for the Church. VHP joint general secretary Surendra Jain said that Obama should instead take care of his country which was witnessing “atrocities” against blacks. “He (Obama) is himself black. Despite that, he has not been able to stop the atrocities being committed on blacks,” he said. Alleging the influence of Christian missionaries on Obama, Jain said, “Obama seems to like his natural allies more than his friend. He made such statements in India and abroad after meeting certain people here on his visit. It is well known that Church plants people in politics. Obama has not been a good guest.” VHP also agreed with Hindu Mahasabha, which is preparing to forcibly marry off couples seen together on Valentine’s Day. According to VHP, cases such as the Nirbhaya gang rape happen because couples openly express love on Valentine’s Day. Jain said, “There should be no violence (on February 14), but those who love each other must get married. In the name of love, do not indulge in naked display of lust. It is because of these celebrations that incidents like (Delhi gang rape) happen.” On its right to be the moral police, Jain retorted, “What right did Mahatma Gandhi have to steer the freedom struggle? When police do not take action, society will have to.” On Obama’s comments, Jain said the US is only worried about Christians and never talked about atrocities on Hindus in Bangladesh. “Obama should have rather asked Christian missionaries to stop conversion. It is because of their antics that there is communal disharmony in India. We ask the government to identify and weed out such people in politics who are planted by the Church,” Jain said even as he brushed aside recent attacks on churches in Delhi as a “law and order problem”.”Even temples get vandalized, but do we say Christians have done it? Christians are protesting for political mileage and finance,” said Jain. (Times of India 7/2/15)

73. ‘Favourable time’ to organize all Hindus: RSS chief (26)

NEW DELHI: RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has said that India is a “Hindu Rashtra” and there is a need to organize all Hindus in the country for which this is “favourable time”.Quoting famous poet Rabindranath Tagore, he said whenever there will be conflicts among Hindus and Muslims, “a middle- path will emerge and that path will be of Hindutava.” “Hindustan is a Hindu Rashtra, which is a fact. We are going ahead with this (idea). All Hindus have to be organized to make this nation great. When our country will become great that will benefit that the entire world. “We have the know-how for what we want to do. If we continue fighting among ourselves, this Constitution cannot protect us,” Bhagwat said addressing RSS gatherings in Meerut and Ghaziabad on Sunday. Recalling that even in adverse circumstances, RSS founder K B Hedgewar had started branches of RSS to bring together the entire Hindu community, Bhagwat said that this is a “very favourable time” for the Sangh unlike in the past. “No Swayamsevak Sangh in the world had to face such a long and bitter opposition as we faced in our own country. We had to move forward under very difficult circumstances,” he said. There was a time when there was no acceptance for the ideology of the Sangh either in the country or in other parts of the world but “this is a very favourable time for the Sangh,” he said. Noting that the organization has struggled a lot, Bhagwat said “and the result was that today we have favourable situation but it does not mean that we should become complacent. Rather it is the time we need to work more.” While asking the gathering to respect diversity, he said that “the idea of Hinduism is the only idea in the world which brings all together”.He said that the fundamental unity amidst all diversities is the crux of India. (Times of India 9/2/15)

TERRORISM

74. Clamp down on discrimination against NE people: Centre (12)

Bengaluru: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has instructed the police to clamp down on discrimination against people from Northeast India living in Bengaluru and remain vigilant against illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in the IT Capital. Singh, who attended a function at the Taralabalu mutt in Chitradurga district on Monday morning, held a meeting with the police top brass at the HAL airport in Bengaluru on his way back to Delhi. The police briefed him about the progress in the investigation against four men they had arrested last month on the charge of being operatives of the banned outfit, Indian Mujahideen. According to a source, Singh and the police top brass also discussed how to check the circulation of pre-activated mobile phone SIM cards. The issue cropped up in the wake of the recent arrest of suspected Bodo militant Sanju Bordoloi, who was found to be in possession of pre-activated SIM cards. “We made a power-point presentation for about 45 minutes on the functioning of the Bengaluru police. The presentation included recent developments in Bengaluru and across Karnataka,” Police Commissioner M N Reddi told reporters. “We sought his approval for the proposals which have been pending with the Centre and assistance for some other projects that are in the pipeline. He understood our requests and promised all assistance.” According to Reddi, Singh also promised that the Centre would consider sanctioning more Marine India Reserve Battalions in Karnataka to strengthen its coastal security. Earlier, the police submitted proposals to Singh and sought the Central government’s assistance in procuring vehicles and CCTV cameras to be installed in Bengaluru. (Deccan Herald 2/1/15)

75. UN Chief Decries ‘Appalling’ IS Killing of Jordan Pilot (12)

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has condemned the apparent burning alive of a Jordanian pilot by Islamic State militants, calling it an “appalling act.”  Ban labeled the IS group “a terrorist organisation with no regard for human life” yesterday and urged world governments to redouble their efforts to “combat the scourge of terrorism and extremism,” according to his spokesman Stephane Dujarric. First Lieutenant Maaz al-Kassasbeh was captured in December when his F-16 jet crashed over northern Syria, a mission that was part of the US-led coalition campaign against the IS fighters. “The secretary-general’s thoughts are with Mr Al-Kassasbeh’s family and loved ones,” Ban’s spokesman said.    “He shares their sorrow and stands today in solidarity with the government and people of Jordan in denouncing this appalling act.”   A slickly produced 22-minute video surfaced online showing a man who appeared to be the pilot engulfed in flames inside a metal cage. Jordanian state television said that Kassasbeh was killed on January 3.  The 15 members of the UN Security Council also denounced the apparent killing, saying “such continued acts of barbarism perpetrated by ISIL do not intimidate them but rather stiffen their resolve” to counter extremist movements. The council also demanded the “immediate, safe and unconditional release” of prisoners held by IS, the Al-Nusra Front — Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate — and other groups with links to Al-Qaeda. Jordan is a non-permanent member of the council. (New Indian Express 4/2/15)

76. Suspected IM man held for sending terror mail (12)

MUMBAI: Nearly four years after a terror email was sent by the Indian Mujahideen, claiming responsibility for the September 19, 2010 firing and blast outside the Jama Masjid in Delhi, the cyber crime investigation cell on Friday took a suspected IM operative, Ejaz Shaikh, (28), into custody for allegedly sending the mail from a cellphone from near Mumbai’s Manish Market. Two Taiwan nationals were hurt in the firing. An offence was registered in Mumbai after the city cops found the origin of the Internet Protocol (IP) address of the terror mail in Mumbai. Shaikh has been booked under various sections of the IT Act, 2000. Shaikh was first arrested on September 6, 2014, from outside Saharanpur station in UP by the Delhi Police’s special cell. Later, he was taken into custody by the Maharashtra ATS for his alleged role in providing logistic support in the 2010 Pune German Bakery blast. The CCIC then took him in custody in connection with the terror email case. In the Jama Masjid firing case, the special cell had earlier arrested suspected IM operatives, Qateel Siddiqui, Yasin Bhatkal, his father in-law Irshad Ahmed and several others. “Much before the Delhi terror strike, IM’s global chief Riyaz Bhatkal, who is reportedly hiding in Pakistan, had sent the draft of the terror email to Shaikh. After the firing and blast, Shaikh used a cellphone to send the terror email to several media houses,” said a police officer, adding that even the IM’s Indian chief, Yasin Bhatkal, now behind bars, was unaware of the person who had actually sent the email. Police had earlier claimed that Shaikh, a Pune resident, was the logistics man and hawala router of the banned outfit. Besides sending e-mails, Sheikh used to provide logistics to the IM men in India and prepared fake identities needed by them to procure mobile SIM cards, collecting foreign money transfers, obtaining rooms on rent and even in getting enrolled in professional educational institutions as a cover, police said. Police said he was never present in the actual crime. “After the German Bakery blast, Sheikh played the role of devils’ messenger in the Jama Masjid strike on September 19, 2010. Using expert technological cover, he sent e-mails to various Indian media houses shortly after the strikes, claiming the act to be from IM and as a revenge for the Batla House encounter,” said S N Shrivastava, special commissioner, special cell, had said after Shaikh’s arrest last year. (Times of India 7/2/15)

77. Huge quantity of explosives found in Assam (12)

Chirang (Assam): The Army on Sunday recovered a large quantity of explosives from the Chirang district of Assam. During a search operation in the reserve forest area of Chirang, the security forces reportedly also found many war-like stores in which the explosives were stored. The recoveries include an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) weighing 6 kilograms and incriminating documents with details of extortions being carried out by the banned outfit National Democratic Front of Bodoland-Songbijit faction. (New Kerala 8/2/15)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

78. Naxal attack claims 2 cops in Bastar, raises questions (12)

New Delhi: In an attack that left some questions for the Chhattisgarh Police, two policemen were killed in a Maoist attack near Bande area of Kanker district in Bastar region on Monday. Six other security personnel — three each from police and BSF — were injured in the attack, who were later airlifted to Raipur. According to the statement issued by Chhattisgarh Police, “A joint party of BSF and the district police left towards Habalras and Panavar village around 4 pm following specific inputs about Naxal activities.” The Maoists allegedly attacked the police team between these villages and killed Bande thana in-charge Avinash Sharma and Gopniya Sainik Sonu Ram Gawde. However, photographs of the ambush, accessed by The Indian Express, suggest that either the policemen were not a part of any operation or they were extremely casual in their movement. While all the personnel were on bike, none of the security personnel in the photographs had fatigues on him. Sharma wore black leather shoes, besides pink shirt and blue trousers, extremely unusual for the leader of an anti-Naxal operation.The killings are significant because they took place after a long period of relative peace in Kanker — the northern most district of Bastar. In the last few years, Maoist violence has been restricted to south Bastar districts like Sukma, Bijapur and Dantewada. In fact, Kanker did not report death of any personnel in a Maoist attack in 2014 and record two in 2013. Gawde, a surrendered Maoist, was posted as a Gopniya Sainik (informer). The state police often deploy surrendered Maoists as Gopniya Sainiks and pay them monthly stipend of Rs 5,000. (Indian Express 2/2/15)

79. Kerala police targets social workers, human rights activists for Maoist link (12)

Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala police is targeting social workers, human rights activists and ultra Left sympathizers for their role in suspected Maoist attacks in last few days. On Last Friday, Kochi police arrested civil rights activists Advocate Thushar Nirmal Sarathy and Jaison Cooper, an employee with state insurance department, allegedly in connection with the Maoist attack on NHAI project office in Kochi. Sarathy was taken into police custody from Kozhikode, where he addressed a press conference to announce a meeting to be held in protest against the “Maoist hunt of police.” On the same day, Cooper was taken into custody from his office in Kochi. Both were charged under section 13 B of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). On Sunday, police in Kannur took into custody Students Islamic Organisation leader Shahid M Shameem and his friend Uday Balakrishnan over their suspected Maoist links. (SIO is the student outfit of Jamaat-e-Islami). After protests over their arrest, police on Monday noon let the youths go. Besides, there have been several incidents of raids at the houses of human rights activists and leaders of ultra Left sympathizers in Kochi and Wayanad. Kochi City Police Assistant Commissioner Bijo Alexander said the arrested Sarathi and Cooper were not involved in the Maoist attacks. But, they were active in frontal organizations of the Maoist movement under the guise of human rights activists. They are all known to be supporting the Maoist actions. Asked whether there is clear evidence against them in the case which necessitates slapping of UAPA, the police officer said “of course, there is something.” “How can the police arrest me on the reason that I had possessed notices, issued by a registered human rights organistion. I have no role in the attack on NHAI office,” said Cooper. Police had recovered pro-Maoist pamphlets from the house of Cooper. A group of writers and intellectuals led by Arundhati Roy have written to the Kerala Chief Minister seeking release of Cooper and Sarathi. “We believe that this police action is a well concerted political act to silence all voices raising critical questions about the political, economical and social issues in the country. The act of the police should be condemned by all people believing in the freedom of expression and the right to dissent. The incident also shows that the police in Kerala under a Congress Regime are no different from the Hindu Fascist regimes in other parts of the country,’’ they urged the chief minister. Although there had been nearly a dozen suspected Maoist attacks on government offices and private properties in North Kerala and Kochi, police could not make any breakthrough in investigations. The case pertaining to the attack on KFC and McDonald outlets in Palakkad on December 22 is an example for Kerala police failure in unearthing the suspected Maoist involvement, if any, behind such attacks… (Indian Express 4/2/15)

80. Amnesty seeks release of persons arrested for ‘supporting Maoists’ (12)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Amnesty International India has sought immediate release of persons arrested over the past few weeks on suspicion of being involved in unlawful activities because they had ‘pro-Maoist’ materials in their houses. In a statement released by e-mail here on Thursday, Amnesty International India programme director Shemeer Babu said ‘‘mere possession of certain kinds of literature cannot be a ground for arresting someone’’ and urged the authorities to respect the right of citizens to freedom of expression, which included the right to seek and receive information of all kinds. The nature of these arrests and the evidence put forward raised concerns that the cases were politically motivated, he said.The Kerala police had arrested Jaison C. Cooper, a human rights activist, and Thushar Nirmal Sarathy, a lawyer, in Kochi and Kozhikode respectively on January 30 on the ground that these men were supporters of banned armed Maoist groups and had supported an attack on the National Highways Authority of India’s project office in Kochi on January 29. They were arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). However, the investigating officer had admitted that the only existing evidence against the two men were pamphlets and materials ‘supporting Maoist groups’ found in their houses. On December 24, the police had arrested Sreekanth Prabhakaran and Arun Balan, two college students in Palakkad, under the UAPA for allegedly being involved in attacks on two fast food outlets on December 21 and vandalising the office of a pharmaceutical ingredient manufacturer on October 22. The police said they had found ‘pro-Maoist’ leaflets and literature in the houses of the two students. (The Hindu 6/2/15)

81. Centre Plans ‘Strategic Change’ Against Naxals (12)

NEW DELHI:The Centre is likely to tweak the strategy against the Maoists to neutralise their influence in the worst-affected districts, spread across 10 states. In the first phase, the Centre is planning coordinated operations to sanitise eight districts of Chhattisgarh – Bastar, Bijapur, Sukma, Dantewada, Kanker, Narayanpur, Kondagaon and Rajnandgaon. Home Minister Rajnath Singh has called an urgent meeting on February 9 with four states – Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Telangana and Maharashtra – to devise the strategy to launch anti-Naxal operations in Chhattisgarh, top sources in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said. “Chief Ministers and Chief Secretaries of these states are expected to attend the meeting. Government is looking at adopting a completely new tactic by roping in the bordering states even when the operation is launched in only one state. This is to ensure that escape routes for Maoists are made inaccessible and easy crossing over that they have been doing for over the years is effectively blocked,” sources said. According to the MHA, Chhattisgarh witnessed 236 Naxal attacks in the last year in which 82 casualties were reported. (New Indian Express 7/2/15)

82. Fight against Naxalites: Rajnath to chair meeting of 4 CMs (12)

NEW DELHI: To firm up plans to give a heavy push to the fight against Naxalites in their citadel in Bastar, home minister Rajnath Singh will chair a meeting of chief ministers of four Maoist-hit states — Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Telangana and Odisha — on Monday. With a special focus on carrying out anti-Naxalite operations in the dense jungle of Bastar, the meeting will give stress on close coordination among state police forces and central paramilitary forces so that the Maoists do not escape from one state to other. Sources said since all the four states share borders with the jungles of Bastar, considered to be the hub of CPI (Maoist), the central government wants to give a heavy push to strike at the Naxalites at their den. A majority of casualty in Naxal violence in recent past has come from the Bastar region, forcing the Centre to firm up an urgent initiative to counter the rebels. “Customised approach” will be taken in each of the troubled areas in the country, the sources said. The meeting will also be attended by DGPs of all four states, heads of paramilitary forces and senior home ministry officials. A total of 14 CRPF personnel were killed by Maoists in December last year in Sukma district in Bastar region. More than 25 people, including Congress leaders Mahendra Karma and others, were killed in an ambush carried out by Naxals at Jiramghati in Bastar region in May 2013. Congress leader VC Shukla, who was injured in the ambush, died later. 76 CRPF personnel were killed by the rebels in Dantewada in Bastar region in April 2010. The worst Maoist violence-affected states are Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. The central government has deployed nearly one lakh personnel of paramilitary forces in these affected states to deal with the rebels. (Times of India 8/2/15)

TRAFFICKING

83. Centre to hold inter-State meet to prevent child trafficking (1)

Hyderabad: The Union Government will soon convene an inter-State meeting to prevent child trafficking and child labour. Reacting sharply to reports of widespread use of child labour in the bangle manufacturing industry in Hyderabad, the Union Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Bandaru Dattatreya, said that the views of the stakeholders’ states would be taken to evolve a national policy on the issue. The Telangana police had raided the shady bangle manufacturing facilities in the State capital and rescued about 400 children who were being forced to work under harsh conditions. Majority of the children hail from Bihar and were being rehabilitated by the State. “The Union Government will coordinate with Bihar and Telangana Governments to ensure proper rehabilitation of all children that were rescued,” the Minister said here on Sunday. “It (exploitation of children) is totally unacceptable. We will have to make efforts to end child labour,” he said. (Business Line 1/2/15)

84. ‘Rescued children will be rehabilitated’ (1)

HYDERABAD: The Union Minister for Labour and Employment, Bandaru Dattatreya, has promised to convene an inter-State meeting to work out a time-bound plan to prevent child trafficking. Reacting to the rescue of hundreds of children from Bihar, who were working in the bangle-making industry in Hyderabad, Mr. Dattatreya said that the Ministry would coordinate with the States of Bihar and Telangana to rehabilitate every child rescued by the Hyderabad police recently. He said the government was committed to ensuring that all children enjoy the right to education and it would be done with a sense of urgency with respect to the children rescued. During the recent raids conducted by the police and Labour Department of Telangana, nearly 400 children were rescued from the bangle-making industry in the city. The Minister said it was unfortunate that the industry, famous for crafted bangles in the country and abroad, had employed children for the work. “This is totally unacceptable,” he said. “A monthly sum of Rs. 2,000 and Rs. 3,000 is paid to the parents, depending upon the age and working ability of the child,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (South) V. Satyanarayana told The Hindu . The children, hailing from poor families, were denied proper food and accommodation and at times fell ill due to lack of hygiene. At Amannagar, Yaseen Pahelwan rented out his three-storied building to a bangle-making unit and about 150 children were staying on the premises. Closed circuit cameras were installed in the workshops to keep a watch on the children. Meanwhile, the district administration prepared a profile of the children and sent it to Bihar after officials expressed their willingness to reunite them with their parents. “The children will leave for Bihar by train shortly,” District Child Protection Officer, Hyderabad, Mohd Imtiyaz Raheem said. “We will file the charge-sheet against the employers under labour law in the court,” Joint Commissioner of Labour, Hyderabad, E. Gangadhar said. The children are suffering from various skin diseases due to exposure to hazardous chemicals. (The Hindu 2/2/15)

85. Spell out steps to curb girls’ trafficking, panel to MP brass (1)

BHOPAL: National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has asked chief secretary and director general of police (DGP) to inform in six weeks on remedial steps taken by anti-trafficking cells, which were set up in 16 districts of the state last year to curb large-scale trafficking of girls from backward Bundelkhand region. “The directives came after a state government report in response to notices based on suo motu cognizance of a media report on trafficking of girls from Bundelkhand region forcing them into flesh trade,” according to an official press release issued on Thursday. Of 2,230 girls who went missing from five districts of Sagar Division in last seven years, 482 are still untraceable. Highlighting that the rescued girls are entitled for rehabilitation, the commission said, it appears that the state government, barring running rescue homes with the help of NGOs, has not taken other steps. The commission asked the chief secretary to submit a comprehensive report on current status of criminal cases in courts related to the problem. The other points include if the state government has definite schemes to curb trafficking of girls, the press release added. (Times of India 5/2/15)

86. Child trafficking continues in Chhattisgarh, 3 minors rescued from Jharkhand (1)

RAIPUR: Three minor girls of Maoist affected Duldula block of tribal Jashpur district were rescued along with three others of Jharkhand from Kalamati National Highway 75, on intervening night of Friday. The girls were allegedly being trafficked to Delhi by a local woman tout called Anita Tigga, who was arrested on Saturday. The rescue operation exposed that the accused placement agency runs under the banner of social organization called ‘Sewa Bharti Sanstha’ that claims to work on issues related to tribal affairs in Chhattisgarh, Assam, Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal. Incidentally, all the aforementioned states are majorly affected with human trafficking, specially minor girls. Talking to TOI, Deepak Sharma, sub-divisional police officer, Khunti, Jharkhand said, “Acting on a tip off, a team was sent to Ranchi railway station and Kalamati national highway when Anita was caught with six minor girls, three from Jashpur on a private vehicle. She confessed that she was going towards Delhi and works for a social organization.” The girls were sheltered at Sahyog Village, a children’s home at Khunti, about 70 kilometers from Jashpur, till they are presented before child welfare committee on Saturday. Jharkhand AHTU in charge Ardhana Singh told TOI that Anita was on the wanted list for last six years for trafficking of thousands of girls from Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand to Delhi. “Girls said that Anita had convinced them to accompany her without informing their parents. She would give them skill development training and lavish jobs in Delhi with healthy lifestyle, Anita had promised them. The girls resisted revealing their identity and name of native place as they were told that police may arrest them.” Evidently, the placement agencies which are running under pressure with consistent raids and arrests of agents, have now started taking refuge under banner of social organizations. Continuing trading and trafficking of girls, the traffickers show as if they were working for tribals. According to Rishikant of Delhi-based NGO Shakti Vahini, the incident reveals that traffickers have began playing safe by taking the road route in stead of trains now. “Chhattisgarh government urgently needs to strengthen law enforcement so that it’s not easy for touts to vroom away with girls cross border without any check. A 30-day campaign against traffickers won’t suffice, it has to be a continuous process. Biggest challenge is for Jashpur police.” Chhattisgarh police in October and November in 2014 had acted swiftly when Supreme Court taking cognizance on increasing number of children in state, had ordered chief secretary and DGP to investigate and trace those children. Though hundreds of children were traced with arrest of few traffickers, the raids ended with the year. While things went on secondary note, local agents have gone active and abduction of girls begins yet again. (Times of India 6/2/15)

CORRUPTION

87. SC not to interfere with HC order for SIT probe against Bhujbal (5)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Monday declined to interfere with Bombay High Court order directing SIT probe into the allegations of kickbacks against former Maharashtra minister Chhagan Bhujbal, his family members and employees of his educational trust. Bhujbal, of the Nationalist Congress Party, was PWD minister in Congress-NCP government which was voted out of power in 2014 state assembly elections. Declining to entertain a plea by Iram T. Shaikh challenging the Dec 18, 2014 order of Bombay High Court directing probe by SIT into the allegations of graft, a bench of Chief Justice H.L.Dattu and Justice A.K.Sikri said: “No. We will not entertain it.” The court did not accept the plea by senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi contending that the high court should not entertained the plea by Aam Aadmi Party which was motivated at gaining political mileage through judicial proceedings. Directing the probe by SIT into the allegation of wrongdoings and graft, the high court had said that it had to take up the matter as no steps were taken by the state government for more than a year after allegations were made. The court had noted that probe into allegation started only after a PIL was moved before it. The high court had given SIT – comprising the officials of the Enforcement Directorate and Maharashtra Anti-Corruption Bureau – time till Feb 28 to complete the probe and file its report. The AAP in its PIL had alleged that as PWD minister, Bhujbal had awarded contracts to some private companies and in return kickbacks were routed to his educational trust – Mumbai Educational Trust. Recently Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis agreed to the to Anti-Corruption Bureau proposal for probe in the allegation of corruption and wrong doings against Bhujbal in the construction of new Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi and other buildings belonging to the State government. (Business Standard 1/2/15)

88. Karunanidhi Welcomes Centre’s Move to Make Bribery a Cognizable Offence (5)

CHENNAI: DMK today welcomed NDA Government’s proposal to make bribery during elections a cognisable offence but expressed reservations over empowering police to arrest violators without warrant. “I generally welcome the amendments on behalf of DMK. However, the phrases seeming to give excess powers to police create doubt,” DMK President M Karunanidhi said. The Home Ministry has recently conveyed to the Election Commission that it has initiated the process to amend the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and a note has been sent to law officers to prepare the draft amendment bill in this regard. Karunanidhi said ruling party generally offers cash and kind to voters during all types of elections and the Election Commission’s efforts to curb this had not succeeded.   He said that it was a “practical reality” that police were a ‘puppet’ of the ruling party and people had ‘just doubts’ if police would act against them in such cases. “Even if someone comes forward to act, will the ruling party and higher officials allow that without any interference. The Central government should consider such issues and consult all-party leaders before enacting amendments,” he said. Recalling his earlier demand for Proportional Representation, which he said was being favoured by former Chief Election Commissioner J M Lyngdoh in the context of poll expenses, he said Centre should take a serious view of this also.  Referring to the ceiling on election expenditure set by Election Commission for those fighting elections, Lyngdoh had said that it had become a farce as candidates spend much more than the prescribed limit. (New Indian Express 2/1/15)

89. Court grants bail to 36 cops caught on tape taking bribe (5)

Mumbai: A special court in Mumbai on Monday granted bail to all 36 suspended police personnel from Nehru Nagar police station of Kurla in the case where most of the accused were caught taking bribe to allow an illegal construction in a video shot in a sting operation. According to defence lawyer Vaibhav Baghade, the special anti-corruption bureau (ACB) court had issued summons to all the policemen, directing them to appear before the court after the investigating agency had filed chargesheet against them. As per the court’s directions, the accused had appeared before the court on Monday and advocate Baghade moved bail application alleging that the complaint was filed with dishonest intentions and the policement were framed. He also contended that the complainant had blackmailed the constables by misusing the video and there is no prima-facie case made out against them in the chargesheet. Another ground for seeking bail for was that the investigation was over and the applicants had cooperated with the investigation so there was no question, of them tampering with the evidence. Interestingly, the policemen were never arrested during investigation and were granted bail after filing of chargesheet. (Asian Age 3/2/15)

90. Lokayukta tightens noose on ‘corrupt’ UP minister Prajapati (5)

Lucknow: An ongoing probe into corruption allegations against Uttar Pradesh mining minister Gayatri Prasad Prajapati has unearthed “incriminating evidence” against him, the state Lokayukta said on Saturday. Prajapati, an influential minister in the Samajwadi Party government of Akhilesh Yadav, is accused of allegedly amassing property worth Rs 900 crore by misusing his office. Lokayukta justice (retd) NK Mehrotra launched the probe in December last year after one Om Shankar Dwivedi filed a 1,727-page complaint giving details of ill-gotten property belonging to the minister and his kin across the state. The Lokayukta said that the state estate department has confirmed that rooms in the VVIP guest house in Lucknow were provided to “members of the syndicate” who were working as intermediary between contractors and the mining minister. “It’s difficult (even) for MLAs and bureaucrats to book rooms in the guest house due to stringent rules but using his influence Prajapati booked the rooms for four months to run his nefarious activities,” justice Mehrotra said. Besides, a forest department report submitted to the Lokayukta said that the mining department issued as many as 18 licenses in forest area without the mandatory environmental clearance. The Lokayukta said that since the order came from the minister, the contractors were not stopped from carrying out illegal mining. He added that out of a 2200-acre mining area in Jalaun district, the mining department allotted 1,600 acre to one RC Mishra, known to be a close associate of the mining minister. The Lokayukta said that “the fake companies floated by the minister and members of the syndicate are being closed (down) after I started the inquiry. Even money is being withdrawn from bank accounts to escape charges.”Justice Malhotra has already asked the minister’s wife and two sons to appear before him on January 8.Prajapati refuted the allegations of corruption and said they were part of a conspiracy hatched by his rivals.“If the corruption charges are proved, I will quit politics,” said Prajapati, the MLA from Amethi, adding that “I will come out clean”. (Hindustan Times 8/2/15)

91. Black money probe: Govt initiates tax-evasion proceedings against 60 Indians (5)

New Delhi: The government is expected to disclose the names of nearly 60 Indians and entities after recently initiating tax-evasion prosecution proceedings against them, cracking down on black money accounts as reported in the HSBC bank’s Geneva branch list. Sources said that those against whom legal action has been initiated include some corporates, business houses and other individuals as the Income Tax department has completed its probe and filed prosecution complaints against these entities, on the directions of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) constituted to tackle black money and illegal assets held by Indians abroad. They said the total amount in these accounts is estimated to be to the tune of Rs 1,500-1,600 crore. Sources said the complaints, under I-T laws, have been filed in various courts of the country and investigations in these cases have been completed by the taxman as these cases will get “time barred” by March 31 after which any legal action against them could not be carried out as the cases pertain to the period of 2008-2009. “The disclosures of these names is part of the government’s commitment to curb cases of black money and of illegal funds stashed abroad by Indians. The I-T department aims to get conviction in these cases very fast,” they said. The SIT, headed by retired Supreme Court Judge Justice MB Shah, had said in its last report to the government and the Supreme Court in December 2014 that the black money holders names in HSBC Geneva list will be taken to their logical conclusion soon. (Hindustan Times 9/2/15)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

92. Activists emphasize on the need to protect environment (9)

NASHIK: The district forest department on Monday organized a number of seminars, exhibitions and awareness drives at the Nandur Madhyameshwar bird sanctuary to mark the World Wetlands Day. Environment activists, experts and forest officials who attended the programme emphasized the need to protect the wetlands and the birds residing there. The activists focused on two wetlands in Nashik region — Nandur Madhyameshwar and Gangapur dam which are home to many resident and migratory birds. The seminar was addressed by honorary wildlife warden and environment activist Bishwarup Raha at Nandur Madhyameshwar. The programme was conducted by the wildlife department and saw the participation of the territorial department, the Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra (FDCM) and the social forestry, NGOs, environment activists, nature lovers and all the employees of the forest department. “We decided to celebrate the World Wetland Day at the Nandur Madhyameshwar Bird Sanctuary with day-long programmes on issues related to the environment,” said additional principal chief conservator of forests (APCCF), wildlife, Nashik, K N Khaware. “Extensive patrolling is needed in the wetland areas to protect them and the birds that reside there. Studies should be conducted to find out which birds come here regularly. A bird census should be carried out. For this, we will have to work with the locals. The Nandur Madhyameshwar sanctuary is protected, but the Gangapur dam and the surrounding areas are under threat. Under the environment protection act, action can be taken against those disturbing the habitats,” said Raha. He added that soil excavation and the resort by the dam were destroying the habitat of the grassland birds and tourism-related activities like the boat club and the seaplane landing would end up displacing the birds from the wetland. Chief conservator of forests, territorial (Nashik), Arvind Patil said that de-silting would be prevented here to keep the wetland protected. A four-hour session was conducted on the conservation of the wetland birds. Besides, a photography exhibition was also organized by bird lover Anil Mali and other nature enthusiasts. The forest department also studied the birds at Chapadgaon close by and cleaned the tourist complex. “Firstly, the birds need to be provided proper protection. They require many facilities like elevated platforms called jetties and poles for resting. Awareness is needed to promote eco-tourism that would lead to conservation of this sanctuary,” said conservator of forests, wildlife, S V Ramarao. He said that the knowledge-base of Nandur Madhyameshwar is very limited and that is why the department was conducting two research projects — one on the hydro biological values of the sanctuary and the second one on the water quality management and pollution levels. Environment activist Jagbir Singh who was also present on the occasion said, “Gangapur dam, which can also be considered as a wetland, along with the surrounding areas, should be conserved. Tourism should be developed in an eco-friendly manner. Manual boats are welcome here, but motor boats will disturb the birds’ habitat and end up displacing them. There should be no construction near the dam.” (Times of India 3/2/15)

93. Encroachment of forests will ruin Western Ghats (9)

The Western Ghat is called “a treasure trove of biodiversity” and “the water tower of Peninsular India”. It is one of the global ‘hotspots’ of biodiversity. It consists of a wide variety of forest types such as tropical wet evergreen, montane stunted evergreen (shola), moist deciduous, dry deciduous and dry thorn forests, and grasslands. Some of these are critical habitats for plants and animals. The Western Ghats is also critical for as many as 58 major Indian rivers that originate from it, including Godavari, Krishna, Cauvery, Kali, Bedthi, and Sharavati. The Western Ghats landscape is dominated by forests. The total area under the Western Ghats is about 1,29,037 sq. km, out of which about 87,307 sq. km is under forests. According to the Forest Survey of India, area under forests in the Western Ghats is increasing marginally in recent years. But this includes increase in area under plantations such as coffee, coconut, areca, cashew, cocoa and mango which are included in the definition of forests. A study in the southern region, comprising the states of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, showed that between the period 1920 and 1990, about 40 per cent of the original vegetation cover was lost or converted to another form of land use. According to a study based on remote sensing data, the loss of forest cover between 1973 and 1995 in the southern part of the Western Ghats is estimated to be 25.6 per cent. An analysis of the area under forests in the states and districts of the Western Ghats region between 2003 to 2013 shows a decline of 670 sq. km in Goa, while about 2 sq. km of dense forest and 1,621 sq. km of moderately dense forests were lost in Karnataka. Even during 2013, an area of about 8,979 ha was diverted for non-forestry purposes in Karnataka alone. Encroachment of forests is increasing in the Western Ghats and according to the Forest Department, there are 92,232 cases involving about 65,000 ha of forest land. In addition to loss or conversion of forests legally or through encroachment, the forests are also subjected to various stresses and pressures leading to degradation. Livestock grazing leads to loss of regeneration in forests and population density of livestock is very high. For example it is 445 per sq. km in Belagavi, 203 in Shivamogga and 182 in Chikkamagaluru. Invasive species such as Lantana, Eupatorium, Parthenium, Mikania (American Rope or Chinese Creeper) and Chromolaena (Devil weed) seem to be taking over many parts of the Western Ghats, due to canopy opening, fire and degradation, suppressing natural regeneration and biodiversity. The Western Ghats is also home to about 50 million people belonging to the six states of the country. The local communities depend on forests for a whole range of products and services. Extraction of green timber, though banned, continues. Over extraction of non-timber forest products such as fuelwood, fruit, flowers, gum and bamboo have led to degradation of forests. Afforestation in the Western Ghats is dominated by exotics and monocultures of Australian Acacia (Wattle), Eucalyptus and Silver Oak, contributing to loss of regeneration of native vegetation. Demand for land for expansion of plantation crops such as coffee, tea, cocoa, cashew, rubber, coconut, arecanut, etc. has led to loss of forest lands. Forest fire incidence, induced by humans, is increasing both in protected areas and outside, leading to degradation of forests, threatening biodiversity, including wildlife.Increasing human-wildlife conflicts involving elephant, leopard, bear, gaur etc, are turning local communities in the conflict area against wildlife. (Deccan Herald 5/2/15)

94. Vehicular pollution highest in Hyderabad (9)

Hyderabad: Stemming the unabated increase of vehicles in Hyderabad could vastly downsize its carbon footprint as new research estimates that nearly 57 per cent of Hyderabad’s carbon footprint is contributed by vehicular emissions. Though Hyderabad doesn’t rank very high in the list of Indian metropolises with large carbon footprints, the proportion contributed by vehicles in the city is the highest in the country. The study on carbon footprints of individual metros in the country was carried out by Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bengaluru. The carbon footprint of a city is the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions, methane, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, caused by all greenhouse gas emitting bodies in the city. According to the study by scientists led by Dr T.V. Ramachandra from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Delhi had the highest carbon footprint followed by Mumbai while Hyderabad had the sixth largest carbon footprint, only ahead of Ahmedabad. Researchers estimated that the transport sector in Hyderabad contributes a whopping 57 per cent to its entire carbon footprint. In Delhi, vehicular emissions only contribute 32 per cent of the city’s total emissions while in Mumbai, vehicles contribute about 17 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions. The proportion in Bengaluru is 43.5 per cent. Researchers said that vehicles are adding a huge burden of air pollution to cities and that the quantum of emissions due to vehicles in Hyderabad is only behind New Delhi and Bengaluru. Researchers say that the use of public transport is markedly higher in cities like Chennai and Mumbai where non-polluting local trains is a major mode of city public transport. But in almost every city, vehicular emissions far exceeded industrial emissions. (Deccan Herald 9/2/15)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

95. Drought hits 90 lakhs farmers in Maharashtra (20

MUMBAI: Nearly 90 lakh farmers in Maharashtra have been impacted by the drought that has devastated the kharif crop, official data shows. The figure is almost on a par with the population of Sweden. Maharashtra is already known for its farm crisis and reports the highest number of farmer’s suicides in the country. The drought — brought on by a delayed and inadequate monsoon — is set to deepen the distress for its cultivators. It comes close on the heels of the crop distress wreaked by the hailstorms last year which hit cultivators hard. Data with the agriculture department show that two-thirds of the state’s 1.37crore farmers have been affected by the drought which has impacted mainly the Marathwada and Vidarbha regions. These areas have historically been the most deprived in the state.Two weeks ago, the state government officially declared that 60% of its villages were facing a “drought-like condition”. This means that they reported a crop yield which was less than 50% of the standard yield in the area. In absolute figures, 23,811 of the state’s 39,453 villages come in this category. This will result in a drastic fall in the state’s agricultural output for the year, officials said. “It is a very difficult situation. Farmers in the state are facing severe agrarian distress,” said state relief and rehabilitation secretary K H Govinda Raj. The state government has released relief worth Rs 2,000 crore so far, he added. The state had asked the Central government for aid worth Rs 4,800 crore but that’s yet to come in. Vidarbha-based farmer activist Vijay Jawandia pointed out that this is the fourth drought in the state since 2008. “The impact on farmers is only getting worse. Earlier farmers used to suffer because of low yields but at least they got a decent price for their produce. Now they have poor yield and very low prices for their crop,” he said. In his estimation, the cotton and soyabean crop in the state could see a dramatic drop in yield. “The total cotton production in Maharashtra could drop by 1.5crore quintals this year. The soyabean yield was 4quintals per acre. This year it could be just half of that,” he said. Times of India 3/2/15)

96. Maharashtra farmer climbs on burning pyre, ends life (20)

Yavatmal (Maharashtra) A debt-ridden farmer from a village in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region climbed on a lit pyre and committed suicide Wednesday, the second such incident since November last year, an activist said here Thursday. Anandrao S. Pandagle, 45, a resident of Bhambh village, is survived by his wife and three teenaged daughters, said Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti chief Kishore Tiwari. Preliminary police investigations revealed he had farm debts of Rs.50,000 and was trying to collect another Rs.12,000 for his eldest daughter’s marriage. “He was alone at home, poured kerosene on himself, prepared and lit his own funeral pyre before climbing on it… By the time locals rushed to help, he was burnt to death,” Tiwari told IANS. This is the second instance of its kind in the region. On Nov 28 last year, 75-year old farmer Kashiram B. Indare of Manarkhed village lit his own funeral pyre in a field. Earlier presumed missing, his charred remains were discovered after a couple of days. Vidarbha has been rocked by five more suicides since Wednesday, according to Tiwari, even as the desperate farmers’ patience was running out in the wake of official apathy to their plight. The victims are: Ramkrishan Bhalavi of Talni village and Ambadas Wahile of Gunji village, both in Amravati district; Sanju Gawande of Saikheda village in Washim district; Vijay Tadas of Ghorad village and Nanaji Ingole of Kanheri village, both in Wardha district. In December, the Supreme Court issued a notice to the state government on the issue of debt-ridden farmers’ suicides in Maharashtra following a public interest litigation filed by a lawyer R.U. Upadhyay. Similarly, the National Human Rights Commission has also sent a notice to the state government seeking a report on the incident, even as the spate of farmland suicides continues unabated in Maharashtra. Last week, the Shiv Sena strongly criticized it ruling ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party, for ignoring the plight of the farmers though Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis hails from the Vidarbha region. (Business Standard 5/2/15)

97. Haryana seeks 30 % hike in MSP of crops (20)

CHANDIGARH: The Haryana Government has recommended to the Central Government a 30 per cent increase in the Minimum Support Price (MSP) of crops to make the agriculture sector profitable. Agriculture Minister Om Parkash Dhankar, while speaking on the occasion of the Deenbandhu Sir Chhotu Ram anniversary celebrations in Jind, said a number of initiatives are being taken by the State Government to make the farmers prosperous. Mr Dhankar claimed that the government has succeeded in delivering water right up to 90 per cent tail-ends and urged farmers to adopt Israel’s drip irrigation technology to make maximum use of the water. (The Hindu 8/2/15)

98. Maharashtra farmer suicides: 50% of kin denied relief (20)

MUMBAI: Families of nearly half of the farmers in Maharashtra who have committed suicide over the last four years are not eligible to get even the paltry Rs 1 lakh compensation thanks to government rules. Maharashtra, along with Tamil Nadu, WB, AP, Chhattisgarh and MP, registers a high number of farmer suicides. An RTI application by activist Jitendra Ghadge has revealed that of the total 5,698 suicides registered in rural Maharashtra since 2011, especially in Vidarbha and Marathwada regions, spouses of 2,731 victims have been found ineligible to receive government aid—either because the deceased did not have a bank loan against the cultivation planned in that season or did not own a piece of land. Activists say there is an urgent need to review compensation systems and strengthen the agrarian economy. Experts and activists relate this large number of ‘ineligible’ suicides not only with acutely distressful agrarian issues but also to the extremes the urban and rural economies have attained, forcing youth in rural areas to shun farming and migrate to urban set-ups. According to them, district committees decide on the eligibility of compensation (Rs 30,000 cash and a cheque of Rs 70,000) based on bank and land records established by family members and the police in the inquest panchanamas, which sometimes contain many loopholes. Kishor Tiwari, a farmers’ activist from Vidarbha, said there were serious issues with the existing methods in deciding criteria for compensation. “Corruption and political interference are rampant apart from the lackadaisical approach of senior police and revenue officials in those districts,” he said. Journalist and researcher of agrarian crises Jaideep Hardikar, who has authored a book based on the life of farmers and PAPs (project-affected people), said farm labourers or marginal farmers having no direct access to banks were getting no attention although they too shared the agony of a failed monsoon. “Though the situations vary, the issues remain the same in their lives,” he added. Hardikar said the case rejection or ineligibility had gone up since 2008 and there was a need to tackle the issue more scientifically. According to Tiwari, a survey of 17 lakh families by the government showed distress and frustration due to economic, educational and medical reasons besides debts and damages to crops in natural calamities as reasons for the suicides. “Expectations of the younger generation are increasing. When a clerk or a peon in an urban area who relocates from rural areas is able to earn a decent sum, a person working on a farm is unable to meet the expectations of family members. Distress and frustration are acute due to ailments, education and agrarian uncertainties,” he said. “This is the failure of the government in offering better opportunities in rural areas. Why does a Rs one lakh loan become a reason for suicide in rural areas?” asks Hardikar and answers it himself: “Because prices and yields are volatile and returns or investments are not guaranteed.” “Gender bias, lack of interest among collectors and senior police officials in verifying the police and revenue reports, loopholes in investigating reasons of suicide such as borrowing money from private money lenders, property disputes, alleged consumption of liquor and alleged extramarital affairs are responsible for rising number of ineligible cases,” said other activists who did not want to be named. (Times of India 9/2/15)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

99. Cases against Singur, Nandigram protestors to be withdrawn (4)

Kolkata: The Mamata Banerjee government in West Bengal Friday announced withdrawal of cases filed by its predecessor Left Front against anti-land acquisition agitators in Nandigram and Singur, which had played major roles in bringing the political change in the state. The state cabinet, which met during the day, decided to withdraw cases against 302 people in Nandigram of East Midanpore district and Singur of Hooghly district, said Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee. Among the beneficiaries of the government decision is a current minister Rabindranath Bhattacharya, who holds the statistics and programme implementation portfolio. Addressing a rally here Thursday, Banerjee Thursday had flayed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for giving a clean chit to the erstwhile Left government in the Nandigram police firing case which had claimed 14 lives in 2007. In East Midnapore’s Nandigram, about 125 km from Kolkata, the LF regime’s plans to acquire 10,000 acres of land for a special economic zone (SEZ) triggered violent agitation spearheaded by Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress. Singur, Singur was on the boil between 2006 and 2008 after the LF government acquired 997.11 acres of land for setting up the factory for Tata’s small car Nano. Demanding return of 400 acres to “unwilling farmers” (from whom land was allegedly taken against their will), the Trinamool led a violent and sustained movement that ultimately forced the automobile giants to shift their plant to Sanand of Gujarat. Bhattacharya, the legislator from Singur, had played a leading role in the movement. The Trinamool reaped the fruits of the twin movements, as the anti-acquisition protests lowered the LF’s popularity graph, and ultimately ended the communists’ 34 year rule in the state. (New Kerala 1/2/15)

100. Farmer struggles to get back land acquired for percolation tank (4)

AURANGABAD: The water conservation department had “fraudulently” acquired land of a poor farmer in Paithan taluka of the district in 2003 and Rs 15 lakh has already been spent on the percolation tank that was never constructed, a reply to a Right to Information plea has revealed. After the farmer, Rajnibai Pandurang Wadnere (56), a resident of Bokud Jalgaon village in Paithan taluka, complained against the alleged misappropriation, the authorities filed a complaint against her, stating that she was trying to destroy the tank. Wadnere has been continuously following up the case since 2003 when the water conservation department acquired her land and got a percolation tank sanctioned on the land without even taking her consent. She has been running from pillar to post for the past decade but to no avail. She has been attending hearings of every Lokshahi Din called by the district collector since 2012. Wadnere told TOI, “For the past decade I have been raising the four points but nobody is ready to pay heed. Firstly, government departments never sent me any notice before starting the project on my land. Secondly, they do not have anything to show that I gave consent for the acquisition of the land. Thirdly, no percolation tank was ever constructed on my land and lastly, I have neither received nor asked for compensation for the land.” Wadnere said that during her decade-long fight over the issue, the documents obtained through RTI revealed that the percolation tank costing Rs 15 lakh existed only on papers. She had pointed out the alleged corruption in the construction of tank — the officials first sent a proposal for an additional Rs 10 lakh to complete the tank and later they scrapped its construction terming it unfeasible. Pandurang, Wadnere said, “In spite of scrapping the tank project, the officials are not ready to release my land. A portion of my land has even been deducted on the 7/12 document.” It was only after Pandurang started digging out information about many such projects that remained on paper and whose bills were cleared, the water conservation department, along with the revenue officials, conducted lodged a police complaint against Wadnere in 2012 for demolishing the percolation tank. The FIR too came under the cloud after Wadnere produced documents obtained under the RTI, showing that the project had been scrapped long back. Water resource (small scale irrigation) executive engineer Abdul Sattar Khan said, “The case dates back to August 2003 and I took charge of the office just a couple of months back. Considering the gravity of the issue, I have personally prepared a report in the matter and will submit it to the district collector on Monday morning.” (Times of India 2/1/15)

101. Villagers hold city to ransom (4)

Around 5,000 villagers from Dalma foothills gathered on Subernarekha Link Road in Sakchi on Thursday noon to protest against curbs on all non-forest activities in and around Dalma Wildlife Sanctuary, which, they claimed, would force displacement in the area. Apprehending threat to their livelihoods, villagers armed with traditional weapons blocked the thoroughfare near the district collectorate since noon that threw the vehicular movement out of gear for over four-and-a-half hours. Commuters, especially schoolchildren, who were going to Mango, different parts of Sakchi and Bhuiyandih, were stranded on Subernarekha Link Road for hours as a helpless administration failed to ease bottlenecks even after the blockade was lifted at 4.30pm. The ripple effects of the stir could be felt on other arteries such as Straight Mile Road (linking Sakchi to Northern Town, Bistupur) and Pipeline Road (linking Sakchi to Jubilee Park). “Our school was over at 1.30pm, but we are still stuck in the jam (at 2.15pm). I have to attend tuition at 4.30pm. I don’t know if I will be able to have my lunch today,” said Rashmi Mishra (14), a ninth grader of Motilal Nehru Public School in Northern Town, who was stranded on Straight Mile Road. Long-distance buses, leaving the city for Odisha and West Singhbhum, were also caught in the jam. Some tried to take alternative routes but could not avoid the snarls. Under the aegis of Dalma Kshetra Gram Sabha Suraksha Manch, villagers protesting against the Union government’s decision to notify Dalma Wildlife Sanctuary an eco-sensitive zone. They alleged that the move would lead to displacement of thousands of families and affect their livelihood. As per the May-2012 notification, no non-forestry activity – like commercial mining, commercial felling of trees, setting up of any type of industries causing pollution and disposal of waste – was allowed within the 5km radius of the sanctuary, spread over 522.98 sqkm in East Singhbhum and Seraikela-Kharsawan. Further, no concrete structure can be raised within 300m of the sanctuary. There are around 85 villages inside the sanctuary and 51 hamlets on the periphery. Dalma forest ranger Mangal Kachyap said several brick kiln and crusher unit operators had gone to Jharkhand High Court against the notification in 2013. But, the court upheld the notification in 2014. “Now, they are instigating the villagers to stage such agitations,” he claimed. Pradeep Besra, the president of the Manch and gram pradhan of Patamda, said they were forced to take the protest path. “We want the government to rollback the notification and have submitted a memorandum to governor Syed Ahmed and DC Amitabh Kaushal,” he added. Dhalbhum SDO Prem Ranjan said that the Manch had taken permission for a dharna in front of the district collectorate, but it had not informed the administration about the blockade. (The Telegraph 6/2/15)

102. TNCC to protest amendments to Land Acquisition Act (4)

Chennai: The Tamil Nadu Congress Committee on Sunday decided to stage protests against the Centre for approving amendments to the Land Acquisition Act, which it termed as “anti-farmer”.”This meeting condemns the BJP government’s approval for amendment to the Land Acquisition Act, initially brought in by the previous Congress government to protect the interests of farmers,” the party said after its Executive Council meeting today. Terming it as an “anti-farmer” act, the party decided to protest against the decision in all district headquarters and dates for the protest would be announced soon, it said. The Centre had in December last recommended promulgation of an ordinance making significant changes in the Land Acquisition Act, including removal of consent clause for acquiring land for five areas of industrial corridors, PPP projects, rural infrastructure, affordable housing and defence. AICC General Secretary Mukul Wasnik, TNCC President EVKS Elangovan were present in the executive council meeting.  (Zee News 8/2/15)

103. City notifying 39 villages for DDA land pooling (4)

New Delhi: The city administration is in the process of notifying 39 villages falling under the South Delhi Municipal Corporation to declare urban villages in the proposed land pooling policy of the Delhi Development Authority. In this connection, the Directorate of Local Bodies has sought permission from the Election Commission. The DDA had approved a land pooling policy last year. The villages, which are notified as green belts, lal doras, forests and unauthorised colonies, according to the NCR Regional Plan, will not be considered for land pooling. In cases where land with different land-uses has been pooled in, the whole chunk of land will be considered as one and the land-use will be determined accordingly. Lal Doras are villages within which norms and controls of municipality or urban development authority are not applicable. Land pooling is a technique in which the small parts of rural land is assembled together, developed with infrastructure and then re-distributed after deducting some part of it as a compensation towards infrastructure costs in a view to develop and bring out the potential of housing and infrastructure to reduce the load on the existing saturated areas, like core Delhi parts. The DDA is also granting Rs 10 crore annual budget for land pooling. A DDA official said: “This is a sustainable and efficient technique in which people are provided with developed land in the terms of all kinds of infrastructure facilities such as roads, lighting, public parks and water sewage system.” The list of 39 villages to be notified, includes Hastal, Bakkarwala, Baprola, Goelakhurd, Qutabpur, Shafipur Ranhaula, Nangli Sakrawati, Nawada Majra, Rajapur Khurd, Tajpur Khurd, Tiangapur Kotla, Asalatpur Khurd, Chhawla, Daryapur Khurd, Daulatpur, Dichaon Kalan, Jafarpur Kalan, Hasanpur, Dindarpur, Jaffarpur Hiran-kunda, Jhulijhuli, Kharkhari Jatmal, Kharkhari Nahar, Kharkhari Rond, Khaira, Khera Dabar, Pindawalan Kalan, Paprawat, Pindawalan Khurd, Rewla Khanpur, Karangpur, Sherpur Dairy, Ujwa, Roshanpura and Qazipur. The DDA has identified around 200 villages in which 95 villages will be converted into development areas and 88 others into urban villages. Many areas like Mehrauli, Bijwasan, Matiala and Chattarpur, which have Metro connectivity and are close to the IGI Airport, have a good potential for housing and infrastructure development. Mehrauli, where a lot of land is available, is located close to Gurgaon in the south-west district of Delhi. It has good connectivity with both Gurgaon and Faridabad. Land pooling in this area is likely to impact its real estate demand. The demand of residential and commercial real estate will be very high in this area once they are developed by land-pooling method. Estimates show all these villages put together will release around 70,000 acres of real estate in the national capital. A senior official said the process of land pooling has several benefits. “The city administration and the DDA will be able to earn revenue by developing and selling the land. The developers and landowners can also pool in their land so that they get all the infrastructural facilities without any legal issues. The entire process will generate a huge amount of developed land for developers and investors to build for housing, commercial and industrial purpose.” It is reliably learnt that some big real estate developers in the city have bought a major chunk of land in these villages before notification of the land pooling policy. The Land Acquisition Act 2013 came into force in 2014. The Act states that the land acquisition will happen only if more than 80 per cent of the land owners accept it. That’s precisely why the government expects people to hand over their land for the development purposes rather than through acquisition process. The owners will get back their respective land after it is developed. The new land policy has also reduced the minimum land for pooling from three hectares to two hectares. It is expected that about 40 per cent to 60 per cent of land will be given back to the land owner after development. The remaining land will be taken by the government as a cost for providing infrastructure. (Asian Age 9/2/15)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

104. Other ailments add to H1N1 death toll (3)

PUNE: Almost half the number of people who succumbed to swine flu in Maharashtra in January were also suffering from a comorbid condition such as diabetes and hypertension. Asthma, genetic disorder and dengue were also associated illnesses in some cases. The state reported 73 cases of swine flu infection and 22 deaths last month. Pune, the epicentre of swine flu infection from 2009 when the virus was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation, reported 27 cases and seven deaths last month. “Associated illnesses were the predominant factors responsible for most deaths in Maharashtra in January. Of the 22 people who succumbed to the virus last month, 12 patients had some underlying medical conditions. Predominant among them were diabetes and hypertension followed by asthma, pregnancy, genetic disorder and one patient who died had also tested positive for dengue,” said a state health official. “Of the seven people who succumbed to the H1N1 virus in Pune, four had some underlying medical condition like diabetes, hypertension, asthma. A 33-year-old woman from Ahmednagar who died of swine flu at KEM hospital had also tested positive for dengue,” said a health official of Pune Municipal Corporation. Doctors said the elderly and those suffering from health problems need to be extra careful. They also warned people against self medication and delaying treatment, as it may aggravate the condition. Experts say that since the virus is here to stay, the focus should now be on protecting the high-risk groups, which includes pregnant women, people with respiratory troubles, those with liver and heart diseases and the medical and paramedical staff that routinely get exposed to different viruses. An annual flu shot should help, said officer-bearers of the Indian Medical Association (IMA). “Swine flu has always been more severe than the regular seasonal influenza. Hence, seeking medical treatment in time is absolutely essential. The virus has not mutated. It is very much susceptible to Tamiflu,” said a senior scientist from National Institute of Virology (NIV). Rajasthan’s former chief minister Ashok Gehlot who tested positive for swine flu has also appealed to the people not to delay treatment, in his twitter post, in which he said he started timely treatment after he tested positive for the infection. (Times of India 3/2/15)

105. Half of Indian kids under five stunted, says report (3)

New Delhi: Almost half of Indian children under five years of age are stunted whereas one-fifth of the kids have wasting, suggests a global report that tracks nutrition status of all the 193 countries of the world. In addition, 40 per cent of Indian children do not receive Vitamin A, considered vital for growth, immunity and vision and more than 75 per cent children do not get the life saving oral rehydration salt (ORS) when suffering from diarrhoea. Stunting and wasting are the two main parameters to determine the nutritional status of a child. Malnutrition is determined by wasting (low weight-for-height) and stunting (low height-for-age) or a combination of both. While the report – released globally in November 2014 but discussed at a round table meeting in the Indian context on Wednesday – highlights several problem areas concerning the nutritional status of Indian kids. It also exposes critical data gap for a realistic assessment of the ground situation. The last national family health survey – India’s largest data set on health issues – came out in 2005-06, which was cited extensively in the global report. Thereafter, for the last ten years, the government has not carried out the NFHS exercise, because of which ground realities on several public health and nutrition issues are unknown to the government. National Statistical Commission Chairman Pronab Sen on Wednesday said that the new NFHS data is likely to come out by the end of 2015. “There is too little data and it is not adequate for policy makers. The NFHS-4 is being carried out in 29 states and six union territories covering 5,68,200 households, up from 1,09,000 households in the last survey done in 2005-06. The survey gives details of health statistics in the country and is the only source for malnutrition data,” said Sen. (Deccan Herald 4/2/15)

106. Animal-related diseases kill 50,000 people daily: Doctors (3)

Mumbai: Over 50,000 people in India daily die of diseases that emerge from pathogens and animals, said doctors at the Zoonosis conference held at KEM Hospital in Lower Parel on Saturday. The term Zoonosis refers to infectious diseases of animals that can naturally get transferred to humans. Over 132 of 175 emerging diseases almost 75 per cent are zoonotic in nature, and the load of such diseases in the near future is going to be immense. “Of 1,415 human pathogens, 868 (61 per cent) originate from animals and many of them have established themselves in humans. Zoonosis constitutes nearly 60 per cent of all known human infections and over 75 per cent of all emerging pathogens. A disease that starts as a zoonosis may have the potential to develop into a major human communicable disease. Many zoonoses are able to cause very significant levels of morbidity and mortality in humans,” said Dr Uday Kakroo, director, Millennium India Education Foundation. The doctors in the conference elaborated that humans are directly or indirectly involved, as they are the recipients as well as donors. To prevent cross-infection, social distance between humans and various species of animals is important. High-risk groups include infants and small children, who are at risk because of immature immune systems and poor hygiene; pregnant women; the elderly; immuno-compromised people, such as those undergoing cancer therapy, HIV/AIDS patients, hepatitis patients; cirrhotic patients; veterinarians; agriculture workers; medical practitioners and zoo, wildlife, primate and other animal health care workers. Anthrax, brucellosis, tuberculosis, Q-fever, leptospirosis, among other ailments are also known as Occupational Zoonosis. Dr Avinash Supe, dean, Sion Hospital, added that animals play a vital role as carriers of many vector-borne diseases like Japanese encephalitis (where pigs are carriers). Therefore, common preventive measures at both veterinary and medical sectors should be adopted with alacrity, he stressed. (Asian Age 8/2/15)

107. TB, calcium deficiency among Muslim women concern doctors (3)

PATNA: A congregation of Muslim intellectuals, particularly doctors, on Sunday rued that the community is hit by a number of non-communicable and communicable diseases. Talking on the sidelines of the meet here, noted surgeon Dr A A Hai said purdah system has hurt the community women not only socially but medically too. They are less exposed to sunlight, which leads to deficiency of Vitamin D, hindering absorption of calcium. Thus, the body suffers from calcium deficiency, which causes a host of diseases, he said. Dr Hai also said prevalence of anaemia is also common among Muslim women. “Generally speaking, Muslim women are still confined to their homes and as such, not able to assert themselves. Their diet is still not rich, which causes anaemia in them,” he said. Doctors said tuberculosis is also common among Muslims because of poor hygiene in the lower strata of society. They also expressed concern over the rising tobacco consumption among Muslims. Their observation also finds echo in a Mahavir Cancer Sansthan study of 2014 which said out of total tobacco consumers, 46% are Muslims. The doctors present at the congregation said the practice of male circumcision is a healthy one as it prevents transmission of sexually transmitted disease. Articles in many academic journals, including Lancet, support this opinion, a doctor said. Doctors said inbreeding is an issue, but its gravity is decreasing with each passing generation. Regarding family planning, the doctors said it is wrong to say that Islam prohibits it. Many papers were also presented at the scientific session of the conference. Dr Syed Yasir Habeeb and Dr Saadiya Hassan presented a paper linking diabetes and oral health. The doctors said diabetics face high risk of tooth decay, gum diseases, dry mouth and fungal infection. (Times of India 9/2/15)

HIV/AIDS

108. HIV may stay hidden in ‘quiet’ immune cells (3)

WASHINGTON: In what could lead to a cure for HIV, researchers have found that the human immunodeficiency virus may stay hidden for years in certain “quiet” immune cells. Drugs for HIV have become adept at suppressing infection, but they still can not eliminate it because the medication in these pills does not touch the virus’ hidden reserves, which lie dormant within infected white blood cells, the researchers said.”It has recently been shown that infected white blood cells can proliferate over time, producing many clones, all containing HIV’s genetic code. However, we found that these clones do not appear to harbour the latent reservoir of virus,” said study author Lillian Cohn from Rockefeller University.”Instead our analysis points to cells that have never divided as the source of the latent reservoir,” Cohn said. (Times of India 1/2/15)

109. NGO takes up HIV+ outreach worker’s cause (3)

LUDHIANA: One of the nine outreach workers designated in Ludhiana at an ICTC (Integrated Counselling and Testing Centre) alleged that Dr US Sooch – project officer (Ludhiana), AIDS Control – disclosed her identity in a discriminatory statement to the media on January 31. This issue was brought up by an NGO – Punjab Networking of Positive People Society – actively working against the discrimination with HIV positive people, and for the rights of the affected people, and awareness of AIDS. On behalf of the outreach workers opposing this ‘insensitive’ step of Dr Sooch, the NGO has written letters to Punjab health minister Surjit Kumar Jiyani, Punjab State Human Rights Commission, and the National AIDS Control Society. They will be submitting a memorandum to deputy commissioner of Ludhiana, Rajat Aggarwal, on Monday, demanding legal action against Dr Sooch, and an inquiry into the whole case. Meanwhile, Sooch has denied giving the statement. “I have given no such statement anywhere. I know the rules, and I also know that if I do not follow them, no one else will,” he emphasized. President of the NGO, Jagjit Singh Mann, while talking to ToI, said: “When it comes to keeping the identity of the HIV positive patient confidential, there are very minute things on which people need to focus, otherwise it can lead to discrimination against them in society. Keeping in mind the guidelines, some outreach workers or their family members are supposed to be HIV positive patients. If Dr Sooch knew that the identity of the HIV positive outreach worker was being discussed openly, then he should have been taken care to conceal it. However, until now, none of the staff working with the outreach worker knew that she was HIV positive. But after this disclosure, she is under threat of discrimination at her workplace, and also where she lives.” The NGO also brought to light that there is shortage of technical staff in Ludhiana at many places for the past one year, but there have been no appointments made by the district AIDS control society. According to present information, both the posts of lab technicians at the ICTC of the Christian Medical College and Hospital (CMCH), Ludhiana, are lying vacant for about a year, and the lives of patients getting HIV tests done have been put at stake with non-technical staff doing the tests. It is to be noted that there are nine ICTCs in Ludhiana district – five of them in the villages of Payal, Khanna, Jagraon, Raikot, and Samrala; and four of them in the city at Dayanand Medical College and Hospital (DMCH), Civil Hospital, and two at the Christian Medical College and Hospital (CMCH). According to the guidelines of the National AIDS Control Society (NACO), there should be a counsellor, a lab technician, and an outreach worker at an ICTC, who can then refer the HIV positive patient to an ART (anti-retroviral therapy) centre in the city for treatment. NGO head Mann said: “As the lab technician is not available, other non-technical staff are asked to perform the task of technical staff. How can we depend on such lax AIDS control services in the city? The condition is the same at some other ICTCs also, where lab technicians are available.” When Sooch was questioned about this, he told ToI: “We are looking for lab technicians for the two ICTCs at CMCH. Very soon, the appointments will be made.” (Times of ndia 2/1/15)

110. HIV prevalence among injection-drug users in Punjab is 21.10%: Official (3)

CHANDIGARH: The prevalence of HIV among Injection Drug Users in Punjab is as high as 21.10 percent, Navreet Singh Kang, Union additional secretary, ministry of Health and Family Welfare said here on Friday. Similarly, in Chandigarh it is 7.20 percent, he said, adding that the average in both Punjab and Chandigarh is on higher side. The harm reduction services for Injection Drug Users (IUDs) which advocate for Needle and Syringe Exchange Programme (NSP) and Opioid Substitution Treatment (OST) are being implemented by the respective State AIDS Control Societies (SACS) in these states and the same needs to be strengthened and expanded so that every drug user can be reached. “For this, it is very important that SACS and law enforcement agencies work in close collaboration so that maximum people can be reached and be benefitted from the harm reduction strategy,” he said. He was addressing a national AIDS Control Organisation workshop here on Enhancing Partnership between Law Enforcement Agencies and Civil Societies organization for HIV prevention and control. The workshop was attended by above 80 representatives including Officers of National AIDS Control Organisation, Govt of India, Department of Home Affairs, Law Enforcement agencies including Narcotics Control Bureau and Police, Civil Society Organisations and State AIDS Control Societies of Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh, an official spokesperson said. Sixteen alleged drug peddlars and drug user caught by the anti-narcotic cell of the police are produced at the Esplanade Court in Mumbai. (TOI Photo by Uma Kadam)  Jagpal Singh Sandhu, additional chief secretary (home), Punjab, lauded the role of health department in containing the HIV epidemic in the State. He said that the role of police force should not be restricted to the punitive aspect only, but it should also play an active role in the rehabilitation of the drug users. While addressing the senior police personnel from Punjab, Chandigarh, and Haryana, he stated that the government will initiate district level sensitization meetings to take the process forward. (Times of India 6/2/14)

111. HIV-related stigma, discrimination discussed (3)

GUWAHATI, Feb 6 – In order to address the issue of stigma and discrimination of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)-infected persons especially in health institutions across Assam, an workshop titled “Addressing HIV related Stigma and Discrimination in Health Care Setting and Assam State AIDS Control Society (ASACS) Data Dissemination” was organised in Guwahati on Thursday. The day-long workshop was conducted by Assam State AIDS Control Society with support from the United Nations International Childrens Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Guwahati. The programme was inaugurated by Dr Rathin Bhuyan, Director of Health Services and was attended by medical officers of both government and private hospitals. In his inaugural address, Dr Bhuyan said, “Along with the rise of HIV in the region, the menace of stigma and discrimination is also on the higher side of the ladder.” He urged the medical officers and staff to treat all patients equally in the hospitals. Welcoming the participants, Dr PN Talukdar, Additional Project Director presented an overall view of the HIV/AIDS scenario in the state. Dr Ved Prakash Gautam of UNICEF said, “Stigma and discrimination mainly affect the children, adolescents and women and thus this menace must be addressed urgently.” Shalini Bharat of Tata Institute of Social Science, Mumbai, speaking on the issue, said, “ Stigma reinforces the discrimination of the poor and the marginalized section which is already there in the society.” President of Indian Network of Positive People, Jahnabi Goswami said, “ Stigma and discrimination related to HIV is there in every sphere – be it in health set-ups, in religious institutions, in educational institutions, work place- but it is very sad that the Government has not taken any step in this regard.” She further lamented that despite assurances, no government has done anything to pass the HIV/AIDS bill in the Parliament which has been lying for the last 10 years.” “There is a lack of knowledge amongst the people and also the stigmatized victim does not know whom and where to report. A strong advocacy is required,” Jahnabi added. Dr RR Gangakhedkar, Director of National AIDS Research Institute, Pune stressed on the use of universal precaution by the medicos while dealing with the patients. “Risk factor is more while dealing with the HIV negative patients rather than the positive ones. Because there is a certain level of complacency on the part of the doctor while dealing with the negative patients as the patient may be in the window period,” Gangakhedkar added. Dr Chiranjeev Bhattacharya, State Epidemiologist, ASACS updated the participants on the three publications released on the occasion. He also enlightened the participants on the HIV/AIDS research activities in the State. (The Assam Tribune 7/2/14)

 

Posted by admin at 10 February 2015

Category: Uncategorized

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Dalits to organise panchayat over lack of temple access (2)

Meerut: Dalits living in Meerut villages on Friday decided to organise a panchayat to discuss the lack of access to a Balmiki temple situated on Meerut Baghpat road. This comes a day after about sixty Dalits of Jamalpur village in Meerut threatened to convert to Islam after they were denied access to the temple allegedly by its upper caste priest. The aggrieved Dalits, who were denied permission to celebrate Balmiki Jayanti on October 8, gave the deadline of January 26 for getting access to the temple failing which they will convert to Islam. Meanwhile, the local BJP leaders continued to persuade them on Friday to let go of their wish to convert to Islam. Premnath Dhingar, a local Dalit leader told The Hindu that more than 2 lakhs Dalits who live in Meerut countryside will attend the panchayat. “We will meet tomorrow [Saturday] to fix the date of the panchayat. We will chalk out our future strategy about how to get access to the temple which has been hijacked by upper caste people.” The VHP approached the Dalit families, asking them not to convert to Islam and assuring them access to the temple but activists like Mr. Dhingar remained unimpressed. (The Hindu 10/1/15)

2. Dalit man burnt alive in ‘honour killing’ (2)

Bhopal: A 23-year-old Dalit man and his two friends were allegedly burnt alive in a case of ‘honour killing’ at the border of Balaghat and Seoni districts in Bhopal, police said on Sunday. Chandraboj (41), Deendayal (30), Subham (18) and Vinod (25) were arrested for killing Dipak and his two accomplices on Thursday for having relationship with a minor girl of their family, Balaghat’s Tirodi police station in-charge inspector Harish Yadav told PTI. “The killings were carried out for honour,” he said. Chandraboj, Deendayal and Subham were arrested on Saturday while the fourth accused was nabbed on Sunday, Yadav said. The accused allegedly tricked the victim by sending him an SMS from the girl’s phone asking him to meet her at Dhobi Tola area three days ago, police said. Dipak along with his friends Rajesh (26) and Nihal (18) rushed to meet the girl and were thrashed by the accused, Yadav said, adding that the trio was locked in a jeep and the vehicle was set on fire by the accused. Chandraboj, uncle of the girl was furious after he read some intimate messages sent by Dipak to his niece and thus hatched a plan to kill the youth with the help of other family members, police said. Further probe in the matter is on, they added. (DNA 11/1/15)

3. Bihar court acquits 24 accused in 1999 Dalit massacre (2)

Patna: Citing lack of evidence, a Bihar court Tuesday acquitted 24 people of the 1999 massacre of 22 Dalits, a government lawyer said. Additional District and Sessions Judge Raghvendra Kumar Singh of Jehanabad district civil court pronounced the verdict. Outlawed Ranvir Sena men had allegedly killed 22 Dalits Jan 25, 1999, in Shankar Bigha village in Jehanabad. The Sena was a private army of landed upper caste Bhumihars. The victims were landless agricultural workers and were all Dalits. Police had filed an FIR against 29 accused in the case. Shankar Bigha is located near Lakshmanpur-Bathe where the Ranbir Sena killed 61 agricultural workers belonging to backward communities in December 1997. (Business Standard 13/1/15)

4. Dalit author accused of using abusive language, attacked (2)

TRICHY: A dalit writer and author of ‘Oorar Varaintha Oviyam’ (Painting by Villagers) Durai Guna was allegedly attacked by members of his own community during Pongal celebrations on Thursday in his native village in Pudukottai district. This is the second attack on the author after his book was published last year. In ‘Oorar Varaintha Oviyam’, Durai Guna cites instances of atrocities against dalits in his native village of Kulanthiranpattu in Pudukottai district. Guna lodged a complaint at the Karambankudi police station against five dalits. Guna complained that since the launch of his book in July 2014, he has been facing several threats. “The non-dalits in the village have been instigating dalits to attack me,” Guna told TOI. After several months, Guna had returned to his village to celebrate Pongal when he was attacked. Indicating that it appeared to be a family feud, Pudukottai superintendent of police E S Uma said, “We received two complaints, one from Durai Guna and another from Manickam, one of the five men against whom the author complained. An FIR has been registered against both for using foul and abusive language”.Following an earlier attack soon after the release of his book, the author had moved the Madras high court and sought police protection. Police said when the author arrived in the village on Thursday he was accosted by five villagers, who verbally abused him. But, a couple of policemen, who were on duty as part of his security, prevented any further attack.Durai Guna alleged that the non-dalits in the village had been instigating the dalits against him. Fearing further reprisal, Durai Guna had moved to Chennai after the first incident in August. His father Duraisamy, 65, registered a complaint with the police, alleging discrimination and threat from the village panchayat president. (Times of India 18/1/15)

5. SC, ST students protest, allege discrimination by PU special cell (2)

CHANDIGARH: Members of Ambedkar Students’ Association (ASA) on Wednesday staged a protest outside the Panjab University (PU) vice chancellor office and alleged discriminatory attitude on part of PU’s Special Cell for SC/ST – especially against students coming from Haryana. ASA president Gurdeep Singh said that the SC/ST cell of PU was not following guidelines of the University Grants Commission. “We met the registrar, Col Guljit Singh Chadha, who assured us to redress the problems of SC/ST students within two days,” Singh added. ASA also demanded the transfer of SC/ST cell’s superintendent Chandarkanta. ASA, in its letter to the vice chancellor – a copy of which was sent to the chairman of National Commission for Scheduled Castes – said that it had been receiving complaints from SC/ST students of harassment by various departments and SC/ST cell, PU. “We have already written to your office on several occasions about the discriminatory action of PU Special Cell for SC/ST but no action has been taken against officials concerned,” it read. ASA claimed that students of Haryana had been submitting post-matric scholarship form to the state’s welfare department since the implementation of scheme, with no help from the PU cell. It said, “This is a big problem because sometimes freshers could not find the welfare office. As per the UGC guidelines, it is the duty of the special cell for SC/ST to advertise information about any scheme meant for SC/ST students and SC/ST cell should collect the scholarship/stipend form from students through their departments and send it to the department concerned.” “We approached the SC/ST cell of PU, but they denied to accept the Post-Matric Scholarship and replied that they have a duty to deal with the students of Punjab and Chandigarh only… due to the discriminatory attitude of the Chandrkanta (suprintendent) of SC/ST Cell SC/ST students are facing problems,” the letter read. (Times of India 22/1/15)

6. NGO wants relief for Dalits attacked by group (2)

PUDUKOTTAI: Evidence, a Madurai-based non-government organisation, has urged the State government to pay compensation to three Dalits allegedly attacked by a group of persons belonging to upper caste at Manganur village near Gandarvakottai near here recently. The three Dalits – Marimuthu (70), Rajasekar (29) and his brother Prabakaran (27) – were attacked by a group of persons belonging to upper caste community near the panchayat union middle school in the village on Saturday. Previous enmity between the two communities was said to be the reason behind the attack, according to police sources. Of the injured, Marimuthu has been admitted to Thanjavur Medical College and Hospital. A fact-finding committee from Evidence, after a visit to the village, said that refusal of the Dalits to beat the ‘thappu’, a percussion instrument, during a funeral procession is said to have triggered the issue. Irked over their decision, the upper caste Hindus took objection to the brothers, Rajasekar and Prabakaran, visiting a temple. Based on a complaint filed by Prabakaran, the police registered a case under Sec. 147 (rioting), Sec. 341 (wrongful restraint), Sec. 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and Sec. 506 (1) (Criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code and Sec.3 (1) of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Three persons, R.Marimuthu (23), S.Ganesan (24) and S.Sivamani (23), have been arrested and remanded to custody. The police have also registered a case against a group of Dalits, based on a complaint from Thamaraiselvan, alleging that they had damaged a tea stall in the village. (The Hindu 24/1/15)

7. Dalit man hacked to death in Odisha (2)

Kendrapara: A 40-year-old Dalit man was hacked to death at a village in Aul area of Odisha’s Kendrapara district, the police said Monday. The deceased, identified as Kailash Mallik, was hacked allegedly by fellow villagers in a sudden fit of rage in Khandola village, about 30 km from here, the police said. The profusely bleeding victim succumbed to injuries before he could be hospitalised, police said. About six persons allegedly involved in yesterday’s incident have been identified and search is on to arrest them, police said. (Zee news 26/1/15)

8. Dalits scholarship: State in a fix over Centre’s directive (2)

CHENNAI: The State government finds itself in a tight corner over the latest directive of the Central government to implement the Direct Benefits Transfer (DBT) scheme with regard to scholarship schemes for Dalit students.As per the Centre’s decision, students covered under the scholarship schemes will, as a matter of rule, receive the amount directly through their bank accounts. Recently, Secretary in the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment Sudhir Bhargava sent a letter to Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary K. Gnanadesikan, urging him to issue instructions regarding the DBT implementation for all the scholarship schemes of the Ministry in an “effective and efficient way.” Even though the Centre’s move also covers scholarship schemes meant for the Backward Classes/Most Backward Classes, its applicability to Dalit and Scheduled Tribes students is posing a major challenge to the State government. After the revamp of the post-matric scholarship scheme in 2012, the number of applicants and the amount sanctioned have risen sharply. During 2009-2010, about 5.1 lakh students were benefited and the amount of scholarship released was around Rs.170 crore. In 2012, the scheme’s norms were tuned to accommodate students of professional courses liberally. In 2013-2014, the figure of beneficiaries went up about 6.81 lakh students, registering a 25 per cent rise. The amount of scholarship released was around Rs. 898 crore, about 430 per cent increase. In fact, the State has got cumulative arrears of about Rs. 1,000 crore from the Centre for the scholarship scheme, says a senior official. The issue does not end with figures. Given the nature of the scheme, there is an element of the State’s share in expenditure. The State government has to absorb about Rs. 353.5 crore every year. The Central funding comes into picture when the overall expenditure exceeds this amount. The official says it is not practical to segregate the list of beneficiaries for the purpose of cost-sharing. Even if it is done, the release of the scholarship may vary from one group of students to another, causing confusion and anxiety among the student community. When asked for reaction, a senior official in the Union Ministry says the Centre was conscious of the concerns of the States. A software was being developed by the Department of Information Technology to ensure smooth payment of scholarship to all students, irrespective of the source of funding. The official adds that till now, 22 States have furnished information on beneficiaries and modalities of disbursal of scholarship and Tamil Nadu is not one of them. The Centre’s decision evokes varied response from Dalit activists. K. Bharathi, national secretary of the Revolutionary Youth Association, says: “Even now, not all the eligible Dalit students get the assistance and the State government’s orders are not being implemented in toto. It is immaterial as to which government – Central or State – disburses assistance.  There should be no hassle for students in getting the assistance.” M. Bharadan, State organiser of the Ambedkar Kalvi Nutrandu Iyakkam, says his organisation will oppose the Centre’s move towards DBT in the post-matric scholarship scheme. “Nearly one lakh Dalit students pursuing engineering are benefited now, whereas only about 30,000 students were covered earlier. So, the present system should remain and the role of the State governments should not be reduced,” he emphasises. (The Hindu 27/1/15)

9. Atrocities against Dalits rising in UP: Punia (2)

Kanpur: National Commission for Scheduled Caste (NCSC) today said that that cases of atrocities against Dalits are on the rise in Uttar Pradesh during the tenure of the present state government as compared to the last regime. Addressing reporters here, NCSC Chairman P L Punia said, at present several cases of Dalits are pending for a long time and their speedy disposal does not seem to be a priority of the state government. Punia today held a meeting to take stock of the atrocities cases in Kanpur division which was attended by senior administrative and police officials of Kanpur Nagar, Kanpur Dehat, Auraiya, Etah, Farrukhabad and Kannauj districts. “During the tenure of the present government there is no dearth in cases of atrocities against Dalits, but there is an rise in such cases,” he said, adding, this is because preventing Dalit atrocities is not the priority of the government. When asked whether atrocities against Dalits have increased in UP during the tenure of present government as compared to the tenure of last BSP government, he said, “Yes the crimes against Dalits have increased and several such cases are pending.” “One reason for this can be the fact that cases of Dalit atrocities are now registered in police stations. The chief of last BSP government was a dalit just by name but issues concerning Dalit were not priority for the last government,” he claimed. “Incidences of rapes, atrocities against Dalit used to take place regularly when the BSP government was in power, but the government did not pay attention towards such incidences,” he alleged. According to Punia, he is visiting all 18 divisions in the state after which he will meet UP CM Akhilesh Yadav to appraise him about the issue. Punia said, prior to this he has reviewed the situation in Punjab, Kerala and Changigarh. During the review, he said, the matters which are pending for last 2 years are being cleared. He has instructed all District Magistrates and SSPs to appoint an officer of SDM rank for speedy disposal of cases of Dalit atrocities and asked them to deal with such cases more seriously and with priority. According to him, all SSP’s have been asked to instruct the SHOs to immediately register FIR in such cases and asked them to take action against the errant officers. Punia said that 38 out of 66 cases were disposed from Kanpur city, 15 out of 20 cases were disposed from Kanpur Dehat, 13 out of 20 cases were disposed from Auraiya, 2 out of 4 cases were resolved from Farrukhabad and 6 out of 8 cases were settled from Kannauj. (Business Standard 30/1/15)

TRIBALS

10. Police to recruit tribals to end Maoist menace (6)

KOZHIKODE: In a bid to fight the Maoist menace, tribespeople will be recruited directly to the police force, home minister Ramesh Chennithala said here on Friday. Talking to reporters after a meeting with senior police officers in north Kerala, the minister said the decision to recruit adivasis directly – for the first time – was taken after considering the suggestions of tribal organizations. “As many as 200 tribals will be recruited as constables in the first phase,” Chennithala said. The minister said the police would be entrusted with overseeing the implementation of development projects in tribal areas. District police chiefs will hold consultations withdistrict collectors to address issues affecting such areas The government has resolved to take stringent action against Maoists. “Those helping Maoists directly or indirectly will be closely monitored. Strong action will be initiated against them if there is credible evidence,” Chennithala said. Urging the media not to glorify Maoists, he said a meeting of news editors would be held soon. He added that the state would provide protection to cops involved in anti-Maoist operations. Home secretary Nalini Netto, DGP K S Balasubramaniam, ADGP (intelligence) A Hemachandran, ADGP (north zone) N Shanker Reddy, IG Suresh Raj Purohit, DIG (Kannur), Dinendra Kashyap and others attended the meeting. (Times of India 10/1/15)

11. Tribal people press for rights on ‘podu lands’ (6)

KHAMMAM: Hundreds of Adivasis from the tribal pockets in Kothagudem division took out a massive demonstration at Komararam village in Yellendu mandal on Saturday to press for grant of rights over ‘podu lands’ being tilled by them for many years. The demonstration was organised under the aegis of the CPI (ML-New Democracy) district committee and its frontal organisation All India Kisan Mazdoor Sabha (AIKMS). Adivasis comprising a significant number of women from different parts of Agency areas in Yellendu and its neighbouring mandals participated in the protest demonstration at Komararam. Addressing the demonstrators, the CPI (ML-ND) district secretary P. Ranga Rao alleged that cases were being foisted against Adivasis engaged in ‘podu cultivation’ in the lands under their possession for decades. He charged the successive governments with handing over thousands of acres of land to the multinational companies and subjecting hapless Adivasis to coercive measures for cultivating ‘podu lands’, their traditional source of livelihood. He demanded that the government should effectively implement the Forest Rights Act and safeguard the rights of Adivasis over ‘podu lands’ under their possession for a long. The party’s State leader V. Venkataramaiah, former MLA Gummadi Narsaiah and others spoke. (The Hindu 11/1/15)

12. Tribal chiefs in Meghalaya to approach National Commission (6)

Shillong: Tribal chiefs in Meghalaya today sought the opinion of the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes on the recent judgement by the High Court here prohibiting tribal village headmen to issue NOC or interfere with the administration. “We sincerely request the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes to kindly provide its opinion as to the observations of Justice S R Sen, High Court of Meghalaya,” John F Kharshiing, chairman Grand Council of Chiefs of Meghalaya, said in a letter to NCST chairman Rameshwar Oraon. He argued that the opinion was sought since the matter was under scrutiny by the various Ministries and the commission relating to the incorporation and implementation of Instrument ofAccession and Annexed Agreement 17 August 1948 into the Constitution of India. Justice S R Sen observed in his December 10 judgement that a village/locality headman did not derive any right from law, and rule or from the Constitution of India to issue NOC for the purpose of birth/death or for registration of any document as well as for building permission and obtaining loan. (Zee News 16/1/15)

13. Adivasi youth loses leg to December crossfire (6)

Guwahati: Bikash Tigga, a 22-year-old Adivasi who was shot in both legs by police on December 24, lost his severely-infected right leg on Monday after a team of doctors at a Delhi hospital conducted an above-the-knee amputation on him. Tigga, a resident of Monmohini tea estate in Sonitpur district, used to work as a wage labourer. He was shot when police opened fire in Dhekiajuli on December 24 to disperse Adivasis who had gathered to protest against the December 23 massacre by NDFB-S. Tigga was brought to Gauhati Medical College Hospital (GMCH) in a serious condition and was immediately shifted to the ICU, his home for the following two weeks. He was moved to a private hospital in Delhi on January 14. “We had no choice, but to amputate his leg. The blood vessels on his right leg were badly infected. It could have turned fatal for the young man,” said Sushil Kumar Jain, senior surgeon at the Delhi hospital. The decision to severe his leg was taken after careful consideration and was accepted by Tigga’s family after much convincing by doctors. “The doctors at GMCH did their best. They took enough care of the young man and their efforts should be appreciated. A senior expert from GMCH contacted me to further Tigga’s treatment in Delhi and I agreed. Mindless violence has robbed an innocent man of his leg,” added Jain. After the procedure, Tigga will be fitted with an artificial limb. He has been shifted to a recovery room after the surgery and will be kept under observation for a while. His other leg is healing properly. “Tigga was not a part of the protest. He was out on work. We are worried about his condition. We pleaded with the doctors to do their best to save his leg, but his luck ran out,” said a member of Adivasi Mukti Sangram Samiti. The December 23 massacre of Adivasis by Bodo rebels and the consequent retaliatory attacks left nearly 80 people dead and thousands homeless. (Times of India 20/1/15)

14. Implementing Forest Rights Act vital: Medha (6)

Kozhikode: Proper implementation of the Recognition of Forest Rights Act and the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act is vital to preventing the corporatisation of land resources, environmental activist Medha Patkar has said. Speaking to The Hindu here on Thursday on the sidelines of a meeting to form a vigilance committee to ensure that the State government stuck to its promises concerning the Adivasis in the State, she said saving Adivasi land meant saving the Western Ghats. She said the Adivasi movements in Kerala had made a dent in the system that was against them. Ms. Patkar, who played a major role in the success of the Nilpu Samaram in Thiruvananthapuram recently, appreciated the State government as well as the Forest and Social Justice Departments for their support to the Adivasis’ cause. She insisted that the government keep its promise and make sure that the Adivasis actually got the 9,600 acres granted to them. On their part, the Adivasis should take up the regeneration of forestland. There was no point in leaving it to the government, she added. Lashing out at the Narendra Modi government at the Centre, she said, “They are giving nod for anything in the name of development. They are making it easy for business and not common people. Acts are being changed for it. The economy is being opened up for corporates. Our natural resources are being looted,” she alleged. The activist also demanded that the Madhav Gadgil report for the protection of Western Ghats be implemented, as it was very scientific and well-researched. (The Hindu 24/1/15)

15.  ‘Militant was involved in killing of Adivasis’ (6)

BENGALURU: In a joint operation with the Assam police, the West Division police on Friday nabbed a 24-year-old militant belonging to the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) from a lodge in Majestic. According to the police, Birkhang Basumatry alias Burlong Buttur, from Chirang in Assam, is a self-styled area commander in Kokhrajar district of Assam. He was allegedly involved in the killing of eight Adivasis at Lungsung on December 23 and six Hindi-speaking persons at Serfanguri in Kokrajhar district of Assam on January 16 last year, and has been on the run since then. Based on a tip-off received from their Assam counterparts, a team tracked him down and arrested him from a lodge in Majestic area. He had checked in just a few hours before he was arrested. “After being tipped off that he was staying in a lodge in the city, we started scrutinising every lodge in Majestic and surrounding areas. We picked up a suspect from one of the lodges. Photographs mailed by the Assam police helped us confirm his identity,” a senior police officer said. (The Hindu 25/1/15)

16. Kani tribal settlements crying for basic amenities (6)

VATTAPARAI (KANYAKUMARI): Over 5,000 Kani tribals in 47 settlements in Kanykumari district are crying for basic amenities, according to S.R. Sekar, district president, Tamil Nadu Tribals’ Association (TNTA). Mr Sekar, also president of Kadayal Town Panchayat under whose control 17 Kani settlements with over 200 families fall, said here on Sunday that the tribal people were living without basic amenities such as protected drinking water, roads, health care facilities and street lights. Vellerukkumalai and Paruthimalai tribal settlements were part of Kadayal Town Panchayat. In spite of this, a majority of the funds from the Western Ghats Development Schemes were diverted to other urban and rural local bodies, said Mr Sekar. The tribal people were forced to drink water from pits dug up on the banks of Chitrar I dam water spread area. A survey was carried out by the Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage Board a few years ago to provide protected drinking water to them, but nothing had happened so far, he lamented. (The Hindu 27/1/15)

17. VHP ‘reconverts’ 150 tribals in Bengal (6)

Kolkata: In its largest ever “reconversion” programme and the first public one in West Bengal, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) organised a “cleansing” ritual for 150 tribals in Birbhum district on Wednesday. While the event took place in the presence of senior VHP leaders, including Praveen Togadia, Sangh leaders preferred to downplay the event. A livid Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, however, has asked the district administration for a detailed report on the matter. With the BJP making inroads into Bengal’s socio-political scenario, the VHP managed a coup of sorts by “reconverting” about 150 people of Khoramdanga village, where most residents are Christians. The event was followed by a rally addressed by Togadia and other VHP leaders. Like in other states, the VHP has called the programme “Ghar Wapsi”, where it claims, those Hindus who have been “forcibly” converted to another religion are being taken back home. “The CM is angry with the district administration. We should have had the information beforehand so that necessary steps could have been taken,” an official said, not willing to elaborate what “necessary steps” means. The Trinamool also reacted sharply against the action. “Bengal has a history of living in communal harmony and bigots like Togadia will be dealt with ruthlessly,” Trinamool spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP, Derek O’Brien tweeted after the news became public. While there have been murmurs of several such programmes having taken place in different parts of Bengal with no official confirmation from VHP, the one at Khoramdanga came to light since the district administration was keeping an eye on the situation due to Togadia’s presence. While VHP leaders refused to come on record after the news spread and led to an uproar by Trinamool Congress and the Left parties, sources confirmed that the ‘Ghar Wapsi’ programme took place on Wednesday evening. (Deccan Herald 30/1/15)

WOMEN

18. Gang-Raped, Burnt With Cigarettes, Her Hope for Justice Now Fast-Tracked (8)

Lucknow:  At 13, she was kidnapped, gang-raped and tortured with lit cigarettes. Nine years on, she is still wading through court hearings, seeking punishment for the man who, along with five others, allegedly sexually assaulted her inside a moving car in Lucknow. A special fast-track court in the city will today take up what came to be known as the Aashiana rape case after the neighbourhood where the incident took place. When her case was transferred to the fast-track court recently, following tougher laws spurred by the horrific gang-rape and murder of a student in Delhi in 2012, the young woman dared to hope again. The rape survivor, now 22, tells NDTV how for years, her life has revolved around court dates and a protracted legal battle that has meant only trauma – physical, emotional and social. “Only when we have a court judgement can I believe in this court, that something good has happened. We have been suffering for so long,” she said. The main accused, Gaurav Shukla, the nephew of a leader of the state’s ruling Samajwadi Party, roams free. He insists he was a minor when the crime was committed, even though the Juvenile Justice Board rejected it in January last year. Three of the six accused were convicted; two others died. “Since January 2013, there have been 36 court dates and arguments have only happened for 30 minutes. They are using delaying tactics,” said Jalaj Gupta, the woman’s lawyer. The woman’s father wants closure. “We want a quick decision so we will know whether there is justice in the country or not.” The woman, who is taking her Class 12 examination, isn’t willing to give up. “The day I get justice, I will have a new life,” she said. (NDTV 13/1/15)

19. Abuse of schoolgirl sparks protests (8)

TIRUPUR: Relatives of a four-year-old girl, studying in a private school here, and the public staged protests and blocked traffic for about six hours near the school premises and on Uthukuli Road. They alleged that the girl, studying at Vidhya Vikas Matriculation School, was sexually abused by the cleaner of the school bus. Tension prevailed at the school on Tuesday as mother of the student and their relatives demanded arrest of the bus cleaner who allegedly abused the victim inside the bus just before the departure of the vehicle to drop the students back home on Monday evening. Superintendent of Police Amit Kumar Singh told The Hindu that the accused, Sankar (60), the bus cleaner, was arrested under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act on Tuesday. “We have also now taken up cases against the principal and the administrative officer of the school under Section 21 (2) of the POCSO Act for not reporting the matter to the police,” he added. The girl’s mother said that she was witness to the incident and immediately reported the matter to the school authorities. However, the school authorities did not take the matter to the notice of the police even though it was a case of sexual abuse of a minor girl and did not take action against the cleaner, she alleged. School authorities said that as soon as the matter came to their notice on Monday evening, the cleaner was summoned immediately but he ran away from the scene. (The Hinu 14/1/15)

20. Killing, Selling Female Babies Rampant in Chincholi: Report (8)

KALABURAGI: The practice of killing female babies or selling them continues in remote tandas in Chincholi taluk, according to a report. The Kalaburagi District Human Development Report-2014 was prepared by Chaya Degaonkar, the chairperson of the Social Science Department of Gulbarga University. Chaya, an expert member in Hyderabad Karnataka Region Development Board, told Express that the study was conducted on the status of tandas from June to August, 2014, with her research students who stayed in a few tandas. None of the government or private agencies has kept records on the sale or killing of female babies in the tandas of Konchavaram gram panchayat. But one-to-one interaction with residents of tandas by research students revealed the practice of killing or selling female babies. Chaya said her team conducted studies in Chapla Naik Tanda, Jawaharnagar Tanda, Bhikkunaik Tanda, Jilvarsha Tanda, Ontichinta Thanda, Oonliguddin Tanda and Chindanur Tanda. Chaya said a few women admitted that they sold their babies but kept government agencies in the dark due to fear of prosecution. Others said poverty had forced them to starve their babies to death with the help of aayahs. According to the report, the women considered female children a burden since the traditional belief was that only males could work and that they had to pay dowries for girls at the time of their marriage.  Hence, women keep bearing children till they give birth to at least one male child. The report quotes a woman from Chindanur Thanda: “When my fifth daughter was born, my husband was away at work in Mumbai. When I have no money, what can I do with another daughter? Who will pay the dowry? Since the midwife said she would arrange to take care of the baby, I gave her the baby in exchange for Rs 500.” Midwives instigate poor women to sell babies, says Chaya. Due to fear of police, this is carried out secretly, she said. Most of the tandas where the study was conducted were deprived of government schemes. Only girls who benefited from the Bhagyalakshmi scheme were healthy, she said. There is need to generate adequate employment for these families. Displaced families need to be rehabilitated with proper facilities. There is need to educate children, report said. (New Indian Express 15/1/15)

21. 30,000 health workers to save girl child in Haryana (8)

Chandigarh: Over 30,000 health workers in Haryana Friday took a pledge to save the girl child. The pledge was taken across the state at the same time, an official said here. A health department spokesman said the pledge was taken to change the mindset of people to protect girls by stopping female foeticide. Health workers from all levels participated in the pledge-taking ceremony. Haryana has the worst sex ratio among all the states in the country. Haryana’s sex ratio stands at just 879 females per 1,000 males. The move comes ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi launching the ‘Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao’ programme from Haryana in Panipat on Jan 22. Haryana has been chosen for the launch of the campaign to save daughters due to its poor record. Modi has, in the past, pointed out that of the 15 worst districts in the country in terms of sex ratio, nine were in Haryana. (New Kerala 16/1/15)

22. Women’s safety a major election issue in Delhi (8)

New Delhi: Women’s safety tops the chart among the major issues confronting Delhi as it readies to vote for a new government Feb 7. Most of the more than a dozen residents IANS spoke to said the safety and security of women in the capital would have to be addressed first by whoever wins the election. Rising food prices, chaotic traffic and the need for uninterrupted water supply and electricity are the other problems people say they are bothered about. Prashant Rao, an art teacher with a prominent school, summed up the majority mood: “Incidents of rape, loot and murders have become common. And women are soft targets in Delhi.” He said with more and more women going to  ”Women should be taken care of. They need to go out for studies, work and other things. But with rapes reported every other day, it scares me.” S.S. Ranga, an officer with All India Radio, and Mukesh Sharma, a Delhi government school teacher, also stressed the need to ensure women’s security in the city of over 17 million. “Rape cases don’t seem to be coming down,” he said, adding infrastructure, especially cheap housing for the common man, and public transport were other important issues. Shalini, a student from Bihar residing in Delhi, says she is vigilant when she steps out because of the security situation in the city, more so at night. There are other issues, including sanitation, which voters say would require the government’s attention. “People defecate in public and authorities should do more to address this problem,” said Deeti Gupta, who is preparing to go abroad for studies. “Otherwise the problem would go out of hand.” Corruption was another issue everyone spoke about, but most felt that women’s safety was the biggest concern. Both the BJP and the AAP admit that women’s safety is indeed a major concern among voters. “Yes, that is true,” said Harish Khurana, a BJP spokesman in Delhi. AAP’s Atishi Marlena told IANS: “Women’s security and unemployment are the most important issues among the people.” So who is best suited to solve Delhi’s problems? Opinion was divided, with those polled seemingly divided between the BJP and the AAP. No one had anything to say about the Congress. Gupta felt the AAP would be best suited to rule Delhi. “Only AAP can do it as (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi cannot take up every local issue.” School teacher A. Sharma echoed the sentiment. “AAP is close to me, it’s close to everybody… They are like us. They successfully controlled price rise and corruption last time. They will do it again.” Ranga, however, feels that the BJP is the better bet for Delhi, more so with Modi in command nationally. “The BJP will form the next government in Delhi. I expect them to do well by addressing concerns of young women.” Autorickshaw driver Ram Kishan, 57, too is for the BJP, saying only that party understands the concerns of the poor. Vegetable vendor Shankar has a unique desire. He wants the new government to ensure the education of poor children. “Any new government must encourage children to study instead of joining their parents at work.” (Business Standard 19/1/15)

23. 2000 Girls Get Killed Inside Wombs Daily: Maneka (8)

PANIPAT: Expressing concern over the adverse sex ratio in the country, Union minister Maneka Gandhi today called for a need to fight the scourge of female foeticide which claims “2000 lives of girls daily Speaking on the occasion of launch of “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao” campaign, a nationwide initiative that seeks to improve the sex ratio at birth by ten points every year, the Minister for Women and Child Development said in some states the sex ratio stood at 840 girls for 1000 boys.  She also said that among the 12 districts from Haryana chosen for the campaign, the sex ratio varied between 775 to 837.      “The situation is so alarming that in 70 villages, not even a single girl can be found for the past many years,” she said, adding while in some villages the sex ratio was as low as 500.   She said “female foeticide claims 2000 lives of girls daily on an average across the country.”     Expressing her thanks and gratitude to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who launched the nationwide campaign in the presence of many of his cabinet colleagues including Smriti Irani, J P Nadda, besides Chief Minister M L Khattar and Bollywood star Madhuri Dixit, she said it is because of PM’s initiative and thinking that the issue (adverse sex ratio) has come to centerstage.     Panipat was chosen as it is also among the 100 districts across the country with adverse sex ratio She said that the Health and HRD Ministries of the Union Government will also put their collaborative effort to make the nationwide campaign a success.     “This programme can only be successful with everyone’s participation,” she said.  She said that women are very much standing shoulder-to-shoulder with men in different fields and added that late astronaut Kalpana Chawla had not only made Haryana, but entire world proud. She said this initiative of the Centre was a fourth major one after schemes like Jandhan and Make in India. Gandhi said that Anganwadi centres, ASHA workers, Gram Panchayats, besides others should actively be part of BBBP campaign for its success.  With crowds turning restive to listen to Modi’s speech as they were braving rainy and cold weather, Gandhi sensing the mood of the public quickly wrapped up her speech.  Towards the end, she also said birth of a girl child should be celebrated in the same way as it is in some parts of Rajasthan, where ‘ladoos’ are distributed.   (New Indian Express 22/1/15)

24. ‘Beti bachao beti padhao’ tableau will lead parade (8)

New Delhi: The women and child development ministry’s tableau focusing on the girl child in India will lead the tableaux parade on Republic Day. Senior ministry officials said this would be the first time that the WCD ministry’s tableau would be part of the parade. The tableau will be themed around “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao”, a key scheme of the ministry aimed at addressing female foeticide. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched the scheme on Thursday from Panipat, Haryana. “The direction came from the Prime Minister’s Office. With the government’s thrust on improving the lot of girl child and showcasing women power in the country, the ministry was told that its tableau should revolve around these themes,” said an official who did not want to be quoted. Sources said that showcasing women power, especially safety and education of girl child would be the leading theme of this year’s Republic Day parade. Going with the theme of women power, for the first time the Army, Navy and IAF will also be fielding an all women marching contingent. In all, a total of 25 tableaux would participate in the parade, with 16 of them belonging to states and the union territories and nine from central ministries. (Hindustan Times 25/1/15)

25. Prez Urges Citizens to Work for Women’s Safety in R-Day Speech (8)

NEW DELHI: If the civil nuclear agreement was the centrepiece of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama’s meeting on Sunday, Mahatma Gandhi and gender equality were the themes President Pranab Mukherjee focused on in his address to the nation on the eve of the 66th Republic Day.It was, as if, Mukherjee was denouncing attitudes that were chipping away at the tenets of the Constitution and reminding citizens that it was Gandhian philosophy that made “India a role model for today’s world”. The President could well have been making an indirect mention of Obama’s visit to the Rajghat on Saturday, when the latter picked up four of Gandhi’s seminal books. In Gandhian philosophy, Mukherjee said, lay the essence of “democracy, freedom of faith, gender equality; and an economic upsurge for those trapped in the throes of dire poverty”. He said the National Congress had passed the resolution of “Purna Swaraj” that set the stage for India’s independence from the British rule. The President invoked Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Subhash Chandra Bose, Bhagat Singh, Rabindranath Tagore and Subramanya Bharathi and hailed them as the leaders who created the political discourse that eventually led to the independence of a subjugated nation. The second issue the President focused on was violence against women. Raising questions on how India, which once produced path-breaking philosophy, could come to such a pass that it could no longer provide security to its women, Mukherjee said it “pains” him “to see that Mother India is not respected by her own children” and that the safety of the country’s women was comprised. Rapes, murders, harassment, kidnapping and dowry deaths have made women feel unsafe even in their own homes, Mukherjee said, asking citizens to take a pledge to protect women. Addressing the nation on the eve of 66th Republic Day, he said “It pains me to see that Mother India is not respected by her own children when it comes to the safety of women”. “Atrocities of rape, murders, harassment on the roads, kidnapping and dowry deaths have made women fearful even in their own homes,” Mukherjee said. The President said only a nation that respected and empowered its women could become a “global power”. “Every Indian must take a pledge to protect the honour of women from violence of any kind. Only a nation that respects and empowers its women can become a global power,” he said. “Where have we failed, as parents, teachers and leaders, that our children have forgotten all tenets of decent behaviour and respect for women?” he said. (New Indian Express 26/1/15)

26. Woman stripped, tied to tree and tortured in West Bengal (8)

Kolkata: Days after a woman was brutally attacked in West Bengal’s Birbhum district, a widow was stripped, tied to a tree and tortured by a group of armed men in South 24 Parganas district. The men are allegedly associated with the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and managed to obtain bail on Monday, within 24 hours of the incident. The victim, a 40-year-old widow with a son – was picked up from her house in Maipith village of Kultali block on Sunday afternoon. The miscreants stripped her and used her saree to tie her to a tree. “She was molested…tortured and went unconscious,” said Latika Thakur, an eyewitness. The women of the village came together to protest and “virtually chased” the miscreants away. Two persons were arrested later at night but managed to obtain bail. Former minister and CPI(M) leader Kanti Ganguly rushed to the spot and met the woman late on Sunday. “I have seen the video clip in mobile and can tell you that she was most brutally tortured,” said Mr. Ganguly. “The vivtim was not a member of any political party. “She used to protest against the misdeeds in the area and that is one reason why she was tortured by the TMC goons,” he said. Local TMC leaders condemned the incident and also demanded “proper punishment” for the miscreants. The incident comes days after an attack on a woman in Birbhum district. The woman had alleged that a police team accompanied by local TMC leaders had taken her to a nearby forest on January 17 and tortured her to extract information about her nephew, a local BJP leader. (The Hindu 27/1/15)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

27. Give underprivileged children the life they deserve (14)

It has been his life’s mission. Last week, Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi renewed his demand for a complete ban on every kind of child labour up to 14 years. Seeking the early passage of a pending legislation against child labour, Mr Satyarthi said history “won’t forgive” MPs if they fail in the task. The pending legislation is the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, and, if passed by Parliament, employing children below 14 years in any occupation will become illegal, making it consistent with the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009. The activist also demanded that even children between 14 and 18 years must not be allowed to work in labour activities notified as hazardous. The government banned child labour in 2012, but implementation has been patchy. The reasons for such a demand are not far to seek: According to the 2011 census, there are about 4.35 million working children in the 5-14 age bracket. In the 2001 census, the number was about 12.6 million. However, despite a 65% reduction in the number of working children, India still has the largest number of child labourers in the world. Non-profit organisations estimate there are more than 60 million child labourers, which is 6% of India’s total population. While the passage of the new law would give children’s right a huge fillip, eradicating child labour will not be easy. This is because while everyone tends to talk about child labour, very little focus is put on the socio-economic situation of their families which forces them to send their children out to work. In fact, one of the programmes that Mr Satyarthi’s organisation runs — Bachchpan Bachao Andolan — tries to tackle this issue by helping parents access government funds so that they are not forced to take  their wards out of schools to earn extra money. Along with focusing on the backend (families), there is an urgent need to encourage education, enforce labour laws to abolish child trafficking, promote fair trade and replace child workers with adult workers to ensure that children live the life they are meant to. (Hindustan Times 11/1/15)

28. Attacks on children setback to securing rights: Kailash Satyarthi (14)

New Delhi: Attacks on children take us back several steps in our actions towards collective progress of securing child rights across the globe, said child rights champion Kailash Satyarthi Friday. He regretted incidents like attacks on school children in Peshawar, kidnapping of girls by Boko Haram and ISIS and the Maoist attack in Assam. In a communication on the eve of the seventeenth anniversary of his organisation – Global March Against Child Labour – Satyarthi, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year, said the new year was not the time to lose hope. “It is a time for us to put in our resources for the betterment of our children,” he said. Giving details about the hardships being faced by children across the globe, he said the Nobel prize has reinforced his belief that working together “we can surely end slavery and change children`s lives for the better”.”From child soldiers to trafficking for labour and sex, from inter-generational bonded labour to girls forbidden to attend school, the list of appalling injustices committed against children is, unfortunately, a long one. Yet, we must remain optimistic and unite with the children to protect their fate and preserve their innocence,” he said. Satyarthi, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist for female education, said any big goal set by anybody would be meaningless without addressing the issue of child labour. “I have consistently argued since the Millennium Development Goals were announced that without abolition of child labour, many development goals including education, poverty reduction, health and gender equity could not be achieved. I am glad that the Sustainable Development goals have included child labour, laid emphasis on education and violence against children which we have been struggling for several years,” he said. The Global March Against Child Labour is a worldwide network of trade unions, teachers and civil society organisations that work together for the shared development goals of eliminating and preventing all forms of child labour and ensuring access to free, meaningful and good quality public education for all children. (Zee News 16/1/15)

29. India makes progress in bringing children to schools: UN (14)

United Nations: India has been able to decrease its number of out-of-school children by nearly 16 million between 2000 and 2012, driving the progress in South Asia, but it still has 1.4 million children not attending primary school, a United Nations report said. The biggest decrease in the number of out-of-school children was seen in South Asia, where their numbers fell by 23 million between 2000 and 2012, according to a new joint report ‘Fixing the Broken Promise of Education for All: Findings from the Global Initiative on Out-of-School Children was produced by UNESCO and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF)’. Much of the global progress since 2000 in decreasing the number of out-of-school children has been driven by a small number of countries, with India alone decreasing its number of out-of-school children by nearly 16 million between 2000 and 2011. In relative terms, 42 countries were able to more than halve their numbers of primary out-of-school children between 2000 and 2012, including Algeria, Burundi, Cambodia, Ghana, India, Iran, Morocco, Mozambique, Nepal, Nicaragua, Rwanda, Viet Nam, Yemen and Zambia. However, despite such impressive progress in many countries, about nine per cent of all children of primary school age worldwide eight per cent of all boys and 10 per cent of all girls were still out of school in 2012. The majority, 31 million of the 58 million out-of-school children, were girls. India has 58.81 million girls and 63.71 million boys of primary school age.  As of 2011, 1.4 million children of primary school age did not go to school in India, with 18 per cent girls out of school and 14 per cent boys. The other countries with more than half a million out-of-school children include Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Pakistan and Sudan. India had 14 per cent of children in the 7-14 years age category involved in child labour. The report said that while India has made significant improvement in primary education enrolment, the figures for children with disabilities are staggering. Out of 2. 9 million children with disabilities in India, 990,000 children aged 6 to 14 years (34 per cent) are out of school. The percentages are even higher among children with intellectual disabilities (48 per cent), speech impairments (36 per cent) and multiple disabilities (59 per cent). “India has made tremendous efforts to make its education system more inclusive. Under the Right to Education Act, all children have the right to go to school…To accommodate a greater number of children with disabilities, further progress is needed,” it said. The report credited initiatives such as abolition of school fees, cash transfer programmes and school feeding programmes in ensuring more children attend and stay in school. The largest school feeding was implemented in India with 120 million school children benefiting by 2006 and has been credited with a significant positive effect on both school enrolment and attendance rates. The report further said that one in five adolescents worldwide is not in school, which means that some 63 million young people between the ages of 12 and 15 are denied their right to an education, mainly because they are marginalized and poor, the joint UN agency report said as pressure mounts to include universal secondary education in the post-2015 global development agenda. “This report serves as wake-up call to mobilize the resources needed to guarantee basic education for every child, once and for all,” UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova said. The data found that as children get older, the risk that they will never start school or will drop out increases. One in ten children of primary school age is out of school compared to one in five adolescents. The study also found that in total, 121 million children and adolescents have either never started school or dropped out despite the international community?s promise to achieve Education for All by 2015. The report added that “business as usual” has not worked and there has been almost no progress in reducing the number of adolescents out of school since 2007. Children living in conflict, child labourers and those facing discrimination are most affected. And without major shifts in policies and resources, previous education gains may erode. “If current trends continue, 25 million children 15 million girls and 10 million boys are likely to never set foot inside a classroom,” it said. For a concrete policy shift, the study calls on governments to provide robust information on marginalised children. (Zee News 21/1/15)

30. Crime Patrol to promote Bachpan Bachao Andolan (14)

Known for its riveting concept, this weekend, Sony Entertainment Television’s Crime Patrol will see some heart wrenching stories on child labour and child trafficking. Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi, the founder of Bachpan Bachao Andolan, will appear as a special guest on this weekend’s episode of the show. Crime Patrol will throw light on the growing phenomenon of child trafficking and exploitation, that has left the people numb. One of the episodes will portray the story of a 16 year old girl named Sakina’ who was rescued by Kailash Satyarthi’s Bachpan Bachao Andolan from the clutches of bride traffickers. Sakina was sold not once but twice as a sex-slave. Another episode will focus on an18 year girl named Reena who was rescued from the clutches of a police constable who was exploiting her in the pretext of welfare. To know how Sakina and Reena were rescued from these cruel crime, don’t miss to watch Crime Patrol this weekend at 11 pm only on Sony Entertainment Television. (Times of India 24/1/15)

31. 250 child labourers rescued in Hyderabad (14)

Hyderabad: As many as 250 children, including 10 girls from Bihar, who were forced to work as child labourers in hazardous industries were today rescued from Old City here, police said. As many as 250 children, including 10 girls from Bihar, who were forced to work as child labourers in hazardous industries were today rescued from Old City here, police said. The children were rescued during a massive cordon and search operation carried out by South Zone police in different areas of Old City, a senior police officer said. “Keeping in view of IB alert ahead of Republic Day we carried out searches to nab habitual criminals. We found these children, aged between 8-13 years kept in rooms of some rowdies. They are being exploited for hazardous industries employmen,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (South Zone) V Satyanarayana. Most of the children are from districts of Bihar including Gaya and these children were brought to the city after giving an advance ranging between Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000 from Bihar, the DCP said. The operation was continuing. To keep a check on anti-social elements and to induce a sense of security among people Cyberabad and Hyderabad Police have been conducting massive search operations in different parts of the city for the past several months based on information that few pockets have turned out to be shelters for criminals like property offenders, snatchers and those indulging in other illegal activities. (DNA 24/1/15)

32.  ‘Rehabilitate rescued children’ (14)

HYDERABAD: The State Commission for Protection of Child Rights has asked the authorities concerned to take necessary measures to rehabilitate the children who were rescued from bangle units on Saturday. The city police rescued around 200 children employed at the bangle making units during a search operation. The commission asked the police to register cases under Section 370A of Indian Penal Code while directing social welfare department, Sarva Siksha Abhiyaan, National Child Labour Programme to fully engage themselves in the rehabilitation of the children. (The Hindu 26/1/15)

33. 12 child labourers rescued in Thanjavur (14)

TRICHY: Twelve child labourers –all of them boys — were rescued from shops and automobile workshops in Thanjavur on Wednesday. The Child Labour Task Force comprising officials from Childline, labour department, district child protection committee and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) conducted raids at shops in Karanthai, Tholkappiar Sathukkam, Railadi and near Thanjavur Government Medical College. The officials found small boys working in teashops, grocery shops, and automobile workshops. The boys, who were school dropouts, had been working there for more than six months and paid very less. All of them were rescued and their parents were directed to produce birth certificates to confirm their age. “The boys aged below 14 years will be sent to schools thorough the SSA. Likewise, the boys aged above 14 years should also join school according to the Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act,” said P Fathima Raj of Childline. Labour department officials were planning to file cases against the shop owners who employed the boys aged below 14 years. (Times of India 29/1/15)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

34. Minority students to soon get scholarships through Aadhaar (7)

NEW DELHI: Centre has asked states to ensure full enrolment of students from minority communities under Aadhaar, a move that may provide added impetus to the initiative to allot a unique identity to every citizen to improve the delivery of subsidies. The advocacy for focused registration of minority students under Aadhaar is to enable them to avail of the scholarship schemes run by the Centre for all levels of school education as also for technical and professional courses. Union minority affairs minister Najma Heptullah has shot off letters to all chief ministers saying that post-matric and merit-cum-means scholarships for minorities are distributed through the direct benefits transfer (DBT) method to the bank accounts of beneficiary students. She has informed that another scheme, pre-matric scholarship, would also be added to the DBT mode soon. Given that DBT is being linked to Aadhaar, the minister has stated that inclusion of minority students under Aadhaar be complete. “I would request you to take the necessary initiatives to ensure the full Aadhaar enrolment of all the minority communities’ students in your state so that their bank accounts, already existing or being generated through the Prime Minister’s Jan Dhan Yojana, can be seeded with their Aadhaars,” Heptullah has told the CMs. The missive is likely to provide Aadhaar enrolment an additional focus of key religious groups given its link to the delivery of welfare schemes like scholarships for Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and Buddhists. While it may result in pressure from target beneficiaries for unique identity, it may also nudge the state governments to register minority youth. Though the focus of minority ministry on Aadhaar is limited to ensuring the delivery of scholarships, the Aadhaar enrolment, once done, would result in the individual’s full integration in the future scheme of unique identity. The pre-matric and post-matric scholarships are centrally-sponsored programmes, having earlier started on a funding share of 75:25 between the Centre and the states. That states receive welfare funds without any contribution, ensure that these scholarships have a high demand. Heptullah told TOI that she was working to fulfill the government vision of financial inclusion and faster delivery. (Times of India 15/1/15)

35. Maharashtra minorities chief removed (7)

Mumbai: Maharashtra government has removed the state’s minorities commission chairman Munaf Hakim midway through his tenure, days after he announced plans for conducting a survey to ascertain the number of Muslims in jails. Mr Hakim, who belongs to Sharad Pawar’s NCP, said no reason was cited by the government for his removal. “They (government) don’t want any interference. My tenure was for five years and I had completed half of it. I was given neither a show cause notice nor a chance to explain my stance (on the jail survey),” Mr Hakim, who was appointed to the post in August 2012, said. “The government has given autonomy to the Commission not for being submissive to the regime. I should have been give a chance to explain,” he said. Mr Hakim said his successor Aamir Saheb assumed charge at 10 pm on Thursday. “What was the tearing hurry to take charge at night,” he wondered. Sources in the administration, however, defended the decision, saying Hakim was a “political appointee” of the previous Congress-NCP dispensation and that the new BJP-Shiv Sena government had the prerogative to appoint a new head of the panel. “It is a common practice for new governments to fill these positions with their own representatives. The same process has been followed here. The commissioning of the study was just a trigger,” an official said on condition of anonymity. (Asian Age 18/1/15)

36. Minority Commission to set up legal cell (7)

MYSURU: The Karnataka State Minorities Commission will soon set up a cell to provide legal assistance to innocent members of the minority communities arrested by the police. Commission Chairperson Balkis Banu told reporters on Wednesday that the cell, which would be headed by a retired judge, will provide assistance by arranging for lawyers and bearing legal expenditure. Stating that there was a practice among the police to arrest innocent Muslims as a “precautionary measure” whenever there was trouble, Ms. Banu said the Commission will ensure that no innocent person is forced to face trouble and difficulties. She also expressed concern over the increasing instances of arrest of innocent members of minority communities. The Commission is also planning to hold communal harmony meets across the State, particularly in the coastal districts, to remove misunderstandings among different communities. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has agreed in principle to provide judicial powers to the commission that will enable it to summon officials against whom complaints had been made. Judicial powers will also allow the commission to call for official records for documentary evidence. At present the commission’s summons are not binding on officials. In several States, not just the Minorities Commission, even Women’s Commission, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Commission and Backward Classes Commission enjoy judicial powers. “When the matter was brought to the notice of the Chief Minister, he was surprised. He immediately agreed to ensure that the Commission gets judicial powers,” she said. The Commission was also planning to set up a research centre in the name of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, the founder of Aligarh Muslim University, she said. (The Hindu 22/1/15)

37. ‘Obama should raise issue of minority rights in India’ (7)

Washington: An Indian American Muslim advocacy group has appealed to US President Barack Obama to raise with Prime Minister Narendra Modi the issue of alleged deterioration in the condition of minorities in India. “In your discussions with Prime Minister Modi and other Indian officials, express concern over the rapidly deteriorating situation of Christians, Sikhs, Muslims and other minorities in India. A reference to their plight during your speech would go a long way in highlighting the international community’s cognisance of the ground realities in India,” the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) said in a letter to Obama. In the letter dated January 22, which was released to the press yesterday, IAMC alleged that since the new Indian government took office, over 600 incidents of religious violence against minorities have occurred in the state of Uttar Pradesh alone. “This is a dramatic escalation from previous years and represents a full-fledged assault against the religious and cultural identity of religious minorities launched by militant Hindu nationalist groups,” it said. The letter also urged Obama to call on India’s administration to pursue policies that are equitable, representative of India’s secular constitution and its longstanding tradition of pluralism. Obama will be in India as the chief guest at the Republic Day Parade on January 26 at the invitation of Modi. (Zee News 24/1/15)

38. TN govt orders top bureaucrat to stop preaching religion (7)

CHENNAI: In a move that deepens the debate over freedom of religion, the Tamil Nadu government has directed one of its IAS officers not to go ahead with his “preaching and propagating” activities and warned that if he failed to do so action would taken against him. C Umashankar, a crusader against corruption and an early advocate of the use of free software in e-governance, was born a Hindu dalit but said he changed his faith to Christianity during the stressful times he faced during his battles against politicians. His open and public preaching of Christianity has raised the hackles of right-wing groups who are campaigning against him. In a letter, TN Chief secretary K Gnanadesikan told the commissioner for disciplinary proceedings, Umashankar: “It has been brought to the notice of government that you are going to take part in preaching and propagating activities in Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi and Kanniyakumari districts from January 24 to January 26 which are likely to cause communal disharmony and disturbance to public order. You are directed not to indulge in such activities which are unbecoming of a member of the service, failing which, necessary and appropriate action would be taken under relevant provisions of All India Services (conduct) Rules, 1968 read with the All India Services (Discipline & Appeal ) Rules, 1969.” The chief secretary also referred to Umashankar’s previous visit to Kanniyakumari district on January 16 in which “he indulged in activities which created disturbance to public order resulting in registration of two cases in Pudukadai police station in the district”.Umashankar said that, guided by God, he has cancelled seven prayer meetings scheduled in the next few days, but said that he will move the high court against the government’s direction. He said that he was facing a threat to his life and had been attacked several times in the past. “The direction of government is illegal. Article 25 in the constitution of India provides freedom of conscience and freedom to profess, practice and propagate religion. This overcomes all the service rules. The government is using its state power to suppress my fundamental rights,” Umashankar told TOI. Gnanadesikan in his letter said civil service conduct rules say that “every member of the service shall at all times maintain absolute integrity and devotion to duty and shall do nothing which is unbecoming of a member of the service.” And indicated that Umashankar has not fulfilled his obligations. Soon after Umashankar’s visit to Kanniyakumari on January 16 the district police registered a case against 12 persons in connection with an attack on Umashankar’s near Kuzhithurai when he was returning after participating in a prayer meeting there. On the basis of a complaint lodged by driver Samuel, Marthandam police had registered the case. A senior police official in South Tamil Nadu said since Kanniyakumari is vulnerable to communal violence they are worried about Umashankar’s meetings. “He has been preaching in unregistered churches. Many people in the village opposed his visit and we requested him to cancel it. Unfortunately he did not understand the ground reality,” the police official said. (Times of India 26/1/15)

39. Obama promotes religious tolerance in India speech (7)

NEW DELHI: President Barack Obama gently nudged India on Tuesday to fulfill its constitution’s pledge to uphold the “dignity of the individual,” drawing on his own experience as a minority in the United States as he closed out a three-day visit to New Delhi. Speaking to an audience of young people, Obama said that while he has had extraordinary opportunities, “there were moments in my life where I’ve been treated differently because of the color of my skin.” As he touted the importance of religious tolerance, he noted the persistent false rumors that he is a Muslim, not a Christian. “There have been times where my faith has at times been questioned by people who don’t know me, or they’ve said that I adhere to a different religion, as if that were somehow a bad thing,” Obama said. India is largely Hindu, with almost 80 percent following the faith. At over 12 percent Muslims are India’s largest minority, with Sikhs, Christians and Buddhists making up the rest. While religious groups largely coexist peacefully, the country has seen several flare ups of violence, primarily between Hindus and Muslims. The US has said some local laws and policies in India restrict religious freedom, with reports of discrimination and organized attacks against religious minorities. Current Prime Minister Narendra Modi was denied was denied a visa to the US in 2005, three years after religious riots killed more than 1,000 Muslims in the Indian state where he was the top elected official. He has denied any wrongdoing and India’s top court has absolved him of any role, but India’s Muslims and Christians are wary of Modi’s right wing Bharatiya Janata Party. Equality, across gender and religious lines, is enshrined in India’s constitution. But India continues to remain a deeply misogynistic society with a gender ratio skewed in favor of boys. Despite a law that bars sex selective abortions, the practice continues, with girls often considered a burden. Women also face the risk of harassment and sexual violence, a subject that finally became the subject of public protests after a fatal gang rape on a moving bus in the heart of New Delhi. The protests prompted more stringent laws but critics say more progress is needed. “Every woman should be able to go about her day — to walk the street, or ride the bus — and be safe and be treated with the respect and dignity that she deserves,” Obama said to applause. Since taking office in May, Modi has often talked about women’s rights, urging Indians to treat sons and daughters equally. He recently launched an “educate the daughter, save the daughter,” program to stem sex selective abortions and encourage parents to keep girls in schools. (Times of India 27/1/15)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

40. Muslim clerics, activists slam Yakub Qureshi’s ‘Rs 51cr reward’ statement (7)

NEW DELHI: Muslim clerics and activists have slammed ex-Uttar Pradesh minister Yakub Qureshi’s statement saying he would reward Rs 51 crore to terrorists who attacked Charlie Hebdo office. “We condemn Qureshi’s statement and people like him should be put behind the bars,” said cleric Maulana Mohammad Sajid Rashidi. Community leaders say such remarks are made for publicity and defame Muslims. Some are planning to issue a memorandum against politicians who give such statements and do ‘disservice’ to the community. Muslim clerics underlined Islam never allows anyone to kill and instead talks about peace. “It’s a very irresponsible statement and a crime in itself. There is no purpose for the said sensational statement except to gain publicity,” said All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat president Zafarul-Islam Khan. “The government should take notice of this statement and ask Qureshi about the source of such huge amount of money and how the same will be remitted outside the country.”He said Qureshi should be punished as his offer is a crime and seeks to reward and promote another crime. Activist Abdul Khaliq said Qureshi announced a reward for the killers rather than condemning the attack on the French magazine and loss of lives. “Such statements are more atrocious than the attack,” he said. “People who give hate speeches, sensational statements must be boycotted by the community as these are against the basic tenets of Islam.”All India Shia Personal Law Board spokesman Maulana Yasoob Abbas called Qureshi’s statement “childish” and sought strict action against him failing which such elements would feel emboldened. (Times of India 10/1/15)

41. Centre urged to raise govt. quota for Haj (7)

Indi (Vijayapura district): Regretting that many poor Muslims were deprived of affordable Haj pilgrimage owing to a strong lobby of private agencies, Minister for Haj, Infrastructure and Information R. Roshan Baig said he has urged External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to reduce the private quota and increase government quota for Haj pilgrims. Addressing presspersons after laying the foundation stone for the Post Matriculation Hostel for Boys of Minorities at Indi town on Monday, he said private agents used their influence to keep a major chunk of the Haj quota. “These private agents charge exorbitant fee which only rich people can afford. The government should reduce the private quota to a minimum and add that to government quota, which would enable more poor and middle class people to visit the holy place,” he said. Mr. Baig said he has urged Home Minister and directed the top police officials to register cases of cheating against any private agency found to be cheating innocent pilgrims. The Minister said the State government was ready to share Rs. 50 crore as land-levelling charge for the long-pending development of airport at Vijayapura city if the Airport Authority of India (AAI) started working on the project. He said that during the recent meeting convened by Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju in New Delhi, the State government urged the Union government to expedite all airport projects in the State. (The Hindu 13/1/15)

42. Muslim population grows 24%, slower than previous decade (7)

NEW DELHI: The latest census data on the population of religious groups, set to be released shortly, shows a 24% rise in the Muslim population between 2001 and 2011, with the community’s share of total population rising from 13.4% to 14.2% over the 10-year period. While the growth rate of the Muslim population has slowed from around 29% between 1991 and 2001, it is still higher than the national average of 18% for the decade. The data accessed by TOI showed that the most rapid rise in the share of Muslims in the total population was witnessed in Assam. Muslims constituted 30.9% of the state’s population in 2001, but accounted for a 34.2% share a decade later. The state has had a persisting problem of the illegal influx of Bangladeshi immigrants. West Bengal, another state where illegal immigration from Bangladesh has been an old phenomenon, has also registered a rise in the share of Muslims in total population from 25.2% in 2001 to 27% in 2011, a growth of 1.9 percentage points over the 10 years, more than double the national average. Uttarakhand, significantly, has also reported a sharp rise in the share of Muslim population from 11.9% to 13.9%, a growth of 2 percentage points against the countrywide growth of 0.8 percentage points between 2001 and 2011. Other states with a significant rise in the share of Muslims in the total population as per the 2011 census were Kerala (from 24.7% to 26.6%), Goa (6.8% to 8.4%), Jammu & Kashmir (67% to 68.3%), Haryana (5.8% to 7%) and Delhi (11.7% to 12.9%)…. (Times of India 22/1/15)

43. ‘Muslims are not terrorists but proud Indians’ (7)

HYDERABAD: “Muslims are proud Indians. They are neither terrorists nor from different country.” This was the message conveyed by the Telugu Muslim poets on the final day of the Hyderabad Literary Festival on Monday. Taking a different take on what he said was a wrong portrayal of Muslims, Telugu poet Khaja condemned the Centre’s decision to invite American President Barack Obama for the Republic Day. “To invite a man who has worked towards portraying Muslims as terrorists as a chief guest on Republic Day is a matter of huge disappointment for Muslims across the country. We are not terrorists,” Khaja claimed. Khadar Mohiudeen, a poet who has been composing verses against Hindu hegemony, further enhanced Khaja’s point of view with his poem ‘Birthmark’. “Cricket matches weigh and measure my patriotism. Never mind my love for my motherland, what’s important is how much I hate the other land,” he recited with a hint of irony. Representing over 200 Muslim Telugu poets from the city, the bards brought up issues like identity crisis and caste divide amongst Muslims. Throwing light on the struggle within the Telugu Muslim poets, renowned poet Yakoob explained their struggle for identity. “We who call our mothers amma, never knew she was supposed to be called ammijaan. Abba, abbajaan, Papa – that’s how fathers are to be called, we’re told. How would we know – our ayyas never taught us that,” recited Yakoob from his poem titled ‘Awwal Kalima’. Yakoob, a dalit Muslim himself, expounded on the state of lower Muslim castes of Laddafs, Dudekulas, Kasabs and Pinjaris through his poetry. (Times of India 27/1/15)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

44. Bajrang Dal activists vandalise Christian building in Bihar (7)

Patna: Activists of Bajrang Dal, a Hindu religious group, on Sunday attacked and vandalised a Christian building in Jehanabad district of Bihar and thereafter, blocked the National Highway for some time. The incident has created panic among the small Christian community of the district. Police officials said the Bajrang Dal activists raided the Christian Bhawan during prayer and damaged the furniture along with other things. The reason for their protest is against the alleged conversion ceremony which was going on inside the building at that moment. However, Pastor Kamlesh denied any conversion ceremony going on in the building. “It was regular Sunday, prayer meeting going on inside the building when a group of Bajrang Dal activists attacked and beat all those present in the prayer. They also vandalized furniture of the prayer hall”, he said. The incident happened at Madhav Nagar locality of Jehanabad district town area, which is about 70 kilometres away from Patna. Later, the Bajrang Dal activists blocked the National Highway-83 for some time, alleging the conversion ceremony inside the Christian Bhawan. The police disbursed them from the highway reportedly after mediated with them. “Some people, though, have been injured in the attack inside the Christian Bhawan were discharged later. If they will complain against someone the police will take action”, said the local police station in-charge Nagendra Singh. Meanwhile, a team of Korean cultural group had to hurriedly flee from the Pibodhna village under Daniyawan block of Patna when it was rumoured that they were appealing for conversion to poor dalit inhabitants of the village into Christianity. One of them Shyam Dev Ravidas is said to be Christian. However, when the police officials reached the village, the Korean artistes reportedly had gone from the village and the police. Earlier, few incidents of conversion have been reported from different parts of the state with the Hindu right wing groups alleging that the poor dalit Hindus were being converted into Christianity out of allurement. A Vishwa Hindu Parishad [VHP] leader from Gaya, Manilal Barik recently has declared that they would hold grand ceremony of ghar-wapsi [purification ceremony] in the state in coming months of February-March. (The Hindu 12/1/15)

45. Delhi: Church vandalised, footage on CCTV (1)

New Delhi: Two unidentified men were caught on camera vandalising a church in west Delhi early on Wednesday, a little over a month after a Catholic church in an east Delhi neighbourhood was destroyed in a suspected case of arson, officials said.  Security camera footage shows the men arriving on a scooter before they shattered the Vikaspuri building’s window panes and fled, only to return minutes later to damage some of the statues, said church member Balraj. The incident raises concerns about growing communal violence in India where Christian and Muslims have come under attack since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power at the Centre last year, analysts said. Hardline Hindu groups allied with the ruling party have conducted a series of ceremonies across the country over the past month to convert members of minority communities to Hinduism, terming it “ghar wapsi”, or homecoming. In another sign of growing religious tensions, a  Catholic church in the Dilshad Garden area was consumed by a mysterious fire last month, sources said. A forensic team found traces of kerosene inside the premises.undreds of Christians peacefully protested outside the police headquarters after the incident, following which the home minister announced a Special Investigation Team (SIT) would probe the case. Analysts say religious minorities in the country, especially Christians, are on edge with increased attacks on them, as several pastors have been arrested on charges of forced conversion and some local governments have made Christian activities illegal in the past six months.​ (Hindustan Times 15/1/15)

46. Why Kerala Dalit Christians are Ghar Wapsi targets (7)

Kochi: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad, along with the Arya Samaj, has claimed to have converted nearly 100 Christians to Hinduism in Kerala’s hilly Idukki district. Members of 37 Christian families were “reconverted” at an elaborate ceremony held at a Devi temple close to Elappara, a tea plantation town in the district. The temple priest presided over the ceremony while Arya Samaj leaders helped in conducting the rituals. All the converted belonged to the Pentacostal Mission, a non-Catholic denomination active in the working class communities in the plantation areas of Idukki, Kottayam and Wayanad districts. In another instance of Ghar Waspi, 27 members of five Christian families near Kayamkulam in Alappuzha district were converted at a re-conversion ceremony held at a local temple, the VHP claimed. Last month, a dozen persons had been converted near Kayakulam. Though a few Muslims were also converted, this was denied by Muslim organisations. The Ghar Wapsi campaign in the State is said to be focusing on Dalit Christians, as they had been mostly converted to Christianity from “untouchable” Hindu castes in the past two or three generations. A major section of Dalit Christians belong to non-Catholic denominations, such as the Pentacost and Church of South India, or to the socially-backward Latin Catholic Church. While the majority of the “converted Christians” have gained education, social upliftment, economic progress and personal dignity after conversion from the “untouchable” castes, Dalit Christians complain they are not treated on par with the mainstream “traditional” Christians. There have been reports of Dalit Christians being buried in separate corners of church cemeteries, indicating their lower social standing. Several Dalit Christian organisations have openly rebelled within the Church over this discrimination. Though attempts have been made to integrate them into the mainstream Christian society, the progress has been tardy. Dalit Christians continue to be the poorest, less empowered section within the otherwise prosperous, educated and empowered Christian society in Kerala. Education has been the best means of Christians in Kerala over the past one century to gain empowerment and to get exposure to opportunities. In the case of Dalit Christians, their past continued to weigh them down. Also, though they had belonged to SC/ST communities before conversion to Christianity, they are denied the government’s SC/ST benefits in education and job reservation. The Church has for decades campaigned for SC/ST status for Dalit Christians, but government after government failed to allow this. SC/ST organisations, often with the support of Hindutva organisations, have opposed any move to grant Dalit Christians SC/ST status, on the plea that this would dilute the current quota for Hindu SC/STs in education and jobs. The Sangh organisations are said to be exploiting these two grievances — lower social status than the traditional Christians and the denial of SC/ST status. The Sangh Parivar is said to be promising to get them SC/ST benefits if re-converted. (HBL 19/1/15)

47. Pope says Catholics do not need to breed `like rabbits`(7)

Rome: Pope Francis has said that good Catholics do not have to breed “like rabbits”, defending the Church`s stance on artificial contraception and appealing to the world`s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics to practise responsible parenting. Speaking to journalists on his flight back from the Philippines, the pope said that he once asked a mother of seven children who was pregnant with her eighth if she wanted to “leave behind seven young orphans”. “She said, `I trust in God.` But God gave us the means to be responsible,” the pope said. “Some think, and excuse the term, that to be good Catholics, they must be like rabbits.” Francis said creating new life was “part of the sacrament of marriage” and in Manila strongly defended his predecessor Paul VI`s outlawing of artificial contraception for Catholics in 1968. Following the church`s teachings did not mean “Christians should have children one after the other”, he said. His comments came at the end of a trip to the Philippines, the Catholic Church`s Asian stronghold, which last year passed a family planning law after a 15-year battle by the Church to block state-sanctioned contraception. The law allows the government to begin distributing free contraceptives to millions of poor Filipinos. It was a rare loss for the Church, which has for centuries been one of the nation`s most powerful institutions and continues to count more than 80 percent of the nation`s 100 million people as Catholics.The pope said that his predecessor had foreseen the rise in policies restricting childbirth. “Paul VI was worried by the growth of neo-Malthusianism” (which advocates restricting the number of children the poor can have) which tried “put a control on humanity… he was a prophet,” he said. “The key teaching of the Church is responsible parenthood. And how do we get that? By dialogue. There are marriage groups in the Church, experts and pastors,” he added. In 2013, six months after becoming pope, Francis urged the Church to drop its “obsession” with contraception, divorce, gays and abortion, in an interview signalling a dramatic shift in the Vatican`s tone. The Argentine pope has brought a series of fresh perspectives to the notoriously rigid Church since he took over, signalling a strong reformist drive. He stressed at the time that the Church`s official position had not changed, but said that it should “always keep in mind the individual”.Francis` papacy — he is the first Jesuit pope and the first from South America — has marked a series of breaks with Vatican tradition. The pope has become known for his humility and concern for the poor, and has reached out to non-believers and those in other religions. He regularly picks up the phone to call ordinary people who write to him. His latest comments are not the first this month to attract attention for their candour. Last week when discussing the deadly attack by Islamist gunmen angered by French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo`s depiction of the Prophet Mohammed, the pope said: “If a good friend speaks badly of my mother, he can expect to get punched.” (Zee News 20/1/15)

48. Ghar Wapsi: More than 100 tribal Christians converted to Hinduism in West Bengal (7)

Kolkata: Several ‘ghar wapsi’ ceremonies have been conducted in Uttar Pradesh (above) in the past few months, but the first such incident was reported from West Bengal on Wednesday.It seems ‘ghar wapsi’ (reconversion) has reared its ugly head again, and this time, it is in West Bengal’s Birbhum district. More than 100 tribal Christians were allegedly converted to Hinduism in the district on Wednesday. The incident took place at Kharmadanga village near Suri under Rampurhat police station area as members of the adivasi community were reportedly converted following a religious ceremony. Allegation were raised against the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), the ideological mentor of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), for conducting the ghar wapsi programme. The ghar wapsi was allegedly supervised by VHP leader Jugal Kishore. The conversions reportedly took place immediately after VHP chief Praveen Togadia’s programme at Rampurhat town on Wednesday. Sources said VHP leaders claimed that the adivasis were originally Hindu by faith but were enticed by the Christian missionaries using money. “I condemn the incident. It is not proper. This was never prevalent in Bengal. The BJP is playing such tricks to incite riot and religious conflicts. They are luring away innocent tribal people from one religion to another. They are being misguided,” said Birbhum district Trinamool Congress president Anubrata Mondal. Mondal said the saffron brigade is playing a communal card to get a political toehold in Bengal. The district police officers said they had no knowledge about the conversion programme. Trinamool Congress’ Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’Brien later tweeted, “Media reporting that 100+ Adivasi Christians converted to Hinduism alongside a Praveen Togadia VHP rally in Birbhum… I have learnt the state government is ascertaining more details. I will address media when I have more details.” The Rajya Sabha MP further added, “Let me say this, if there is even a hint of coercion or forced conversion the issue will be dealt with in a strong manner possible.” “Bengal has a long history of living in communal harmony and bigots like Togadia will be dealt with ruthlessly,” O’Brien tweeted. (India Today 30/1/15)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

49. Refugees Eye India’s Help to Implement 13th Amendment for Returning Home (13)

CHENNAI: Sri Lankan refugees in India may be celebrating the defeat of Mahinda Rajapaksa in the elections but the longing to return home is clouded by fear of persecution. “If India along with Tamil Nadu government helps the Sri Lankan government in implementing the 13th amendment and ensure safety and security for Tamils, then the refugees in Tamil Nadu won’t hesitate to return,” said Jayanth, a refugee in India since 2006. After being detained in the Chengalpet camp, the 38-year-old refugee is living only on hope. “We want the Indian government to come forward and initiate talks with the Sri Lankan government to implement 13th amendment,” he says. The 13th amendment to the constitution of Sri Lanka to establish provincial councils came into being after then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and then Sri Lanka president J R Jayawardne signed the Indo-Sri Lanka accord in 1987. “Sirisena is a Sinhalese and in what way he will be different from Rajapaksa,” asks Rangasamy Somasundram, who migrated from Mannur district. K Kamalan, another refugee who migrated to India in 1990, says that after the ethnic war, one of his relatives went back to Killinochi in SL. “He was picked up for inquiry and he never returned,” he says. The inmates of Anaiyur and Thiruvathavur refugee camps in Madurai district expressed mixed feelings on the outcome of the election. Though the verdict was an emotive issue, no celebration was witnessed as police had upped security to keep refugees from going overboard. A cross-section of the refugees hoped that Sirisena would maintain a stronger relationship with India, as against China and Pakistan, as it would benefit the Lankan Tamils. (New Indian Express 10/1/15)

50. SC seeks EC’s reply on plea seeking voting rights for migrants (13)

New Delhi: Supreme Court on Monday sought response from the Election Commission on a plea seeking to enable migrants within the country, including those who have left their constituencies for jobs, to cast their votes from their places of residence. A bench of Justice Chief Justice H L Dattu and Justice A K Sikri issued notice to EC on an application that the committee, which looked into the issue of extending voting rights to the NRIs, be asked to consider adopting alternate methods to enable migrants within the country itself to exerecise franchise from their current places of residence. The application, filed by NRI Shamsheer VP through advocate Haris Beeran, said “it is the submission of the applicant that the true test of democracy is the inclusion of all persons who have a right in political discourse which leads it. True representation would only be made possible if every attempt was made to make every vote count. “This is seen in countries like Brazil where voting is made mandatory with the defaulter having to pay massive fines. Therefore, it is imperative that true weight is given to the importance of adult suffrage,” the plea said. According to the provisions of the Representation of People Act, when government servants and a class of certain other persons are allowed to vote through postal ballots, then the same right be given to private persons who are forced to leave their respective constituencies for reasons of employment. “There cannot be discrimination between the citizens on this ground on their right to vote,” the plea said. The plea said that the spike in number of potential voters would be tremendous inasmuch as a large number of persons who have migrated would want to cast their vote if it were made possible. (Zee News 12/1/15)

51. Kashmir separatists oppose permanent settlement of Pakistani refugees (13)

Srinagar: The separatists have opposed the Indian parliament’s proposal to permanently settle Pakistani refugees in northern state Jammu and Kashmir, saying it was an attempt to tamper with state’s demography. Separatist leaders met in Srinagar city and discussed recommendations made by the parliament panel to grant permanent resident status to refugees from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. Chairman of the moderate faction of Hurriyat Conference, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, said that they had decided to constitute a special group to make people aware about it. “Any step that is likely to impact the provincial legislation (law) and future shouldn’t be undertaken until Kashmir fundamental problem of Kashmir is addressed,” said Farooq. He added that some people want to impose agenda. “The objective behind this policy is that some people are talking about demographic changes in Jammu and Kashmir and some people want to impose their agenda,” added Farooq. Thousands of people from Pakistan-administered Kashmir flocked to Indian side when both the nations went to war in 1947 over Muslim-majority Kashmir immediately after gaining independence from Britain. Both the nuclear-armed nations rule Kashmir in part but claim it in full and have fought three wars over it. (New Kerala 13/1/15)

52. Two-thirds of Jordan`s Syria refugees in poverty: UN (13)

Amman: Two-thirds of the hundreds of thousands of Syrian war refugees in Jordan are living in poverty, the head of the UN refugee agency warned Wednesday, calling for “massive” international aid. “The conclusions… are extremely worrying for us all,” Antonio Guterres, the UN high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR), told a news conference in Amman at which he presented a detailed report. “Two-thirds of the Syrian refugees living with the community in Jordan are below the Jordanian-defined poverty line which is around three dollars (2.50 euros) per day for each person,” he said. The report was based on 170,000 visits to refugee households, pointing out that 84 percent of the 620,000 UNHCR-registered refugees in Jordan from neighbouring Syria live outside camps. “This report corresponds to the largest survey ever done in the world about living conditions of the refugee community,” he said. The report found that one in six Syrian refugees, rising to one in five for households led by a woman alone, has to survive on Jordan`s “extreme poverty line” of $1.30 a day. “My appeal is for massive support from the international community, massive support for the Syrians and displaced Iraqis also,” said Guterres, adding host communities and governments in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq also needed funding. International donors had provided only around half of the UNHCR`s needs in 2014, he added. More than three million Syrians have fled the civil war in their country which broke out in March 2011, mostly to neighbouring states. (Zee News 14/1/15)

53. SC shocked over govt’s stand on Bru refugees (13)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday expressed shock over the Centre’s contention that thousands of Bru tribals from Mizoram put in relief camp at Tripura were provided only one soap, one T-shirt, and one pant, as giving them further amenities would obstruct them to go back to their place of residence. “Is this how you treat people of this country,” a social justice bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur said after going through an affidavit by Ministry of Home Affairs. Over 35,000 Bru tribals are put in six relief camps in Kanchanpur and Panisagar inside  Tripura for about 17 years after they fled their villages in Mizoram following ethnic troubles. The bench found the affidavit “disturbing”which stated, “Efforts now on creating additional facilities in the camp life would only incentivise the Brus to their camp life in Tripura and shift the focus away from rehabilitation in Mizoram to relief measures in the refugee camps.” The court said that the government cannot say it did not want to improve the condition in the camp, because this would affect their going back to their original place of residence. The court asked the government to come up with some concrete plan after discussing the matter with the governments of Tripura and Mizoram. The government’s affidavit said it was extending grant-in-aid to the Tripura government since 1997 to help the Bru families in the six relief camps and the ministry so far had released approximately Rs 231 crore to Tripura government and Rs 35 crore to Mizoram government. The government submitted that it provided a cash dole of Rs 5 per day to each adults and Rs 2.50 to each minors staying in the camp, one T-shirt and one pant piece per adult, one mosquito net and blanket per family once in three years, and one bathing soap per head once in a year. The court told the ministry to file fresh affidavit and put the matter for further consideration on February 27. (Deccan Herald 17/1/15)

54. Tibetan community divided over citizenship rights (13)

NEW DELHI: The Election Commission’s recent directive allowing Tibetan refugees to register for voter identity card for Delhi Assembly elections, which will help them acquire Indian citizenship, has not been welcomed by all and created a deep chasm within the exiled community. Those against acquiring citizenship rights argue that the Tibetans living in India must remain refugees as becoming an Indian citizen would “dilute the struggle” for a free Tibet. N. K. Trikha, national convenor of Core Group for Tibetan Cause, a pan-India group which advocates Tibet’s independence from Chinese rule, said, “Acquiring Indian citizenship will knock the bottom out of their reason for living in exile with a determination to return to their motherland or see her become free at some point in time.” He said that by taking any other country’s citizenship in search of greener pastures, the exiled community would lose its sovereign identity as Tibetans for a few “mundane” advantages. “The cost will be too heavy for the overall Tibetan cause,” he warned. Tenzin Tsundue, a well-known Tibetan activist and writer, thanked the Indian Government for granting voting rights to his compatriots living in India but said, “it dilutes the struggle for a free Tibet because it naturally sets in complacency in the life of people and the urgency is lost in the process.” He said the moment Tibetans give up their nationality and swear loyalty to another country, they lose their authority to speak as a Tibetan. Tenzin Lekshay, a media coordinator in the Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, said that according to the ‘Demographic Survey of Tibetans in Exile’ by planning commission of Central Tibetan Administration, a total number of 94,203 Tibetans reside in India. When asked how many of them have been accorded citizenship by the Indian government, he said that he did not have an exact number in this regard. PTI (The Hindu 19/1/15)

55.  ‘Refugees should not be forcibly sent back’ (13)

CUDDALORE: Tamizhaga Vazhvurimai Katchi founder T.Velmurugan has appealed to the Centre not to adopt any tactic to compulsorily send back the Tamil refugees to Sri Lanka. In a statement here, he said that during the recent meeting of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Sri Lankan counterpart Mangala Samaraweera in New Delhi, the topic of sending back the Tamil refugees to the island nation was said to have figured prominently. Such a focussed approach on the refugee issue had created apprehension among the Tamil diaspora that there might be an element of compulsion involved in sending the refugees back . Mr. Velmuguran underscored the point that the change of regime, following the election of Maithripala Sirisena as President, was yet to instill confidence among the Tamils about their well being on the Sri Lankan soil. The Tamils left Sri Lanka in duress, leaving behind their property and relatives to escape from the ethnic cleansing and sought refuge in Tamil Nadu. But the so-called special camps set up for them in the State were no better than prisons as they lacked basic amenities. (The Hindu 21/1/15)

56. Rohingyas deserve citizenship: U.S. official (13)

Dhaka: Remarking that it is Myanmar’s responsibility to take its nationals back, a senior U.S. official has said that the international community needs to put more pressure on Myanmar to resolve the Rohingya issue. Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration Anne C. Richard, who wrapped up her four-day visit to Bangladesh, also said the U.S. did not favour settling the Rohingya refugees to a third country. Responding to a question, she, however, said the Rohingya refugees in the two camps in Cox’s Bazar district preferred to stay in Bangladesh despite not having an ideal living condition. The visiting U.S. official on Wednesday commented that Rohingyas deserve Myanmarese citizenship to end their statelessness, which she identified as a root cause of their plight. Speaking at seminar here, Ms. Richard remarked that he Rohingya population remained stateless as “they are not recognised as a distinct ethnic group in the country’s citizenship law”. “Statelessness is… a key reason they flee to neighbouring countries,” she added. Ms. Richard arrived in Dhaka from Myanmar, her first after joining the post in Washington in 2012, “to learn the Bangladesh perspective” of the refugee situation. Bangladesh has sheltered thousands of Rohingya refugees who fled the Rakhine province following sectarian clashes spread over the years. (The Hindu 23/1/15)

57. Special camps for Lankan refugee students earn praise (13)

MADURAI: In a first-ever initiative of its kind, the district administration organised a special education camp for the students living in Sri Lankan refugee camps here who are sitting for public examinations this year. According to the organisers of the camp, it was an initiative by the district collector L Subramanian, who came to know that the students living in camps did not have access to special awareness and guidance sessions usually organised for students sitting for public examinations and gave his nod for the project. The 127 students from three camps in Annaiyur, Utchapatti and Thiruvathavur in the district who are sitting for the public examinations were selected for the camp that was held in Ezhumalai from Jan 16 to 18. They were provided free boarding and lodging in the three days, during which they were given yoga sessions and guidance on how to approach the exams. R Lavanya from the Utchapatti refugee camp, who is sitting for the SSLC examination this year, said this had been a first-of-its-kind opportunity and that she had been among the first from her camp to attend such a session. Her friend Y Rathidevi said that they had benefitted immensely from the camp. Remarking that they will approach the exams with confidence, they expressed hope that the exams would be conducted regularly. S Manikanda Prabu and M Satheeshkumar from the Thiruvathavur camp said they had thought that something like this was beyond their reach, even when their fellow students attended such sessions organized in many places. “It was very helpful and informative,” they said. The parents of the students lauded the efforts of the district administration and S S Sivakumar, special tahsildar of refugee camps, to give their students this rare opportunity. Many NGOs and volunteers helped to make the camp a success, said the tahsildar, adding that this was the first time such a camp had been organised for the refugee students. (Times of India 24/1/15)

58. UNHCR and EU to Help Repatriate Refugees From TN (13)

COLOMBO: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees  (UNHCR) and the European Union (EU) have undertaken to help the Sri Lankan government repatriate Lankan Tamil refugees in Tamil Nadu and resettle them in the island nation, the Lankan Ministry of Resettlement has said. Assurance of aid was given to the Lankan Minister for Resettlement, D.M.Swaminathan, when he met local representatives Gulam Abbas and Igor Ivancic of the UNHCR, and Jaime Royo-Olid and Libuse Soukupova of the EU. here last week, a Ministry statement said. The EU has already built 23,000 houses in the Tamil-speaking Northern and Eastern Provinces, and an additional 3000 houses are to be built. The EU has set aside Euro 14 million for this project in 2015. There are still 26,056 internally displaced Tamils in Sri Lanka.  Repatriation of the refugees from India and the resettlement of the existing internally displaced persons in Lanka will both be taken up “on a priority basis” as part of the Maithripala Sirisena government’s 100-day program, the  Resettlement Ministry said.   The program to repatriate Lankan Tamil refugees from Tamil Nadu was discussed when Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on January 19. Last week, the Lankan cabinet issued a statement saying the matter will be discussed during Modi’s talks with Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe when he visits Colombo in mid-March. Both governments have assured that repatriation will be voluntary. “The refugees have to go back to reclaim their lost rights in Sri Lanka. Repatriation is essentially a Mannai Meetpom (Recover our Land) movement,” explained S.C.Chandrahasan of the Chennai-based Organization for Elangai Refugees’ Rehabilitation (OfERR), who has been working hard for repatriation.  “I have submitted to all the three governments concerned, a draft aid package to facilitate repatriation. It can be the basis of an Indo-Lankan MoU on the matter,”  he told Express.According Chandrahasan, there are 65,000 Lankan refugees living in 110 camps in Tamil Nadu. But the Tamil Nadu government says that there are 73,241 refugees in 115 camps, including those in Special Camps for suspected Tamil militants. In addition, 31,802 refugees live independently in rented houses outside the camps. (New Indian Express 26/1/15)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

59. RTI can be used even if info available through other means: Delhi HC (1)

New Delhi: The court, in a landmark order which is likely to impact a number of RTI cases of similar nature, allowed a petition seeking disclosure of communication between Urban Development Ministry officials with those of CBI–an exempted organisation–in a corruption case. In a recent order, Justice Vibhu Bakhru also said that section 8(1)(h) of the Act–which allows an organisation to withhold such information that impedes the process of investigation, apprehension and prosecution–cannot be imposed without giving proper reasons to justify the denial. Allowing the petition seeking disclosure of communication between the Ministry and CBI, he dismissed the order given by Information Commissioner M A Khan Yusufi who had agreed with the Ministry to deny information on the grounds that its disclosure would impede the process of prosecution. Justice Bakhru said neither the first appellate authority nor the Central Information Commission considered how the information sought for would impede the process of probe, apprehension or prosecution of the petitioner, an accused. He rejected the Ministry’s argument that during trial, the material relied upon by the prosecution would be provided to the applicant, thereby no prejudice would be caused to him. “In my view this cannot be a ground to deny information to the petitioner. First of all, the question whether the information sought by the petitioner is relevant or necessary, is not relevant or germane in the context of the Act; a citizen has a right to information by virtue of Section 3 of the Act and the same is not condition on the information being relevant,” he said. He said the fact that the petitioner has access to the material relied upon by the prosecution does not prevent him from seeking information, which he considers necessary for his defence. (Business Standard 12/1/15)

60. RTI to fight land struggles (1)

A non-government organisation has taken up the Right to Information route to help landless people in Bhagalpur get free plots from the government to build houses. The scheme, Grihastha Awas Yojana, launched in 2012 is meant for Mahadalits, Dalits and extremely backward classes. According to its norms, the eligible people are given 3 decimals of free land. On Wednesday morning, the Bhagalpur-based NGO Human Rights Organisation helped 800 and odd applicants to prepare their applications to be submitted to the Jagdishpur circle office. At the end of the day, the organisation’s chief executive officer, Ajit Kumar Singh, said: “Around 800 applications have been forwarded to the circle office in the first phase.” The organisation, however, claimed people across the eastern Bihar districts have not been able to enjoy the scheme thanks to the government’s mismanagement. Singh said: “Principal secretary, revenue and land reforms, Vyasji in November last year allotted each block in the state Rs 10,000 for a survey of free land available so that every beneficiary got their plots. If government land was not available in some area, the administration concerned was directed to purchase 3 decimal lands for Rs 20,000. But we doubt if that’s working smoothly, as there is ample evidence of mismanagement in the government machinery.” “If the beneficiaries do not get land in the stipulated time after filling their applications, we would file Right to Information applications. We hope to compel the government to provide the beneficiaries lands,” said chief executive officer Singh. Navin Bhushan, the Jagdishpur circle officer, said steps were being taken to provide plots to the landless residents in the area. (The Telegraph 14/1/15)

61. CIC orders NGT man’s removal for blocking info (1)

NEW DELHI: The Central Information Commission (CIC) has pulled up a National Green Tribunal official for issuing “illegal” orders saying such actions will obstruct furnishing of information and scare away applicants. In response to a complaint filed by RTI activist S C Agrawal, the commission issued a show-cause notice to NGT registrar general Sanjay Kumar recommending that he be replaced from the post of first appellate authority (FAA) under RTI matters at the tribunal. Information commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu asked Kumar, the senior-most officer in NGT, to explain why he passed “such illegal orders, why he spent so much of time without hearing the appeal within the time prescribed by the Right to Information Act and insisted on personal presence and presentation of affidavits”.Agrawal sought to know, through multiple RTI applications, the details of vehicles purchased and sold by NGT, rules and procedures on sanctioning of leave, LTC of the NGT chairman and members besides statistics about RTI applications and first appeals. NGT is the legal body for adjudication of environmental issues. Not getting a response in time, Agrawal approached the commission alleging Kumar caused him serious harassment by insisting on his presence to prove originality of his RTI application, to explain about his RTI applications and prove number of envelops, postal orders and their genuineness. “The commission finds that there is substance in the complaints made by the complainant. Some of the aspects of the interim orders of the FAA are funny and strange. They will definitely impose obstructions in the process of furnishing information according to the RTI Act. It will scare away information seekers,” Acharyulu said. He said Kumar had not “applied his mind” to the facts, law and the circumstances of the case and made the hearing of the first appeal a very elaborate and unnecessary exercise on trivial matters because of which furnishing of information was totally obstructed. (Times of India 16/1/15)

62. 12,062 have perished in Naxal violence so far: RTI (1)

MEERUT: In reply to an RTI query, the ministry of home affairs (MHA) has revealed that a total of 12,062 civilians have been killed in Naxal violence till now since 1980. The detail was given in reply to a question filed under RTI (Right to Information) rules by a Meerut-based activist. Interestingly, when the Naxalite movement began in India, only three states were involved – Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. But by 2014, eight states had got dragged into it. While in 1980, 70 people had died in the violence, in 2010 the number was a far higher 720. The reply also mentions that 3,078 security personnel were injured in Naxal-related violence in the last 34 years. MHA, however, did not disclose the actual number of security personnel dead in the same period. Lokesh Khurana, who had filed the RTI query on December 4, 2014, had asked for information on 10 points. “I had asked information on various points that included the number of citizens killed in the last 34 years, number of security personnel killed, administrative efforts made to restrain Naxalites, reasons for the rise and spread of the Naxalite movement, the annual expenditure incurred on security measures and operations in Naxalite-affected areas. The ministry only gave the details on the number of civilian deaths and security personnel injured.” Violence, the RTI answer says, escalated further in the following years after 1980 and by 2000 had reached alarming proportions. That year claimed 451 lives of citizens, with 97 security personnel injured. It became worse by 2010, with 720 civilians being killed and 285 security men wounded. In the last four years, though, starting from 2011 to 2014, there has been a decline in the violence. That year 468 civilians died and 142 security personnel were injured; in 2014, it came further down to 222 people killed and 87 security men injured. While the Union home minister Rajnath Singh was unavailable for comment on the issue, a senior source in his ministry said, “If you look at the trend since the last couple of years, the violence in Naxalite-hit area has declined to some extent. Meanwhile, the NDA government has taken some constructive steps to further curtail the violence whose impact will be visible in the near future.” (Times of India 21/1/15)

63. RTI reveals highway double standard (1)

Durgapur, Jan. 22: The CPM has decided to move the high court, accusing the Asansol-Durgapur police commisionerate of not registering cases against Trinamul for obstructing highways while slapping non-bailable charges on the Left party for the offence. According to an RTI reply sought by Pankaj Roy Sarkar, a CPM secretary in Durgapur, the local police have registered two cases against the CPM and the BJP’s Babul Supriyo for blocking NH2 and NH60, respectively, since February last year. The local police, however, have not slapped any charges against Trinamul despite the ruling party putting up at least six blockades on highways to protest the arrest of minister Madan Mitra in the Saradha scam in December and the Centre’s land ordinance bill. The police denied allegations of being politically biased. “The police have registered cases against me and 14 other CPM members under the non-bailable National Highways Act, 1956, and non-bailable sections of the IPC,” Roy Sarkar said. “We had blocked NH2 at the Muchipara crossing on February 1 last year, but only for 15 minutes. We were protesting after Trinamul workers tore our party flags and banners. All of us had to obtain anticipatory bail from court. We will move the high court next week, accusing the police of being biased,” he added. Similar charges were slapped on Union minister and Asansol MP Supriyo after suspected party workers blocked NH60 on April 12. “I have nothing to say other than the fact that I am here to win over road blocks,” Supriyo said tonight. Suspected BJP workers had blocked the highway in Raniganj after the singer-politician was allegedly assaulted and prevented from going ahead with a road show by Trinamul workers before the Lok Sabha elections last year. Blocking highways carries a maximum punishment of five years in jail. Raniganj BJP leader Manish Sharma dubbed the police “robots” in the hands of Trinamul. “They work at the behest of the ruling party. If the police can file a case against Babul Supriyo for no apparent reason, what prevents them from doing the same against Trinamul leaders? The ruling party blocked several NH2 crossings in Raniganj, Asansol and Durgapur after Madan Mitra was arrested. We, too, can join the CPM in moving court,” Sharma said. Trinamul rubbished the claims by the rival parties. “The CPM has no right to talk about manipulating the police. They had virtually turned the police into party comrades for three decades. The BJP, as usual, is talking rubbish,” said V. Sivadasan, Trinamul’s organising committee secretary in Asansol. Told about the allegation, additional deputy commissioner of police (central) Biswajit Ghosh said he was not aware of the matter. “We are not politically biased. We usually register suo motu cases for obstructing highways or any other road. I will enquire into the allegation,” he said. (The Telegraph 23/1/15)

64. Centre spent Rs Rs 320 cr on R-Day celebrations last year: RTI (1)

BAREILLY: Ever wondered how much the Republic Day ceremony at Rajpath, with all its smart marches, colourful tableaus and performing artistes, costs to put together? A query under the RTI Act has elicited a response from the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) that says the Centre spent Rs 320 crore in the four-hour parade in 2014. Over the years, the expenses on Republic Day celebrations have risen quite substantially. In 2001, the expenditure was Rs 145 crore. Pawan Agrawal, a Moradabad-based RTI activist, had requested the information last year. “I had sought details of the expense incurred on Independence and Republic Day functions at Red Fort from the year 2000 to 2013,” he told TOIon Saturday. The response to his query, however, only contained details of expenses incurred by the Centre on Republic Day celebrations. The Rs 145 crore that was incurred by the Centre in the financial year 2000-01 rose to Rs 226 crore in 2003-04. For the next three years, though, expenditure decreased somewhat, in step with a not-so-healthy economy. In 2006-07, the government spent Rs 149 crore on the celebrations. The budget for the R-Day function was then increased by 34.16% in 2007-08, and the Centre spent Rs 227 crore that year. In 2009-10, it went up to Rs 285 crore. There was slight decrease in the budget in 2011 and 2013, but the Centre ended up spending a robust Rs 320 crore in 2014. In comparison to the amount spent in 2001, the budget for the parade last year shot up by 54.51%. Agarwal had also sought an answer to the security detail ahead of Republic Day and Independence Day functions, and the expense incurred in arrangements for these. “Information on security arrangements was denied, on grounds of national interest,” he said. (Times of Indi 24/1/15)

65. Cost of RTI application doubles (1)

Bengaluru: The cost of seeking information under the Right To Information (RTI) Act, 2005 has doubled during the past few weeks. This is due to the simple reason that there is no stock of the postal order with a face value of Rs. 10 in the city from where a large number of citizens and activists seek information from various government departments. An application under the RTI Act necessitates a fee of Rs. 10, usually made through a postal order, which is available in post offices. However, officials at General Post Office (GPO), Bengaluru say they do not have stock of postal orders of face value of Rs. 10. Activists are being directed to buy a Rs. 20 postal order. RTI activist B.M. Shivakumar said that the problem began about three months ago. “I have been using Rs. 20 postal orders for the past two months. An additional expenditure of Rs. 10 is not the issue. Why should we pay more when the RTI Act stipulates only Rs. 10?” Another RTI activist Ganesh B. Koundinya, said that the whole point of the RTI Act was to bring in accountability, but the postal department is playing truant. “In most post offices, we are directed to buy a postal order of higher denomination without a satisfactory explanation,” he said. Chief Post Master, Bengaluru GPO, A.K. Hanjura told The Hindu that they have run out of Rs. 10 postal orders. “Postal orders can be printed only by India Security Press, Nashik. The Karnataka circle has placed an indent with the press. We are expecting fresh stock by February-end,” he said. (The Hindu 28/1/15)

66.  ‘Census information cannot be revealed to anyone’ (1)

MANGALURU: D. Helen Prema Kumari, Deputy Director, Directorate of Census Operations, Karnataka, said on Thursday that individual information collected under the census was confidential and could not be revealed under Section 15 of the Census Act, 1948. Addressing a workshop on census data dissemination at Mangalore University, she said that an application was filed before the directorate under the Right to Information Act seeking information on the religious status of the Congress leader Sonia Gandhi in the 2011 census. The directorate did not reveal it as it was confidential. She also pointed out that there were fewer omission of households during the 2011 census when compared to the previous census. She said that the omission of households came down from 0.002 per cent in 2001 to 0.001 per cent in 2011 in the country. The error of omission in the 1991 census stood at 0.005 per cent, she said. The omission of households comes to the notice during the revision round after the first phase of every census, she said. She said that the directorate has uploaded details of the last three censuses in its website. The directorate also provided DVDs of details of censuses to whoever wanted for academic and research purposes. (The Hindu 30/1/15)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

67. Lack of Toilets Leading to Rise in Dropout Rate (11)

WARANGAL: The Zaffergadh Zilla Parishad High School (ZPHS), which is located about 40 km away from Warangal city, is one of a few more than five-decade-old schools in the district. Built in a three acres of land on the outskirts of the historic Zaffergadh village, the school has a sprawling playground with a compound built around it and sufficient classrooms for the students. But this co-education school with a total of 405 student strength (205 boys and 195 girls) lacks proper toilet facilities. Though four toilets, two each for boys and girls were constructed recently, the students were unable to use them as there is no water facility in the toiletsThe one toilet at the entrance of the gate with its door locked, is used exclusively  by the teachers that too during ‘emergencies’ by getting water with help of the sweeper. Since the students are not using the toilets, garbage is piling up at these newly constructed toilets and the students were going to nearby bushes on the hillside to relieve themselves. D Nakshatra, a class 10 student, said, “We get about 10 minute time for interval. We have to go to the nearby bushes to relieve ourselves and come back to the classes in time. If we fail to come, we may be given punishment. Due to this, we prefer not attend nature’s call,” she says. “We are unable to use the toilets due to non-availability of water. Though they have been constructed recently, there are stinking as garbage is piled up there,” said K Sirisha, another student. When asked a teacher about the reason behind the failure in providing water to the toilets, he said the borewell dug up long back on the school premises needs a repair and a new motor is arranged to pump the water. ‘’We have sent proposals for repair of the borewell and to fit a motor, but there is no response from the Rajiv Vidya Mission officials,” the teacher added. It is not only the case with Zaffergadh ZPHS alone, several other schools in the district were facing similar conditions. Many schools in the district require borewells or pipeline laid from the common well or a tank used by the gram panchayat to get water. Many schools lack proper toilet facilities with water supply and there is no protected drinking water as mandated by the Right to Education (RTE) Act, according to teacher unions. Lack of proper toilet facilities is also  forcing many girl students drop out half-way through their studies. ‘’While the private schools are equipping themselves for smart classrooms, for a majority of students in Warangal district, proper toilet and drinking facilities are still a distant dream. There are no sufficient benches and chairs in majority of schools,” said Dalit, Girijana Teachers Union district president Bhadraiah. The teacher union leader also said that there are no special funds for the maintenance of toilets. “We have to see that the toilets are maintained through the general funds granted for the school. Unless the general funds are increased, we cannot provide toilet facilities. Finding a scavenger with minimum wages has become a great task in the rural areas,” he said. But, the RVM official sources say there is no fund provision for cleaning of toilets at present. (New Indian Express 10/1/15)

68. Enrolment in Rajasthan pvt schools up by 22%: Report (11)

JAIPUR: The enrolment of students in private schools in Rajasthan has jumped from 20% in 2006 to 42.1% in 2014 in the age group of 6-14 years, says Annual Statues of Education Report ( ASER) released in New Delhi on Tuesday. This figure is quite higher than the national average of 31% in the same category in 2014. Rajasthan has 84,000 government schools against 36,500 private schools and the enrolment thus indicates the popularity of the latter due to the former’s failure. This report makes a comparative evaluation when it says that both primary and secondary sections in private schools have gradually taken over state schools in Rajasthan. On the other hand, enrolment in government schools has reduced to 52.2% in 2014 from around 75% in 2006 in the age group of 6-14 years. The decline to some extent is also attributed to the state government’s decision of merging over 17,990 schools leading to mass drop outs. Data says that in 2010, 41% students enrolled in private schools in classes I-VIII which increased to 42.1% in the year 2014. The leading edge of private is a national phenomena with Kerela, Goa and Manipur being the three states that have close to 75% students in private schools. It was followed by India’s populous states Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Meghalaya with close to 60% students in private schools. K B Kothari, managing trustee of Pratham, said, “Private school enrolments are increasing due to poor quality of learning in many public schools. In the absence of qualified teachers, the students migrate to private schools which are more efficient than government ones.” During the same period, government schools grew only 17.86% while private secondary schools rose to 93.78% between 2006-07 and 2012-13. Private secondary schools have 16.2 lakh students enrolled with them as against government schools r=that have registered enrolment of 8.5 lakh students in 2012-13. The figure was almost reversed in 2006-07 with government schools enrolling 11.8 lakh students while private schools admitted 81,000 students in the same year. The fall in secondary schools both in enrolment and imparting education highlights the government’s failure. Some of the policy failures include non-conduction of continuous training for teachers to adapt the challenging curriculum. Moreover, schools require improved level of infrastructure which is missing in many government schools and most of the secondary schools were upgraded from elementary schools without making much change. (Times of India 14/1/15)

69. With 0.85% kids out of school, Nagpur division out of top 10 league (11)

NAGPUR: NGO Pratham’s annual report on school education has revealed that no-fail policy has resulted in huge deterioration in the quality of school education. Class VIII, where the no-fail policy ends, is throwing up a batch of students in whom the majority is unfit to appear for a board exam two years later. At least 1.4% of these students could not identify even a single number, something which is taught at the pre-primary level. The remaining 98.5% were no better as they struggled in various other levels of testing which by any standard would be called extremely simple. One of the division test for a Class VIII student was “824/6″, and 67% students failed in that. In Class VIII where triple digit multiplication and division are commonplace, the failure of students to even handle a single digit denominator was indeed shocking. Nagpur division, which consists of six districts, had its 15 minutes of fame in 2012 when ASER ranked it fourth in the country for having the least number of kids out %of school. This was a remarkable feat considering that the top three divisions were from Kerala, the most literate state in India. Since then it has been a steady slide with the division now getting kicked out of the top 10 league as well. Nagpur with 0.85% kids out of school is placed at number 13 in the country. The rankings would have slipped further had Kerala been included in the survey. The ASER report says it is not publishing statistics where ‘data was insufficient’. Pune division, however, has been seeing a steady rise and now finds itself ranked fourth in the country for the ‘least number of kids out of school category’ with .44% stats. The state’s average is 1.5%.Right To Education (RTE) Act mandates that every child must attend school and the state had gone into an overdrive last year to complete the last mile in this regard. Mahesh Karajgonkar, state project controller for Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, said the state would improve the statistics. “The officials are doing their best but they are overburdened with additional charge as permanent officials have not been appointed,” he said. (Times of India 14/1/15)

70.  ‘Saffronisation’: panel to review textbooks (11)

Mangaluru: The State government has set up a committee of experts to review and rewrite textbooks to remove content perceived as an attempt to saffronise them, during the BJP rule. The committee will ensure that the textbooks conform to the National Curriculum Framework 2005 of the NCERT. The committee is scheduled to hold its meeting this week, according to Suresh Bhat Bakrabail, president, Dakshina Kannada unit of Komu Sauharda Vedike, who told The Hindu that he learnt about this from a top government functionary. Mr. Bhat is the chairman of a group, Committee for Resisting Saffronisation of Textbooks (CRST), that protested against the alleged attempts to saffronise textbooks. Congratulating the State government for taking “the right decision to revisit school textbooks”, Mr. Bhat said CRST had campaigned against preparing textbooks on communally divisive lines; using textbooks for “mythification” and glorification of Indian history; projecting Indian history only as a record of the suffering of Hindu rulers under non-Hindu rulers; and continued stereotyping of women, Dalits and other minority groups such as Muslims and Christians. (The Hindu 21/1/15)

71. Education dept targets to fill 100% seats under RTE (11)

DEHRADUN: With an objective to fill all seats reserved for children from economically weaker sections under the Right to Education, the first RTE meeting for the 2015-16 academic session was held in the state capital on Thursday. One of the main concerns during the meeting was that despite several advertisements and awareness programs, the economically weaker sections still didn’t know that their children could study in the finest schools in the city for free. While 32 public schools, both affiliated to CBSE and ICSE boards, from across the state capital were supposed to be part of the discussion with the chief education officer and RTE officials, representatives from 26 institutes turned up for the meeting. TOI has learnt that show-cause notices will be issued to the six schools which did not take part in the event. Education department officials said while 61% of the seats reserved under RTE were filled in 2012-13, 94% were occupied in 2013-14 and 97% in 2014-15. Tripta Sharma, RTE coordinator, said, “There is 25% reservation for unprivileged children in public schools under the Right to Education Act in the lower classes. We wanted to ensure that each school gave us the exact number of seats available with them along with the fee structure.” She added, “The process for final applications for admissions under the RTE quota starts from March, we wish to ensure that by March 31, the screened list of the selected students comes out. If applicants are more than the seats available, admission will be done based on chit system. We received good response last year, but are aiming at 100% this time.” It is learnt that last year, 876 seats in 32 city schools were reserved for underprivileged kids. On an average, the education department receives nearly 1,000 applications every year. Shiv Prasad Khali, chief education officer of Dehradun district, who presided over the meeting, said, “We intend to assist parents with limited means. Since the government pays for these students, we have told the schools that strict action will be taken against them if children kids enrolled under the RTE are asked to pay fees.” (Times of India 23/1/15)

72. 26 schools have less than five students each in Kolhapur (11)

KOLHAPUR: The Kolhapur district administration had closed down 14 of a total of 40 schools in June 2014, before the commencement of the 2014-15 academic year, in remote areas of the district, because these had less than five students, states a recent district primary education department report. The remaining schools are still operational, due to unavailability of alternatives for students, states the report. According to the report, six talukas in the district – Aajra, Shirol, Bhudargad, Karveer, Radhanagari and Shahuwadi – host these schools. “The number of students was very low in these schools, located in remote areas. The 14 schools that had been shut down at the start of this academic year had just 39 students. For these 39 students, the education department had employed 25 teachers,” said Smita Gaud, district primary education officer. In a survey conducted by the education department in 2013-14, it was found that there were over 400 schools in Kolhapur with less than 20 students. Such schools have over 5,000 students and around 800 teachers. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 norms suggest that a standard 1:30 teacher-student ratio should be maintained in primary schools and a minimum of 20 students should be enrolled to operate a school division. Schools that fail to achieve these numbers could face shutdown. Students in such schools can be shifted to ones that comply with the RTE norms and are located within one kilometre of the periphery. In case of non-availability of a school within the given periphery, the government has to grant transportation arrangements for such students. Gaud said that students in schools that had been shut down have been absorbed in nearby schools. For the remaining 26 schools, there were no alternatives. “Students here do not have proper modes of transport and communication. In such cases, the closure of these 26 schools would be disastrous for them. Hence, these schools will keep operating for now,” Gaud said. Gaud said that if the number of students in the schools that have been shut down increases in future, the department may think of re-starting the school operations. Many primary teachers’ associations had expressed concern over shutting down schools with less than 20 students, under the scanner of the education department for the past few years. (Times of India 25/1/15)

73. Committe Decries Commercialisation of Education (11)

HYDERABAD: Eliminating multigrade system, providing qualified teachers and necessary infrastructure and compliance with the Right to Education Act are among the demands made by the Save Education Committee here on Monday. Members of the committee urged the State government to act immediately to improve standards in government schools. “Today, 76% of the government schools are running short of qualified teachers. Most of these schools have only 2 to three teachers who teach five classes,” pointed out K Lakshminarayana, Organizing Secretary, Save Education Committee. Talking about infrastructural needs of government schools, Lakshminarayana said 58% of the schools do not have functional toilets while 52% do not have compound walls and 71% sufficient classroooms. The committee suggested that the government introduce breakfast and evening snacks in government schools on the lines of the Midday meal scheme. “Most of the students in government schools come from poverty stricken families and are malnourished. Hence, the government should take up the responsibility of providing them nutritious food,” opined G Haragopal, general secretary, Save Education Committee. The committee also called for a ban on commercialisation of education, stating that parents are being burdened with exorbitant fee by corporate schools. “We have taken opinions from citizens belonging to different sections of the society. While the middle class sections feel pretty overloaded with the pricey education, people belonging to lower middle class have given up on the idea of private education and are restricting themselves to government schools,” Haragopal explained. “Since primary education is very important, a common platform for all the students from class IV to class VIII is needed. The government has promised free KG to PG education but it needs to look into every minute detail in improving standards in government schools,” he added. (New Indian Express 27/1/15)

74. Kannada as medium of instruction:Govt plans to amend RTEAct (1)

Bengaluru: The State Cabinet on Thursday decided to take the legislation route to ensure Kannada or mother tongue as the medium of instruction in unaided primary schools from classes 1 to 5. DH file photo. For representation pupose The State Cabinet on Thursday decided to take the legislation route to ensure Kannada or mother tongue as the medium of instruction in unaided primary schools from classes 1 to 5. The Supreme Court last year had upheld a Karnataka High court judgment striking down an executive order issued by the State government in 1994 imposing Kannada or mother tongue as medium of instruction in primary schools. The apex court had stated that the order infringed upon the right to freedom of expression and speech. The Supreme Court also rejected a revision petition filed by the Karnataka seeking review of its ruling. A curative petition filed by the government is yet to be heard by the apex court. Now, with the private school managements filing a contempt petition before the Supreme Court, for not implementing its order, the State government has decided to take the legislation route. Briefing reporters after the Cabinet meeting, Law Minister T B Jayachandra said that with education being on the concurrent list, the state government can bring amendments to the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 ( a Central Act) popularly known as Right to Education Act, to restore the primacy of Kannada in primary education. Sections 19 (7) and 29 (2) of the Act, which pertains to curriculum, would be amended to specifically state that Kannada or mother tongue should be the medium of instruction in schools, Jayachandra said. The amendments would be tabled in the legislature session scheduled to commence from February 2. The amendments would also help the State government in its arguments before the Supreme Court when the curative petition is taken up, the minister added. Jayachandra said that the State government was also trying to evolve a national consensus to ensure mother tongue as the medium of instruction in primary schools. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has written to his counterparts in other states in this regard. In another decision, the Cabinet gave its approval for setting up an Higher Education Academy at Karnatak University at a cost of Rs 166 crore – to be released over the next five years. The Cabinet meeting also decided to release the government’s share of Rs 38 crore for the teacher training programmes at District Institutes of Education and Training (DIETs). (Deccan Herald 30/1/15)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

75. ‘Wrong policies will make 1 bn more people poor by 2030′ (21)

London: Almost one billion more people globally may face extreme poverty by 2030 if world leaders fail to make concrete decision on inequality and climate change at two UN summits to be held this year. The “action/2015″, an international coalition of more than 1,000 organisations, warned that global poverty could rise for the first time in a generation if politicians make the wrong calls, The Independent reported Thursday. The “action/2015″ campaign will target the UN summit in New York in September, which will discuss a new agenda to replace the millennium development goals set in 2000, which expire this year. The new agenda is expected to include ending poverty and hunger, improving health and education, making cities more sustainable, combating climate change, and protecting oceans and forests. The campaign will also demand tough action to tackle man-made climate change when UN-led negotiations on a new global agreement reach a climax in Paris in December. Research for the campaign by the University of Denver shows that, if world leaders get it right, the number of people living in extreme poverty – less than 82 pence or about Rs.77 ($1.25) a day – could be reduced dramatically from more than one billion to 360 million by 2030. By then, about 4 per cent of the global population would live in extreme poverty, down from 17 per cent today. This would make eradicating extreme poverty achievable for the first time in history. However, if the two summits get it wrong, the number of people living in extreme poverty could increase to 1.2 billion by 2030 –the first rise since 1993, and 886 million higher than if strong action is taken. Under this scenario, one in three of the world’s population would live on under 1.32 pound or Rs.123 ($2.0) a day. The goals of “action/2015″ include an end to poverty in all its forms; ensuring fundamental rights, tackling inequality and discrimination and speeding up the transition to “100 per cent renewable energy”.Nobel laureate and campaigner for girls’ education Malala Yousafzai said: “People globally want an end to injustice, poverty and illiteracy. Our world is interconnected and youth are ready and mobilised more than ever to see real change take place. Together, we are demanding our leaders take action in 2015 and we must all do our part.” The campaign “action/2015″ is supported by more than 120 countries. Queen Rania of Jordan, Bill and Melinda Gates, rock star Bono, actors Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and the mobile communications entrepreneur Mo Ibrahim have also extended their support to the campaign. British Prime Minister David Cameron, Leader of Opposition in Britain Ed Miliband, and British politician Nick Clegg also have pledged their support. (Business Standard 15/1/15)

76. Poverty isn’t invincible, after all (21)

KOLKATA: Poverty is dismal, dehumanizing and desolate. But, as Meera Mitra shows, it is possible to write positively about poverty without mocking it. A collection of 18 real-life stories penned by her and released on the last day of the Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival (AKLF), being held in association with the Times of India, provides an alternative discourse on poverty. ‘Breaking Through — India’s Stories of Beating The Odds On Poverty’ features people from all corners of the country who have overcome the odds and managed to lift themselves out of poverty. But it is more than just a collection of their stories. The book’s subtle narrative, and one that’s perhaps more important, is one that shows how the levers of the system could be worked to struggle for existence. There are stories of Dalits, small traders, marginal farmers and roadside vendors who work the system to climb up the economic ladder. The book, as social theorist Ashis Nandy who released it said, is “beautifully written” and is positive in the sense that it offers hope for the poor and for policy planners and social activists who want to tackle the scourge Meera, a sociologist and development specialist who is also the spouse of state finance minister Amit Mitra, said that during her extensive research over the years, she came across many positive examples of people who managed to beat the odds in India’s villages, towns and cities. Their stories had to be told not only to inspire other poor people but also to show planners and others that there are ethical ways to beat poverty. “Many NGOs are doing fantastic work in the fields of micro-finance, panchayati raj and other sectors. Their stories have to be told and the media has to be asked to do that,” she said. She added that since the liberalization process started, the number of people coming out of poverty “is amazing” and the book shows what ladders they are taking and how they are doing it. The book is a light read on a very heavy subject. Nandy said that since the very beginning of development, there has been dissatisfaction with it. Development in all countries, he pointed out, leads to reduction of poverty in the short and long run, but also leads to many poor people being pushed into destitution. And development, when fast-paced, leads to some degree of authoritarianism by its pilots. Development, said Nandy, also weakens and destroys communities, especially those outside the market. The book, he noted, provides hints on how this can be avoided. A telling commendation of the book came from film director Goutam Ghose. He said that the book offers a ray of hope that people can be lifted out of poverty without destroying their social structures and displacing them. “There are so many exciting and animating stories in this book that I’m tempted to make films out of them,” he said. Sudha Kaul, founder of the Indian Institute of Celebral Palsy, said development’s dark side was that it bypasses people with disabilities. The session, held at The Park, was moderated by AKLF co-director Anjum Katyal. (Times of India 19/1/15)

77. India tops malnutrition chart in south Asia (21)

NEW DELHI: Severe acute malnutrition should be recognized as a medical emergency with one million children under five dying in India due to malnutrition related causes, say activists. A new study in Baran, Rajasthan and Burhanpur in Madhya Pradesh has found that preventable deaths continue to hit children in the poorest areas of the country. According to UNICEF, every year 1 million children under five die due to malnutrition related causes in India. The statistics are alarming, and far above the emergency threshold for acute malnutrition (as per WHO classification of the severity of malnutrition). ACF India and Fight Hunger Foundation on Tuesday announced the launch of the Generational Nutrition Program. Speaking about the program ACF India deputy country director Rajiv Tandon said that there was an urgent need to recognize severe acute malnutrition as a medical emergency. He also stressed on the need for policies to tackle malnutrition and adequate budgets for implementation. The ACF report says that the number of children affected in India is higher than all the south Asian countries with high burden of wasting or acute malnutrition. “Within India, scheduled tribes (28%), scheduled castes (21%) and other backward castes (20%) and rural communities (21%) have a high burden of acute malnutrition,” the report said. These reports throw light on the malnutrition situation in the two districts analyzing the infant mortality rates and child deaths due to conditions which are preventable… (Times of India 21/1/15)

78. FCI revamp committee suggests lower food security law coverage (21)

New Delhi: The committee constituted by the government on how to reform the Food Corporation of India (FCI) — it gave its report this week — suggested limiting foodgrain distribution under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) to 40 per cent as against the current norm of 67 per cent, thus, saving the exchequer around Rs 30,000 crore per year. It, however, wants more to be given to households classified as below poverty line (BPL), seven kg a head instead of five kg in a month. The coverage of 67 per cent would mean a subsidy of Rs 1.3 lakh crore a year and that of 40 per cent would mean Rs 77,000 crore a year, at five kg each of grain. If seven kg is given, the subsidy will be Rs 1.07 lakh crore.   The committee has also suggested that the food ministry should be quick to export grains or sell them in the local market as soon as FCI procures more than the requirement. “The government should defer implementation of NFSA in states that have not done end-to-end computerisation, have not put the list of beneficiaries online for anyone to verify and have not set up vigilance committees to check pilferage from the Public Distribution System ,” said the committee’s report. Former Union food minister Shanta Kumar, who chaired the committee, said the report was pro-farmer and pro-poor, and followed the Gandhian ideal of Antyodaya (succour to the poorest). “We (Bharatiya Janata Party) had objections to the NFSA while in opposition but had to support it in Parliament due to electoral compulsions. Now, we want to correct the mistakes,” Kumar told reporters. In a related development, a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi directed the food ministry to give its comments to the report, senior officials said they have started the process of implementing some of the recommendations “like increasing the supply of jute bags and computerisation of public distribution system”. Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan told Business Standard the department will study all suggestions and consult other ministries before forming a view. The FCI revamp committee had said beneficiaries covered under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana, numbering around 30 million households on the basis of a 1992-93 census, should continue to get foodgrain through the PDS at highly subsidised rates of Rs 3 a kg for rice, Rs 2 for wheat and Rs 1 a kg for coarse cereals. Those outside this classification but priority households should get grain at a price which is half the government’s minimum support price. Under the current form of the Act, foodgrain is to be allocated to all beneficiaries at a uniform Rs 3 a kg for rice, Rs 2 a kg for wheat and Rs 1 a kg for coarse cereals each month. This price would remain for three years. The panel also suggested the government gradually move to cash transfer of the subsidy in the PDS, starting with the 50-odd cities having a population of more than a million. “This could be extended to the foodgrain surplus states and thereafter the deficit states could be given the option of either cash or physical grain distribution,” its report said. “If the report is implemented in full, it will have a magnificent impact on the poor of this country and add an extra income of Rs 3,000 crore per annum for the poor, helping bringing around 15 crore (150 mn) out of poverty,” said Shanta Kumar. The panel estimates if food subsidy is transferred in cash, it will save the exchequer around Rs 30,000 crore per annum in subsidies, while giving a better deal to consumers. “Our vision of FCI is an organisation which reaches its glorious past,” said Ashok Gulati, former chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP). He was a member of the panel. The committee also suggests FCI hand over procurement of wheat and rice to the state governments in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Punjab. And, concentrate on Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Assam, where farmers resort to distress sales due to poor state procurement and are dominated by small land holdings. (Business Standard 23/1/15)

79. Govt. to focus on improving livelihood in 150 mandals (21)

HYDERABAD: Telangana Minister for IT, Panachayat Raj and Rural Development K.T. Rama Rao stated that the government has plans to spend Rs. 642 crore in 150 mandals that are most backward over the next five years for improving livelihood and human development indices (HDI) under the Telangana Palle Pragathi programme. It was often dubbed that welfare and development schemes such as ‘Aasara’ and restoration of minor irrigation tanks were the only indicators of progress, but there was more to measure HDI, the Minister said. Providing marketing facility, sharing market knowledge and ensuring remunerative price to agriculture produce were also part of the larger development indicators. Speaking after releasing the annual diary of the Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP) Employees’ Association here on Friday, Mr. Rao said the credit for mobilising and organising women during the last 14 years would go to SERP alone. However, the organisation did not publicise its efforts properly, he felt. He suggested the SERP to set up a centre of excellence by documenting its best practices in different fields to inspire line departments and act as a model to other departments. Chief executive officer of SERP A. Murali stated that there were 47.42 lakh women in about 4.17 lakh self help groups in the State and about 20 lakh poor families were getting Rs. 3,000 crore financial linkage through banks and Streenidhi federation. In farming, 11.2 lakh farmers were getting benefited with sustainable agriculture in 20.4 lakh acres, he said. He explained that about 37.5 lakh families in 10,621 villages were expected to get benefited under the Palle Pragathi scheme. (The Hindu 24/1/15)

80. ‘Vicious circles linking violence and hunger’ must end – UN agriculture chief (21)

New York: Agriculture and food security must be treated as essential components of peacebuilding and conflict resolution, the head of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said during a special meeting of the UN Peacebuilding Commission held at Headquarters today. “Food security is an important foundation for peace, political stability and sustainable development. In the history of humanity, time and time again we have seen vicious circles linking violence and hunger – and these are conflicts that are not restricted by national borders,” FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said to participants today. In addition to Graziano da Silva’s briefing, the meeting was also expected to hear opening remarks from the Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, another briefing by the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support as well as an interaction with Member States. In his remarks, the FAO Director-General emphasized that food security can be used as “a conflict prevention and mitigation tool” for the advancement of peace and security. Policies and actions on food security can not only build resilience and resolve conflicts; they can help prevent them, too. “We cannot just wait for an emergency to react. To achieve food security, we need to act before the crisis. We cannot prevent a drought from happening, but we can prevent it from becoming famine,” he added. Hunger kills far more people than war or terrorism, he noted during his speech. For example, between 2004 and 2009, an estimated 55,000 people a year lost their lives as a direct result of conflict or terrorism, while in Somalia alone, between 2010 and 2012 over 250,000 died due to famine caused by severe drought, Graziano da Silva said. Meanwhile, the impact of conflicts in rural areas can be devastating for crop production, livestock and harvests and often causes the destruction of farm assets and household capital. And the impact of conflicts on food security often lasts long after the violence has subsided, Graziano da Silva said. As agriculture continues to be the primary way of life for the majority of people in post-conflict countries, rehabilitation and revival of agriculture in those areas, therefore, becomes crucial to alleviating poverty and ensuring overall development. The FAO Director-General emphasized that “partnerships are crucial,” spotlighting that now more than ever countries need to work together to overcome the multiple, interconnected challenges. It is in this spirit of collaboration that FAO has been able to successfully carry out projects across the globe. Additionally, with the crafting of new global sustainable development goals (SDGs) underway, “improved knowledge and understanding of the possible interplays between food security and human security will help shape more effective interventions and contribute to more lasting results,” Graziano da Silva said. (New Kerala 27/1/15)

81. More bhagya schemes roll out, but no revenue rolls in (21)

Bengaluru: From Anna Bhagya to Bachchilu Bhagya, chief minister Siddaramaiah has been rolling out populist schemes one after another, putting severe stress on public finances. This, despite the fact that the state’s revenue collection has taken a major hit this fiscal and adversely impacted construction projects, infrastructure and road works. In the past week, Siddaramaiah launched two schemes — Vime Bhagya (Rs 1.5 lakh insurance scheme for Above Poverty Line families) and Bachchilu Bhagya (Rs 18,000 subsidy for 1.5 lakh BPL families to construct bathrooms). This at a time when the state is already shelling out Rs 7,000 crore in subsidies for various populist schemes. “Populist schemes are the order of the day for any government to win votes. But in Karnataka, it seems the the policies are extremely pro-poor and less pro-growth. It’s extremely important to balance pro-poor schemes to alleviate poverty and pro-growth schemes to push economy especially in the wake of federal level competition and slowdown in economy,” said Prof G Ramesh, Centre for Public Policy, Indian Institute of Management, Bengaluru. As a result of more populist measures, resource mobilization has taken a serious hit, raising doubts over the government’s ability to foot the bill for its populist schemes and programmes. “It’s expected to get worse with dipping revenue and more populist schemes planned ahead of panchayat elections,” said a senior official in the finance department. Siddaramaiah recently met officials of revenue-generating departments — commercial tax, transport, excise and stamps and registration – to put pressure on them to meet the Rs 14,500 crore target this fiscal. He reportedly said their promotions would be directly linked to performance in meeting targets. Since then, the commercial tax department has been going all out to meet the target, causing resentment among businessmen. “After the CM’s warning, the commercial tax department conducted raids on traders, creating panic in the business community. This was uncalled for since it has been supportive of the Congress government,” said Sajjan Raj Mehta, a trader-activist. (Times of India 28/1/15)

82. Himachal has succeeded in reducing poverty: World Bank (21)

SHIMLA: Over the years Himachal Pradesh has emerged as one of the states with the best human development outcomes in India. However, there has been a decline in the female child sex ratio as people have developed preference for male child. A World Bank report released on Wednesday has revealed that the state was also facing the problem of malnutrition in children and an ageing population. The report – Scaling the heights: Social inclusion and sustainable development in Himachal Pradesh – is a macro-social account of the state’s achievements over the past several decades and an attempt to understand the factors that allowed Himachal Pradesh to move toward social inclusion and sustainable development. The World Bank report highlights how Himachal Pradesh has effectively balanced economic growth with good human development outcomes and has successfully reduced poverty among different groups in the state. However, it has also captured issues of concern such has decline in the female child sex ratio, under nutrition in children and an ageing population. “Perhaps one of the most worrisome trends, and in many ways a puzzle in Himachal Pradesh, is the stark absence of female children compared to male. Himachal Pradesh has made significant progress in reducing both fertility and infant mortality. Additionally, in a regime where education, health, sanitation, and overall growth are models for others to emulate, the higher mortality of female children comes as a surprise and a conundrum,” the report stated. The report stated that in the late 1990s, Himachal Pradesh had received international kudos because its female-to-male ratio seemed to be approaching parity since 1901, and demographers predicted that this progress would continue. “But, the 2001 census showed an unexpected dip in overall sex ratio for Himachal Pradesh. Much more worrisome has been the sharp decline in female-to-male ratios among children,” it added. The report further stated that from 1981 to 2011, the number of females to every 1,000 males plummeted. Such a sharp decline implicates sex-selective abortions and gross neglect of female children, although not female infanticide, in a fertility regime that is characterized by a preference for small families and sons. “However, it is true that stated preferences for sons seem to have declined from 1992 to 2005, when the first and third rounds of the National Family Health Survey were conducted,” it added. The report stated that the change in attitude seems to have gone hand-in-hand with a slight improvement in the number of female children to every 1,000 male kids between the 2001 and the 2011 censuses, but the state government has to keep a close watch to ensure this trend continues to improve. (Times of India 30/1/15)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

83. Centre Delaying Release of Rs.1,008 cr NREGS Instalment to Telangana Government (14)

HYDERABAD: Assurances belie the ground reality. As the endless promises stack up on one side of the Centre’s commitment to continue the largest employment scheme effectively, there is delay in providing states their due under the scheme. One of the largest beneficiaries of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), the Telangana government has been waiting since November for the release of over Rs.1,000 crore as second instalment for the current financial year. “The state government has sent proposals to the tune of Rs.1,008 crore. Any further delay in release of funds would seriously affect the implementation of the scheme,” a senior official in the government told Express. With whatever little is left with the rural development department from the previous funds, the programme is being continued in nine districts of the state. The inordinate delay in disbursal of the funds earmarked for the programme is likely to jeopardise the livelihood of over one crore NREGS workers. According to official estimates, there are a total of 61.31 lakh NREGS job cards in the state which guarantee at least 100 days of work per year on each card. The amount that is left with the government for the scheme can be utilised for a maximum number of ten days, another official in the rural development commissionerate has said. “Considering its a peak season due to harvesting, the funds may not last even ten days,” the official feared. Under the NREGS Act, applicants are entitled to get work within 15 days from the day of making application for the same. Failing which the government has to pay an unemployment allowance to them, organised into Shrama Shakti Sanghams. “If there is any dearth of funds, the state government will have nothing but to refrain from making commitments to provide work,” the official added. Besides, it would also come as a dampener to several developmental works planned by the state government: a substantial quantum of NREGS funds is also spent on developmental works in rural areas.  Asked about the Centre’s response to the state government’s requisition, he said,”The Centre has promised to release the funds in the next four to seven days and suggested to us to utilise the previous funds.” (New Indian Express 12/1/15)

84. Livelihood of 25,000 farmers affected: CPI(M) (14)

NAGERCOIL:  “Wrong policies” of the BJP-led NDA government and the previous Congress-led UPA government at the Centre were the cause for dwindling rubber price, said G. Ramakrishnan, State secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), here on Sunday. Addressing a public meeting at Atrur to mark the end of the party’s three-day 21{+s}{+t}district conference in Tiruvattar, Mr. Ramakrishnan said due to the “wrong policies” the livelihood of 25,000 farmers depending on rubber cultivation in the district was affected. He charged that Union Minister of State for Shipping and Highways Pon. Radhakrishnan had failed to fulfil the assurances given to the voters of Kanyakumari Parliamentary constituency. Prime Minister Narendra Modi opened the gates for multi-national companies to “loot” natural resources of our country in the name of “Make in India,” he charged. Mr. Ramakrishnan accused the NDA government of diluting the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. As many as 14 honour killings were reported in the State in recent past, he said. The meeting was presided over by N. Murugesan, district secretary. P. Sampath, central committee member, Noor Mohamed, State committee member, A.V. Bellarmin, former MP, R. Leema Rose, former MLA, and others spoke. (The Hindu 15/1/15)

85. Odisha first state to have migrant workers’ register (14)

BHUBANESWAR: Odisha has become the first state in the country to launch special drives to register migrant labourers working in different states. The effort is aimed at covering the migrant labourers under different social security schemes of the state government. “Since a huge number of people, especially from the southern districts of the state, are migrating to other states in search of jobs, they are deprived of the government’s social security benefits. Besides, there was no mechanism to identify them. Now we have decided to organize camps in different states to register the Odia labourers working in other states,” chairman of Odisha building and other construction workers welfare board Subash Singh told media persons here. Singh, who along with officials of state labour department had organized a camp recently in different brick kiln and construction sites in Telangana, claimed that no other state has launched such drives for welfare of construction workers. A source said the government had already registered nearly 1,500 construction labourers in Ranga Reddy, Nalgunda and Karim Nagar districts of Telangana. “We have issued a special card to them through which they can avail the benefits,” said Singh. Singh said similar drives would be conducted in states like Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Kerala and Gujarat where a substantial number of Odia workers are engaged in different construction sites. The state government has announced different welfare measures for the construction workers, like financial assistance for marriage. The wards of construction workers would receive Rs 5,000 per annum while pursuing intermediate (Plus-II) courses. They would receive Rs 7,000 per annum while pursuing graduation and post graduation, the release said. Similarly, students belonging to the families would get Rs 7,000 per annum for pursuing ITI, Rs 10,000 during diploma and polytechnics and Rs 40,000 during bachelors’ and masters’ degree in technical educations. The state has some 4.62 lakh registered construction workers. (Times of India 18/1/15)

86. Construction workers stage protest in Salem (14)

SALEM: Demanding that the State Government should fix price for cement bags, the construction workers in Salem district staged a demonstration near the District Collectorate here on Monday, Led by Federation of Salem Zone Traders Union leader K.A. Nagarajan, members said that the price of a cement bag was sold between Rs. 370 to Rs. 390 in the State. “People involved in construction of houses and buildings have stopped the work. This has left us jobless,” they said. Members wanted cement bags to be imported from foreign countries and other States. Also, the government should fix the price of cement bags. They said that the welfare assistance from the Salem Workers Welfare Board was not given to them in the past years and membership card was also not given to them from 2012-13. They said that the board without any prior information conducts camp for enrolment, renewal and also concludes camp. Later a meeting was held in which the following resolutions were passed including stringent action against persons involving in child abuse and sexual harassment of schoolchildren. Also the resolution urged for providing adequate protection in schools to prevent such incidents. Resolutions also urged for distributing monthly assistance without delay, reduction of power tariff by 15 per cent and also provide compensation to the members in case of natural death. (The Hindu 20/1/15)

87. Govt to provide tablets to Gram Panchayats under MGNREGA (14)

NEW DELHI: The Narendra Modi government is all set to give a digital boost to the flagship rural jobs programme by providing tablets to 2.65 lakh gram panchayats in the country to monitor its implementation. The mobile monitoring of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) will cost the Centre about Rs 265 crore, with the rural development ministry distributing tablets costing Rs 10,000 each to the gram panchayats, officials said. The government will roll out the first phase of the mobile monitoring system on April 1 in 35,000 gram panchayats, a senior government official told ET. The initiative comes after the government has already decided to switch over to direct benefit transfer under the scheme, which is expected to be expanded to the entire country in the next one year. The previous UPA government had, in March last year, notified usage of tablets to monitor the scheme in 10,000 gram panchayats. However, the plan did not take off because of the unavailability of AakashIV tablets, promoted by the department of electronics and IT, to be used to digitally update the scheme. The ministry has amended the earlier provision and extended the proposal to cover all gram panchayats in the country under the scheme, starting with 25,000 gram panchayats along with 10,000 identified by the previous government in the first phase. The government hopes mobile monitoring will enable access to real-time data at the village level, there by improving implementation of MGNREGA, which has drawn a lot of criticism for its failure to create new and durable assets. “The government has decided to extend the mobile monitoring to all gram panchayats and technical or supervisory personnel involved in implementing MGNREGA to empower them with live data from worksites besides location of assets with geo-tagging for easy verification. This will lead to complete transparency in the system,” said the official, requesting anonymity. The states have been asked to identify the gram panchayats under the first phase by January 31 and immediately start procurement of devices as well as training of personnel, the official added. According to the ministry officials, the mobile monitoring of MGNREGA will serve the twin purpose of making the scheme more effective and giving a panIndia platform to the government for rolling out its Digital India drive. The annual allocation for MGNREGA is Rs 34,000 crore and so far nearly Rs 2 lakh crore have been spent under the scheme. The scheme guarantees 100 days of wage employment in a financial year to a rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work. On average, 25% of rural households seek employment under the scheme annually. (Times of India 23/1/15)

88. EPFO wants speedy enrolment of construction workers (14)

New Delhi: To speed up the process of extending provident fund (PF) coverage to construction and contract workers, the Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) has asked all its regional offices to expedite the process of enrolment. Noting that a number of instructions had been issued in the past in this regard, a circular dated January 22 by the Additional PF Commissioner has instructed all its regional offices to hold meetings with State governments, large establishments (with over 500 employees), such as the Railways, units employing over 100 workers and unions and monitor the activities and send information to the head office. “At least five to 10 meetings be conducted in the areas where labourers are predominantly residing (involving labour unions also). The details of these should also be brought to the notice of the headquarters,” it said citing instructions sent on January 8. As per National Sample Survey (2011- 2012) estimates, there are about 50.22 million building and other construction workers, including contract workers, many of whom keep moving from one location to another. All regional PF offices have also been conveyed the concerns of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour, which in its meeting earlier this month, urged the EPFO to “work hard” on coverage of construction and contract workers. Last year, the EPFO had set up two sub-committees to suggest ways to close the gap in coverage of construction and contract workers, many of whom are not stationed in one location. According to Labour Ministry estimates, over ₹27,000 crore lying in operative accounts belong to this section of workers. In a circular in October 2013, the retirement fund body had also cited instances brought to its notice of placement agencies and contractors providing guards, security and other personnel to government departments, autonomous bodies and so on, which were diverting residual employer contribution and “pilfering provident fund money”. Addressing a seminar in December 2014, Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya had said that details of contract workers in each establishment will be put up on the Shram Suvidha Portal. (HBL 26/1/15)

89. 2,000 migrant workers on their way home fearing retaliation (14)

Raichur: Around 2,000 migrant construction workers employed at the construction site returned to their native States on Tuesday fearing retaliation by local people. The labourers took whatever they could from their temporary shelters, located near the construction site, and left Yermarus in a hurry. The police escorted some families with women and children. The migrant workers had allegedly attacked a group of local workers for rushing the accident victim to the hospital. The migrants thought it would have been easier for them to get a good compensation for the victim’s family had they kept the body at the site. The situation got further tensed as thousands of local youths from Yermarus and the surrounding villages of Yeganur, Dandu, Chikkasugur, Odlur, and Kukanur gathered to retaliate against the migrant workers, particularly those from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. The migrant workers too were equipped with rods and stones to face the attack. However, the police managed to bring the situation under control by summoning additional forces. By evening over 1,000 police personnel, led by Superintendent of Police M.N. Nagaraj, encircled the workers at their colony to prevent further damage. Mr. Nagaraj announced that Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code had been imposed in the area and the migrant workers had been asked to leave for their native places. However, he later claimed that the workers had vacated voluntarily. (The Hindu 28/1/15)

RESERVATION

90. SP workers demand quota for Muslims (25)

AURANGABAD: Samajwadi Party workers on Friday staged a demonstration in the city to demand reservation for Muslims. The party held similar demonstrations in ten different districts of the state. The president of SP’s city unit, Qaisar Qureshi, said the party has decided to create awareness among those of the community across the state. “In second phase, we will hold similar demonstrations in ten other districts in the state to expose the wrongdoings of the BJP-led government. The party will expose how the members of the community are being deprived of their basic rights,” he said. The BJP government recently passed a bill providing 16% reservation for the Maratha community in education and government jobs, but left the Muslims out. “This is injustice as Muslims, too, deserve reservations in jobs and education. The government should issue a clarification on the issue,” he said. Qureshi said various committees like the Sachar committee and others had recommended reservations for the Muslim community. (Times of India 10/1/15)

91. Courts can’t ask states to provide quota in promotions: SC (25)

New Delhi: The Constitution enables governments to provide for reservation of SC/ST category employees even in promotions but courts cannot direct them to make such a provision, the Supreme Court has ruled. A bench of justices J Chelameswar and A K Sikri, however, said the aggrieved employees, belonging to SC/ST categories, can themselves seek redressal from the court if they are denied the rightful promotions. “Insofar as making of provisions for reservation in matters of promotion to any class or classes of post is concerned, such a provision can be made in favour of SC/ST category employees if, in the opinion of the State, they are not adequately represented in services under the State. “Thus, no doubt, power lies with the State to make a provision, but, at the same time, courts cannot issue any mandamus to the State to necessarily make such a provision. It is for the State to act, in a given situation, and to take such an affirmative action,” the bench said. Whenever, there exists such a provision for reservation in the matters of recruitment or promotion, it would bestow an enforceable right in favour of persons belonging to SC/ST category and on failure on the part of authorities to reserve posts in selections or promotions, the employees concerned can move the court to get their rights enforced, it said. The court discussed the clause 4 and 4A of Article 16, which deal with quota in promotions in services also in its verdict and said these are “only the enabling provisions which permit the State to make provision for reservation of these category of persons”.The court’s observations came while deciding a plea of Central Bank of India SC/ST Employees Welfare Association and others which had challenged the decision of the bank not to grant reservation in promotions in all categories. The PSU bank had taken the stand that there was no rule of reservation for promotion in the Class A (Class-I) to the posts/scales having basic salary of more than Rs 5,700. The court, in its 36-page verdict, said, “While setting aside the impugned judgment of the high court to the extent it holds that office memorandum dated 13-8-1997 makes a provision for reservation, it is clarified that at present there is no provision for reservation in promotion by selection only in respect of those posts which carry an ultimate salary of 5,700 per month … “Qua appellant banks, that would be in respect of Scale-VII and above. Therefore, to carry out promotions from Scale-I up wards up to Scale-VI, reservation in promotion in favour of SC/ST employees has to be given. “It would have the effect of allowing the writ petitions filed by the respondents/unions partly with directions to the appellant Banks to make provision for reservations while carrying out promotions from Scale-I to to Scale-II and upward up to Scale-VI.” The bank had said that as per the promotion policy, the candidates belonging to SC/ST category have been given reservation at the initial level of recruitment and also for promotion in the clerical cadre. “Such a reservation is also provided for promotion from clerical grade to the lowest rank in the officers grade which is commonly known as Junior Management Grade Scale-I (Scale-I). “However, when it comes to promotion from Scale-I to the next scale, which is known as Middle Management Grade Scale-II (Scale-II), the Banks have not been making any reservations while carrying out these promotions,” the bank had said. (Deccan Herald 12/1/15)

92. Rajasthan HC tears into over 50% reservation to women in rural polls (25)

JAIPUR: The Rajasthan High Court on Friday issued notices to the state chief secretary, the secretary of the state election commission and the principal secretary panchayati raj on a petition which challenged the government’s order to provide 50% reservation given to women in the panchayat elections on the ground that coupled with reservation given to SC/ST and OBC, the total reservation exceeds the 50% ceiling of reservation set by the Supreme Court. A division bench of Justice Ajay Rastogi and Justice Prakash Gupta issued the notice on the petition filed by Ram Niwas. The Rajasthan Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Ordinance, 2009 amended the Rajasthan Panchayati Raj Act and ‘one third of the seats’ of Section 15′s sub sections (5) and (6) had been substituted by words ‘one half of the seats’. The effect of the amendment was that half of the seats to be filled by direct election in every Panchayati Raj Institution have been reserved for women. The petition claimed that the reservation made in favour of women candidates is now horizontal. Total reservation thus made in favour of the candidates belonging to SC, ST, OBC and women and youth candidates thus comes to almost 75%, which is beyond the Constitutional benchmark of 50%. It is now well settled in law that all reservations in all forms cannot exceed beyond 50%, the petitioner’s counsel Anoop Dhand said. The legality and the Constitutional validity of these amended provisions of Section 6 (6) (7) and Section 21A of the Rajasthan Municipalities (RM) Act 2009 was challenged in DBCWP No. 11900/2009 titled as Mohd Kalim v/s State & Ors., and the same was disposed of on March 5 2010 and the amended provisions of Section 6(6) (7) of RM Act, 2009 were held to be ultra vires and struck down and the provision of Section 21A of the RM Act after having it declared as ultra vires. Hence, the petitioner pointed out that the direction of principal secretary (panchyati raj) on November 28, 2014 to district collectors to ensure 50% reservation for women is illegal. (Times of India 17/1/15)

93. SC/ST cops to get 17% of SHO posts (25)

PATNA: In ostensibly a first, the state police HQ has initiated a move to implement the provisions of reservation to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in the crucial posting of station house officers (SHOs) of police stations. Crime Investigation Department (CID)’s ADG (weaker sections) Arvind Pandey on Saturday sent a letter to all SSPs, SPs and superintendents of railway police (SRPs), advising them to ensure posting of efficient SC/ST police officers as SHOs in proportion to the reservation granted to them. The state government provides 16% job reservation to SCs and 1% to STs. “During comprehensive review of the cases related to atrocities against SCs/STs in the state’s 1,021 police stations and the data pertaining to the posting of SHOs, it was found SC/ST officers have not been posted as SHOs in proportion to the quota for them though there were several competent SC/ST sub-inspectors and inspectors in all police districts,” the ADG has pointed out in his three-page letter. Of the 73 police stations in Patna district, for instance, only seven are currently being helmed by SC/ST SHOs whereas 12 SHOs should have been SC/ST as per the reservation rules. Pandey has also underlined the need of extra-sensitivity to investigation of cases pertaining to atrocities against SCs/STs. “It is necessary in the public interest that competent SC/ST police officers are posted as SHOs in police stations as per their quota. This will lead to prompt action against the accused, ensuring justice to victims of atrocities,” the ADG has said. Reacting to the move, however, one SP regretted the khaki ‘uni-form’ is going to change into ‘caste-form’ in Bihar. (Times of India 18/1/15)

94. Punjab rapped for failure over SC schemes (25)

CHANDIGARH: The National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) on Tuesday expressed serious reservations over the failure of the Punjab government to implement the provisions of the Prevention of Atrocities against Scheduled Castes (PoA) Act, as well as under-utilised or misutilised funds and financial assistance under the Scheduled Caste Special Component Plan released by the Centre in 2010. Talking to reporters after a review meeting for Punjab and Chandigarh, NCSC Chairman P. L. Punia said that the State vigilance and monitoring committee, headed by the Chief Minister, had not held its meeting since 2006 even though the PoA Act mandated its meeting every six months. Similarly meetings at district levels were also not being held on regular intervals. Dr Punia pointed out that the financial assistance of Rs.434.07 lakh under the Scheduled Caste Special Component Plan released by the Centre in 2010 had not been properly utilised. Failure of the State government to submit the relevant utilisation certificate had resulted in non-release of funds under the plan for the subsequent years including the 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 fiscals. Dr Punia said that as per the norms, 32 per cent of plan funds had to be allocated exclusively for the schemes related to the welfare of the SCs. While the Punjab government had committed that it would ensure minimum 28 per cent allocation, the actual expenditure worked out to be around just two per cent. The Commission, which met public representatives, leaders of various associations and senior administrative officers, found out that there was a major delay in registration of cases in matters related to atrocities against SCs, where a very low conviction rate was also reported. Dr Punia also pointed out another serious lapse on the part of the Punjab government, which had yet to begin filling up of the 20,000 backlog job vacancies in the SC category. However, the NCSC lauded the helpline 181 and Sanjh Kendras, which had provided relief to the people. The Commission recommended the distribution of 18,000 acres of surplus land in Punjab among SC families. (The Hindu 21/1/15)

95. SCs to lay down their lives demanding internal reservation (25)

BALLARI: Madiga Dandora, which is spearheading a movement seeking internal reservation among Scheduled Castes, has given a call to its activists to lay down their lives on Republic Day to protest against the inordinate delay on the part of the State government in accepting the Justice A.J. Sadashiva Commission report and recommending to the Union government to implement it. “Our activists will resort to this extreme step in all the 30 districts of the State, while the national flag is being unfurled in their respective districts on Republic Day, to register our protest agianst the inaction of the government to provide internal reservation,” B. Narasanna, vice-president of the State unit of Madiga Dandora told presspersons here on Saturday. Mr. Narasanna came down heavily on the Siddaramaiah government for not initiating steps to implement the Justice Sadashiva Commission report. According to him, though the population of Scheduled Caste was more and were subjected to continued injustice, several other castes which got the SC tag were enjoying the benefits of reservation. “In this background, we urged the government to provide internal reservations among the Scheduled castes based on the population. It is unfortunate that though the Justice Sadashiva Commission had submitted its report long back, there has been no response from the State government,” he said. “We are remembered only during elections with promises to implement the Justice Sadashiva Commission report only to be forgotten immediately afterwards,” he charged. (The Hindu 24/1/15)

96. AIIMS faculty picked while quota probe on (25)

NEW DELHI: The faculty selection process at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) was completed recently despite an ongoing probe by the health ministry into the matter and repeated demands by various BJP allies to put the process on hold till anomalies are addressed. The recruitment process allegedly denies reservation to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes even as there are provisions for the same. According to official sources, a total of around 500-600 appointments were made in two tranches since 2003. Out of this around 250 posts were filled during the selection process earlier this month. Senior faculty members from AIIMS, who had earlier met health ministry officials seeking intervention, have now written to health secretary Lov Verma highlighting concerns on the latest development and manipulation of reservation roster to undermine the representation of reserved classes. “Despite having an assurance to protect the interests of SC/ST/OBC, no intervention was made from your office and process of faculty selection was allowed to be continued based on disputed roster. This clearly reflects the callous and indifferent attitude of the government towards the issue of reservation,” AIIMS faculty members representing the Forum for Rights & Equality said in the letter. The issue had recently come up during the winter session of Parliament. Following that, Union health minister J P Nadda asked senior ministry officials to examine the matter. Even as senior ministry officials including health secretary and joint secretary met the AIIMS director along with other senior faculty members to discuss the issue, the ministry apparently failed to stay the ongoing recruitment process, a senior AIIMS official said. He added, the latest faculty selection was done based on a faulty roster which ignored the fact that reserved posts were filled by general category candidates and there is a shortfall to be taken care of. “Shortfall occurs when all the seats for a particular category cannot be filled due to non-availability of candidates…shortfall has to be filled by advertising the same reserved posts for at least three consecutive times. This obviously requires carry forward of posts, rather than filling them with general category candidates,” faculty members said in their letter to Verma. The members have suggested the backlog of reserved posts be treated as a separate distinct group and these posts should be advertised and filled separately. Faculty selection at AIIMS has been a contentious issue for long. Many have alleged that while SC, ST and OBC candidates were rejected in large numbers during previous faculty selection process, the discrimination has become more aggressive with the current dispensation at AIIMS. (Times of India 27/1/15)

97. Smart cards instead of caste certificates (25)

Mumbai: The Maharashtra government is going to issue smart cards to backward class families instead of caste validation certificates. Considering the inordinate delays and tedious process involved in issuing the certificates, the social justice department has decided to move to smart cards. “We are introducing the smart cards mentioning castes to the families of backward communities. With the card, the family members need not seek individual certificates. We have spoken to some companies who can issue these cards,” minister of state for social justice Dilip Kamble said. The government had issued over 14 lakh caste certificates last year and over one lakh are in line to be issued at present. To a query about inter-caste marriages, the minister said the mother or the woman’s caste would be mentioned separately on it. “Usually, the father’s caste is given to the children. If mother belongs to some other caste then we will mention that separately on the card,” the minister said. Caste certificates are required to avail of reservation benefits in education, jobs and in elections if contesting from a reserved category. The process of getting a caste certificate is very tedious and takes time. Every region has caste validation committees that verify the caste certificates. With the smart card, this validation would not remain compulsory, the minister added. The social justice department has also doubled the scholarships given to students from scheduled castes going abroad for higher education. “We were giving scholarships to 50 students from the scheduled caste community going abroad for higher studies. This year we have doubled the quota and now 100 students can go for foreign studies,” Mr Kamble said. (Asian Age 30/1/15)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

98. It’s fashionable to focus on human rights violations: SC (1)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday said it had become fashionable for activists in the country to talk about human rights violations in militancy-hit Jammu & Kashmir and other troubled spots while glossing over the other side of the story. It also asked why filmmakers portrayed only alleged excesses committed by security forces in J&K. “Why is it that only one-sided view is presented? Why is it fashionable to talk about human rights violation and neglect other aspects,” a bench of Justices Vikramajit Sen and C Nagappan said while hearing documentary filmmaker Pankaj Butalia’s petition challenging the Censor Board’s decision not to certify his film on Kashmir ‘The Texture of Losses’ for public screening. Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the filmmaker, submitted that the film portrayed the anguish of people who had lost their parents, siblings and children in Kashmir but the Censor Board had unnecessarily asked to cut some scenes including a portion in which a woman says, “I beg Allah… that this kind of India be damned”.The bench said such portrayal of the state’s situation was one-sided which could at best be only an activist’s point of view. “It is an activist’s point of view when only one side of the story is highlighted and the other side of the story is neglected. Don’t ignore one aspect and exalt the other,” it said. “The whole debate is on what basis you portray one side of the story and not portray the other point of view on the issue. You cannot have one-sided approach. That is what has been the approach of activists,” the court said. Butalia withdrew his petition saying he would approach the Delhi High Court to challenge the Censor Board’s decision. (Times of India 12/1/5)

99. NHRC astonished at long delays in granting citizenship to Pakistani Hindus (1)

JALANDHAR: Hundreds of Hindus who migrated from Pakistan to escape persecution and discrimination around two decades back are still awaiting Indian citizenship. National Human Rights Commission has expressed astonishment at the long delay in granting them citizenship even as they came and settled over 18 years back. The Commission has also asked the Ministry of Home Affairs as to how soon will it be able to process requests of the Pakistani Hindus to grant them citizenship. “The Commission fails to understand as to why some hindus who left Pakistan and came to India in the year 1996 and whose probability of going back to Pakistan is practically non-existent are continuously living in India on a long term visa, while, even after 18 years of arrival in the country, they have not been granted citizenship,” NHRC noted in its order in October last year which has now been sent to All India Hindu Shiv Sena President Surinder Kumar Billa for his comments as he had sent a complaint to the Commission in March 2013 about the issue. Billa, who has been pursuing the issue for the last couple of years, in his complaint had pointed out that around 150 members of 20 Hindu families who had come from Sialkot and settled in three villages of district Ambala, Haryana had neither been granted citizenship nor refugee status and they were facing hardships. Taking cognizance of the complaint NHRC had sought report of action taken from concerned authorities of MHA. After examining the response from MHA and Commissioner Ambala division, the Commission also held that it “is of the view that due process should have been completed long back and all those who are eligible to become citizens of India should have been given citizenship”.It has also asked as to how soon would MHA be able to get the request of Pakistani Hindus for citizenship processed for whom India has already become a home so that they can avail all the benefits. It may be mentioned here that several Pakistani Hindus are living in Jalandhar also and they are awaiting Indian citizenship. Most of them living here are hardly making both ends meet and even their succeeding generation is bearing the brunt and most of their children have not gotten much education. (Times of India 13/1/15)

100. No reason to stop campaigner: PUCL (1)

NEW DELHI: The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has criticised the immigration officials for refusing to allow Greenpeace campaigner Priya Pillai to fly to London. It described their action as “arbitrary, highhanded and illegal.” In a statement on January 13, PUCL said she had a valid business visa and all her travel papers were in order. There was thus no acceptable reason for preventing her from travelling to London as she was neither a convicted person nor was there any judicial restraint order prohibiting her travel abroad. The Ministry of Home Affairs had reportedly stated that they had no information about any travel restrictions on Ms. Pillai, while the immigration officials said they were acting on orders from the Government of India. PUCL said it was unlikely that such a drastic decision would be taken without instructions from the highest level. (The Hindu 15/1/15)

101. NHRC notice to UP government over hooch tragedy in Lucknow (1)

LUCKNOW: The National Human Rights Commission has taken suo motu cognizance of media reports on hooch tragedy resulting in the death of many people in Malihabad near Lucknow and its bordering Unnao district. The commission has observed that the contents of the press reports, if true, raise a serious issue of violation of human rights of the victims. It has issued notices to the chief secretary, government of Uttar Pradesh, inspector general of police, Lucknow Range and district magistrate, Lucknow calling for reports within two weeks. Reportedly, till the January 13, 2015, the death toll had climbed to 32 even as 18 more were in critical condition in various hospitals. The state government had ordered a magisterial inquiry and suspended 20 erring officials during a crackdown. The police had registered four cases and arrested two of the main accused responsible for selling the spurious liquor. (Times of India 19/1/15)

102. NHRC directs Chief Secretary to submit report on church attacks (1)

NEW DELHI: The National Human Rights Commission has taken suo motu cognisance of reports about a church in Vikaspuri , which was vandalised last week. Prior to this, four other incidents of attacks and suspected arson at Christian religious institutions have occurred in Dilshad Garden, Rohini and Jasola since December 1, 2014. The NHRC has observed that these frequent attacks on religious institutions of the minority community, if true, may violate the fundamental right to freedom of religion and cause “immense harm” to the country’s social fabric. The culprits involved in these incidents should be brought to book, it said. The commission has issued notice to the Delhi Chief Secretary calling for a report on these incidents within four weeks. The Chief Secretary was also directed to submit a report about the action proposed to be taken to prevent recurrence of such incidents in the Capital. The church in Vikaspuri was allegedly vandalised by two men in the early hours of January 14, even as the church authorities claimed that the attack was carried out to stoke communal tension.The incident was captured on closed circuit television cameras installed in the vicinity of the church. When the priest arrived at the church in early morning, he found the glass cabinet mounted on the outside wall broken and the statue of Mother Mary lying on the ground. Video footage reportedly showed two men on a motorcycle vandalising the church, first by breaking the glass cabinet and returning shortly after to push the statue causing a fall. Earlier, an incident of arson was reported at St. Sebastian’s Church in Dilshad Garden, which is among the biggest churches in East Delhi, in December. The entire interior, including the altar, the Cross and religious scriptures, were reduced to ashes in the incident. The church was active till a night before the burning because of religious ceremonies for Catholic children receiving their first Holy Communion. The NHRC had taken cognisance of the incident of arson at St. Sebastian’s Church as well, while observing that the destruction of a place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any group was an offence under the Indian Penal Code. (The Hindu 21/1/15)

103. NHRC delegation to arrive on a three-day visit (1)

Allahabad: A delegation of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is scheduled to arrive in the city on a three-day visit beginning Tuesday to dispose of more than 50 cases of human rights violation across nine districts of Uttar Pradesh. The delegation, comprising NHRC member SC Sinha, Presenting Officer C K Tyagi and Joint Registrar (Law) A K Parashar in addition to other officials is also scheduled to hold meetings with NGOs and human rights groups active in the city. On January 27-28, the delegation is scheduled to dispose of a total of 52 cases pertaining to atrocities against SC/ST, sexual harassment at workplaces and other atrocities against women, bonded labour, custodial deaths and other instances of human rights abuse reported from the districts of Allahabad, Fatehpur, Pratapgarh, Kaushambi, Banda, Ambedkar Nagar, Faizabad and Sultanpur, according to an NHRC release. On January 29, the delegation will hold meetings with NGOs and human rights organizations besides senior officials of the state, the release added. The NHRC delegation’s visit is part of a series of “camp sittings” organised by the Commission for “disposal of human right’s abuse cases, gaining insights into problems with the help of NGOs and sensitization of government officials about the importance of human rights,” the release said. So far, the Commission has held similar camp sittings in various other districts of UP, besides states like Bihar, Odisha, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh etc., the release said. (Zee News 25/1/15)

104. HC issues notice to Centre, IB on Greenpeace activist’s plea (1)

NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday sought response of the Centre on the plea of Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai against her “offloading” from a flight to London at the Delhi airport. Justice Rajiv Shakdher also issued notice to IB and Immigration Department seeking their responses on Pillai’s plea terming the “offloading” act as illegal and a violation of her basic rights to personal liberty and freedom of speech.The court notices were issued on the activist’s plea seeking direction to the concerned authorities to expunge the endorsements made while offloading her from the flight by immigration officials on January 11, while she was on the way to London to make a presentation before British MPs, regarding alleged human rights violation at Mahan in Madhya Pradesh. The court, meanwhile, has also directed the counsel appearing for the respondents to take instructions on Pillai’s interim application seeking permission to travel to United Kingdom on February 11, for the same cause. (Times of India 28/1/15)

105. Poor implementation of laws helps human trafficking: NHRC chairman (1)

Thrissur: Laws that lacked teeth to take stringent action against culprits have been encouraging human trafficking, Justice (retired) K.G. Balakrishnan, the chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission, has said. He was speaking after inaugurating an international seminar on ‘Measures to combat Human Trafficking: International and National Perspectives’ organised by the Paralegal Training and Institutional Centre in association with the Government Law College, Thrissur, here on Thursday. “Human trafficking and child labour are becoming rampant even though there are many human rights organisations and NGOs functioning here. (As many as) 12.66 million children are working in hazardous sectors. About 2.8 million women are subjected to commercial sex exploitation,” he said. Increase in mobility and growth of industries were the main factors promoting human trafficking, Mr. Balakrishnan said. Coal mines, textile and food sectors were the major sectors where child labour was rampant, he added. Delivering the keynote address, Roza Pati, professor and director of Human Trafficking Academy, St. Thomas University School of Law, Miami, USA, said people’s vulnerability was the main reason for the increase in the rate of trafficking. Quoting statistics from the International Labour Organisation, she said 20.9 million people suffered under modern day slavery. More than 98 per cent of the victims of trafficking entered sex trade. There should be a system for prevention of trafficking, prosecution of traffickers and protection of victims, she said. D.J. Ravindran, advisor, Asian Institute for Human Rights, Bangkok; and Maria, a lawyer and social activist, spoke on ‘Trafficking women for commercial sexual exploitation’. S.S. Giri Sankar, faculty, Government Law College, Ernakulam; and S. Anuja, faculty, National Law School of Indian University, Bangalore spoke on ‘Trafficking for Labour: Modern Forms of Slavery’. (The Hindu 30/1/15)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

106. Tis Hazari assault case: HC notice to lawyers (19)

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Friday issued notice to two lawyers on a letter sent by Tis Hazari court to consider initiating contempt proceedings against them for allegedly abusing and manhandling persons, including a woman advocate, who hail from the Northeast. The bench of justices G S Sistani and Sangita Dhingra Sehgal issued notice to lawyers, Azad Chandra Prakash Gautam and Varun Jain, and sought their replies by February 12. The court passed the order on a letter sent by an Additional District and Sessions Judge who has also referred to an order of the metropolitan magistrate in whose court the incident had occurred. The incident had taken place on May 23 last year when the victims had gone to Tis Hazari court for recording  the statement of a woman from the Northeast in a molestation case. They were allegedly abused and assaulted by some lawyers inside the courtroom. The woman, who was allegedly molested on the night of May 22, 2014, outside Vishwa Vidyalaya Metro station by an advocate, was accompanied by her friends and a woman lawyer. The lawyers, who were present  to  support their accused colleague, allegedly abused the victim and her friends. (Indian Express 10/1/15)

107. Bangladesh’s first Hindu Chief Justice (19)

Dhaka: Justice S.K. Sinha was on Monday appointed Chief Justice of Bangladesh to become the first Hindu to hold the highest judicial post in the Muslim-majority country. President Mohammad Abdul Hamid appointed Justice Sinha, the seniormost judge of the apex court, as its Chief Justice who will have a term of a little over three years. He is the first non-Muslim to become the country’s top judge. 64-year-old Sinha will take over on January 17 with the present Chief Justice Muzammel Hos-sain retiring on January 16 on reaching 67, the retirement age for Supreme Court judges in Ban-gladesh, a law ministry statement said. Justice Sinha is known for a number of landmark judgements, including tho-se on the killing of Bang-abandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the 5th and 13th amendments to the Constitution. He has also been an appeals judge in the on-going war crimes trials linked to the country’s 1971 liberation war against Pakistan. Justice Sinha obtained LLB and enrolled as an advocate of the district court, Sylhet, in 1974. He conducted sessions trial cases independently till the end of 1977. He then enrolled as an advocate of the high court and the Appellate Division in 1978 and 1990 respectively. Justice Sinha was appointed as judge of the high court in 1999 and as judge of the Appellate Division in 2009. (Asian Age 13/1/15)

108. Hindi can’t be thrust upon judges: Govt (19)

NEW DELHI: Hindi can’t be made an official language for conducting court proceedings in higher judiciary as it would hamper judicial work, the Centre has told the Supreme Court saying that no language should be thrust upon judges. The government expressed stiff opposition to amend the Constitution to make Hindi an official language of functioning in high courts and the Supreme Court and relied on 18th Law Commission report which also came to the conclusion that making Hindi a compulsory language in the apex court is not feasible. “At any rate no language should be thrust upon the judges of the higher judiciary and they should be left free to deliver their judgments in the language they prefer. It is important to remember that every citizen, every court has the right to understand the law laid down finally by this court and at present one should appreciate that such language is only English,” the government said in its affidavit. It said the judicial administration would be seriously impaired and quality of its judges and of its judgment would suffer if Hindi is made official language. “It (English) is not merely a vehicle of thought and expression but for judges at the higher level, it is an integral part of their decision making process. Judges have to hear and understand the submission of both the sides, apply the law to adjust their equities. Arguments are generally made in higher court in English and the basic literature under the Indian system is primarily based on English and American text books and case laws. Thus judges at the higher level should be left free to evolve own pattern of delivering judgments,” it said. The Centre filed its response in compliance with the apex court order seeking its stand on a PIL for making Hindi official language for higher judiciary. The court last year had issued notice to the Centre on a plea seeking its direction to the government to amend the Constitution for making Hindi official language for court proceedings. Petitioner Shiv Sagar Tiwari, a lawyer, submitted that using English as an official language in higher judiciary is a legacy of British rule which should be done away with. He termed the termed the language as “Gulami Bhasha”. (Times of India 16/1/15)

109. SC puts curbs on adjournments to ensure fairer and faster trials (19)

NEW DELHI: In a step that would ensure free and speedy trial, the Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered courts not to grant any adjournment during the most crucial phase of trial, which is between deposition of witness and his cross-examination by the counsel for accused. The court took strong exception to long gaps between deposition of a witness and his cross-examination and said adjournments at this crucial juncture provided the accused ample opportunity to win over witnesses and reduce the trial to a mere apology. “It is distressing to note that despite a series of judgments of the Supreme Court, the habit of granting adjournment, really an ailment, continues,” a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and R F Nariman said and commanded trial courts not to adjourn proceedings between deposition and cross-examination of a witness. This means, from now onwards, a trial court has to hold the trial proceedings continuously on a day to day basis once the witness starts deposition till his cross-examination is over. This would go a long way in expediting the trial proceedings, which are notorious for their snail pace in a litigation-congested judiciary. The court gave vent to its anguish after finding that in a trap case under Prevention of Corruption Act, a trial court in Punjab had granted many adjournments resulting in a gap of 20 months between deposition of the witness and his cross-examination. Little wonder that the witness went back on his statement. Writing the judgment for the bench, Justice Misra said, “How long shall we say ‘awake and arise’? There is a constant discomfort… Adjournments are sought on the drop of a hat by the counsel, even though the witness is present in the court, contrary to all principles of holding a trial.” It ordered that this judgment, banning adjournment in the crucial phase of trial, be circulated among trial judges “with a command to follow the principles relating to a trial in a requisite manner and not to defer the cross-examination of a witness at the pleasure or at the leisure of the defence counsel, for it eventually makes the trial an apology for trial and compels the whole society to suffer chicanery”.The judgment came in a case where a public servant was caught red-handed while accepting bribe from a tractor-trolley owner for allowing it to enter the municipal area of Rajpura in January 1995. The witness recorded his statement before the trial court on September 13, 1999 but his cross-examination took place 20 months later on May 25, 2001. The complainant-cum-witness made a U-turn. But one independent witness stood by the prosecution, leading to the trial court recording conviction. The HC too saw through the delaying tactics by the accused in cross-examining the witness and confirmed the conviction of the public servant and a sentence of two years. The SC upheld the conviction and sentence, but frowned at the long adjournment of proceedings between deposition of the witness and his cross-examination. “We fail to appreciate how the trial judge could exhibit such laxity in granting so much time for cross-examination in a case of this nature,” it said and advised that the proper course for a trial judge was to complete cross-examination on the day witnesses are examined. (Times of India 22/1`15)

110. HC refuses urgent hearing on PIL in Sunanda case (19)

NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court on Thursday refused to grant urgent hearing to a plea seeking its intervention in the ongoing probe into the mysterious death of Congress MP Shashi Tharoor’s wife Sunanda Pushkar. A Bench of Justice B.D. Ahmed and Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva declined the request of NGO Anti-Corruption Front to hear the plea accusing the police of bias. “There is no such urgency as asked by you. Let it (PIL) come or be listed then the court will hear it,” the Bench said after the counsel for the NGO requested for an urgent hearing in the matter. The PIL alleged that the probe agency was biased as a result of which there had been no development in the case, which makes it a reason enough for the court to intervene. The plea filed against the Ministry of Home Affairs, CBI and Delhi Police said that police had registered an FIR almost a year after the incident, despite clear guidelines by the Supreme Court and High Courts that on receiving information disclosing commission of a cognisable offence, an FIR should be registered without any delay. “Even the investigating agency found it is a clear case of murder but till date it is in dark. Even one year after the incident occurred in a five star hotel here, no convincing conclusion has come out,” the PIL said. A special investigation team has been constituted by the Delhi Police to probe Ms. Pushkar’s death after registering an FIR in the case on January 1. The FIR was based on Ms. Pushkar’s third autopsy report by the AIIMS medical board. (The Hindu 23/1/15)

111. In rare case, HC to record evidence of witness (19)

NAGPUR: In a rare instance, the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court called on accused and witness to the courtroom at 2.30pm on Thursday to record evidence, which is basically a trial court’s jurisdiction. A division bench comprising Justice Arun Chaudhari and Justice PN Deshmukh asked assistant public prosecutor to keep the witness ready for re-examination and cross examination. They directed the counsels for all parties to get ready for recording of evidence. Even the accused was told to remain present, thus ensuring a trial court-like situation. The directives came while hearing the criminal appeal of Manohar Surjuse, who was accused of setting his wife Shakuntala on fire in October 2011. Police-sub-inspector (PSI) Nilesh Bhadak recorded her dying declaration where she named husband. After she succumbed, Bhadak arrested Surjuse. While writing the requisition for Surjuse’s medical examination, the PSI mentioned that the accused had burns on his palms and added that Shakuntala set herself ablaze and tried to commit suicide. The trial court didn’t take this aspect into the consideration, and awarded lifer to Surjuse. Surjuse challenged this verdict through counsel Rajendra Daga where the latter pointed out that there was ‘stark contradiction’ between dying declaration and requisition, both noted by the PSI. During the last hearing, the judges issued notice to the police and petitioner seeking explanation on why in accordance with provisions of CrPC’s Section 391, they shouldn’t record PSI’s additional evidence. “We’ve decided to record his additional evidence. Counsels for both are expected to be fully ready with the recording of evidence and cross-examination,” the judges ordered while making it clear that no adjournment would be granted. Noted criminal lawyer Anil Mardikar said the appellate court (HC in this case) has a right to record evidence in the case of ambiguity as per Section 386 of CrPC while Section 391 is for recording additional evidence which is being used in Surjuse’s case. “In my career of over three decades, I remember that only once a doctor was summoned in the high court as there was some ambiguity in the post mortem report. Though rare, it’s completely legal and saves a lot of time of the judiciary,” he said. He added that usually accused are brought to the high court only during death penalty confirmation. “In normal circumstances, the HC directs the lower courts to conduct retrial or rerecording of evidence. After that it was put up before the accused on whether he understood the charges framed against him. In present case, even judges can ask queries to accused and witness,” he explained. (Times of India 28/1/15)

112. Wage code to replace all related laws (19)

NEW DELHI: The government plans to introduce a “wage code,” that will replace Central laws pertaining to wage related matters and cover both the organised and the unorganised sectors. Though the government had invited comments in July last year on the draft Minimum Wages (Amendment) Bill, 2013, which included setting a national minimum wage floor, the new “wage code” once finalised will subsume key laws, including the Minimum Wages Act 1948 and the proposed amendment. “The wage code will set basic provisions related to payment of wages and bonuses. Once this is finalised, the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965, and the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, will no longer be in place. The aim is to reduce the number of laws employers have to comply with,” a senior government official said. The details of the code were still being worked out. The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in 2012 as well as the NDA government last year had proposed a statutory National Floor Level Minimum Wage (NFLMW) which will make it binding for all State governments to pay the minimum wages specified for various economic activities. The National Minimum Wages Act, 1948, lays down minimum wages for 45 listed economic activities. But since labour is a subject in the concurrent list, States can decide minimum wages for more than 1,600 economic activities. Wages paid to workers is frequently less than the specified rates. The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 provides for equal wages for women and men workers for the same work. The NFLMW was based on the 1991 recommendations of the National Commission on Rural Labour. (The Hindu 29/1/15)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

113. Cops Booked For Sex Torture in Police Station (1)

CHENNAI: Two head constables have been booked by the CB-CID in connection with the shocking case of forcing a 19-year-old boy and three minors to have unnatural sex at Mambalam police station. While the FIR had been registered on Wednesday, the accused cops – Sethuram and Srinivasan – are yet to be arrested until Friday evening. Meanwhile, both the accused police personnel had allegedly filed petitions seeking anticipatory bail in a court. The shocking case of torture of the youngster, who was picked up for questioning in petty theft cases, came to light recently after medical examination of the victim revealed injuries to his private parts. After a departmental enquiry, the two constables were suspended from service by the city police on Wednesday. The two police personnel had allegedly forced the 19-year-old suspect and three other 17-year-old juveniles to have unnatural sex with each other while they were under custody. It was learned on Friday that the CBCID had registered a First Information Report against the two head constables on Wednesday. “We have registered an FIR, but investigations are still underway. We have not yet decided to arrest the accused,” said a senior police officer. While an advocate representing the accused expressed apprehensions that the accused police personnel might get anticipatory bail due to delay in arresting them, another officer said the accused personnel are being interrogated and will be arrested soon. The incident came to light when the juvenile fell sick after being remanded in Puzhal Prison. Upon examination, doctors discovered the injuries to his private parts. It is alleged that the 19-year-old victim of custodial torture was caught red handed snatching a mobile from a pedestrian and was taken to Mambalam police station. He was subsequently named as accused in a few other theft cases and was allegedly tortured by forcing to perform unnatural sex to confess to the crimes. (New Indian Express 10/1/15)

114. ‘Authorized persons’ dealing with Art 370, AFSPA, Union minister Jitendra Singh says (1)

NEW DELHI: BJP, which was reportedly in talks with PDP over government-formation in Jammu & Kashmir, said on Sunday “authorized persons” are dealing with the controversial issues like Article 370 and Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA). Jitendra Singh, a senior leader from J&K and Union minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office, however, did not elaborate, saying the political situation is “fluid”.He insisted that BJP will have a crucial role to play in any government that is formed in the state. “The situation there (in J&K) is fluid and the party leadership is dealing with it,” he told PTI in an interview. Singh did not reveal with whom his party is trying to ally with in the state but there have been reports that it is in touch with PDP for firming up a coalition government. PDP is the single largest party with 28 seats in the 87-member assembly while BJP has 25 seats. “Whatever be the future dispensation, BJP will have a crucial role to play”, he said, adding that his party has “emerged as a force to reckon with” in the state. “BJP has made a history (by winning 25 seats in the state),” he said. On the controversial issues of Article 370 and AFSPA which are said to stand in the way of talks between BJP and PDP, Singh said “authorized persons” are already dealing with it. “I will not like to comment. Not at this stage because the issue of government formation in Jammu & Kashmir is at the fluid stage and the authorized person are already dealing with it (AFSPA and on Article 370). So any comments from my side may not be compatible which is going on,” he said. BJP and PDP have contradictory positions on Article 370, which grants special status to the state. While BJP is for abrogation of the Article, PDP is against it. Similarly, the two parties have different positions on AFSPA. While PDP wants its revocation, BJP is against it. Singh, after taking over as the minister in May last year, had stoked a controversy by saying that the Narendra Modi government was open to debate on merits and demerits of Article 370 for Jammu & Kashmir and would make efforts to “convince” the “unconvinced” by holding contact programmes with every section of society in the state. He had later retracted his statement which drew flak from opposition parties and other stakeholders. President has imposed Governor’s rule in Jammu & Kashmir as none of the political parties got majority in the recently held assembly elections. National Conference, with 15 seats, recently offered outside support to PDP but the latter turned it down. (Times of India 18/1/15)

115. Release of 38 Indian fishermen from Bangladeshi jail delayed (1)

MADURAI: The release of 38 Indian fishermen who are lodged in a Bangladeshi jail on charges of trespassing into that country’s territorial waters has been delayed as a court on Monday postponed hearing on the matter till January 22. As many as 26 fishermen on three boats — 24 from Thoothoor in the Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu and one each from Kerala and Andhra Pradesh – and 12 others from West Bengal on a single boat were apprehended by naval authorities in Bangladesh on two different occasions. Earlier, it was believed that they would be released on Monday. P Justin Antony of Tamil Nadu Fishermen Development Trust from Kanyakumari who is coordinating the release efforts in Bangladesh told TOI over phone that 26 fishermen were produced before the court on Monday. Since there was some document works pending with the fishermen from West Bengal, the court decided to postpone the hearing to January 22. “We expected that they would be released on Monday, but the release has been postponed. We have also requested the Indian high commission to facilitate their departure as soon as they are released,” he said. (Times of India 19/1/15)

116. Bihar: 2 killed, 15 injured in Ara court blast, 2 prisoners escape (1)

Ara (Bihar): A woman and a police constable were killed and 15 injured in a crude bomb explosion on Ara civil court premises in Bihar’s Bhojpur district on Friday, triggering alarm ahead of Republic Day. A few hours after the blast at 11.35am, police ruled out a terror link, saying it was more likely aimed at aiding some undertrial prisoners escape. Two of them did.  Undertrial prisoners Lambu Sharma and Akhilesh Upadhyay escaped after the blast, taking advantage of the chaos. Police suspect the woman killed in the blast had carried the bomb. Her identity has not been established. Her body was blown to pieces. “This shows she was closest to the impact site,” said a police official. The deceased constable was named as Amit Kumar, 25. A senior police officer said the woman might have had some links with some prisoner. “It is a matter of investigation.” Bihar chief secretary Anjani Kumar Singh said, “The blast took place while the bomb was being passed on to an intended person, apparently, for the release of some prisoner or prisoners. It went off prematurely, it seems.” He dismissed initial talk of “human bomb” and “suicide bomber”. Additional director general of police (headquarters) Gupteshwar Pandey said the explosion took place when a van carrying undertrials for production in the court entered the premises. The undertrials were being taken to the court lock-up. “The woman was apparently carrying the bomb. It was a crude bomb,” he said, ruling out the possibility of the blast being a terror attack. Bhojpur district magistrate Pankaj Kumar Pal said some lawyers were among the injured. “We have come to know of (injuries to) three lawyers. Some police officials have also sustained injuries. The injured have been taken to the local civil hospital,” he added. The blast in Ara, about 60km west off capital Patna, initially rattled the state administration. Apart from the general state of preparedness for Republic Day, police were also on their toes for two meetings to be addressed in the state during the day by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah. Bihar police did not take chances given that serial blasts had rocked Gandhi Maidan in Patna during Narendra Modi’s (then the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate) Hunkar rally in October 2013. (Hindustantimes 23/1/15)

117. NCW chief visits Sattor, condemns cop torture (1)

SURI: National Commission for Woman (NCW) chairperson Lalitha Kumarmangalam visited Sattor on Saturday and condemned the alleged torture of a housewife by Birbhum police and termed it “unprecedented”.After talking to the woman, Kumarmangalam said, “We consider it a serious case of violence against a woman. What happened was unprecedented and horrible. We have never seen or heard of such torture of a woman. It should not have happened. Politics is a different matter. Whoever is proved guilty must not be spared.” The three-member NCW team went to Sattor village in Bolpur subdivision on Saturday to talk to the woman, Haitunnesa Bibi. Haitunnesa was allegedly tortured by policemen during a raid at her parents’ place in Burdwan. The NCW team included Shamima Shafiq and Sayani Roychowdhury. They talked to the woman and her family members for around 1.5 hours at their Sattor residence, during which mediapersons and villagers were asked to leave. Kumarmangalam also said, “We asked the woman what happened to her. She explained everything in details. The injury marks on her body can still be seen.” The NCW chief said, “We have noted her statement. She has mentioned some names. Now we have to talk to the district police to come to a conclusion,” she said. “Alleged involvement of police makes the matter even more serious. We have to help the woman in every respect. If required, we will help to get her proper treatment and security,” Kumarmangalam added. From Sattor, the team moved to Bolpur. At the Bolpur circuit house, they spoke to senior officers of the district administration and police, including SP Alok Rajoria. SI Kartik Mohon Ghosh has already been suspended for his alleged involvement and other policemen, including Bolpur SDPO Amlankusum Ghosh, have been served a showcause letter. (Times of India 25/1/15)

118. Former Army chief against repealing of AFSPA in trouble-torn states (1)

PATIALA: Former Army chief General Bikram Singh said on Tuesday that the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) should not be lifted from the trouble-torn states as the act “empowers the soldier” to conduct important security operations. He maintained that through AFSPA, Army only “assists” the civil authorities to establish rule of law. “There are provisions in the Act which empower the soldier to conduct police-like operations. But these operations are controlled through very comprehensive dos and don’ts, which were laid down through a judgment by the Supreme Court in 1997,” said the former Army chief here at Punjabi University, Patiala. “The SC judgment laid down how the civil authorities are to be respected during implementation of AFSPA. Even if the Army gets involved, the civil authority remained overall in-charge of the situation. The Army is only assisting the rule of law of the state authority. It is strengthening the hand of the civil administration”, he added. (Times of India 28/1/15)

119. IAS officer cites Article 25 as TN govt stops him from prayer meets (1)

Chennai:  “As per the Article 25 of the Constitution, I have every right to preach what I believe during my free time,” said C Umashankar, a senior IAS officer who was prevented by Tamil Nadu chief secretary K Gnanadesikan from taking part in religious prayers. In a written directive Umashankar was warned against from taking part in seven prayer meetings scheduled from January 24 to 26 in Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi and Kanyakumari districts. The letter said that he would face “appropriate action” if he indulged in “preaching and propagating” activities. Known as an honest officer, Umashankar suspected Union minister and Kanyakumari MP Pon Radhakrishnan was behind the order. On January 16, police had denied him permission to attend a prayer meeting in Pudukadai in Kanyakumari district and chased away nearly 100 devotees gathered at a local church, he said. “Not only that the police have succumbed to the pressure of BJP and other Hindu groups, including Hindu Munnani, now the government also has taken a decision to stop my religious activities, in which they have no business to interfere. The government direction is unconstitutional,” he said, suspecting that there must be pressure from the Centre that forced the state government to issue such a direction. Despite repeated efforts, Radhakrishnan could not be reached for comments. Chief secretary Gnanadesikan’s letter on January 24 said violating the government direction would invite disciplinary action against him under relevant provisions of the All India Services (conduct) Rules, 1968, and the All India Services (Discipline & Appeal) Rules, 1969. Umashankar, a Dalit, said it was the pressure and torture by different governments and politicians forced him to change his faith to Christianity in 2008 to help him in “battles against a corrupt establishment”. In abeyance to the direction, Umashankar said he cancelled all the meetings he scheduled in the last four days. “But this matter is not done with. I will move court to retain my fundamental rights,” he said. Umashankar is known for his remarkable work in introducing open source softwares in Tamil Nadu, successfully implementing e-governance and exposing the Cremation Shed scam in the first J Jayalalithaa government (1991-96) in which a minister was convicted. Being in controversy is not new for Umashankar. One of his allegations that Uttarakhand floods and disasters were “a sign of wrath of gods on Hindu sinners” had kicked up a storm. He also faced the wrath of Hindu groups twice, once in Nagapattinam in 2012 and on August 10, 2014 at Tirunelveli, when his vehicle was attacked. As the one who had challenged irregularities by the ministers, the IAS officer finds himself sidelined. He said 18 out of 25 years of his career had been wasted as he became a victim of a corrupt system. “Despite my long experience, I work in the grade of a district revenue officer, he said. The official also claimed that his prayers could cure people from major diseases. “I am guided by Jesus and I have heard him several times.”.. (Indian Express 29/1/15)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

120. Arun Jaitley opposes cap on ads in TV, print media (1)

NEW DELHI: Indicating that the government was not inclined to interfere either in the content or the business of media entities, information and broadcasting minister Arun Jaitley on Sunday said his government was not in favour of a cap on advertising for TV or print media. Delivering the first J S Verma Memorial Lecture, Jaitley spoke out against the 12-minute-an-hour cap on advertising stipulated for TV news channels by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India ( Trai). He wondered how such a cap fit with Article 19(1)A of the Constitution that guarantees freedom of the press. “It will be music to the years of media persons. My ministry a couple of years ago came out with a statutory law that no channel will telecast advertisements beyond so many minutes. I have been struggling, in my own mind, since then as to how this meets the challenge of Article 19(1)A,” Jaitley said. “Is the government supposed to tell newspapers and channels as to how much advertisement and how much news. If viewers or readers find it monotonous, they have the power to switch on something else. Government getting into the business of how much news and how much ads is a bad precedent to lay down,” he added. Media houses have been strongly opposed to this regulation as usurious carriage fees and falling advertisement rates have stifled TV news channels and broadcasters have been struggling to break even. The law has been legally challenged and the matter is pending in court. Jaitley also batted for increasing FDI in media from the current cap of 26%, saying when foreign newspapers were anyway available online in India, there was no point opposing the move. He said, “The debate over whether foreign media should be allowed to establish in the country and the extent of foreign equity has been made irrelevant by technology. Today, sitting here, I can access any newspaper in the world over internet.” Jaitley made these observations while talking about the financial pressure on modern media and the challenges it threw. “The financial model of most media organizations is becoming challenging. The cost of news distribution has become huge. Cost of circulation is high. Most are unable to sustain. This is leading to consolidations and mergers. Those with deep pockets are acquiring media,” Jaitley said, warning that the situation had led to conflict of interest. The minister said the media, in the spirit of fairness, must carry a disclaimer with respect to news where there was a conflict of interest. The minister also flagged the issue of financial pressure on media affecting the quality of news and, in turn, its credibility. “Because of this, media houses spend less and less on news collection, hire less reporters who are not paid well. All of this affects quality,” said Jaitley. He stressed on the challenge posed by digital media to the traditional forms of news dissemination and pointed out how newspapers and magazines abroad were shutting down in favour of digital platforms. He, however, said the revenue model for digital media was not clear and it was still evolving. He also raised the issue of cross-media ownership and said in his concluding remarks that it was an issue that needed to be debated. “Most jurisdictions world over ban cross-holdings in the media. Can all mediums be vested with one person? How is larger public interest going to be impacted by this? It should be debated,” Jaitley said. (Times of India 18/1/15)

121. Fear of sedition must not hit freedom of speech: HC (1)

MUMBAI: Bombay high court on Monday observed that freedom of speech should not suffer because of a threat of invoking sedition against an individual for expressing his views. A division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice Nitin Jamdar re-heard a PIL filed by advocate Sanskar Marathe following the arrest of cartoonist Aseem Trivedi. The court had reserved its verdict on October 19, 2012. The recent Paris attacks made the bench recall that it had dealt with a cartoonist’s case. Advocate general Sunil Manohar said the state has taken a prima facie view that Trivedi’s cartoons do not amount to offence under Section 124A (sedition) of the Indian Penal Code. He said in wartime these very cartoons may be viewed as seditious. “The scope of 124A is kept flexible for a purpose,” said Manohar. He submitted a draft of guidelines to be issued to the police saying it will bring clarity in investigations but added that “while it is necessary that innocents should be protected, the guidelines should not fetter the police”. He assured that the state would take care of the apprehension that an individual may suffer because of abuse of power by the investigating agency. Referring to the arrest of two Palghar girls over a Facebook post, the bench said if there is no safeguard, power can be misused anytime. Justice Jamdar added, “If adequate safeguards are not there, it may prevent people from not expressing themselves. Freedom of speech should not suffer because of the threat of invocation of the section.” When Manohar said a person is entitled to bail, the judges said that people would not like to get into the hassle and would rather not speak if the government is going to book them for sedition. Manohar said lack of safeguards cannot have a gagging effect. “As a country, we have spoken when we were not independent… We have expressed our feelings even during Emergency,” he added. Trivedi’s advocate Mihir Desai said while sedition can be invoked if it leads to violence, safeguards should be taken that the violence is against the state and not against the individual who is charged with violence. Terming Trivedi’s case an “exception”, Manohar said there is no data available that “it has become a habit” to register sedition cases and also no case is made out that “in general it caused fear in minds of people not to express themselves.” The bench remarked the state should not proceed without obtaining prior permission from a DCP level officer or legal opinion before arrest. It has reserved its verdict. (Times of India 19/1/15)

122. Freedom of speech under threat in TN, says writers’ forum in HC (1)

CHENNAI: Accusing police and revenue officials of extending tacit support to fringe communal groups agitating against embattled Tamil author PerumalMurugan’s novel Madhorubagan (One Part Woman), a PIL filed in the Madras high court by a top writers’ group has said freedom of speech is under constant threat in Tamil Nadu. Murugan’s 190-page fiction published in 2010 was caught in turbulence after some caste, communal and business groups took exception to his description of a temple ritual portrayed as having taken place in Thiruchengode. Following agitations and bandh, a peace committee meeting was convened by Namakkal district authorities on January 12. Faced with angry mob of agitators, Murugan gave an undertaking wherein he agreed to issue an unconditional apology, delete controversial portions from the book, withdraw unsold copies from the market and not to write any controversial subjects hurting the sentiments of people in future. The manner in which the revenue divisional officer and local police personnel conducted the peace committee meeting has drawn widespread condemnation, as its decision was partisan. On Monday, Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers and Artists Association president S Tamilselvam filed a PIL in the high court saying, “Peace committee meeting itself was not fair and proper, and not conducted in congenial atmosphere. Permual Murugan’s fundamental right to write any novel or other literary work as he understood society, whether ancient or modern, with his experience and knowledge has been snatched away by the decision of the so-called peace committee meeting.” Pointing out that the ‘agreement’ and ‘undertaking’ are unenforceable, the PIL said, “In fact, the novel does not wound anybody. It only depicts the lifestyle of people who lived some decades ago. Only after a deep study of the region and its social background, the authority wrote the book.” It wanted the ‘undertaking’ quashed, and its operation stayed. Narrating how many other writers too had come under pressure in Tamil Nadu, the PIL said Ma Mu Kannan’s house was ransacked and studio burnt as villagers found his novel ‘Kaa Na Eena Vin Kanini’ unacceptable. Another author Durai Guna’s family suffered social boycott and was forced to leave his village for his work ‘Oorarintha Oviyam’. Both the writers belong to Pudukottai district. Solai Sundara Perumal for his novel ‘Thandavapuram’, Veerapandian for his fiction ‘Parukkai’ and Razool for his poems ‘Mylanchi’ too suffered a lot at the hands of fringe groups, it said. (Times of India 20/1/15)

123. City lawyers to take HC bench protest to social media (1)

MEERUT: In a bid to demand a High Court bench in West UP, the lawyers in the city are planning to make their presence online via Facebook, Twitter and other social media. They are also waiting for a response from the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, to whom they wrote to a few days ago. Meerut lawyers, demanding an Allahabad HC bench in West UP, recently held a meeting to plan to enlist the support of the other section of society. In the meeting they reportedly received assurance of support from a range of groups. Taking the cognisance of such a suggestion Central Action Committee for the HC bench in Western UP has decided to take to Facebook and Twitter. The committee’s president DD Sharma told TOI, “In the meeting it was decided that we should take our movement to social media. It is such an appealing idea and now we will be on Facebook and Twitter in a day or two. Via social media the presence of our movement would not only be wider but we will be more interactive with such citizens of Western UP those are at FB and Twitter. Indeed wewill receive more creative ideas and support to sharpen our movement.” “We have also written the Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, and asked him to give us time for a meeting. We have already met the Law Minister, Sadanad Goda and he has expressed his sympathy with the cause. In the meeting with FM we will put before him that though in the past the then Chief Ministers, Rajnath Singh, Mayavati had submitted their representation at centre to form a HC bench in Western UP but there is no need of any representation from state government in this matter as it had been cleared in a meeting in 2001,” he added. (Times of India 28/1/15)

124. Commander of group that claimed killing Swedish journalist arrested (1)

KABUL: Afghanistan’s main intelligence agency said on Wednesday it had arrested a commander of a militant group known as the “Suicide Front”, that claimed responsibility in 2014 for the execution-style killing of a Swedish journalist. Nils Horner, 51, who worked for Swedish Radio and held dual British-Swedish nationality, was shot dead in Kabul’s diplomatic quarter in March 2014. The militant group had separately claimed responsibility for the killing of the governor of the province of Logar in 2013. “The National Directorate of Security detained a militant commander for the terrorist group Mahaz-e-Fedaiyan … with two pistols, two time bombs and a silencer,” said Hassib Sediqi, a spokesman for the agency, referring to the group. The militants, who described themselves as a Taliban splinter faction, said the radio journalist was a spy for Britain’s intelligence agency. The Swedish mission in Afghanistan said details of the arrest would be passed on to investigators in Sweden, but that it was too early to reach any conclusions. “The investigation in Sweden is still ongoing,” said deputy mission chief Anders SkiŮldebrand, adding that Swedish investigators working closely with the Afghan spy agency had been to Afghanistan in 2014 and could return. (The Hindu 29/1/15)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

125. Riot-accused BJP MP in top AMU body (7)

Meerut: One of the accused in the Muzaffarnagar communal riot cases, BJP MP from Bijnore Kunwar Bharatendra has become a member of the Aligarh Muslim University Court, the top decision making body of the University. Mr. Bharatendra is one of the four BJP MPs nominated by the Centre to the AMU Court. He was arrested in October 2013 on charges of inciting communal violence during communal riots in Muzaffarnagar. As the then BJP MLA from Bijnore, he was the third BJP lawmaker — after Sangeet Som and Suresh Rana — from Uttar Pradesh to have been arrested in connection with the communal riots. Another member of the AMU Court would be the BJP MP from Aligarh Satish Gautam who grabbed headlines when in November 2013 he had threatened to celebrate the birth anniversary of Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh inside the university campus without its permission. Other BJP MPs nominated to the university body include Kalyan Singh’s son and BJP MP from Etah Rajveer Singh and BJP MP from Bulandshahr Bhola Singh. According to Rahat Abrar, the spokesperson of the university, the nomination had nothing to do with the university as it was done by the Union Human Resource Development Ministry. (The Hindu 15/1/15)

126.  ‘Communal incidents on the rise in DK and Udupi’ (7)

MANGALURU: The district units of the Komu Souharda Vedike and the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) have said that more communal incidents were reported in 2014 in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts than the previous year. Submitting a memorandum to Dakshina Kannada Deputy Commissioner A.B. Ibrahim, they demanded that monthly meetings be held with victims from the minority communities. The office-bearers of the two organisations said in a press release that 2014 witnessed 173 communal incidents in the twin districts of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi against 121 cases in 2013. Of the 53 moral policing incidents in 2014, Hindu youths were the accused in 39 of them while Muslims were accused in 14. As many as 22 cases of prevention of cow transport or attacks on transporters, nine allegations of forcible religious conversions, eight cases of inciting speeches were reported. Other instances, including clashes between students and the destruction of banners and posters, accounted for 81 cases. The president of the district unit of the vedike Suresh Bhat Bakrabail clarified that that they were not based on police reports but rather on newspaper reports – clippings of which have been maintained. In 2013, there were reported 45 cases of moral policing with Hindus being the accused in 23 cases and Muslims in 16 and the accused were not known in the rest. In that year, there were prevention of cow transport or attacks on transporters in eight cases and allegations of forcible conversions were nine. Other cases, including inciting religious sentiments, were 59. Besides Mr. Bhat, the release has been signed by David D’Souza, president of the district unit of the PUCL, and members including those who are members of the youth wing of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind. (The Hindu 15/1/15)

127. 25 die of cold in Muzaffarnagar riots relief camps (7)

Meerut: Forgotten by most and out in the cold, quite literally, 25 people have died of chill this winter in the Muzaffarnagar camps that continue to house a little over 3,500 riot refugees. TOI visited Muzaffarnagar — Shamli has another 700 refugees — over two days, keeping a list of the dead and the dates on which they died, and found that even after they breathed their last, wailing relatives had a tough time finding a decent burial place for their departed. Last year, though, had been different. In the January of 2014, Mohd Irfan would sit outside his tent in the relief camp at Loi village and count the number of politicians visiting those who had been turned homeless after communal riots broke out in Muzaffarnagar sometime in August 2013. In the violence that followed, more than 50,000 fled their villages and 62 were killed. “General elections were around the corner and the riots were on everybody’s mind,” Irfan, 35, said. “It was a big issue for all political parties. Now no one cares about us. Madam, thand toh abhi bhi utni hi hai, bas ab neta log nahi aate.” (It’s as cold now as it was last year, just that no politicians are coming here anymore). NGO Astitva, which has been working for the rehabilitation of the riot victims, told TOI on Thursday that most of the 25 deaths can be easily verified. Cold had begun to claim lives by the end of October last year. Ironically, not only is the district administration clueless about the count, they claim there are hardly any camps in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli though 10 can be counted straight away. “There are a few camps in Shamli but there are no relief camps in Muzaffarnagar,” said additional district magistrate, Muzaffarnagar, Indramani Tripathi. “All the people at the relief camps in Muzaffarnagar were rehabilitated by December 2013. Moreover, not a single person has died in Muzaffarnagar in these winters.” If he knows about 3-year-old Simran who died in Loi on November 5, 2014, leaving wailing parents behind, he is not saying. Originally a resident of riot-hit Faguna, Yakub, father of Simran, said, “We tried to keep her warm and fed. She survived the 2013 winter, thanks to the help which came from the government, but this year she just gave up on the struggle.” Minimum temperatures in Muzaffarnagar have gone down to as low as 2.5 degrees Celsius. Coupled with a severe shortage of fuel, food and medicines, the flimsy tents, many of them with holes in them, haven’t been able to protect the refugees much. Their best hope has been to huddle together at night and pray for the next day to be warmer. Crouched inside a tent in Shahpur, Jahid, who lost his wife Zarina in November last year, said, “Sometimes I feel it would have been better had we died in the riots. At least we would have been away from all this ruckus of compensation. We lost our dignity long back fighting for the money which the government says is due to us.” Maqsood, a riot victim in Budhana, said getting their hands on the compensation amount of Rs 5 lakh announced by the Akhilesh Yadav government has been endless and excruciating. “Many people have not got it till now. I, too, have not got any compensation. Because of that I still have to live in a tent. My wife, Pachho, died of the cold. I don’t know when I will get the money.” Those who have managed to get the compensation and built small houses i villages nearby don’t have electricity and water connections. Jaan Mohammed, who fled from Shamli to Budhana, said, “We have to indulge in katiyamari (getting unauthorised power through a hooked, extended wire from an electricity source). What can we do when the government doesn’t help us? Are we supposed to live in the dark?” Rehana Adeeb, director, Astitva, said, “It is sad that the government doesn’t consider these places as camps. The administration has its own perspective and tries to keep a clean image in front of the media. But the reality is that these camps exist and the people there are striving for rehabilitation and survival.” Asked why the district administration has not been able to provide even basic amenities to the riot victims, Tripathi said, “Rehabilitation is a process. It takes time. A Rs 300 crore-project under Multi-Sectoral Development Programme (MSDP) will be sanctioned in the coming financial year. That will take care of the electricity and water connections for the rehabilitated people.” (Times of India 16/1/15)

128. Two victims of Hansot riots cremated amid tension (7)

SURAT: The last rites of the two victims of the communal violence that erupted on Wednesday at Hansot in Bharuch district were conducted under heavy police bandobast and in an atmosphere of uneasy calm on Thursday. Initially, relatives of the victims had refused to cremate the bodies until the attackers were arrested. Riots broke out at Ambheta village of Hansot taluka after a verbal spat between two youths. A free-for-all saw people using sharp-edged weapons, pelting stones and barging into houses, resulting in the death of two and injuries to 10, including a deputy superintendent of police. The condition of one of the injured was reported to be critical. Police fired two rounds in the air and also lobbed tear-gas shells to disperse mobs belonging to the two groups. Bharuch superintendent of police Bipin Ahire said, “We have apprehended 17 people and registered five FIRs in connection with the violence. Six companies of the Central Reserve Police Force and one company of the Rapid Action Force have been deployed in the district. At least 250 policemen have already been deployed at Hansot and nearby places.” Bharuch district collector Avantika Singh said, “The situation is under control. We are keeping a strict vigil.” “Few miscreants barged into a couple of houses and injured people belonging to another community. Soon, mobs from two groups began to pelt stones and also set on fire a few shops,” said Kaushik Pandya, deputy superintendent of police, Bharuch district. (Times of India 17/1/15)

129. Hindu widow saved 10 Muslims in Bihar riots (7)

AZIZPUR (Bihar): A Hindu woman who saved lives of 10 Muslims in this village in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district during the recent clashes in which five people died is being hailed as a hero, officials said. Shail Devi, a frail widow in her early 50s, risking her own life, gave shelter to her Muslim neighbours when a mob of more than 5,000 people attacked Azizpur Bahilwara village after a 20-year-old Hindu boy’s body was found Sunday. He was allegedly abducted and killed over his love affair with a Muslim girl. “I provided shelter to my Muslim neighbours to save their lives because the mob could have killed them,” Shail said Wednesday morning. Shail, a poor woman fighting for her survival like many others in this village, told IANS that she along with her two daughters stood guard outside her house when a mob was targeting Muslims in the village. She told them that it was a house of a ‘Mallah’ (fisherman). “I lied to rioters that I had not given shelter to Muslims in my house. Though some people tried to enter my house but I stopped them and they returned,” she said. Shail, widow of late Jaglal Sahni, has become a household name in the village and neighbouring villages for her rare example of communal harmony. “She has proved again that humanity is still alive, we are proud of her,” Arvind Kumar, a villager, said. Ash Mohammad, a man in his 60s, who was one of the ten Muslims whose lives were saved by Shail, told IANS that she is like ‘farishta’ (angel) to them. “Shail was like god-sent angel to us…,” Mohammad said. Mohammad admitted that all of them could have been killed if Shail had not given shelter to them. A day after she saved lives of her Muslim neighbours, some Hindu villagers warned her that she may be targeted by some people of the mob for doing it, Shail said. “I was so frightened that I along with my two daughters and a son Monday took shelter in Mohammad’s house but after district administration persuaded, I returned to my home,” she said. Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, who visited the village Wednesday, met Shail. He lauded her role and compared her with legendary Rani Lakshmibai. Manjhi also announced a cash reward of Rs 51,000 for her. “She is an example of communal harmony. People should take lesson from her and she would inspire others to follow her,” Manjhi praised her. Manjhi also announced assistance of Rs 20,000 each to her two unmarried daughters under a welfare scheme. Earlier, Bihar information technology minister Shahid Ali Khan also praised Shail for saving the lives of her Muslim neighbours. “I promised her help by the state government, and a reward for her soon,” said Khan, who visited the village Tuesday. A first information report (FIR) was registered Monday against 2,000 unidentified people and 12 named accused who were part of the mob that attacked the villagers from a particular community, the official added. Police have already arrested 14 people in this connection. Additional director general of police Gupteshwar Pandey submitted an inquiry report on the incident Tuesday to the state government. Soon after the incident, Manjhi asked Pandey and state home secretary Sudhir Kumar to conduct a probe and report to him. The BJP Tuesday demanded a judicial probe into the killing of four people and arson in a village that later turned into a communal clash in Bihar. (Times of India 21/1/15)

130. Urs at Juni Gadi Dargah blurs communal lines (7)

Juni Gadi is the heart of Vadodara’s communally sensitive areas. But, every year, in the congested bylanes of the clustered homes a show of harmony repeats itself in the form of the annual Urs of the 421-year-old historic Dargah Sharif of the Hazrat Pir Dada Sadanshah Sharmash Hussain Syed Mastan Baba. This year on February 10 and 11, the Urs Committee — which comprises several Hindus along with the Muslim members — is readying the Dargah for the celebrations. The preparations began two months in advance with members of the Hindu and the Muslim communities fulfilling their tasks, assigned by the committee. The colouring and tiling work of the Dargah is taken care of by the Hindu members of the committee — Rajesh Salgaonkar and Harshad Patni — while Muslim members prepare for the ritualistic celebrations. The Dargah, which bears testimony to “fulfilled wishes” of many a devout worshippers of all faiths, has been patronised by many politicians across parties including former Vadodadra BJP MP Balkrishna Shukla, who also attended the Urs celebrations in 2014. Every year, devotees offer Niyaz that runs into lakhs of rupees in the locality. Gadinasan Haji Dastagir Shaikh, the Khadim of the Dargah, said, “There are people who follow radical ideologies and create much discord among communities, but in reality there is no bitterness among people. The Urs is an example of the generous and loving brotherhood that people of all faiths believe in. And, even the Muslim community here extends complete support to the members of the historic 355-year-old Mahakali and Bhadrakali Mata temples that stand next to the Dargah. In all the incidents of rioting that the city witnesses, this lane that is home to the Dargah and the temple has never been defaced.” Juni Gadi Dargah stands in the lane across the Ajabdi Mill compound in Yakutpura. Since May last year, the area has witnessed over 15 episodes of communal rioting and stone pelting. Just about a kilometre away from the Dargah was the epicentre of the four-day-long riots during Navratri last September. This year, noted Qawwali singer Chand Qadri will perform at the Dargah on the occasion of Urs. Currently, Patni’s son, Tejas is overseeing the tiling work at the dome of the Mazaar. Salgaonkar, who has been volunteering for the task of painting the Dargah for a decade now.

Also keeping with practice, the Dargah has extended invitation for the Urs to the priests of the Swaminarayan sect and other Hindu sections in the city. Ajay Dandekar, whose father Chintaman had close ties with the RSS, according to Dastagir Shaikh, is now continuing the tradition of serving the Dargah. Although Ajay, an LIC executive by profession, rues the fact that he cannot spend much time at the Dargah, he said he owes much to the strength he has received from here. (Indian Express 28/1/15)

COMMUNALISM

131. Hindu hardliners diverting Modi govt focus, Union minister Upendra Kushwaha says (26)

NEW DELHI: Reflecting the growing unease within the government over controversial remarks by Hindutva hardliners and conversion, a senior Union minister on Sunday said such issues are “damaging” NDA’s prospects, citing example of Kashmir Valley where it could not manage a single seat. Union minister Upendra Kushwaha also said that he was not in favour of any law to check conversion as there are already provisions to check coercion and allurement for conversion. To a question on whether the issue of conversion was taking away the spotlight from the issue of development, Kushwaha said, “definitely it does take away the focus. They (saffron hardliners) should keep this in mind that the only agenda of this government is development. They should allow the government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to do that. “Opposition should not be given an opportunity to raise this issue all the time. The Prime Minister also wants that the only focus area should be development,” he said. Kushwaha, a former JD(U) MP, who heads the Loktantrik Samata Party and had allied with BJP in last Lok Sabha polls, also felt that had these issues not cropped up, the BJP would have been able to win few seats even in Kashmir Valley and that the “damage” will continue if this practice is not put to an end. With Delhi slated to go to polls soon, the Union minister also sounded a word of caution saying that such issues damage the prospects and hence “the focus should only be on development” during Delhi polls. “Such talks do the damage. It has happened. The kind of crowds that PM Modi was getting in the Valley, it was possible that the BJP could have won one or two seats at least,” Kushwaha added. (Times of India 12/1/15)

132. RSS Chief Invokes Tagore, Appeals for ‘Hindu Rashtra’ (26)

SAGAR: RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat today made an appeal for turning the country into a “Hindu nation” saying Hinduism believes in the principle of “unity in diversity” as visualised by the Nobel laureate polymath Rabindranath Tagore. Delivering the valedictory address at the five-day conclave of RSS workers here in Madhya Pradesh, Bhagwat cited Tagore’s book ‘Swadeshi Samaj’ to drive home the point of Hindu rashtra. Tagore had criticised the British in the book while observing that Hindus and Muslims won’t just finish each other by fighting among themselves but will rather find a way out and that path will be of “Hindu Rashtra”, he said, adding that Hindutva advocates unity in diversity and harmony. Bhagwat said a country cannot be called secure when its people feel insecure. “People in India still feel pained even after so many years of Independence,” the RSS chief said.   “Many governments ruled Delhi and enormous (amount of) money has been spent in development,” Bhagwat said.  He said it is unfair to say that no development has taken place in the country but at the same time the country has not developed as expected. In his speech, Bhagwat showered praises on Israel for its “achievements” despite “hostile” conditions. Israel, with mostly a desert land and a thin population, attained independence with us, but it has developed tremendously. When Israel came into being, it was attacked by eight nations. This tiny nation fought five wars, expanded its land area and has risen as a tall nation, he said.  “Anyone who dares that nation gets a befitting reply. People across the world learn from Israel the art of doing agricultural and vegetable farming,” he said.      “On the contrary, India has 5,000 km land, population in crores, powerful leaders but Israel has marched way ahead of us,” Bhagwat said. The RSS chief said that infusing patriotism in the common people will make the country scale newer heights and it will become a “mighty and developed nation. Bhagwat said there are many perceptions about the RSS. “But Sangh is neither a gymnasium nor a para military force or a political outfit.”    “Sangh can be known only after becoming a swayamsevak (volunteer). Those who want to know about it should enter it as there is no bar (for anybody joining it),” he said.  Bhagwat said those who want to work with dedication in nation building should join the Sangh “which is not for offering any ticket for contesting elections.”  ”Sangh activists indulge in propagating ideas and ways to make India a great nation,” he added. (New Indian Express 18/1/15)

133. Report worries state may have become Hindutva hub (26)

MUMBAI: The Indian Christian Persecution report for 2014, brought out by the Catholic Secular Forum ( CSF), talks of targeted violence against the community in India. The forum has documented five murders across India in areas such as Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal. The report also details attacks on clergies and desecration of churches. Citing several attacks on Christians, the report asked whether the state had become the Hindutva capital of the country. The report mentions the desecration of a statue of Jesus where its hand was broken off in Raigad. The study goes on to say that nuns’ homes were stoned, too. At Mangaon, in Raigad, on the New Year’s day, a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was vandalized. In rural Nashik, 25 Christians were beaten up by a Hindutva mob, adds the report. The CSF has made an appeal to the Prime Minister for the inclusion of minorities, “especially Christians, who desperately need it”. The report points to the huge contributions made by Indian Christians to the country. (Times of India 20/1/15)

134. VHP reacts to Census: We will ask Hindus to reproduce more (26)

NEW DELHI: Even though the data on religion-based census is yet to be released officially, right wing Hindu groups are already up in arms over the TOI report showing 24% growth in Muslims between 2001 and 2011. VHP said its stand has been vindicated and it would make fresh appeal to Hindus to reproduce more. It would also begin an agitation in the country to press government to enforce uniform civil code. Muslim scholars have, however, countered this fear-mongering by saying that the high growth rate of Muslims is owing to their poor socio-economic status which stands with those of Dalits and the resultant lack of education. They say the census report should wake up the government on the poor state of Muslims in the country and prod them into doing something about it. VHP joint general secretary Surendra Jain told TOI, “What we have been saying since 1966, has been vindicated by this census. We will put pressure on the government to enforce uniform civil code. We will push for making family planning mandatory for all. Muslims are trying to overtake Hindu population through various ways such as infiltration and love jihad apart from reproduction. So Hindu’s reproducing more is a good option to challenge this. This call is already being made.” However, when pointed out that the Muslim growth rate has actually been decreasing decade after decade, Jain called it “statistical jugglery” which could not take away from the fact that Muslims were growing faster than Hindus. “It does not mean that they will not attack us. The basic fact of the matter is that they have grown from 13.4% of India’s population to 14.2%,” Jain said. He also warned that if Muslims kept growing at this rate they would demand a separate nation. “During 1941, the Muslim population in the country was just 18% and they demanded a separate nation. If their growth continues at this pace, another Jinnah will stand up and demand division of the nation,” said Jain. (Times of India 22/1/15)

135. Development without Hindu Rashtra is of no use: Togadia (26)

MEERUT: At a time when the Narendra Modi government has been targeted for its alleged failure to rein in Hindutva groups, Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Praveen Togadia on Monday rejected the discourse of development without “Hindu Rashtra”. Addressing the Virat Hindu Mahasammelan here, he said development would be of no use if Hindus were not “safe” at home. Amid loud cheers of the 1,000-odd crowd, which braved rain and cold to hear him, he asked the “Hindus of the country to become one and prepare the way for Hindu Rashtra.” Invoking “Hindu victimhood,” he said: “Neither our houses and businesses nor our daughters and sisters are safe in places such as Hyderabad, Bhopal and Meerut. Development is important, but what will be its use when Hindus won’t be there at homes, and like Hindus in Kashmir, they are thrown out of their motherland.” “We have to ensure security, safety and respect to the 100-crore Hindus. So, we have to get organised and be ready for Hindu Rashtra,” he said. He referred to the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and said: “Look at what happened to the world famous World Trade Center. It was known for the idea of development, but it doesn’t exist now.” Mr. Togadia said the VHP would focus on the movement against cow slaughter and conversion of religious minorities. In an attempt to co-opt Dalits into Hindutva politics, Mr. Togadia asked all Hindus to make friends with Balmiki families. But his remarks came in for strong criticism from Dalit families in Meerut who had threatened to convert to Islam after refused entry to a temple. (The Hindu 27/1/15)

136. Hindu Munnani welcomes TN govt directive to IAS officer (26)

Chennai: Hindu Munnani (Hindu Front) on Tuesday welcomed the directive issued by Tamil Nadu government asking a controversial IAS officer to desist from carrying out “preaching and propagating” activities. In a letter last week, Chief Secretary K Gnanadesikan had told IAS officer C Umashankar that it had come to the government’s notice that he was to take part in ‘preaching and propagating activities’ in Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi and Kanniyakumari districts from January 24 to January 26 “which are likely to cause communal disharmony and disturbance to public order.” Umashankar cancelled his tour following the top official’s direction that he should not “indulge in such activities which are unbecoming of a member of the service”.He was also warned of “appropriate action” under relevant provisions of All India Services (conduct) Rules, besides being chided for “indulging in activities” on January 16 in Kanyakumari “which created disturbance to public order” and resulted in police registering two cases. Umashankar, who says he is Hindu officially, but Christian by faith, said the directive was against his fundamental rights and that he would move the court against it. Reacting to the episode, Hindu Munnani founder Rama Gopalan said his organisation had often ‘condemned’ Umashankar for “continuously” engaging in “preaching and propagating” a particular denomination of the Christian faith and that it had filed a complaint with the government on this matter. His action was contradictory to his service rules, he said in a statement. Umashankar, presently Commissioner for Disciplinary Proceedings, had brought to light the Cremation Shed scam case in the 1991-96 AIADMK government, which resulted in conviction of then Minister C Selvaganapathy, who later joined DMK and became a Rajya Sabha member. He had to lose his Upper House membership as a result of his conviction. Further, during the previous DMK regime, Umashankar was appointed Head of Arasu Cable TV in wake of the service provider’s launch following a tiff between party president and then Chief Minister M Karunanidhi and his grandnephews, the Maran brothers. They had later patched up. A Dalit officer, Umashankar had courted controversy when doubts were raised about the genuineness of his caste certificate and was suspended pending enquiry before it was revoked. (Zee News 27/1/15)

137. Sena demands deletion of ‘secular’ word from Constitution (26)

MUMBAI: A day after row erupted over a Republic Day advertisement of Information and Broadcasting Ministry, the Shiv Sena on Wednesday demanded “permanent deletion” of the words ‘secular’ and ‘socialist’ from the Constitution. An acrimonious war of words had broken out between political parties yesterday when an advertisement issued by the I&B Ministry carried a picture of the Preamble to the Constitution as it appeared before the 42nd Amendment, without the words ‘secular’ and ‘socialist’. “We welcome the exclusion of the (secular and socialist) words from the Republic Day advertisement. Though it might have been done inadvertently, it is like honouring the feelings of the people of India. If these words were deleted by mistake this time, they should be deleted from the Constitution permanently,” Sena MP Sanjay Raut said. “From the time they (the words) were included in the Constitution, it is being said that this country can never be secular. Balasaheb Thackeray and before him Veer Savarkar had been saying that India was divided on the lines of religion. Pakistan was created for Muslims, thus, what remains is a Hindu Rashtra,” Raut said. The minority community has been used only for political gains, while “Hindus are being continuously disrespected,” he alleged. (Times of India 28/1/15)

138. VHP to organise ‘Ram Mahotsava’ for building temple in Ayodhya (26)

Lucknow: Seeking to “mobilise Hindus” and “remind them of their resolve” for construction of a Ram temple, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) is planning to organise ‘Ram Mahotsava’ for the first time on the lines of Durga Puja across the country. “We will celebrate Ram Mahotsava from March 21 or March 22 and it will continue till April 1. This will be for the first time that such an event is being organised by the organisation,” VHP media incharge Sharad Sharma said on Thursday. This programme would be organised in every village in the country, he said. “It will give strength to Ram Janmbhoomi movement. The programme will not only be organised in villages where temples are located, but at those places also where there is no such arrangement,” Sharma told a news agency here. “During the Mahotsava, two to two-and-a-half feet tall statues of Lord Ram will be worshipped for 10 days as it is done during Navratras. These statues will either be enshrined permanently or immersed,” he said. He said Hindus have already been asked to take a pledge for construction of the temple. “But strengthen the resolve and to ensure that it is fulfilled, people will be asked to renew their pledge,” Sharma said. “We plan to reach 1.5 lakh to 2 lakh villages across the country. In Uttar Pradesh and Uttrakhand, we will make efforts to reach each and every village,” he said. The VHP media incharge said that the organisation has planned 600 Hindu Sammelans or conclaves across the country. “Such Sammelans will be held till March. For instance one will be held in Ayodhya on February 6, then in Prayag (Allahabad) on February 6 and Varanasi on February 8,” Sharma said. He said these Sammelans would be addressed by senior VHP leaders including Ashok Singhal, Pravin Togadia, besides BJP MP Yogi Adityanath. “These Sammelans are being held as part of our golden jubilee foundation year. Ram Mahotsava is related to temple construction. The objective is to celebrate Ram Navami with the same pomp and grandeur of Ganesh Mahotsava and Durga Puja,” he said. During a Hindu Sammelan in Lucknow on January 18, International President of VHP Praveen Togadia had said the organisation would celebrate its inception only after a grand temple of Lord Ram was constructed at Ayodhya. (Zee News 29/1/15)

139. HP ‘reconverts’ 150 tribals in Bengal (26)

Kolkata: In its largest ever “reconversion” programme and the first public one in West Bengal, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) organised a “cleansing” ritual for 150 tribals in Birbhum district on Wednesday. While the event took place in the presence of senior VHP leaders, including Praveen Togadia, Sangh leaders preferred to downplay the event. A livid Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, however, has asked the district administration for a detailed report on the matter. With the BJP making inroads into Bengal’s socio-political scenario, the VHP managed a coup of sorts by “reconverting” about 150 people of Khoramdanga village, where most residents are Christians. The event was followed by a rally addressed by Togadia and other VHP leaders. Like in other states, the VHP has called the programme “Ghar Wapsi”, where it claims, those Hindus who have been “forcibly” converted to another religion are being taken back home. “The CM is angry with the district administration. We should have had the information beforehand so that necessary steps could have been taken,” an official said, not willing to elaborate what “necessary steps” means. The Trinamool also reacted sharply against the action. “Bengal has a history of living in communal harmony and bigots like Togadia will be dealt with ruthlessly,” Trinamool spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP, Derek O’Brien tweeted after the news became public. While there have been murmurs of several such programmes having taken place in different parts of Bengal with no official confirmation from VHP, the one at Khoramdanga came to light since the district administration was keeping an eye on the situation due to Togadia’s presence. While VHP leaders refused to come on record after the news spread and led to an uproar by Trinamool Congress and the Left parties, sources confirmed that the ‘Ghar Wapsi’ programme took place on Wednesday evening. (Deccan Herald 30/1/15)

TERRORISM

140. NIA makes fresh arrest in Burdwan blast case (12)

Ranchi: The NIA, in a joint operation with the Jharkhand police nabbed Rejaul Karim, an alleged operative of the banned Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) terror outfit believed to be in charge of transporting explosives to various places in Burdwan in West Bengal. Karim, 27, on whom a cash reward of `5 lakh had been announced by the NIA, was arrested from Sahebganj where he was hiding since the blast took place in Burdwan on October 2. He was working as a labourer under a Railway contractor and was hiding in Taljhari area of the district. “He was a regular visitor to the area but never stayed here for long,” said a senior police officer involved in the arrest. He is also alleged to be a close associate of Kauser alia Bomaru Mizan and other main accused persons wanted in Burdwan blast case. “His interrogation is likely to throw fresh leads and evidence in the investigation of this case,” the official said.\ Police has recovered 39 bombs from Karim’s house in Burdwan after the blast last year. Two suspected Indian Mujahideen terrorists were killed and a third injured when an explosion occurred in a house in the Khagragarh locality of Burdwan. The NIA said that after the incident, injured accused Abdul Hakim had called up Rejaul for assistance and evacuation. (Hindustan Times 11/1/15)

141. Pakistan to execute five terrorists Tuesday (12)

Islamabad: The Pakistan government will execute five more terrorists in Sukkur and Faisalabad jails Tuesday, media reported. Three terrorists belonging to banned outfits and lodged in central jail Sukkur in Sind province and two convicts in district jail Faisalabad in Punjab province will be hanged Tuesday, The News International reported. The three terrorists in Sukkur jail — Muhammad Shahid Haneef, Muhammad Talha and Khalil Ahmed — were involved in the murder of defence ministry director Zafar Hussain Shah in the vicinity of Gulbahar jail in Karachi in 2001. All the three would be hanged at 6.30 a.m Tuesday, said jail authorities. The two other terrorists — Nawazish Ali and Mushtaq Ahmed — convicted of orchestrating the murder attempt on former military ruler Pervez Musharraf will also be hanged Tuesday morning. On Dec 17, Pakistan lifted a moratorium on the death penalty in terror-related cases, following a terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar Dec 16 in which Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants killed over 140 students and teachers. Pakistan has already executed 10 terrorists since the moratorium on the death penalty was lifted. (New Kerala 12/1/15)

142. IM suspects part of terror module: Bengaluru police chief (12)

Bengaluru: Four suspects of the banned Indian Mujahideen (IM) outfit, who were arrested last week, were part of a terror module and linked to terror outfits abroad, Bengaluru police commissioner M.N. Reddi said Monday. “All the four IM suspects, who are part of a bigger conspiracy to procure, fabricate and deliver improvised explosives, revealed during interrogation that they were part of a terror module having links with terror outfits abroad,” Reddi told reporters here. Of the suspects, three – Syed Ismail Afaq, Saddam Hussein and Abdus Subur – were picked up Jan 8, two from the city and one from Bhatkal in Uttara Kannada district, about 480 km from here. The fourth – Riyaz Ahmed Sayeedi – was nabbed Jan 10 at the Manguluru airport before he could board a flight to Dubai around midnight. “All the suspects are natives of the coastal town of Bhatkal and are believed to be associated with IM co-founder Yasin Bhatkal. “Their terror module had received funds through hawala (illegal) channel for disruptive activities under instructions from their handlers hiding abroad,” he said. Preliminary investigation and background checks revealed that one of the alleged IM operatives received guerrilla training in a foreign country and another worked as a salesman in a hardware firm in Dubai. “We would not like to name the handlers or the country from where they issued instructions to the local module as it would hamper our investigation,” Reddi said. Ruling out their direct link to the Dec 28 blast outside a popular restaurant on Church Street, the commissioner said forensic tests were being conducted on the explosives seized from their residences to ascertain whether some of it was used in the blast in which a woman was killed. A court had earlier sent the suspects to police custody till Jan 21 for further interrogation in the cases registered against the suspects under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, Explosives Act and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Besides explosives (ammonium nitrate), detonators, electronic timer devices, digital circuits, circuit-making material, gas-based explosive material and fuel oil were seized by sleuths of the city’s special crime branch from the homes of the suspects. (New Kerala 12/1/15)

143. Anti-terror ops: Govt likely to frame norms for media coverage (12)

New Delhi, Indicating that there could be soon norms for media coverage of terror-related operations, Information and Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley today said that the issue is under “serious and very advanced consideration” of the government. Delivering the first Justice J S Verma memorial lecture here, he also said that the age of ban on media organisations was over and technology had rendered censorship impossible. The manner in which anti-terror operations by security agencies was covered is one of the most important issues with regard to responsibility of media in contemporary times, the Minister said. The question is whether to allow the media to go right up to the spot or if there should be constraints, he said. The I&B Minister said that intelligence agencies had claimed that real time coverage of 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai had helped the handlers of terrorists to get information about what the security agencies were doing. “Our security agencies and the Ministry of Defence are clearly of the view that this cannot be allowed. And, therefore, during the limited duration when the security operation is on, a very strict discipline on the kind of reporting which is to take place from the place of the incident will have to be maintained,” Jaitley said. “This issue is under serious and very advanced consideration of the government,” he said. The Minister also said that while traditionally it was thought that a newspaper or a channel could be banned, the fact was that the days of ban were long over as it was now hardly possible to “victimise” media outfits through denial of advertisements. On the possibility of censorship, Jaitley said technology has made it impossible. “Assuming that there was emergency imposed today under Article 352 of the Constitution, the impact of the censorship would be nil. The satellite itself defies geographical boundaries…the email does not allow it, the fax machine does not allow it,” he said. The Home Ministry had earlier asked the I and B Ministry to amend rules so that live coverage of anti-terror operations by television channels is banned. (Deccan Herald 18/1/15)

144. Safe havens of terror in Pakistan not acceptable: Obama (12)

NEW DELHI: On the eve of his second visit to India, US President Barack Obama sent out a tough message to Pakistan, saying safe havens of terrorism within that country are “not acceptable”. He also asked Islamabad to bring those behind the 26/11 Mumbai attacks to justice. “I’ve made it clear that even as the United States works with Pakistan to meet the threat of terrorism, safe havens within Pakistan are not acceptable and that those behind the Mumbai terrorist attack must face justice,” Obama said in an interview to India Today ahead of his departure for India. This came amid signs of renewed US pressure on Pakistan to crack down on terror networks and evidence of recognition within the Pakistani establishment, in the wake of the massacre of school children in Peshawar, that the terror apparatus set up to hurt India and for strategic gains in Afghanistan has boomeranged on them. With the Americans leaning on them, Pakistan has been forced to claim that they have banned Jamat-ud Dawa (JUD) and the Haqqani network, terror outfits which acted as proxies for ISI. Expressing shock over the massacre of innocent students, Obama emphasized that the carnage should serve as a cautionary tale that terrorists will spare none. “Like people around the world, Indians and Americans were horrified at the senseless slaughter of so many students and teachers at the school in Peshawar, which was a painful reminder that terrorists threaten us all,” Obama said. He pointed out that just as Indians were tragically killed in the 9/11 attack in New York, Americans were also killed in the 26/11 terror strike in Mumbai. Acknowledging that “no two nations agree on everything,” the President said, “When those of us at the leadership level agree on a course of action, our governments have to actually implement our decisions. We have to make sure that words are matched by deeds.” Obama also admitted that there are differences between the US and India on issues, but said a good India-US relationship has to be based on mutual respect. “On the most basic level, a good India-US relationship has to be based on the same principles as our successful partnerships with our other close partners and friends around the world.” “That includes mutual respect, where even as we acknowledge our different histories and traditions, we value the strengths that we each bring to our relationship,” he said. Upbeat about his visit, Obama described India as a “natural partner” and said he saw this as an opportunity to work with Modi to “hopefully begin a new era” in the history of the two countries. (Times of India 24/1/15)

145. Pak anti-terror court to charge Taliban chief’s father-in-law (12)

PESHAWAR: An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan is likley to charge Maulana Sufi Muhammad, the head of a banned extremist group and father-in-law of the Taliban chief. The court heard two terrorism cases against Tanzeem-e- Nifaz-e-Shariah Mohammadi (TNSM) chief Sufi who is accused of an attack on a police station in Swat district of Khyber- Pakhtunkhwa province and delivering speeches against Pakistan. He has been acquitted in many cases due to lack of evidences. He is father-in-law of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Mullah Fazlullah, who is hiding in Afghanistan. After hearing, the court fixed January 31 for framing charges against Maulana Sufi and adjourned the hearing. In earlier proceedings of the court which was held on November 22 last year, the court had acquitted Sufi and his 30 associates in two terrorism cases. The cases were related to attacks on a Frontier Corps convoy and a Swat police station around 19 years ago. However, Sufi remained in the jail for facing two more cases. The trial of Sufi in different terrorism cases have been conducted inside the Peshawar Central prison for security reasons. e has been kept there since 2009 when final phase of military operation against militants was launched in Malakand region. Earlier, Sufi and many of his associates were acquitted by the anti-terrorism court in 10 cases of terrorism and a trial in two cases is pending. Most of the cases against Sufi were registered in 1994 and afterwards when his outfit stepped up its movement for Shariah enforcement in Malakand division. However, the successive governments did not try him in those cases and thus, resulting in legal complications like witnesses and co-accused of some cases had either died or were not traceable. The earlier cases in which Sufi was acquitted pertained to hatching conspiracy against the state, attack against government institutions in parts of Swat over 18 years ago and speeches which were incited to violence against the rulers including then president Pervez Musharraf. In October 2001, following the 9/11 attacks, Sufi crossed into Afghanistan with thousands of his followers to help the Taliban fight the US-led forces. After the Taliban was ousted from power in 2001, he returned to Pakistan and was arrested. (Times of India 25/1/15)

146. MHA may act against cops for false terror case (12)

NEW DELHI: The home ministry has taken a very serious view of the alleged involvement of Delhi Police officers in framing of former Hizbul Mujahideen militant Sayyed Liaquat Shah in a cooked-up terror case. The ministry is likely to take strict action against not only those mentioned in the chargesheet but also some others. NIA on Tuesday sent a note to the home ministry detailing the role played by certain Delhi Police officers in framing Shah in a terror case. Sources said the note has names not mentioned in the chargesheet. The ministry is likely to take a decision on the fate of the officers based on the note and the chargesheet filed by NIA. In its chargesheet in the case, NIA has absolved Shah of all charges once pressed by Delhi Police and found officers of the special cell allegedly involved in planting explosives in an Old Delhi guesthouse to frame Shah. According to NIA, to “create” evidence to support their charges, special cell used their informer Sabir Khan Pathan to plant explosives. Once doubts were cast on their case, they allegedly destroyed evidence and helped Pathan escape. The chargesheet named several officers of special cell, including DCP Sanjeev Yadav and inspectors Sanjay Dutt and Rahul Kumar. The note, sources said, has details of the role played by not only these officers but others who have not been named in the chargesheet. A senior home ministry official said, “The ministry has taken the revelations made by NIA very seriously. We can’t allow innocent people being framed in terror cases. Such things need to be dealt with very strictly and suitable action will be taken in this case.” However, some wondered within the ministry as to why NIA did not list the officers as accused in its chargesheet. NIA needs no sanction from government to proceed against any Delhi Police officer as long as it has evidence. NIA has cited detailed evidence to prove that Pathan was an informer of inspector Dutt and virtually lived at special cell thana in Lodhi colony. It has also cited how officers from special cell were constantly in touch with Pathan while he was planting explosives in the guesthouse. He spoke to them 49 times. It has also cited evidence to show that DCP Yadav had planned Shah’s arrest in advance. (Times of India 28/1/15)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

147. Centre not keen on special force in trains to naxal belt (12)

Mumbai: The union home ministry is not keen on deployment of special commando force to guard the passengers travelling to naxal regions across India. Highly placed sources in home department said, “The union home minister Rajnath Singh has neither rejected nor accepted the suggestions for dedicated commando force to guard commuters.” Sources in the state government revealed to Indian Express, “The union home minister is eliciting views from state chief ministers and home ministers on the matter. A formal decision would be taken only after considering the views of all state leaders.” Sources revealed, “Some states namely West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh et al expressed anguish over possibility of escalating the conflict with naxals if commandos are regularly travelling in long distance trains through naxal belts.” At present there are central reserve police force in the trains for passengers security. Last week, union railway minister Suresh Prabhu had indicated a possibility of beefing up security in long distance trains in naxal belt. Prabhu said, “ I am going to meet the union home minister Rajnath Singh soon. I feel we should have a special commondo force in trains to naxal regions.” However, he had indicated that the final decision would have to be taken after nod from Singh. The union railway minister’s demand for special force came in wake of disruption of trains for several days in Dandakaranya in Chhatisgarh. Sources in state home department revealed, “ At state level it is felt that naxals may have targeted trains occasionally. But if we have a special force they would focus their attack on long distance trains. How many special commondos can be deploy for security.” On the other hand the larger challenge for states should be to promote more development in naxal region to isolate them from seeking help of the locals. Maharashtra government has sought more funds from the ministry of home and finance for development in the naxal regions of Gadchiroli. Earlier, union minister for surface transport Nitin Gadkari also indicated he would discuss with states on projects that could be taken up in naxal regions. Gadkari is planning a meeting with state chief ministers to discuss the roadmap for naxal regions. Maharashtra government is also going to take up the road works with Gadkari in three districts affected by naxals. (Indian Express 11/1/15)

148. Anti-Naxal Operations to be cleared by force HQs: CRPF DG (12)

NEW DELHI: All big operations in Left wing extremism-hit states, which require large-scale mobilisation of security forces, will be cleared after approvals from the CRPF headquarters, the new chief of the country’s lead anti-Naxal operations force said. Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Director General Prakash Mishra has taken the decision to monitor first-hand important security forces offensives in the Naxal grid after he recently toured some of the worst Maoist violence affected states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha. The decision of the new CRPF boss is also understood to have been made in the wake of the December 1 encounter in Sukma in Chhattisgarh where 14 force personnel were killed during an operation where a large contingent of over 2,000 personnel of joint security forces were mobilised to strike the red ultras. “The large operations will be okayed by the headquarters here. I, including my operations team, will be involved with the ground operations during the planning and execution stages,” Mishra, who took over the reins of the country’s largest paramilitary less than a month ago, told PTI. When asked if this “vetting” from the headquarters would lead to some crucial time-loss in launching operations, the DG said that with the advent of modern gadgets and tools, all such exercises can be followed on a virtually real-time basis.    “I don’t think there would be any time-loss. In this age we have communication gadgets and other devices where we can plan and execute things in a quick span of time or to say on a real-time basis,” he said.   The top brass of the force, at present, is informed about all large and important operations being undertaken by force commanders on ground but it is understood that after this decision, the central command of the force will play a more active role. The DG said large operations, with big number of troops on ground, leads to larger visibility of the force personnel in the operations area thereby making them vulnerable to be spotted and identified. Hence, before embarking on such exercises, the CRPF headquarters will decide on the merits and requirements for launching such offensives, the DG said.    He said the thrust areas for the force, with close to 1 lakh personnel deployed for this task, remain the states of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. All big operations in Left wing extremism-hit states, which require large-scale mobilisation of security forces, will be cleared after approvals from the CRPF headquarters, the new chief of the country’s lead anti-Naxal operations force said. Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Director General Prakash Mishra has taken the decision to monitor first-hand important security forces offensives in the Naxal grid after he recently toured some of the worst Maoist violence affected states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha.      The decision of the new CRPF boss is also understood to have been made in the wake of the December 1 encounter in Sukma in Chhattisgarh where 14 force personnel were killed during an operation where a large contingent of over 2,000 personnel of joint security forces were mobilised to strike the red ultras.  .. (New Indian Express 18/1/15)

149. 12,062 have perished in Naxal violence so far: RTI (12)

MEERUT: In reply to an RTI query, the ministry of home affairs (MHA) has revealed that a total of 12,062 civilians have been killed in Naxal violence till now since 1980. The detail was given in reply to a question filed under RTI (Right to Information) rules by a Meerut-based activist. Interestingly, when the Naxalite movement began in India, only three states were involved – Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. But by 2014, eight states had got dragged into it. While in 1980, 70 people had died in the violence, in 2010 the number was a far higher 720. The reply also mentions that 3,078 security personnel were injured in Naxal-related violence in the last 34 years. MHA, however, did not disclose the actual number of security personnel dead in the same period. Lokesh Khurana, who had filed the RTI query on December 4, 2014, had asked for information on 10 points. “I had asked information on various points that included the number of citizens killed in the last 34 years, number of security personnel killed, administrative efforts made to restrain Naxalites, reasons for the rise and spread of the Naxalite movement, the annual expenditure incurred on security measures and operations in Naxalite-affected areas. The ministry only gave the details on the number of civilian deaths and security personnel injured.” Violence, the RTI answer says, escalated further in the following years after 1980 and by 2000 had reached alarming proportions. That year claimed 451 lives of citizens, with 97 security personnel injured. It became worse by 2010, with 720 civilians being killed and 285 security men wounded. In the last four years, though, starting from 2011 to 2014, there has been a decline in the violence. That year 468 civilians died and 142 security personnel were injured; in 2014, it came further down to 222 people killed and 87 security men injured. While the Union home minister Rajnath Singh was unavailable for comment on the issue, a senior source in his ministry said, “If you look at the trend since the last couple of years, the violence in Naxalite-hit area has declined to some extent. Meanwhile, the NDA government has taken some constructive steps to further curtail the violence whose impact will be visible in the near future.” (Times of India 21/1/15)

150. Naxals set 14 vehicles on fire to stall road work in north Gadchiroli (12)

NAGPUR: The rebels of banned outfit Communist party of India (Maoist), also known as Naxals, on Thursday set on fire around 14 vehicles of an Andhra Pradesh-based private company engaged in road construction in Dhanora tehsil of north Gadchiroli. This is the second such major incident in Dhanora tehsil within a year’s span. Naxals had torched around 27 vehicles, engaged in construction of road between Dhanora and Godalvahi via Pustola, in January last year. On Thursday, Naxals roughed up a few labourers and their supervisor when the work on the Gharanji-Pustola stretch was underway for connecting road between Edampayali and Korkoti. The road connects major market places in Naxal-hit tehsils Dhanora and Pendri. It is learnt, eight tractors, two trucks, one road roller, couple of JCB machines and a pickup van were among the vehicles which were set on fire. Couple of bikes belonging to the workers too may have been damaged. The company is likely to have suffered a loss worth around a couple of crores. Gadchiroli police have not registered an offence even after 24 hours of the incident as neither the public works department (PWD) nor the private contractor came forward to lodge complaint at Dhanora police station. The police department is contemplating registering the offence on behalf of the state government. Like last year, the latest incident has caused a setback to Central government assisted road repair project (RRP-1) in the district. Under phase I, work on 27 projects, mainly related to road and bridge construction in the interior parts of the tribal-dominated district, have been completed. The road between Edampayali and Korkoti is among nine projects, along with bridges on Godavari and Indravati, that are under construction in phase-I. Gadchiroli district collector Ranjit Kumar said the arson will slow down work on the affected stretch. “District administration is trying to coordinate with the police department for stepping up security in the affected regions,” said Kumar. Police claimed that prima facie it appears that local organisational squad of Chatgaon or Kasansoor may have jointly perpetrated the arson following Naxals’ opposition to road construction. It is reliably learnt that the contractor had already paid certain amount to the Naxals but the rebels were upset as the cash did not reach them. The Naxals had also tried to trace the person who may have siphoned off the amount. A source from intelligence security claimed that the same contractor had worked in south Gadchiroli after coordinating with the Naxals. Gadchiroli superintendent of police Sandip Patil stated that security forces have already launched operations and area domination activities at different locations considering threat on Republic Day. “We are ready to provide security to contractors or any other officials engaged in activities like road constructions,” the SP added. (Times of India 24/1/15)

151. Maoists attack resort in Kerala, write slogans against Obama visit (12)

Tirunelli: Suspected Maoists attacked a state-run tourist resort in Wayanad in north Kerala on Sunday and escaped into forests after vandalising the premises and writing slogans against US President Barack Obama’s visit to the country. The six-member group carrying fire arms and wearing masks barged into the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation’s resort located in the forests and damaged computer and glass panes at the reception in the wee hours, District Police Superintendent P Vimaladitya said. They also wrote slogans against Obama on the walls of the resort, he said. As per the information provided by the security guard at the resort, the gang entered the building around 3 AM, shouted slogans condemning the policies of the Central and State governments, littered the premises with Maoists literature before vandalising the reception and fleeing into the forests. They had raised slogans condemning the government policy of promoting tourism “trampling” over the rights of tribals and marginalised sections over traditional means of livelyhood. The gang, however, did not harm two groups of tourists who were staying in the resort, Vimaladitya said. The posters and Maoist literature thrown around the premises carried the name of CPI(Maoists) Western Ghats Regional Committee. Police have launched a search for the group who had ran into deep forests of the area located on Kerala-Karnataka borders. This was the latest in a series of attacks carried out by suspected Maoists in different parts of Kerala since last year, especially on the slopes of the Western Ghats. Earlier this month, a group attacked a private stone-crusher unit in Kannur district. These attacks came at a time when the Kerala government had stepped up security following intelligence reports that Moists had sneaked into forest-fringe tribal settlements in the hill areas of Kerala, close to Karnataka and Tamil Nadu borders. (Zee News 25/1/15)

152. Tribal girl shot dead by Maoists (12)

Ranchi, Jan. 24: Maoists shot dead an 18-year-old girl last night at a village in Khunti district where security forces are conducting Operation Karo II to flush out PLFI rebels. Police said the body of Birsi Kumari (18) was found by neighbours with two bullet wounds this morning at Kitahatu in Murhu, which is about 14km from the district headquarters, but only 2km from her home at Etkadih. Khunti SP Anish Kumar confirmed the killing via a text message. “Yes, Birsi of Etkadih was killed by Maoists last night near Kitahatu,” he wrote, but did not elaborate. Local residents said the girl, living in the village known to be the birthplace of tribal leader Gaya Munda, paid with her life for being a police informer, but the police deny the claim. “The girl had dinner with her parents around 7pm. Her parents went to sleep inside the family kumba, a straw shed in the yard where food grains are stored, while the girl decided to sleep in the house,” said a local resident. This morning, a villager noticed her body lying near Birsa Dwar in Kitahatu on the road to Ulihatu, the birthplace of tribal icon Birsa Munda, and Gaya was his celebrated lieutenant. According to them, there were two bullet wounds on the body, one on the chest and another on the forehead. DIG Praveen Kumar said Maoists might be taking advantage of the security forces’ sustained focus on the ongoing operation against the PLFI. “As the focus of security personnel is on PLFI, Maoists are taking advantage of the situation,” he told The Telegraph. “Maoists had killed three civilians in the last 10 days. When I realised this, I passed on instructions to the local SP to take adequate precautions. Intelligence reports suggest that there are hardly seven to eight Maoist rebels who have split up into two groups in the area,” Kumar added. The DGP, however, denied local residents’ claims that the girl was a police informer. “The girl wasn’t a police informer. Our information is that she had a connection with Maoists,” he said. (The Telegraph 25/1/15)

153. Naxals derail goods train in Chhattisgarh (12)

Raipur: Maoists early on Monday morning damaged a section of railway track near Kaklur railway station in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district leading to derailment of a goods train, the police said. The engine and a bogey of the ill-fated goods train jumped off the rail following the sabotage by the rebels, a district police officer said. However, no one was injured in the incident. The driver of the train walked several kilometres to reach the nearest railway station at Kaklur to report the incident. Later, a rescue team was dispatched to the spot to repair the track. In another incident, ultras abducted two passenger buses in Katekalyan area in the same district late on Sunday night. However, the buses were set free after around three hours. No harm was done to the passengers in the two buses, the police officer said. Maoists had called Bharat Bandh on January 26. (Asian Age 27/1/15)

154. Jharkhand: Maoist leader arrested (12)

Garhwa: A Maoist self-styled ‘zonal commander’ was on Wednesday arrested in Garhwa district of Jharkhand, police said. Superintendent of Police Sudhir Kumar Jha said that the rebel, identified as Jagdish Budhayadav, was nabbed from Kulhi village in Bandharia police station following a tip-off. The Maoist carried a reward, the SP said. He, however, did not specify the reward amount. A country-made pistol, four bullets and Rs 1.34 lakh cash were recovered from his possession, Jha said. (Zee News 28/1/15)

155. Another Maoist attack? NHAI office in Kochi attacked, police recover naxal literature (12)

Thiruvananthapuram: A project office of National Highway Authority of India in Kochi was attacked allegedly by Maoists on Thursday morning. Police have recovered pro-Maoist literature from the office premises. According to police, the incident was reported around 9 am after the sweeper left the office. The unidentified assailants had burned office files. The incident came to light only when office staff reported for duty in the day. Some of the pamphlets recovered from the office premises have slogans in protest against development of the highways under BOT scheme. Kochi range IG Ajith Kumar said police have been conducting a combing operation in the city based on intelligence report that Maoists may attack some offices in the city. However, we could not cover all offices, he said. In Kerala, the opposition against NH development under BOT scheme was spearheaded by fringe Muslim and ultra Left outfits. Although mainstream parties have supported widening of the highways into 45-meter width, the government could not go ahead with land acquisition mainly due to the protest from local people and traders. (Indian Express 30/1/15)

TRAFFICKING

156. Op Smile: 2 wks on, Meerut cops fail to find a single child (1)

Meerut: Police here have been unable to rescue a single child since January 1 under Operation Smile — a month-long initiative to trace missing children — while the neighbouring Ghaziabad police, who piloted the project, traced 25 kids in January alone, taking its total to 228 since drive started in October 2014. As many as 556 children have been reported missing and another 111 untraceable in Meerut district since 2010. “Our main look-out spots are railway stations and bus stops, where regular checks are on and police officers will surely trace the children, soon,” said SSP Onkar Singh. He added that a plan of action has been chalked down along with all city station officers, so that the missing children can be traced. Rita Shuka, the city’s nodal officer for Operation Smile, said: “We are trying our best to trace the missing children, but we have not been able to find anyone yet.” Shukla, who is also the head of the anti-human trafficking department, added that search operations are on and they will start tracing the missing children soon. Child Line India, which works for the protection of child rights, usually co-ordinates with police to help find missing children and is linked with the anti-human trafficking department was clueless of Operation Smile. Meerut director of Child Line India Anita Rana told TOI: “We have not got any official circular from the district administration or police to be a part of the initiative. Recovery of missing children cannot take place if people keep sitting in their offices.” Rana added: “Police will in no way find the missing children if they are wearing their uniforms. (Times of India 13/10/15)

157. Human trafficking victims in Pak jails: NRI (1)

JALANDHAR: Canada-based NRI Sital Kler, who is also case coordinator of South Asian Human Rights Group of Canada Society, handed over a list of 60 names of Punjabis to chief minister Parkash Singh Badal at Jalandhar on Friday, saying they were lodged in Pakistan jails. Kler said he had received the list from Pakistan-based human rights activists. Those men from Punjab in Pakistan jails were victims of a human trafficking racket, he said. “They were assured greener pastures but left in Libya and their passports also taken away. Libya pushed them to Iran, which sent them to Pakistan, where they were convicted for illegally entering the country. These fellows have served more than 14 years in jail, but they don’t have any proof with them that they are Indian citizens. They don’t have passports or other documents and Pakistan is also unable to send them to India,” he told the CM and later the media during the occasion of ‘sangat darshan’ for NRIs. Kler said he received names of those prisoners and of their fathers and the Punjab government should help in identify them. He urged the CM to take up the issue with Union ministry of external affairs. (Times of India 17/1/15)

158. Pay special attention to child trafficking cases: SP (1)

DINDIGUL: Special attention should be paid to child trafficking cases. They should not be treated like any other ordinary cases. Persons involving in child trafficking should be booked under non-bailable offences, said Superintendent of Police A. Saravanan. Addressing a training programme on ‘Anti-human trafficking’ for supporting officers here on Thursday, he said that the main purpose the training was to create awareness of various forms of human trafficking and child protection and rehabilitation measures. Special teams had been constituted to control child trafficking in the district. Of the 14 child trafficking cases, children were handed over to the parents in two cases, he pointed out. In his special address, Collector T.N. Hariharan said that training would be imparted to persons in all fields to protect the child. The trainers explained various acts and provisions related to the human trafficking. (The Hindu 23/1/15)

159. Rescued children narrate horrific tales (1)

The glitter and allure of the bangle market of Lad Bazaar in the Old City came crashing down after child trafficking reared its ugly head on Saturday. As it turned out, instead of going to school, children as young as six years of age were employed in crafting laakh bangles in deplorable conditions. As many as 22 children were herded into a small, dingy room where they were forced to work day in and day out with little time for rest. One such story is that of Rahul (12) from Badi Naka in Bihar. Brought to the city around a week ago, Rahul was being trained for making bangles under the watchful eye of his masters. Poverty forced his parents to send him away. “My father works as a truck loader. My mother stays at home. I used to share the room with around 12 other boys in a building in Talabkatta.” he says. Mohammed Shamsheer (11), from a town in UP has a similar tale to narrate. While he does not know how his father earns a living, he remembers his mother’s voice calling out to him every morning. “They didn’t let us sleep properly and made us work all the time. I was told that they would give me Rs 3,000 for the work I do here,” he says. While both Rahul and Shamsheer say that they were paid Rs 3,000, labour department officials fear that they could have been brought to the city at a much lesser price. “It is quite likely that they were brought here for a smaller sum,” says joint commissioner, labour department E Gangadhar. Explaining the course of action, he says, “Bangle making is hazardous for children on account of the chemicals involved. We will fine each person Rs 20,000 and will also seek their prosecution.” Data obtained from Bhavani Nagar police showed that of the 220 children rescued, an alarming 54 were up to 10 years of age while another 49 were under 14 years of age. Most of them were brought from Bihar and WB. The children were kept in 14 buildings in and around Bhavani Nagar and Aman Nagar. In fact, police rescued 80 children from a three-storey building in Aman Nagar alone. Police said that the building belongs to Yaseen Pahelwan a local strongman. “With no lights in the common areas and an empty lift well which had no barricade to protect children from falling into it, it is a miracle that no deaths were reported,” said a police officer. tnnAnother building, with CCTV cameras to monitor each child’s movement, housed 26 children. “One Saleem is the proprietor and Mohammed Shakeel was the person managing the children in this building,” said Bhavani Nagar sub-inspector N Srisailam. (Times of India 25/1/15)

160. Chhattisgarh schools asked to form students’ group to combat human trafficking (1)

RAIPUR: In another step to combat human trafficking in Chhattisgarh, School Education Department has instructed principals of all schools to form groups of girls to create awareness among other students and keep an eye on traffickers. Now, school girls would be empowered to take a lead in preventing trafficking of young girls who are lured of lavish lifestyle and are trafficked to metro cities. Confirming the move school education department, secretary, Subrat Sahoo said that the order has been given to principals to be implemented with immediate effect. “With increasing number of cases of children going missing and becoming victims to child trafficking, it was realized that taking this crucial step from school level was vital to create awareness both among boys and girls,” Sahoo told TOI. Group of girls would be responsible to keep a watch on movement of suspicious person in and around school premises and also upon other school students who were being targeted. In case of suspicion, the group would inform principal and teachers in school to take matter in cognizance. Girls will be expected to create awareness among friends and other students with the word of mouth so that they get better understanding of the crime. According to the order, school principals have also been asked to inculcate lessons of safety and precaution specially among girls to understand well between well wisher and one who lures, during lectures. Though the order has been given to all schools in state, affected districts shall be in focus. Similar group of youths has been working to combat trafficking in Kansabel block of tribal Jashpur district with the help of an NGO. The youths have developed an active network and they get inputs about traffickers planning to take group of girls from bus stops or railway stations. Like detectives, the young group stalk them and update on phone sitting at various points. On confirmation, they inform police. Many such agents and traffickers have been nabbed in past with the help of this group. Chhattisgarh has in past few years emerged as trafficking hub with large number of children going missing. While state has introduced Private Placement Agency Act in 2013, police teams are sent to destination points like Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Jammu & Kashmir and states of South India to trace missing children and crackdown on traffickers. In December last year, about 20 traffickers were nabbed from Delhi and neighbouring areas with rescue of 15 children who went missing in last few years. (Times of India 28/1/15)

161. For Rs 1 lakh, Jharkhand girl sold twice in Punjab, Haryana (1)

SANGRUR: Within days of Prime Minister Narendra Modi launching his “Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao” campaign from Haryana, a case of a tribal girl being sold twice in Haryana and Punjab for Rs 1 lakh has come to light. The Class IX student from Naxal-hit Khunti district of Jharkhand was first sold to someone in Haryana and then to a 50-year-old man in a Sangrur village. The girl has told Sangrur’s child protection committee that she was physically abused by the man during her stay in Sangrur. On Wednesday afternoon, a team of Jharkhand police’s anti-human trafficking cell raided Ranbir Singh’s house in Karaunda village, near the Punjab-Haryana border, and rescued the girl. Her mother had accompanied the cops. The victim had been missing from Khunti for the past 16 days. She was taken away by a couple – Mahima and Praveen – and sold to a middleman from Pehowa town of Kurukshetra, who further sold her to Ranbir Singh. The middleman, Surinder Kumar, has been arrested in a joint operation carried out by Jharkhand and Haryana police teams near Kurukshetra. Phillip Khuju, ASI of the Jharkhand police, said they had also seized the bank account through which Rs 1 lakh was paid by Kumar to the traffickers. “Ranbir confessed that he had paid the money to Kumar,” Khuju told TOI. Rishi Kant, a Delhi-based activist of NGO Shakti Vahini, who accompanied the police, said, “Since the tribal belt is Naxal-infested, the girl, a Class IX student, was residing away from their family in Khunti. She was lured by the couple on the pretext of taking her to the Sunday market in Delhi.” Inspector Roshan Lal from Khanauri said Ranbir was arrested and produced in a court in Moonak tehsil of Sangrur. (Times of India 29/1/15)

162. The numbers story: A human trafficking cases rise, convictions come down (1)

A few weeks ago, the CBI unearthed information about a human trafficking racket, and estimated that around 8000 women were transported to Dubai using Delhi as a transit point. More recently, there were reports about a man who trafficked 5000 tribal kids from the remotest areas of Jharkhand. Such cases highlight the ever growing problem of human trafficking in India. As per data from National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the number of registered human trafficking cases has increased by 38.3% over five years from 2,848 in 2009 to 3,940 in 2013. The conviction rate for such cases has declined 45%, from 1,279 in 2009 to 702 in 2013. The data further reveals that in 2013, maximum crimes (65.5%) were registered under the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act 1956 whereas Procuration of Minor Girls (Sec 366-A) accounted for 31.1% of the crimes. Looking at the crime trends over the past five years presents an extremely worrying picture. It discloses that the cases under Sec 366-A have surged dramatically by 416% over five years, from 237 in 2009 to 1224 in 2013, which means that minor girls are becoming increasingly vulnerable. West Bengal is the hub of human trafficking in India. It had the maximum human trafficking cases (669) amongst all states in India in 2013, followed by Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra. Clearly, human trafficking is increasing enormously day by day. More worrying is the fact that minor girls are being trafficked increasingly. India needs to urgently strengthen its laws to protect its girls. (Indian Express 29/1/15)

163. Trafficking victims get jobs, to protect girls in Khunti schools (1)

KHUNTI: It was the culmination of a long and arduous journey for 30-odd women who had once been victims of trafficking and child labour, when they were declared eligible for protecting other girls. Once prey to sexual abuse and child labour at brick kilns, it was a moment of pride for the 30 who survived the ordeal, and were given appointment letters as security guards by the state human resource development secretary, Aradhana Patnaik at Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya in Murhu on Wednesday, . In a three-month course conducted by NGOs — Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) and Save the Children — these girls received training for becoming security guards. Now, they have been appointed as security guards at 12 Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya in Khunti district and will be protecting other girls. They will receive a salary of Rs 8000 per month from the state government. Nisha Kachchap (name changed) was taken to Delhi in 2010 at the age of 13 where she was not just beaten up but also sexually exploited by her employer. After two years of living through hell, she mustered the courage to call up the police and was rescued in 2012. Since then she has been living at Kishori Niketan, a shelter home of BKS. “I thought I would never get out of hell, but now I am not just free but also confident and have a respectable job. I am just happy that I managed to start my life afresh,” said Nisha. Apart from trafficking victims, there were girls who once worked in brick kilns as child labourers. Anjali Topno (name changed) said, “I had to drop out of school due to financial crisis and was forced to work at a brick kiln . When I got to know about the training programme , I voluntarily applied for it and now I am happy to get a respectable job.” Sanjay Mishra, executive director of BKS said, “In the last one year, we have trained 140 girls and got them employed as security guards or housekeepers in state hotels. Our target is to not just employ rescued girls but also the vulnerable girls who might have to go to other states to work due to financial crisis.” Patnaik congratulated the girls who were appointed and motivated the girls of KGBV to continue their studies. She said, “You should not drop out and go to work before you complete intermediate school.” (Times of India 30/1/15)

CORRUPTION

164. Cidco makes an online move to weed out corruption (5)

Navi Mumbai: Corrupt practices within the City and Industrial Development Corporation (Cidco) can now be brought to the notice of higher officials at the click of a mouse. The vigilance department, formed in May 2013, has gone a step further towards keeping the planning body free of corruption by launching a vigilance web link www.cidco.maharashtra.gov.in on Thursday at Cidco exhibition centre, sector 30, Vashi. People using the services of Cidco and getting affected by corruption can lodge their complaints on the webpage. Their complaints will be made available for public view after due moderation by the department. The identities of both the complainant and official, against whom the complaint has been made, will not be revealed. The web link was inaugurated by Sanjay Bhatia, vice-chairman and managing director, Cidco. He said, “I urge every citizen to report about corruption for better governance. Zero corruption means 100% town development. The reason for not disclosing the name of the complainant is for their protection and not revealing the identity of the officer concerned is for protecting the person’s loss of reputation, in case the complaint filed is false.” Detailed information about the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, related links and how one can lodge an online complaint have been provided on the vigilance web page. People have to register themselves by generating a user id. After that, one has to provide some personal information, which will be kept confidential. After filling all the required information, one can register his/her complaint and attach documents of proof. Ex-state chief secretary Jayant Banthia, MLA Manda Mhatre, joint MD, Cidco, V Radha, chief administrator (NT) Sunil Kendrekar and chief vigilance officer Dr Pradnya Sarvade were present at the inaugural ceremony. To make the processes and work proceedings of the various departments transparent, the vigilance department has started preparing ‘departmental process manuals’. To begin with, social services department process manual has been made available on the vigilance webpage. “It is a self-contained document that has all applicable policies, guidelines on the functions of the department and processes and timelines to complete these functions. The manuals will be updated on an annual basis,” said Bhatia. Apart from taking appropriate steps on all public complaints of corruption, the vigilance department also recommends process changes to various departments for improving transparency, cleaner and efficient service delivery. (Times of India 16/1/15)

165. SC upholds case against five customs officials (5)

CHENNAI: Reversing a Madras high court order exonerating five customs officials of falsifying records to claim 2.5 crore duty drawback benefit, the Supreme Court said the officials must face trial before the special court for CBI cases in Chennai. The apex court said the high court was not correct in ruling that the officials could not be charged under Section 15 (punishment for attempt by a public servant to obtain a valuable thing for pecuniary benefit) of Prevention of Corruption Act, adding that the CBI court should conduct the trial on merit. According to the CBI, Manish Kumar Jain, R V Shanmugam, N Rajan, Arun Kumar and Santhosh Kumar of Coimbatore had entered into a criminal conspiracy to cheat the government. Forging the shipping documents, they increased the value of exports from 3.22 crore to 22.72 crore and attempted to claim an inflated duty drawback of 2.5 crore, instead of the actual 35,000. Before the duty drawback was allowed, the directorate general of central excise intelligence stopped the process. The accused then tried to remove the forged documents and replace them with the actual export documents. The economic offences wing of CBI in Chennai chargesheeted them for cheating, forgery and destroying evidence under relevant sections of the IPC, besides provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act and Customs Act. The accused then moved the Madras high court. The high court discharged them saying Section 15 of Prevention of Corruption Act could be invoked only if the accused had been charged with committing the offence. Noting that there was no evidence to implicate them, the high court had said, “…The prosecution has not produced a single scrap of material either through statement or any document to make out a prima facie case for framing of charges.” It then set aside the order of the special court to proceed against the accused. The Supreme Court bench comprising Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit, however, said the high court was not justified in stating that Section 15 could not be invoked. As the accused had not availed themselves of duty drawback, the prosecution was right in invoking the provision, it said. Setting aside the high court’s order, the bench said, “The material on record discloses grave suspicion… and the special court was correct in framing charges.” It said the accused had to face trial, and asked the special court to deal with the case on merits. (Times of India 19/1/15)

166. SC reposes faith in SIT on black money (5)

NEW DELHI: Trusting the government and its own Special Investigation Team to complete the job of unearthing black money Indians have stashed away in foreign banks, the Supreme Court on Tuesday spoke in the voice of the common man: “We are interested in seeing the money come back to us [nation], not in names, details.” A Bench of Chief Justice H.L. Dattu and Justices Madan B. Lokur and A.K. Sikri made the oral observation on an application by Rajya Sabha member and senior lawyer Ram Jethmalani that not a “single rupee has come out in the past six months” and investigation into black money has been reduced to “a raid here, an attachment there and that’s all.” It was on Mr. Jethmalani’s petition in 2009 that the court set up the SIT, led by two retired Supreme Court judges — Justices M.B. Shah and Arijit Pasayat — to retrieve the money. Senior advocate Anil Diwan, counsel for Mr. Jethmalani, said the BJP manifesto had promised to take steps on a “priority basis to minimise the scope of corruption by minimising the hoarding of black money.” But Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi strongly objected to the line of argument. “It is completely wrong in saying that not a penny has come up. Some of them [627 Indian account-holders] have paid penalties. Besides, time was given to us till March 31, 2015, to complete prosecution of black money holders abroad under the Income Tax Act,” Mr. Rohatgi countered. “Everything the government has is with the Supreme Court’s SIT. We have shared every single document, name, account details with them. Nothing has been hidden from them.” Chief Justice Dattu interjected, saying: “We are interested in seeing the money come back to us [nation], not in names, details.” Mr. Rohatgi submitted that the government and the SIT should be allowed to do their job. Chief Justice Dattu said, “We are certain the SIT will do its job well.” (The Hindu 21/1/15)

167. Coal scam: ED registers case against Jindal Strips Limited (5)

NEW DELHI: The Enforcement Directorate has registered a money laundering case against Jindal Strips Limited and unknown Coal Ministry officials in connection with the allocation of Gare Palma IV/1 coal block to the company. The ED has initiated investigations based on a case of alleged criminal conspiracy, cheating and corruption registered by the Central Bureau of Investigation last October. The CBI probe revealed that instead of adhering to the rate of extraction of coal as provided in the approved mine plan, the company (presently Jindal Steel and Power Limited) allegedly resorted to illegal excess mining. While the approved coal production for the firm during 1998-2003 was 1.35 metric tonne, theactual coal production by the firm was allegedly 5.9 metric tonne, an excess of 4.55 metric tonne. There was an alleged excess mining in all the five years against the rate approved in the mine plan, and no prior permission was obtained from the Coal Ministry for revised mine plan in 2004, the agencies allege. Despite the irregularities, apart from the allocation of a block with coal reserve much beyond the proposed requirement, the Coal Ministry approved the company’s revised mine plan in 2005 and did not initiate any action against it. The firm allegedly continued excess coal extraction in 2003-05 without any approval. The excess coal mined during this period has been pegged by the investigators as 1.431 metric tonne, besides 4.55 metric tonne. The agencies allege that the accused firm misappropriated coal through excess mining and got the excess coal mined regularised in alleged connivance with unknown Coal Ministry officials. According to the CBI, the Coal Ministry and Coal Controller had permitted sale of coal fines and middling in open market. The company allegedly resorted to such sale not only to specified end users but also to several other firms, which traded it further in violation of permitted conditions, thus allegedly earning undue benefit. The accused company also supplied raw coal to Nalwa Steel and Power Limited, agencies allege. It is learnt that the ED is also planning to attach assets in connection with another case registered against former Congress MP and director of Jindal Steel and Power Limited Naveen Jindal, former Minister of State for Coal Dasari Narayana Rao and others for alleged conspiracy to obtain a Jharkhand coal block on false representations. The case pertains to joint allocation of Amarkonda Murgadangal block in Birbhum to JSPL and Gagan Sponge Iron Private Limited. (The Hindu 22/1/15)

168. Kerala oppn steps up protests on bribe issue (5)

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Finance Minister K M Mani, who has been accused of taking a Rs 1 crore bribe from bar owners in connection with the issuance of liquor licenses, is now facing a fresh round of political heat. At a time when the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) is trying to cope with internal friction over the bar bribe controversy, the Opposition Left Democratic Front (LDF) announced on Thursday that it would protest until the minister resigns. To begin with, LDF convener Vaikom Viswan said opposition parties would boycott all future events that Mani attends and organise a protest march to the state secretariat here and taluk offices on February 3. The Bharatiya Janata Party, too, has announced protests against the finance minister, who is currently being investigated by the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau. The BJP state unit called for a dawn-to-dusk hartal across the state on January 27 in their demand for the minister’s resignation. The party would also hold protests on Friday and Saturday. CPM state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan said in Thrissur that Mani should resign against the backdrop of “more evidence against him” that was submitted by Biju Ramesh, working president of the Kerala Bar Owners Association. Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, CPM Politburo member, said that the opposition would not stand for Mani presenting the state budget. “He (Mani) doesn’t have the moral right to present the budget. If he goes ahead and does it, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy will witness unprecedented scenes in the Assembly,” Balakrishnan said in Thiruvananthapuram. A rift within the ruling UDF on the issue, meanwhile, continued to escalate. On Thursday, Congress mouthpiece Veekshanam launched a scathing attack on R Balakrishna Pillai, veteran leader of UDF constituent Kerala Congress (B). (Deccan Herald 23/1/15)

169. CBI nabs Central Bank manager, adv in bribery case (5)

BHOPAL: Anti-corruption branch of CBI on Thursday arrested a manager of Central Bank in Mandla district for allegedly demanding bribe from an applicant to clear his loan Accused D K Uikey was caught red-handed while accepting bribe from Om Prakash Soni, owner of paan kiosk in Nainpur area of the district. Soni had lodged a complaint with CBI that Uikey had withheld disbursement of Rs 9.81 lakh loan to put pressure on him to pay the bribe. He had applied for loan under chief minister’s self employment scheme to purchase a SUV. During initial investigations, CBI officials found Uikey categorically stated that the payment of illegal gratification has to be made through a cheque payable in name of ‘self’ for getting loan. Accordingly, on January 20, the complainant signed one cheque of his SB account, payable to ‘self’ for Rs 30,000 and the accused made the complainant to sign overleaf behind the cheque. The said cheque and the cheque book was kept by the accused with him and the complainant was told to collect delivery order addressed to SUV dealer. The bribe was allegedly debited in SB account of the complainant in afternoon on January 21 and accordingly, the complainant informed about it to CBI team. Immediately, CBI team along with witnesses went to Nainpur branch to seize cheque of the complainant. During interrogation of the accused, it was found out the bribe is with advocate Vaibhav Patel. It was found the cheque was handed over to Patel. Subsequently, the money was recovered from Patel’s residence and he was also arrested. Searches conducted at the residence of the accused at Nainpur found Rs 3,28,000 cash, LIC policies, one plot and papers of under-construction house at Chhindwara. The search was conducted at parental house of the manager at village Bamanilala, Chhindwara. Search of the car owned by the accused revealed several FDs and a locker key. (Times of India 23/1/15)

170. People will teach BJP a lesson for cheating on black money: Anna Hazare (5)

Ralegan Siddhi: Anti-corruption campaigner Anna Hazare on Wednesday attacked the Narendra Modi government for its ‘failure’ to bring back black money stashed in tax havens abroad and said people will teach it a lesson for the “fraud” perpetrated on them. The 77-year-old Gandhian also refused to be drawn into the subject of political slugfest going on between his two former proteges — Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal and BJP’s Kiran Bedi — in the Delhi assembly elections. “People were promised during Lok Sabha elections that black money will be brought back within 100 days (of BJP forming its government), that Rs 15 lakh will be deposited in the accounts of every citizen, but not even Rs 15 have come. “People have become aware now of the fraud perpetrated on them. They will teach a lesson (to the BJP-led government) the way they taught one to Congress. The masses have awakened after 2011 movement against corruption,” he said in an interview to a TV news channel. Asked about his views on Kejriwal and Bedi, both his proteges in the India Against Corruption campaign, crossing swords for chief ministership of Delhi, the anti-graft crusader said he would not talk about politics. “I don’t want to go into these things. Ask me about other things, ask me about the country. An Arvind or a Kiran is not important,” he said. Questioned whether he was angry with them for entering politics against his advice, Hazare said, “No, no. The question of getting angry arises when you have expectations that are not fulfilled. I don’t have any expectations from anybody, so where is the question of anger?” He also refused to hazard a guess about who — Kejriwal or Bedi — will emerge triumphant in the polls. “I don’t know. Ask them,” he retorted when persistently questioned about his views on Delhi elections and asked, “Why are you pushing me into the cesspool?” Hazare said no change can be brought through party politics and that there was no mention of politics in the Indian Constitution. “No change can be brought through party politics. The Constitution also does not mention politics. It says any Indian citizen can contest elections. When 543 good individuals win and choose the Speaker of Lok Sabha and the Prime Minister and run the country, change will come,” he said. Hazare, however, acknowledged that the task was daunting and will take long to achieve. “It will take 10-12-15 years. When people will awaken and reject party politics and choose 543 good people as their representatives, then true democracy will come. People made sacrifices for independence but there has not been any struggle for democracy,” he said. (Zee News 28/1/15)

171. Odisha Lokayukta Becomes An Act (5)

BHUBANESWAR: President Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday  gave his assent to Odisha Lokayukta Bill, 2014. With the Presidential assent, the Bill adopted by the Odisha Assembly on February 14 last year now becomes an Act. Odisha is the second State after Uttarakhand to pass the Lokayukta Bill. According to the Odisha Lokayukta Act, 2014, the Lokayukta will comprise five members. It will be led by a sitting judge of the Orissa High Court or a retired judge and will have two judicial members, including the chairperson. Out of the three non-judicial members, one will be from the Scheduled categories and woman. Appointment of such a member will be on rotation basis. It will have a tenure of five years. The Chief Minister, former chief ministers, other ministers and public servants will come under the purview of the Lokayukta for investigating corruption charges. As per the provisions of the Bill, MLAs, government officers, heads of panchayats and municipalities and trusts receiving government grants will come under the purview of the Lokayukta, who is empowered to probe graft charges. Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), contractors (firm or persons) and suppliers dealing with government money would also be covered by it. The Lokayukta, on receipt of complaint, may order preliminary inquiry against any public servant by its inquiry wing or any agency to ascertain whether there exists a prima facie case for proceeding in the matter. The Lokayukta will be chosen by a selection committee headed by the Chief Minister and comprising  the Leader of the Opposition, Speaker of Odisha Legislative Assembly, Chief Justice of Orissa High Court or a judge nominated by him and an eminent jurist nominated by the Governor. The chairman of the Lokayukta would be appointed by the Governor on the recommendation of the selection committee. The Lokayukta will have an inquiry wing headed by a Director for conducting preliminary inquiry into any offence allegedly committed by a public servant brought before it. The Lokayukta will also constitute a prosecution wing headed by the Director of Prosecution who is or has been in the rank of Director of Public Prosecution of the State. The State Government will make available such number of officers and other staff as required by the Lokayukta till the prosecution wing is constituted. The State Government will constitute a number of special courts, as recommended by the Lokayukta, to hear and decide the cases arising out of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 or under the Lokayukta Act. The trial of the cases will be completed within a year from the date of filing of the case. (New Indian Express 29/1/15)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

172. Kerala to be first state with green ABS policy (9)

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala is all set to become the first state in the country to have a policy document on biodiversity conservation related “access and benefit sharing (ABS)”, a UN green expert has revealed. Balakrishna Pisupati, currently heading a UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in Norway, is in the state’s capital city to finalise a draft ABS policy being prepared by the Kerala State Biodiversity Board (KSBB). Pisupati told IANS in an online interview that the progress that Kerala has made for biodiversity conservation has to be lauded and “even though the concept of ABS is old, for bio resources the ABS is something new”.”Today, we have a Biodiversity Act in the country and when it comes to ABS, states can chalk out their own plans. The KSBB will be ready with a full-fledged ABS policy shortly,” said Pisupati, the UN expert and former chairman of the National Biodiversity Authority. He said, “In simple terms, ABS becomes applicable “if there is any commercial utilisation of biological resources and in traditional knowledge, where a fee would be levied.” Kerala is home to a rich variety of flora and fauna and among the other segments where ABS will be applicable include the seafood sector, seeds, spices, plantation sector to name a few. “The policy that’s being readied will include the guidelines on how ABS is made applicable. One thing that would be very clear is that this is not meant to make money for the KSBB by taxing the Ayurveda manufacturers, the seafood industry and others who use the resources,” Pisupati said. This is just to ensure that the stakeholders are made aware that conservation is needed because if they have to continue their business, conservation has to take place, he said. “There would be no wielding the stick, but (we will be) taking all the stakeholders on board,” Pisupati said. KSBB chairman Oommen V.Oommen told IANS that they have already started first round of talks with the stakeholders and the Ayurveda Medicine Manufacturers have understood what we are trying to tell them through the new policy. “We will not be insisting for an ABS fee, instead we will also look forward for contribution in kind from the stakeholders, where they will have to see they engage in conservation activities in their area of operation by planting trees and tending it,” he said. According to K.P.Laladhas, member secretary of KSBB, the policy will include even the legal implication. “The first thing that we will be engaging in is to create awareness and will inculcate in the stakeholders that every sector has a duty to contribute towards conservation.” (Business Standard 10/1/15)

173. India should help reach meaningful climate change pact, UN Secretary General says (9)

NEW DELHI: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on Tuesday asked India to take a leadership role in reaching a “meaningful” climate change pact in Paris later this year. “I count on the leadership of India in our ongoing efforts to address the climate change issues … I expect as one of the most critically important member-states of the UN and as one of the fastest growing economies, India should be responsible to address climate change so that they will soon have universal and meaningful climate change agreement in Paris in December,” Ban Ki-Moon said. His remarks came while he visited India’s first ‘Net Zero Energy’ consuming building – Indira Paryavaran Bhawan – which is constructed in such a way that it can meet most of its annual energy requirements through solar power. Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar showcased the secretary general the salient features of the green building which has India’s largest roof-top solar panel. Javadekar is learnt to have also used this opportunity to reiterate India’s commitment to move on clean energy path using more and more solar and wind power in the next five years and assured Ban Ki-Moon about the country’s willingness to work with other nations to have an equitable global climate deal in Paris. In fact, Ban Ki-Moon had expressed desire to see the green building when Javadekar had last met him during the UN climate conference in Lima (Peru) in December and explained to him the features of the ‘Paryavaran Bhawan’ from where his ministry works. The building is located at Jor Bagh in South Delhi. The building, which was dedicated to the nation by the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh early last year, is focused on increasing the efficiency of resources like energy, water and materials while minimizing the impact of the building on human habitat and environment. The ‘Net Zero Energy’ building – also called Net Zero Building – is a structure with zero net energy consumption where the total amount of energy used in the premises on an annual basis is more or less equal to the amount of renewable energy created on the site. The building is a state-of-the-art landmark that is based on conservation of natural areas and trees to reduce adverse environmental impact, provide adequate natural light, shaded landscaped areas to reduce ambient temperature, maximize energy saving system and minimize operation cost by adopting green building concepts. (Times of India 14/1/15)

174. U-turn by Centre in apex court on capital vehicular pollution (9)

NEW DELHI: There is a twist to the recent controversy about an MoEF affidavit to Supreme Court claiming vehicles in Delhi contribute to only 6.6% of particulate matter pollution while road dust contributes to 52%. Following criticism from experts about the veracity of these findings, MoEF, in another affidavit submitted to the apex court on Friday, claimed that vehicles in fact contribute between 8.7% and 20.5% of PM emissions while road dust leads to 14.5% to 29% and that the study by National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) it had quoted is based on data from 2007. The Central Pollution Control Board commissioned the NEERI study in 2005-06. Subsequent studies, some government-funded, have contradicted the NEERI findings of 6.6% PM emissions from the transport sector. NEERI scientists TOI spoke to were also clueless about why an old study was quoted in the affidavit and clarified it was not peer-reviewed. In its latest affidavit, MoEF clarifies that its initial submission was only meant for PM10 (coarse particles more than 10 micrometres in size). PM10 emissions are not as dangerous as PM2.5 (fine, respirable particles less than 2.5 micrometres in size) as those can enter the bloodstream and get lodged in the lungs. It also informs that the data was from 2007 and there is no government study on source apportionment of PM2.5 emissions. A WHO study found Delhi has the highest PM2.5 levels among 1,600 cities globally. Delhi Pollution Control Committee has only recently commissioned another source apportionment study with focus on PM2.5 to Prof. Mukesh Sharma of IIT Kanpur. After completely denying the role of vehicles in air pollution, MoEF-in its latest affidavit-seems to have made a volte-face. “Vehicular PM emissions being in the finer category and having toxic elemental carbon as well as organic carbon, controlling them is important for improving air quality and minimizing health effects.” It also states there should be “no tolerance” to visible smoke-emitting vehicles and suggests taking Delhi government and the health ministry’s opinion on mandatory use of masks, free public transport, allowing only BS III and BS IV vehicles and doubling of parking charges. A NEERI scientist told TOI, “We aren’t sure why MoEF quoted such an old study which only considers PM10 emissions. The study was not peer-reviewed.” Another scientist said, “In any large city, contribution of vehicles is much higher. It’s obvious the results of the NEERI study are not reliable.” CPCB had commissioned a large-scale study of health impacts of PM10 emissions to the Kolkata-based CNCI. Its 15-year study had alarming findings. Fearing criticism, CPCB reportedly didn’t publish the reports for seven years. (Times of India 17/1/15)

175.  ‘River linking will prove catastrophic for Kuttanad’ (9)

KOTTAYAM: Bishop Thomas Oommen, Deputy Moderator of the Church of South India (CSI), has warned against the proposed Pamba-Vypar-Achankoil linking project which, according to him, would push Kuttanad into an environmental catastrophe similar to the one that has hit the Aral Sea in Central Asia. Delivering his presidential address at the five-day seminar on climate change organised by the CSI, CMS College and Nilackal Ecological Commission here on Thursday, the Bishop said water was at the heart of the climate change debate. However, the river linking endeavour, the engineers who value the physicality of water need to be sensitised to the aquatic bio-diversity and how these “nature’s engineers” render ecological services. “On diverting water, a river becomes lean, its aquatic life is disturbed and its aesthetic quality impaired. Any engineering intervention, however small, will invariably impact an ecosystem’s functions and services,” he said. Referring to the catastrophe that hit the Aral sea, the Bishop said the immense fresh water lake had shrunk by 60 per cent during the past three decades after Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and other Central Asian republics diverted water from the two major rivers which drained into the lake, to irrigate their cotton fields and other crops. From the original 50 cubic kilometres of fresh water that was supplied by the rivers to the lake in 1965, the supply was cut to zero by 1980, he said. This had triggered a chain reaction which has devastated the life of millions of people. “As such, the CSI cannot support the river linking project which will damage the eco-balance in the nation,” he said. According to him, the CSI will take the initiative to establish a network of scientists and religious scholars who are interested in issues of climate change, creation care and sustainable development. The seminar was inaugurated by P.J. Kurien, Deputy Chairman, Rajya Sabha. Oomen V. Oommen, chairman, State Bio-Diversity Board, delivered the keynote address. Bishop Zacharias Mar Theophilos, Saffragan Metropolitan of the Marthoma Church; Benoy Viswam, former Minister for Environment, and others spoke. (The Hindu 23/1/15)

176. Peak pollution was high even after showers in Delhi: NGO (9)

NEW DELHI: Ahead of the US President Barack Obama’s visit to Delhi, Greenpeace India, an environmental NGO tracked air pollution levels at various locations in Delhi which he is likely to visit. Greenpeace campaigners used a portable air quality monitoring device, PDR-1500, bought from US. Greenpeace’s reality check of PM2.5 levels on Friday revealed that peak air pollution levels spiked to alarming levels even after the rain on Thursday helped wash out the pollutants and the 24-hour average came down. “Exposure to fine particulate matter pollution is the largest environmental health risk in the world, upping the risk of lung cancer, stroke, heart disease, chronic respiratory diseases, lower respiratory infections and asthma. PM2.5 is estimated to have been responsible for over three million premature deaths in 2010,” Greenpeace’s statement on Friday said. It also referred to The International Agency for Research on Cancer which classified particulate matter pollution as carcinogenic to humans in 2013, and designated it as a “leading environmental cause of cancer deaths”.Unreliable data from government agencies has led to individual researchers and advocacy groups using battery-operated portable devices that measure people’s personal exposure to air pollution. “Delhi has been breathing extremely poor air this winter with daily PM2.5 averages peaking to 320 micrograms per cubic metres, six times the Indian safety standard and 14 times that of the World Health Organization’s. I hope the government recognizes the urgency to act and safeguard the health of citizens,” Aishwarya Madineni of Greenpeace India said. (Times of India 24/1/15)

177. Obama wants India to embrace cleaner fuels (9)

NEW DELHI: Offering help in the adaptation of climate change, American President Barack Obama on Tuesday said unless countries like India embrace cleaner fuel world does not stand a chance against climate change. “I know the argument made by some that it is unfair on part of countries like the United States to ask developing countries and emerging economies like India to reduce your dependence on same fossil fuel that powered our growth for more than a century,” he said in his Town Hall address here. Obama said being global partners means confronting global challenge of climate change even as he cautioned that with rising seas, melting Himalayan glaciers, more unpredictable monsoons, cyclones getting stronger, few countries will be more affected by a warmer planet than India. The American President said that the US recognizes its part in creating the problem so it is leading the efforts to combat it and said America’s carbon pollution is at its lowest levels in last two decades. “But here is the truth even if countries like the United States curb our emissions, if countries that are growing rapidly like India with soaring energy needs don’t also embrace cleaner fuels, then we don’t stand a chance against climate change,” the President said. He said he welcomes India’s “ambitious targets” for generating more clean energy. “We will continue to help you deal with impacts of climate change because you shouldn’t have to bear that burden alone. As we keep working for a strong global agreement on climate change its young people like you who have to speak up so we can protect this planet for your generations,” he said. In his 30-minute speech to a select audience at the Siri Fort auditorium, Obama said he would be gone when worst affects us and it will be present generation and their children who will be impacted. “That’s why it’s urgent that we begin this work right now,” he said. The US President said with the breakthrough achieved during this visit, the two countries can finally move to fully implementing the civil nuclear agreement which would mean more reliable electricity for Indians and cleaner energy that helps fight climate change. He said as more energy is delivered, countries should tap in more cleaner renewable energy like solar and wind. “Lets put cleaner vehicles on the road and more filtration system in farms and villages. Because every child should be able to drink clean water and every child should be able to breathe clean air … and we can do it, we have the technologies to do it,” he said. (Times of India 27/1/15)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

178. Slowdown in China, cotton glut may deal Indian farmers a hard knock (20)

New Delhi: India is likely to face a cotton glut this year. The surplus, however, will be of little comfort to suicide-prone and highly indebted farmers, who stare at a sharp drop in earnings – prices are already down 14% compared with last year. The crisis has to do with a slowdown in China, which is forecast to slash by half the amount of cotton it will import this year, most of it from India. “Exports could see a remarkable fall. Although prices currently show some improvement on a month-on-month basis, average prices of cotton are already about 14% lower than a year ago,” said VN Saroja, CEO of Agriwatch, a commodities firm. The United States department of agriculture (USDA), in a global report, said it expected up to 47% fall in Indian cotton exports. The glut is expected despite a projected drop in India’s output due to a bad monsoon. A partial drought could result in a crop of about 40.2 million bales (of 170 kg each) in 2014-15, lower than the previous year’s 40.7 million bales, according to the Cotton Association of India. Even Gujarat, a major producer with better irrigation facilities, could see a dip in output. Without sufficient exports, a domestic market with too much supply could push prices below profitable levels. Since cotton farmers mostly depend on loans to meet costs, lower profits could aggravate the crisis in suicide-prone cotton belts such as Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region. Moreover, this year’s minimum support price is unlikely to cover export costs. So traders will look to offset it by paying farmers less. Battling a slowdown in its textile sector, China is likely to slash imports by half this year, scaring major producers such as the US, Brazil and Uzbekistan. But these countries are less dependent on China than India, which exports heavily to the Communist neighbour since it started a programme to build a national cotton reserve. To make it easier for traders to tap alternative markets, the government has relaxed rules by temporarily doing away with the need for exporters to register with the Directorate General of Foreign Trade. A newer problem could be looming for growers. Indian lint – considered to be of high quality – is mostly handpicked. But, importers now prefer machine-harvested fibre due to changing standards. “As a result, India will struggle to maintain its share in shrinking Chinese imports,” the USDA said. Though genetically modified BT cotton has helped India become the world’s second biggest cotton producer, suicide among debt-ridden cotton farmers is often seen as a hidden “agrarian crisis”. The government could come under pressure if the situation worsens in the vulnerable cotton-growing areas. The agriculture ministry last month sent a team to probe the farm crisis in Maharashtra, where persistent dry conditions from this summer’s drought are said to have pushed up the number of suicides. The western state recorded 204 farmer suicides in 2014, deaths that are directly attributable to “agrarian causes”, such as financial losses from farming or crop failures. (Hindustan Times 12/1/15)

179. 50% of farmers indebted: Modi needs to shift attention to distress in farm economy (20)

The new year has brought bad tidings for India’s farming community. Twelve farmers committed suicide due to crop failure in the Vidharba region of Maharashtra in just one week after 22 December. This spate of suicide by farmers provoked a frustrated BJP Lok Sabha MP from the Vidharba region to say, “Let the farmers die. If they can’t survive in farming, let them die”.This rather insensitive remark by Member of Parliament, Sanjay Dhotre, was played on some national TV channels repeatedly. Dhotre later said he was merely expressing a sense of helplessness while making those remarks. Well, helplessness is likely to become a permanent state of mind among the farming community as global agriculture commodity prices have fallen by upto 30% in the past few months and local farmers are not likely to get higher prices for their domestic produce. The increase in Minimum Support Price(MSP) for farmers under the Narendra Modi government has been much less than what was given in the past many years. This is inspite of Modi’s explicit promise to farmers during his election campaign that they would get 50% profit margin over their cost of production. This promise has remained unfulfilled so far. And all this is happening at a time when there is growing distress among the farming community due to falling global agriculture prices.Last fortnight, countrywide survey conducted by the National Sample Survey Organisation(NSSO) revealed that nearly 50% of India’s 90 million farm households were indebted to either banks or money lenders. Uttar Pradesh had the highest number of indebted farm households at 69 lakhs. Andhra Pradesh was the second largest with 49 lakh familes in debt and Maharashtra had 36 lakh farm families which had taken loans mostly for their farm business. Over 50% of the loans were meant for capital and other expenditure on the farm. The NDA’s first full budget will have to pay some serious attention to what is happening in India’s farm sector. Normally the budget exercise is dominated by the concerns of the industrial sector which enjoys disproportionate clout and talk time with the government through high profile industry associations. Anyone who follows the government’s budget-related interactions with the public knows that industry, particularly big businesses dominate the exercise. Agriculture gets some time, but it is more routine in nature. This time agriculture needs to be taken more seriously as it also drives rural demand for goods and services. Of course, Finance Minister Arun Jaitely has to look at the problems confronting the overall economy, which are no less serious. The uptick in sentiment and confidence that was reflected after the Modi government came to power seems to be waning as some economic indicators clearly challenge the narrative of a quick recovery in the economy. The virtual collapse of global oil prices is now causing fears of volatility in global finance capital movement which will also affect India. Crude at $50 dollar a barrel is not good for the United States which is staging an impressive economic recovery largely on the back of massive shale gas/oil production. So India cannot be an island of growth in a world economy buffeted by volatility. For India, particularly worrisome is the data showing virtually no pick up in industrial growth so far in 2014-15. Ongoing investment projects totalling Rs.6.3 lakh crore are not moving forward for various reasons. Infrastructure projects, particularly in the road sector, are not moving because private companies building them are either strapped for cash or engaged in disputes relating to execution with the government. The Chief Economic Advisor in finance ministry  Arvind Subramanium has publicly admitted that infrastructure companies are facing a huge debt problem in their balance sheets. Banks are not giving them more money to implement projects. As a result the National Highway Authority of India(NHAI) has decided that government will fund 70% of all new highway projects in the next two years. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said the increase in excise duties in recent weeks are aimed at funding road projects. In non-infrastructure sectors we are faced with over capacity due to demand contraction. Industry is currently running at 70 per cent of its existing production capacity. This means new investments will not happen unless consumer demand picks up and fuller utlilization of capacity happens. This could get difficult in the coming year because rural demand, which is critical, could further contract as global food prices have dropped by 20 to 30 per cent. The farmers’ income growth may decelerate in 2015. Nominal rural wages grew handsomely by 17 to 19 percent for a few years until 2012 end. But now rural wage growth is negative after adjusting for inflation. Experts also anticipate output slow down in the agriculture sector which consistently recorded good growth in recent years. Agriculture growth may slip badly 2015 going by current trend. Modi is particularly vulnerable because he had made tall promises to the farmers during his election campaign. He will soon be tested against his big commitments made to farmers. In short, many political economy challenges lie ahead for Narendra Modi and Arun Jaitley. (Firstpost 12/1/15)

180. Moneylenders don’t want government to waive farm loans (20)

NAGPUR: Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had announced in the winter session that loans taken by farmers from registered private money lenders would be waived off. However, the moneylenders are shying away from sharing data on loans specifically granted to farmers. The announcement was part of the Rs 7,000 crore package for farmers hit by drought and other natural calamities. It covered moneylenders’ loans worth Rs 373 crore in all. Moneylenders are registered with the state’s department of cooperatives, which is facing practical difficulties in compiling figures on the farmers’ dues. The exercise by the department has revealed that moneylenders across the region do not keep account of loans given on the basis of the end use. Farmers make up a major part of clientele for private lenders. However, their books of accounts do not specially classify advances as farm loans or other type. In the absence of bank credit, farmers resort to private lenders to avail finance for meeting sowing expenses. But the lenders have only maintained a general account, with all loan types classified as one. Sources in the department say moneylenders have expressed inability to provide segregated data to the government. However, sources say moneylenders are preferring not to disclose farm loans separately for two reasons. The official rate for loans doled out for sowing or other farm activities is capped at 9%, while other loans can be granted at 12% to 15%. It is believed that generally lenders charge more than 9% for all loans, so they want to keep the type of loans camouflaged. The complications related to farm suicides is also a reason. If the borrower commits suicide, the moneylender has to face the heat. Cooperative department officials say if all the loans doled by private moneylenders are taken into account, the amount to be waived may go much beyond Rs 373 crore, which was stipulated by the government. Even as moneylenders provide loans to farmers for meeting their sowing expenses at the start of the season, their borrowers include artisans and other businessmen too. Apart from farming, loans are provided for personal expenses too. Moneylenders offer loans purely against gold, with no land documents being accepted from borrowers that would allow segregation of farm loans. A government resolution (GR) in this matter can help in clearing the confusion. The eligibility for the loan waiver should come with certain riders, such as production of land documents. In the absence of any other mechanism, land documents are the only proof that the loans were granted to a farmer, said an official. (Times of India 13/1/15)

181. Farmers seek separate budget for agriculture (20)

KALPETTA: The second edition of the National Agri-Fete that concluded at Mananthavady on Saturday urged the government to introduce a special budget, similar to the Railway budget, exclusively for the agriculture sector in the State. In a proposal passed by the farmers at ‘Mikavu,’ an interactive session of farmers from the district held in connection with the eight-day fete, said that farmers faced many problems and all of them could not be addressed in the State budget. Hence, the Agriculture Minister should present a budget exclusively for the agriculture sector. The session demanded complete mechanisation in agriculture and allied sectors, and rejuvenation of the sector to attract more youths to it. An agrarian district like Wayanad was facing challenges such as dearth of skilled labour, especially during harvesting season. A full-fledged training centre was sought in agriculture and dairy sectors in the district to impart modern skills to farmers in value addition, branding, packing and exporting of agriculture and dairy products. A special package to promote organic cultivation and irrigation projects to utilise water in the Kabani river were among the demands.  projects meant for the headquarters of the Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (KVASU) at Pookode to other campuses of the university. They demanded intervention by the government to stop the move. Youth Affairs Minister P.K. Jayalakshmi inaugurated the session and the Minister honoured 350 selected farmers in the district on that occasion. The organisers said that close to 1.5 lakh people visited the festival organised by the Agriculture Department. (The Hindu 18/1/15)

182. Farmers to hold mass rally in Delhi against land ordinance (20)

NEW DELHI: Dissatisfied with the government’s recent land acquisition ordinance, around 12 farmer unions have decided to hold a mass rally and demonstration on March 18 in the capital. The coalition—All India Coordination Committee of Farmers Movement (AICCFM) which includes the Bharat Kisan Union (BKU) after a two-day meeting at the Punjab Bhavan in Delhi announced to mobilize one lakh farmers from different parts of the country to come to Delhi and join the protest. “All the achievements made in last several decades in the interest of the Indian farmers have been undone in last 240 days of NDA government. Therefore we decided to organize this rally,” their statement issued on Saturday said. “Farmer suicides in India are continuing despite many promises by the PM before the election that he would work for the Indian farmers. During NDA government since May 2014, more than 7000 farmers have committed suicide,” it added. Withdrawing the ordinance to amend the right to fair compensation and transparency in land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement Act 2013 Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) in its manifesto had announced remunerative price for farmers produce which has not been implemented. Farmers reject Shanta Kumar high level committee report and recommendation on restructuring FCI. Especially the proposal to reduce its coverage of National Food Security Act (NFSA) from present 67% to 40% Institute government policy to compensate loss due to natural calamity Fulfill the promise in manifesto about not allowing field trials, commercialization or import of any genetically engineered seeds or crops Pay arrears to sugarcane farmers that sugar industries haven’t paid (Times of India 24/1/15)

183. Eight Vidarbha farmers have committed suicide: Activist (20)

Nagpur: At least eight debt-ridden farmers in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region ended their lives in the past four days, including four who committed suicide Wednesday, an activist said. “The bodies of two farmers were brought early today (Wednesday) from Bodadi and Sonegaon villages of Yavatmal district. As the autopsy was being carried out, two more bodies were received at the V.N. Government Medical College — all within a couple of hours,” Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) president Kishore Tiwari told IANS. The farmers who died Wednesday were identified as Bansi Rathode of Bodadi, Devrao Bhagwat of Sonegaon, Prakash Kutarmare of Mohada and Tulsiram Rathode of Devnala, according to VJAS secretary Mohan Jadhav. Tiwari said four farmers committed suicide earlier this week — two each Jan 25 and Jan 27 — in different parts of Vidarbha. “We have no information if anyone committed suicide on Republic Day (Jan 26) as it was a public holiday, and the government was busy with celebrations,” Tiwari said. He attributed the spate of suicides in Vidarbha and other farmlands of Maharashtra to the sudden fall in prices of cotton and pulses. Claiming that 62 farmers have ended their lives since Jan 1, Tiwari said 2015 could create a new record after 2013 when Maharashtra topped the National Crime Records Bureau figure for maximum farmland suicides at 3,146. Jadhav said he was informed by the relatives of the farmers that they committed suicide “due to immense distress and despair” among their debt-hit families .The VJAS leaders said they apprehend the worst with the oncoming summer season when the farming community has to grapple with scorching heat coupled with acute shortage of water. (New Kerala 28/1/15)

184. Sikh farmers from Kutch approach NCM following attack (20)

CHANDIGARH: Punjabi families settled in the Kutch region of Gujarat approached the National Commission for Minorities on Tuesday seeking protection after an alleged attack on a farmer at Loria village, 15km from Bhuj. A team from the commission is likely to meet them on February 1. Surinder Singh Bhullar, a farmer settled near Bhuj, said that Sikh families have been living in fear after the recent attack on one of the farmers with sharp-edged weapons during demarcation of land at Loria village by a government agency. “The matter of land acquisition is pending before the apex court and we are even unable to get farmer credit cards to take up farming. To add to it, there is threat to security that is making the Punjabi community here feel vulnerable,” he added. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Himmat Singh Shergill, who has been taking up the issue of these farmers, said the incident follows a similar attack last year and apart from the indifference of the state government, land mafia appears to be putting pressure on the farmers to give away their land without resistance. The latest incident has invoked reactions from political parties in Punjab. Punjab Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa said these farmers had been invited to settle there way back in 1965 and they turned the barren lands into cultivable land through sheer hard labour. However, now for the past several years, they were facing the threat of being uprooted under a law enacted by the Gujarat government that purportedly bars non-Gujaratis from buying land in the state. Though, the farmers won the case in the Gujarat high court, the Gujarat government challenged the HC orders in the SC. Former Congress CM Rajinder Kaur Bhattal alleged that Sikh farmers settled in Bhuj had been living under constant fear from land mafia, which seems to have patronage of the ruling BJP in Gujarat. “These farmers have made repeated requests to the state government and Modi government at the Centre to ensure security for them, but it has fallen on deaf ears,” she said. (Times of India 29/1/15)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

185. Sangh affiliate SJM opposes land acquisition ordinance (4)

NEW DELHI: Providing ammunition to opponents of the government who are already arrayed against the land acquisition ordinance, Sangh Parivar constituent Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) has opposed the move to do away with the requirement of Social Impact Assessment (SIA) and other provisions which were supposed to ensure food security. Ashwani Mahajan, national co-convener of SJM, said the changes should be dropped to protect interests of farmers. “I hope good sense will prevail and government will amend it. It has to go to Parliament for passage,” Mahajan was quoted by agencies as saying. He further said SIA was an internationally accepted part of any land acquisition project, stressing that the Land Acquisition Act enacted under UPA was tabled after a series of consultations and was supported by BJP which was then in opposition. SJM is the second Sangh Parivar affiliate to oppose the Modi government’s move to amend the Land Acquisition Act which has been identified as one of the factors which hindered growth under UPA. Early on, Bharatiya Kisan Sangh had opposed the land ordinance. The swadeshi outfit, founded by RSS stalwarts like Dattopant Thengdi, had frequently thwarted the Vajpayee government’s efforts to quicken reforms, forcing BJP to go slow and leading former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee to complain that he was not getting enough elbow room. Asked what SJM would do now as the government has overruled its objections, Mahajan said they were in consultations and expected that the Centre would make changes in the law when it seeks Parliament’s nod for it. He contested the government’s stand that the changes in the land law were necessary for faster industrialization. “I think there will always be urgency for it. But it’s such an important issue that any wait is worth it,” Mahajan said. Supporting SIA and food security clauses, he said the impact on people affected by acquisition must be studied and necessary measures taken to compensate them by all means. Its opposition to the land ordinance is significant also in the light of the evolving dynamic between the Modi government and other arms of the Sangh Parivar. Last month, RSS leadership leaned on saffron hotheads to get them to lower their ante on religious reversions. This was followed by Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), a powerful Sangh constituent which claims to be the biggest among trade unions, relenting along with other labour bodies on their opposition to the coal ordinance — a big course correction which could potentially clear the way for a bigger role for private capital in coal mining. SJM’s stand on land acquisition, however, marks a break from the pattern and can create complications for Modi government’s plan to accelerate growth. It converges with the opposition from known quarters like Congress and Left. In an interesting political coincidence, SJM chose to unveil its protest on a day Congress Working Committee decided to hit the streets on the issue. The day also saw peasant organizations affiliated to CPM and CPI terming the ordinance “draconian,” and slamming the government’s move on the ground that it was “destructive” for the livelihood of farmers and agriculture and announced a nationwide protest against it. “This is a draconian ordinance, Modi government wants to come out with a new law which will pave the way for the corporatization of agriculture in the future,” All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) leaders Hannan Mollah and Atul Anjan told reporters. (Times of India 14/1/15)

186. Ordinance may not impact Posco’s mining bid (4)

Bhubaneswar : The recently promulgated Mines and Minerals (Development & Regulation) Amendment Ordinance, 2015 is unlikely to hamper Posco’s bid to secure the prized Khandadhar iron ore deposits in Odisha, Union mines secretary Anup Pujari indicated. “You are asking me about a particular case. I need to check the file and then make a decision. If the government’s concurrence has been given or if the state government has given a letter relating to that case, then it can be safely assumed that the case will not be hindered by the Ordinance,” Pujari said in response to a query on Posco’s mining case at the meeting of the central mines ministry on the Ordinance held in New Delhi. According to Section 10 (2) (c) of the Ordinance, “Where the central government has communicated previous approval as required under sub-section (1) of Section 5 for grant of a mining lease, or if a letter of intent (by whatever name called) has been issued by the state government to grant a mining lease, before the commencement of the Mines and Minerals (Development & Regulation) Ordinance, 2015, the mining lease shall be granted subject to fulfilment of conditions of the previous approval or the letter of intent within a period of two years from the date of commencement of the Ordinance.” Raising Posco’s case for mining lease at the meeting, state steel & mines minister Prafulla Mallick said, “Several industries, like Posco, have entered into memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the state government with assurance for allocation of mining leases. These commitments should be honoured under the new dispensation. Posco was the largest proposed Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) project in the country for which the government of India has made an international commitment. The nation will be sending very wrong signals to the international investor community by completely ignoring these international commitments for supporting the raw material requirement of the project.” The Odisha government had recommended grant of prospecting licence (PL) in favour of Posco over Khandadhar lease spread over 2500 hectares (ha) in January 2009, including both notified and non-notified areas. Later when the Centre asked for submission of separate proposals for the two areas, the state government in November last year, submitted the compliance on notified area spread over 2,082.50 ha. There were more than 200 applicants for Khandadhar iron ore deposits, but the state government had recommended the lease for Posco, citing that it was the biggest FDI and also on ground of value addition. The state government had invoked Section 11 (5) under the previous MMDR Act, 1957 for making the special recommendation for Posco. (Business Standard 19/1/15)

187. Tribals Stage Protest against NH Bypass (4)

ROURKELA: A section of the tribals in Sundargarh district opposing construction of NH-143 bypass in Birmitrapur town staged a demonstration in front of the office of Rourkela Additional District Magistrate, Sudarshan Chakravorty, on Monday. The protestors demanded a public hearing to seek consent of Gram Sabha under the provisions of Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA) for the proposed bypass from Talsara to China Town. However, sources in the administration said converting the NH-143 into four-lane through the congested Birmitrapur town would result in large scale displacement. Meanwhile,  in view of the economic blockade called by a group of tribals led by George Tirkey on Tuesday, police have taken 17 tribals into preventive custody in the last two days. Forces have also been mobilised to strategic locations. They are demanding separation of Jagda and Jhartarang panchayats from Rourkela Municipal Corporation. Sundargarh Collector Bhupendra Singh Poonia said prohibitory orders have been clamped in all sensitive locations besides highways and rail routes passing through the district. (New Indian Express 20/1/15)

188. Mining ordinance to affect projects in Odisha (4)

Bhubaneswar : The union government’s decision, via an ordinance, to allocate all future mines through auctions is likely to affect some projects in Odisha, including Posco and Bhusan Power and Steel Ltd (BPCL), while it has come as a blessing to some companies sustaining to run their plants in the absence of raw materials in the state. The Odisha government has recommended a prospecting lease in favour of Posco India for the Khandadhar iron ore deposit spread over 2,500 hectares in Sundargarh district of the state. The South Korean company is setting up a $12 billion project in Jagatsinghpur district. The state government has also recommended a lease in the Thakurani mines of Keonjhar district for BPCL, a mines department official said. Now, the companies may now have to bid for an ore reserve for captive consumption to feed their plants. The state government had recommended in favour of the two companies under its commitment mentioned in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The government, which had inked MoU with 50 steel and three aluminium projects, had assured them that raw material linkages to run their plants would be facilitated. “We have recommended a prospecting lease for Posco India. The state cabinet also took a decision against auctioning the Khandadhar mines meant for Posco. Now, the central ordinance has decided to auction all the mines in future. So, it is up to the centre to decide on the matter,” Steel and Mines Minister Prafulla Mallick told IANS. “The nation will be sending a wrong signal to the international investor community by ignoring the international commitment for supporting the raw material requirements of the project, which is the largest FDI in the country,” Mallick added. There is however ambiguity over granting a mining lease to Bhusan since the Supreme Court had directed the state government in April 2014 to grant this. “Unless they have prior central approval or a letter of intent from the state, all pending applications will stand cancelled as per the ordinance,” said a mines official. So, the National Aluminium Company(Nalco) will retain its rights over the Potangi bauxite mines as the central government has already approved this and the state government will only execute the lease, the official said. However, the decision to auction the mines will be fruitful for some companies, including Vedanta Alumina, which has set up a refinery and smelter in the state. The company is running its plants at 25 percent capacity due to a shortage of raw material. Now, these companies can participate in the bidding to run their plants. The bidding process would also not affect industrial activities in the state. “There would be no problem of shortage of raw material in the state. As per the state government’s mandate, 50 percent of the iron ore from non-captive mines in Odisha has to be given to the plants located in the state,” Mallick said. The Odisha High Court has also upheld the decision to reserve 50 percent of the mineral for state-based industries while the remaining can be sourced out, the minister said. Besides, the Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) has 11 mines that can come handy for projects coming up in the state. (Business Standard 22/1/15)

189. Fierce opposition to land acquisition ordinance (4)

MYSURU: Leaders of various farmers’ organizations and political parties from the region on Sunday opposed the Centre’s move to take the ordinance route to amend the Land Acquisition Act. In a symbolic opposition to the UPA-led government’s plan, they burned a copy of the ordinance. They also appealed litterateurs, who will meet in Hassan this week, to pass a resolution against the ordinance. Leaders from Raitha Sangha, Congress, Communist parties, Sarvodaya Karnataka and litterateurs described the government’s move as anti-farmer. The ordinance will uproot the farm system in the country. “If it is implemented, it will be a declaration of death for farmers. The Centre should immediately withdraw the ordinance,” they demanded. By bringing an ordinance without a discussion in the Parliament, the government has insulted the Constitution. Mocking the ordinance, writer Devanur Mahadev said it is akin to legalizing goondaism. “How can two laws — one controlling goondaism and the other legalizing goondaism co-exist?” he asked. “Not only farmers, everyone should oppose this ordinance,” he said and urged ryots and progressive elements to be united in forcing the Union government to withdraw the ordinance. There will be severe food crisis if the Centre’s plan is implemented. Mahadev accused the previous government of surreptitiously encouraging land acquisition. Congress leader and former MP A H Vishwanath questioned the silence of state revenue minister V Srinivas Prasad over the issue. “Though the chief minister has opposed the ordinance, state revenue minister has kept quiet,” he said, asking the minister to make public his views. Many protesters said that the ordinance will benefit realtors and land sharks rather than industrialists. (Times of India 26/1/15)

190. Farmers burn copies of land acquisition ordinance (4)

BATHINDA: Farmers’ organizations, on Sunday, burnt copies of the new land acquisition ordinance during a protest march. Members of BKU Ekta Ugrahan and Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union staged marches in the villages of Bathinda, Mansa, Muktsar and Barnala districts for four days before burning the ordinance at sub-divisions across the districts on Sunday. BKU Ekta Ugrahan general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokri and Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union secretary Lachman Singh Sewewala said, “The ordinance is clearly anti-farmer and pro-corporate houses. We oppose it and demand that it be taken back immediately”. They said the campaign against land acquisition ordinance will continue till February 10.

ELURU, January 29, 2015 (Times of India 27/1/15)

191. APRS opposes land acquisition ordinance (4)

Members of the CPI (M)-affiliated Andhra Pradesh Rythu Sangham (APRS) on Wednesday staged a demonstration against the Centre’s ordinance amending the Land Acquisition Act, at the Collectorate here. The protesters burnt copies of the ordinance during the demonstration. “The ordinance is pending approval by the President, and we want him to direct the Centre to drop it in the interest of the farming community,” demanded CPI (M) district secretary B. Balaram, who led the protest. Large number of farmers from Tullur, where the new capital has been proposed, will now feel the pinch, he said, adding: “Multi-crop fields, which were spared by the Land Acquisition (Rehabilitation and Resettlement) Act, 2013, will now be eclipsed by rapid urbanisation, as the process has become hassle-free, thanks to the ordinance.” As the social assessment impact clause in the Act is sought to be diluted by the ordinance, the living conditions of farmers in the capital region will come under question, he said. “Since another crucial clause, which insists on securing consent from 80 per cent of farmers before acquisition of lands, has been given a go-by, corporate firms are now all set to take over prime agricultural lands from farmers through coercion citing the ordinance,” the CPI (M) leader alleged. The APRS accused the NDA-TDP combine of pleasing corporates by taking possession of agricultural lands at throwaway prices by diluting the Act. (The Hindu 29/1/15)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

192. AP to launch initiative to fight infant mortality (3)

HYDERABAD: Andhra Pradesh government seems to have suddenly woken up to the fact that it can’t sit comfortably and do business with advanced countries like Japan, Singapore and Australia when its performance on human development indicators like infant mortality rate is dismal. Accordingly , it has decided to launch an initiative from February 1 this year to arrest the alarmingly high infant deaths in the residuary state. In key health indicators, Andhra Pradesh figures just below Bimaru (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh) states and is at the bottom among the southern states. To arrest that, the s t a t e government has now issued orders to monitor the health of pregnant and lactating mothers state-wide by making institutional arrangement from ward to the state level. The responsibility of these groups, called convergence committee, is to ensure “name-based tracking of all pregnant women, lactating women and children (0-5 years) for the delivery of maternal and child health services.” These committees have to ensure that all the High Risk Pregnant Women and High Risk Children are properly identified and necessary care is provided to them. Once pregnancy is confirmed, it is the responsibility of the convergence committees at various levels to ensure that pre-natal tests are conducted by the medical officers in primary health centres to identify high-risk pregnancies. The tests include hemoglobin estimation, blood pressure, urine and weight monitoring. As part of the post-natal care, regular growth monitoring is to be done of all children below five years after which the malnourished chil dren are to be identified on the basis of their weight. The instructions to implement the scheme across all districts were issued by chief secretary IYR Krishna Rao on Tuesday. According to sources, this has been necessitated due to the dismal status of affairs in AP among the states, especially in South India, with regard to Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) and Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and malnutrition. Regarding infant mortality rate, Australia (4), Japan (2) and Singapore (2) are far above AP (43). In this regard, AP is far below other states such as Kerala (12), Tamil Nadu (22) and Karnataka (35).Regarding deaths of children below 5 years, AP (45) has the worst record compared to Karnataka (40), Tamil Nadu (25) and Kerala (13). (Times of India 14/1/15)

193. Maternal deaths come down by 11 points (3)

PATNA: Bihar has registered a decline of 11 points in the maternal mortality rate between 2011-13. According to figures released by Registrar General of India this week, 208 mothers die in the state per one lakh live births. This translates into 7,680 women dying every year in the state after childbirth, which is still the second highest across the country. Most of these deaths are preventable. Maternal deaths are defined as deaths of mothers that take place within 42 days of childbirth. Institutional deliveries (childbirth in any health institution rather than home), considered key to reducing maternal deaths, have gone up in the state. However, maternal deaths have not reduced in the same proportion. Experts attribute this to the fact that half the mothers do not stay in hospital even for 24 hours, which is considered critical period. Complications like rise in blood pressure and excessive bleeding after childbirth develop during this period, which are leading causes of deaths. While at times health providers themselves ask such mothers to go away, others leave the hospital because of lack of awareness. Lack of infrastructure in rural areas is also a major contributory factor. While one PHC ought to be there for every 30,000 population, in Bihar one PHC caters to 2-3 lakh population. PHC shortfall is 85% in the state, so is the case with referral hospitals. Subdivisional hospitals are short by 18%.Amidst such acute lack of infrastructure, doctors say the need of the hour is timely referral to better hospitals. “Mothers normally reach us in critical condition, in which it is difficult to save them. They should be referred much early,” said Dr Abha Rani Sinha, vice-president of Patna Obstetrics and Gynaecology Society. Experts say quality of health services provided in rural areas is also an issue. Most of the rural healthcare centres do not have scope for emergency obstetrics care. Very few skilled birth attendants (SBAs) who assist in home-based deliveries are trained. Dr Ghanashyam Sethy of Unicef-Patna says only 20-25% SBAs have received basic training in childbirth. So if any complication develops, mothers are left with no alternative. Antenatal (before delivery) checkups (ANCs) also play an important role. Though Health Management Information System states that about 60% women received three ANCs, experts doubt the quality of checkup. “ANC does not merely mean measuring BP. Proper abdominal examination, urine examination, weight measurement and providing iron folic acid tablets are important. If you consider it all, the total ANC rate is not more than 5%,” Dr Sethy said. (Times of India 17/1/15)

194. Deadly TB strains emerged in Asia over 6,000 years ago (3)

In a path-breaking find, an evolutionary geneticist from the National Museum of Natural History in Paris has decoded the tuberculosis (TB) genome, suggesting that a pernicious family of the strain emerged in Asia over 6,000 years ago. The study of nearly 5,000 samples of Mycobacterium tuberculosis from around the world showed how a lineage of the bacterium that emerged thousands of years ago in China has since become a global killer, widely resistant to antibiotic drugs, the Nature Genetics reported. The evolutionary geneticist Thierry Wirth and his team analysed 4,987 samples of the “Beijing lineage” from 99 countries, fully sequencing the genomes of 110 of them and more limited stretches of DNA in the rest. The researchers then used the information to date the expansion of the lineage and show how the strains are related. Consistent with its name, the “Beijing lineage” did emerge near north-eastern China.”And it did so around 6,600 years ago which coincides with archaeological evidence for the beginnings of rice farming in China’s upper Yangtze river valley,” Wirth noted. Although M. tuberculosis, probably, first emerged some 40,000 years ago in Africa, the disease did not take hold until humans took to farming with the consequent settling down. “The grouping of people in settlements made it easier for the respiratory pathogen to spread from person to person,” Wirth pointed out. Of all the M. bacterium strains circulating today, few strike more fear in public-health officials than the Beijing lineage. First identified in greater Beijing in the mid-1990s, this lineage now circulates throughout the world and many strains are resistant to drugs that vanquish other types of TB. The increasing availability of antibiotics in the 1960s, meanwhile, coincides with a fall in the numbers of the bacterium. The lineage rebounded, however, in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Since it emerged, the “Beijing lineage” has become much more infectious, Wirth says, so it out-competes other strains of the bacterium. His team identified mutations related to antibiotic resistance, metabolism and evasion of immune responses that may have contributed to the success of the “Beijing lineage”. (Times of India 21/1/15)

195. Malnutrition claims one more infant’s life in Attappadi (3)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Malnutrition deaths continue to rue Attappadi tribals with one more infant death being reported on Wednesday night. This is the second infant death this year. Last year, 59 child deaths were reported, including 37 infants dying during pregnancy and in 2013, 47 infant deaths were reported, but the government and various agencies involved are yet to wake up to the reality. The government announced a rehabilitation package of Rs 400 crore for Attappadi in 2013 and in addition the three-tier panchayat set apart Rs 1.26 crore to eradicate malnutrition. But according to RTI information collected by voluntary agencies, only Rs 40 crore worth schemes have been implemented, said Rajendra Babu of NGO Thambu. “We could have regained the health of tribals by supplying cereals such as Bengal gram, green gram and lentils through public distribution system, but even that was not done effectively. Various government departments have failed miserably in correcting the reality. Malnutrition began since their land was encroached and they lost their traditional cultivation with nothing left to eat,” government sources told TOI. Of the 172 ICDS functioning in Attappadi, 130 have no drinking water facility and 100 ICDS have no toilets. More than half the Anganwadis are in rented premises and 66 have no toilets. Though a Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) is functioning, of the 238 children admitted to NRC up to Oct 31, 2012, only 38 have returned to normalcy and 83 children were reported severely malnourished still, Rajendra Babu told TOI. This is despite the fact that in addition to the rehabilitation package, the Centre had sanctioned Rs 80 crore for Attappadi as part of rural development initiatives for development of tribal hamlets in Agali, Puthur and Sholayar village panchayats in Attapadi. Meanwhile, the tribal elders informed that the two infants who lost their lives are ten-month old twin boys of parents Udayakumar and Selvi in Pattimalur tribal hamlet in Attappadi. Among the twins, the first infant weighing 700 grams died on Monday and the infant death reported on Thursday was an infant weighing 1200 grams with only 6.9 hp hemoglobin level died at a hospital in Coimbatore. The child was referred to this hospital after his condition deteriorated at a hospital in Kottathara. The mother is also malnourished and anemic. (Times of India 23/1/15)

196. Maharashtra reports 13% of new leprosy cases in country (3)

MUMBAI: Leprosy may have disappeared from the state’s health mandate, but there is compelling evidence that the infection is returning to the community. Though officially eliminated from the state ten years ago, last year leprosy infected over 16,400 people, 13% of them children. Also, the state accounted for 13% of the country’s new leprosy cases. Statistics also reveal that 57% of the newly detected cases were multibacillary leprosy—an advanced stage of the disease with definite sensory loss in the patient and an increased potential to infect others. This percentage has only gone north over the years, rising from 49% in 2007-08. The trend is similar in Mumbai. Out of the 640 cases detected in 2013-14, 58% were cases of advanced leprosy. It was a jump of 2% from the year before. Anti-leprosy champions feel urgent steps need to be taken to tackle the disease in children. Even in Mumbai, nearly 12% of the newly diagnosed cases were children. Around 18% of patients had grade-II disability by the time they came to know of the disease. In what underlines the rampant spread of leprosy among children and adolescents, 25 boys from 12 state-run ashram schools were diagnosed with leprosy last year during their annual health check-up. A senior state official said, “We were lucky that none of the boys had deformities. Unfortunately, the incident did not evoke any kind of urgency within the machinery.” All 25 continue to be on treatment. With shrinking funds, very few agencies are left to fight the battle against the disease. “People are coming in with full blown leprosy, which was not the case earlier. We need to begin with acknowledging that cases are there,” said Antony Samy, chief executive, Alert India, an NGO working towards eradicating the disease. According to him, there are pockets in Chembur, Govandi and Versova that commonly report cases. In the last five years, nearly 4,000 leprosy cases have been diagnosed in the city. Samy adds that the frightening neglect of the disease at the state and central level may push more affected individuals towards a life of disability. Deformities are caused when the bacteria attacks blood vessels, robbing the body’s ability to sense injury and pain. “While timely intervention can avert this, many patients are losing the window due to late diagnosis,” said a state official. “Deformities, when they occur, are irreversible in many cases.” In 2013-14, as many as 813 of the 16,400 new patients had come with disabilities at the time of first detection, pointing towards a complete lack of a screening mechanism for early diagnosis. The percentage of new patients coming in with disability has jumped five times, from 1.2% in 2008-09 to almost 5% in 2013-14. Experts say this is a direct fallout of the absence of active surveillance. The Union health ministry did not release a single penny for leprosy control in the state in 2014-15. Dr Satish Pawar, head of the directorate of health services, said the programme was managed with borrowed funds. He said that nearly 500 disability corrective surgeries were done. “There are lot of cases of disabilities and it is worrying. It is a tricky disease that can take 7-10 years to manifest. We are starting aggressive campaigns followed by surveys on World Leprosy Day (annually observed around the world on the last Sunday of January),” he said. Currently, 21 out of 36 districts in the state are endemic. (Times of India 26/1/15)

197.  ‘High-risk’ tracking brings down maternal deaths (3)

MADURAI: A comprehensive pregnancy surveillance mechanism being implemented through the Tamil Nadu Health Systems Project (TNHSP) has brought down maternal mortality in Madurai district this year. Armed with an interventional action plan starting from pregnancy till delivery, special screening camps are being conducted under the name ‘high risk mother tracking system.’ After conducting about 40 screening camps in the last six months in 13 blocks, public health authorities are now seeing positive results. From 68 maternal deaths in 2010-11, the number has come down to 28 (till date) in 2014-15. “We are seeing a positive outcome due to the tracking system. Madurai district has been in high risk category for several years but the situation is changing. The declining number is an indication of improvement,” S. Natarajan, District Programme Officer, TNHSP, told The Hindu on Wednesday. Expectant mothers found to carry risk factors such as severe anaemia are kept under close observation of gynaecologists. Iron tablets and nutrition guidance are given from the early stage of pregnancy. If a woman is under high-risk category, she is admitted in Comprehensive Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care Centre one week before the expected date of delivery. Dr. Natarajan said that constant follow-up by village health nurses and other field staff yielded good results in preventing complications. The direct link established between ‘108’ ambulance service and the pregnant woman’s family members was helping in attending to complications or emergency cases besides taking them to hospital in time for delivery. If a woman dies during pregnancy or at the time of delivery or within a period of six weeks after delivery, it is maternal death. (The Hindu 29/1/15)

198. Cured Inmates of Mental Hospital Yet to be Rehabilitated (3)

KOZHIKODE:Around 50 cured inmates of the Kuthiravattam Government Mental Health Centre are left to suffer as the rehabilitation project planned for them is yet to take off. As the authorities have failed to follow up the rehabilitation scheme, which was proposed two months ago, the inmates are still languishing in the hospital. According to figures available with the hospital authorities, there are more than 65 cured inmates in the hospital. As per the assurance given by Minister for Social Justice M K Muneer, 15 such inmates were shifted to the Rehabilitation Complex of Asha Bhavan, functioning under the Social Justice Department, a few weeks ago. But adequate measures to rehabilitate the remaining patients have not been taken yet. Hospital officials said a meeting of the Hospital Development Committee held two months ago, which was attended by Minister M K Muneer had decided to rehabilitate 15 patients to  Asha Bhavan and hand over the rest of the patients to various NGOs for rehabilitation. A committee was also formed in the meeting to draft a comprehensive rehabilitation plan and to materialise the scheme as soon as possible. The meeting also decided to grant accreditation to the NGOs, allowing them to take over the inmates. “The minister had assured proper rehabilitation with adequate accommodation and self-employment opportunities. Unfortunately, after the meeting, nothing has been done for the rehabilitation,” lamented an official working with the centre. Meanwhile, a functionary of the Kozhikode-based charity organisation, ‘Helping Hand Charitable Trust’, alleged serious flaws on part of the authorities in taking up measures to rehabilitate the patients. “While attending the meeting, Helping Hand representatives had expressed interest in rehabilitating 40 persons. The minister had told us that a law would be enacted to grant NGOs permission to take over such patients,” he said. He added that the trust was all set to rehabilitate the patients and provide them with employment along with counselling. “We are planning to shift the patients to a different environment, where they can enjoy an atmosphere of freedom. We have such a full fledged rehabilitation centre at Parappanangadi,” he said. “We are ready to rehabilitate the patients. The government should enact a law ensuring adequate protection and exempting the process legal complications. But, such an NGO policy is yet to be formed,” he added. When contacted, an official with the State Handicapped Welfare Corporation said the procedures to accredit NGOs were nearing completion. “The rehabilitation is confronted with the habitual delay in granting the accreditation to NGOs,” he said. However, a meeting of the hospital development committee would be convened soon to contemplate on the rehabilitation scheme, he added. (New Indian Express 30/1/15)

HIV/AIDS

199. Birth control injections can raise your risk of HIV infection (3)

Washington: Scientists have claimed that a using a certain type of injectable birth control could fairly increase the risk of becoming infected with HIV. A large meta-analysis of 12 studies in sub-Saharan Africa found that women who used the contraceptive, depot medroxyprogesterone acetate, which is sold under the brand name Depo-Provera, had a moderately increased risk of becoming infected with HIV. The findings included data from 39,500 women. The researchers selected the studies based upon methodological rigor, such as whether they accounted for the use of condoms. In addition to Depo-Provera, the studies also examined other commonly prescribed forms of hormonal contraception, such as the injectable norethisterone oenanthate (sold as NET-EN), combined oral contraceptives and progestin-only pills. The other birth control methods did not appear to increase HIV infection risk for women in the general population. Study’s lead author Lauren Ralph of UC Berkeley, said that the results had potentially broad implications because hormonal contraceptives remain popular for women worldwide. Approximately 144 million women worldwide use hormonal contraception, and of those about 41 million women use injectable forms of birth control instead of the pill. The study found that women who used depot medroxyprogesterone acetate had a moderate, 40% increased risk of acquiring HIV compared with women using non-hormonal methods and those not practicing birth control. The increased risk was slightly lower, 31%, among the studies done in women in the general population. It remains unclear why the increased risk was seen among those using Depo-Provera but not the other forms of hormonal contraception, the authors said. One possibility may be that birth control with higher levels of progestin, the synthetic form of the natural hormone progesterone, changed the vaginal lining or altered local immunity, increasing the risk for HIV infection, though the researchers emphasized that this study did not examine the physiological effects of the different contraceptive methods and more research on potential underlying biologic mechanisms is needed. The researchers cautioned that the increased HIV infection risk needs to be considered in the context of the risks associated with not using birth control. The researchers noted that the results highlight the need for more studies among high-risk populations. Among the 12 studies analyzed, only two included sex workers or women with HIV-positive partners. The study is published in The Lancet. (Hindustan Times 11/1/15)

200. Free test for HIV patients (3)

The state’s HIV-TB coordination committee has decided to introduce cartridge-based nucleic acid amplification technique (CBNAAT) test to determine drug-resistant tuberculosis for HIV patients free of cost. The decision was taken at a meeting held under Rahul Kumar, project director, Bihar State AIDS Control Society (BSACS) on Monday. The CBNAAT test would be started next week at the tuberculosis offices in Bhagalpur, Muzaffarpur and Rohtas districts. Later, it would be rolled out in 25 districts. People suffering from HIV tend to develop tuberculosis. At the same time, TB patients have a tendency to develop HIV. They would be able to get their CBNAAT test done gratis. The market rates for the test ranges from Rs 600-1,000. It is an effective test to determine tuberculosis than the existing sputum spear microscopy test and faster too. “Sputum spear microscopy test detects tuberculosis only if the bacterial load is more than 10,000 organism/ml sputum sample but CBNAAT test can confirm it even if the load is lesser. It takes more time to conduct the sputum spear microscopy test, too, while the CBNAAT test takes less than two hours,” said Ajit Shahi, programme manager, gender, BSACS. Manoj Kumar Sinha, joint director, information, communication and education, said: “The decision to start this test is important because HIV patients have 60 per cent more chances to develop TB than any other person.” (The Telegraph 14/1/15)

201. Ration Card Rules Leave HIV Patients in Lurch (3)

KOCHI:  The stipulation that HIV patients will have to mark their health status as ‘HIV +ve’ to get themselves enrolled in the priority/BPL category while applying for ration card came as heavy blow to them. Unless the HIV patients reveal their status, they would not be able to avail themselves of the benefits of the BPL category. For fear of stigma, most of the HIV patients do not want to reveal their condition. Currently, the Civil Supplies Department do not have a proper mechanism to accommodate HIV patients without disclosing their identity. “If the clause that deprives HIV patients of their benefits is not amended, many of them would hesitate to apply for ration card,” pointed out representatives of Sneha Santhwanam, a Palakkad-based organisation working for HIV patients. Once their identity is revealed, their lives would become hell. There are widows among them, and many have daughters. It will not be easy to get them married off,” said a volunteer of the organisation on condition of anonymity. Statistics available with the government shows that there are around 25,000 HIV patients in the State. So far, none of them is enlisted in the priority/BPL category. Though Civil Supplies Minister Anoop Jacob had assured every help to HIV patients, he failed to communicate how the issue would be dealt with. He had said,” I have got representation from them, and I have forwarded it to the Food Commissioner for immediate action. They truly deserve humanitarian consideration.” In May 2014, a meeting attended by the Chief Minister, Health Minister and the Social Justice Minister had promised that every HIV patient would be given BPL ration card. But, in the process, the officials revealed the identity of the patients in some of the cards. When it was pointed out, it was put on hold. Later, on fast track basis, the Chief Minister initiated steps to bring them under the BPL category. “That was a heartening gesture from the Chief Minister. But, the issue does not end with that. There is no smooth mechanism for the newly detected HIV patients to get themselves enrolled under the BPL category,” pointed out Dr Ajith Kumar, member of the technical resource group of the NACO, who is also dean at the Kerala Health University. “As per the existing rules, the beneficiaries will have to approach the ration shops. Instead of that, a doctor can issue a certificate indicating that the patient is eligible to be enrolled under the priority category. On the certificate, the doctor can mention the names of diseases that make a patient eligible for BPL ration card, and indicate that the patient is suffering from one of them (without mentioning the disease). Or else, the cards could be send directly to a higher official (District Collector/District Civil Supplies Officer) who could verify the details. Then, maintaining confidentiality, they can send them to lower officers,” he suggested. “Also, the applications could be distributed and then collected through Anti-retroviral Treatment (ART)centres,” he added. (New Indian Express 19/1/15)

202. Above half HIV patients in state ‘untraceable’ (3)

JAIPUR: At least 25,638 People Living with HIV (PLHIV) registered with Rajasthan State Aids Control Society (RSACS) are ‘untraceable’. As per RSACS, these people are registered at antiretroviral therapy (ART) centres but they are not coming to take their medicine. The figures show that there are 48,202 PLHIV patients registered at 17 ART centres in the state. Since more than half of the registered persons at ART centres are giving treatment a miss, it has become a cause of concern for RSACS. Now, the health department plans to find out the actual status of all the registered PLHIV at the ART centres. RSACS director Dr S S Chauhan said, “There could be a possibility of many PLHIVs getting them registered at different ART centres. So there is a chance that a single PLHIV can be registered at more than once ART centre. And that could be mean that the number of registered PLHIV is more than actual number. Also, there could be those who shifted to other states and are taking treatment there.” Taking a serious note of the ‘untraceable’ PLHIV, the RSACS will start a campaign to locate the them by conducting a line listing. An RSACS official said line listing will help them find the actual number of PLHIV, who were once tested positive at the ART centres. The official said they would conduct a survey by visiting the houses of the PLHIV to know the actual position. He said that the survey would help them get the actual PLHIV number and also it would encourage PLHIV to take medicines available at ART centres. He added that few PLHIV do not require medicines so they do not come to ART centres. “The survey would clear the picture of the patients’ status in the state,” he said. (DNA 21/1/15)

203. Above half HIV patients in state ‘untraceable’ (3)

JAIPUR: At least 25,638 People Living with HIV (PLHIV) registered with Rajasthan State Aids Control Society (RSACS) are ‘untraceable’. As per RSACS, these people are registered at antiretroviral therapy (ART) centres but they are not coming to take their medicine. The figures show that there are 48,202 PLHIV patients registered at 17 ART centres in the state. Since more than half of the registered persons at ART centres are giving treatment a miss, it has become a cause of concern for RSACS. Now, the health department plans to find out the actual status of all the registered PLHIV at the ART centres. RSACS director Dr S S Chauhan said, “There could be a possibility of many PLHIVs getting them registered at different ART centres. So there is a chance that a single PLHIV can be registered at more than once ART centre. And that could be mean that the number of registered PLHIV is more than actual number. Also, there could be those who shifted to other states and are taking treatment there.” Taking a serious note of the ‘untraceable’ PLHIV, the RSACS will start a campaign to locate the them by conducting a line listing. An RSACS official said line listing will help them find the actual number of PLHIV, who were once tested positive at the ART centres. The official said they would conduct a survey by visiting the houses of the PLHIV to know the actual position. He said that the survey would help them get the actual PLHIV number and also it would encourage PLHIV to take medicines available at ART centres. He added that few PLHIV do not require medicines so they do not come to ART centres. “The survey would clear the picture of the patients’ status in the state,” he said. (Times of India 22/1/15)

204. Spl strategy to tackle HIV-AIDS in NE (3)

AIZAWL, Jan 22 – After conducting its HIV Sentinel Surveillance, the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) has agreed to formulate a special strategy to tackle prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the Northeastern region. This was announced at the consultative meeting on North East Specific Strategy on HIV in Aizawl today. Participants of the consultation said Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland, bordering Myanmar, have the highest incidence of HIV/AIDS and the region had unique problems not experienced in other parts of the country. Close proximity of the region with Myanmar through which drugs were trafficked to the West made the North East vulnerable to drug users resulting in high rate of drug abuse and addiction, they said. “Due to the unique situation of the region, operational guidelines of the NACO for the rest of the country are hardly applicable to the North East,” one of the speakers said. While incidences of HIV have been on the decline in the other parts of the country, the NE region saw steady increase in fresh infections, reports of the HIV Sentinel Surveillance said. – PTI (The Assam Tribune 23/1/15)

205.  ‘All pregnant women should undergo HIV test’ (3)

Nagapatanam: Awareness should be created among pregnant women to undergo HIV test, said S. Palanisamy, District Collector, here on Wednesday. Speaking at a day training for Block Development Officers on creating awareness among people about HIV infection, the Collector said that HIV test was conducted for all pregnant women in government hospitals and primary health centres (PHCs). “If a pregnant woman is diagnosed to be infected, anti retro viral therapy will be given for 14 weeks from the time of pregnancy to avoid HIV infection to the child,” the Collector said. “Those who have tuberculosis should undergo HIV test and those who have HIV infection should undergo sputum test as HIV and tuberculosis go together,” the Collector said. Centres for Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) had been established at Nagapattinam, Vedaranyam, Mayiladuthurai, and Sirkazi. A total of 1,518 persons are HIV infected in Nagapattinam district. Of them, 841 were men and 677 women. The Collector appealed to people to use all these facilities and undergo HIV test and lead a healthy life. R. Shankar, Project Director, District Rural Development Agency (DRDA); and R. Chandrasekaran, PA to Collector (general), participated in the meeting. (The Hindu 29/1/15)

206. Bengal NGO shows the way in helping HIV-positive kids (3)

KOLKATA: Mahesh Pramanik (name changed) was all of 12 when Anandaghar, the only home for HIV positive children in West Bengal, took him in. The boy from Midnapore was abandoned by his family after his parents succumbed to AIDS. Today Mahesh is 18. As Mahesh and some other inmates of Anandaghar, run by Organisation for Friends, Energies & Resources (OFFER), step into adulthood, they aspire to stand on their own feet. They hope vocational and skill development training that OFFER has been giving along with formal education could help them earn a living. “We fought the resistance in admitting them in schools because of their ‘HIV positive’ status. In addition, we have also been providing vocational training to older children so that this would help them in future. Our aim is to place them in suitable jobs once they are ready,” says Kallol Ghosh, founder secretary of OFFER. Since 2004, Anandaghar has been taking care of ‘HIV positive’ orphans, unwanted even by their own families. Currently there are 70 such children at the home that provides, apart from food and shelter, education along with clinical care for HIV. But the organization is now staring at a bigger task — rehabilitating the children who are 18 years and above by getting them placement— in a rare initiative to get such children back in mainstream. Bajoria Charitable Foundation (BCF) that has been supporting OFFER is also keen on this rehabilitation project. BCF founder Namit Bajoria, who runs a kitchen appliances chain Kutchina, intends to identify skills in these children and improve them before placing them in jobs. “To begin with, we can place some of them in back office or in outlets in the city. As and when they learn the job they could be given bigger responsibility. The aim is not only financial assistance, but to make these children part of the mainstream society,” says Namit Bajoria. At OFFER these children are being trained at skills like computer operation, bakery and house-keeping etc. OFFER has started approaching corporate houses and other organisations to tie up for the rehabilitation project. But apart from Kutchina and a handful of MNCs, the response has not been very encouraging. The prospect of earning bread and butter on their own is already a reason for excitement for the likes of Pratik Sarkar. The boy, who was rescued from Cooch Behar after being driven out of home five years ago, wishes to join a driving school once he completes 18 years in a few months to earn his living as a driver. There are 17 other children who are nearing 18 years of age and are looking forward to land suitable jobs. “I have my limitations to provide jobs to all of them. But I want to make a beginning so that this will evoke response from like-minded people and organisations,” says Bajoria. Even after these children start earning, OFFER will continue to monitor them, especially their medical care. Most of them are on ART (antiretroviral) drugs and need to maintain a reasonably good CD count to fight the virus. (Times of India 29/1/15)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

 

Farm workers plan nation-wide strike (14)

VELLORE: The All India Agricultural Workers’ Union (AIAWU) affiliated to the Communist Party of India (Marxists) has decided to launch a nation-wide agitation if the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance Government does not give up its move to dilute the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), according to Sunith Chopra, all-India general secretary and S. Thirunavukkarasu, all-India president of the Union. Talking to newspersons on the sidelines of the meeting of the general council of the Vellore district unit of AIAWU here on Tuesday, they said that even though the various unions of rural workers have fought for and won job security through the introduction of the MGNREGA, the Modi government is using backdoor methods to violate the right to work that has been won by the rural masses. The methods include cutting down the outlay, attempting to limit the area of operation of the Act, limiting payments in banks to Aadhar card holders, holding back wages, and trying to introduce machinery and contractors. “We believe MGNREGA to be part of our basic right to life and we will not allow it to be bartered away”, he said.False propaganda “It is a false propaganda being spread through motivated agencies”, Mr. Chopra said when his attention was drawn to the grievance being expressed by the farmers that they do not get labour in view of agricultural workers being weaned away for works under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). In fact, farming activities have declined owing to the large-scale migration of farmers to the urban areas in search of employment. “With 60 per cent of farmers having migrated, we have had the largest migration of farmers in the last 90 years. This migration can be prevented if MGNREGA is strictly implemented”, he said. Mr. Thirunavukkarasu said that the workers were getting wages only for about 40 to 50 days in a year against the promised 100 days. “Workers will certainly come for farm work if the farmers / landlords provide higher wages than what they got under MGNREGS”, he said. Mr. Chopra said that 10 lakh acres of farm land have gone to the non-farm sector, while nine lakh farmers have sold their land and become agricultural labourers dependent on MGNREGS. G. Mani, Tamil Nadu state secretary of the AIAWU, said that the union would be organising a `kathiruppu porattam’ (waiting agitation) in front of the Collectorates, Revenue Divisional Offices and taluk offices throughout Tamil Nadu on January 20, when poor landless workers would wait in front of the offices till they were given free house site pattas and till the old age pension was restored to those for whom it was cancelled. (The Hindu 1/1/15)

25,000 NREGA workers in RR yet to get wages (14)

HYDERABAD: A well-known private bank and state government officials are literally slugging it out on every front after a dispute arose regarding payment of workers under the NREGA scheme. The officials of the Rural Development Department of Rangareddy district had slapped a criminal case against the Axis Bank at Gandhinagar police station for misappropriation of funds to the tune of Rs 2 crore some weeks ago. The bank was chosen to disburse the funds under the central government scheme for the district. Caught in the midst of it are the 25,000 workers who are yet to get their dues after toiling hard for projects pertaining to various land development projects in Rangareddy district. It all began when the officials found out that a large number of workers had not received payments between April and June 2013. In a series of official mails (which are in possession of this newspaper) which began soon after, the district officials squarely blamed the bank for its inefficient fund monitoring system involving its various business correspondents. The officials had asked the bank to disburse the amount meant for the employees but the higher officials of the bank conveyed through the mails that they were still working on the issue. The bank made a part-payment of a few lakhs in late 2013, however there was not much headway since then. The officials had also requested the government not to have any business tie-ups with the bank in future. “We have given them the complete list of the workers who had not been paid,” said C. Chandrakanth, Project Director, District Water Management Agency, Rangareddy district who is pursuing the case. “We had asked them to show the proof in case they had made the payments. Till date, they could not do so and are indulging in time buying tactics. It is their responsibility to make sure that the payments reach the workers through proper channels. If they had failed to do so, they have to make that payment. The poor workers need to be paid with interest and we will fight till the case reaches a logical end,” Mr Chandrakanth said. (The Hindu 4/1/15)

Allow flexibility to employees in PF deduction: Employees’ plea to govt (14)

New Delhi: Around 500 companies, including many big ones, have written to the Union government to allow employees more flexibility in their retirement funding. “The petition to the ministry of labour requests giving all employees three individual choices in deciding how they are paid their salary,” stated recruitment consultant TeamLease, also involved in drafting the petition. A person who has seen the petition said some of the companies are Tata Steel, Tata Consultancy Services, Wipro Enterprises, Larsen and Toubro Infotech, Mahindra Finance, Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages, HDFC Bank and Biocon. In a joint communique to Union labour secretary Gauri Kumar, these companies have asked that employees be given an option on whether or not to opt for the (currently statutory) 12 per cent deduction in their wages for contribution to the Provident Fund. “At present, 94 per cent of workers in India are working in the informal sector. Giving a choice to such employees will incentivise them to join the formal workforce,” said Rituparna Chakraborty, convenor of the effort on the petition and a co-founder of TeamLease. At present, both employees and employers mandatorily contribute 12 per cent each of the former’s salary towards employees’ PF contribution. This is applicable to any company employing more than 20 people. The petition asks for a choice to employees on whether to park the employer’s contribution with the Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) or the National Pension System, the latter regulated by the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority.  According to the norms, only salaried employees can contribute towards EPFO; any individual above 18 years of age can invest in NPS till the retirement age of 60. At present, EPFO doesn’t invest part of its total funds in the equity market but NPS can. “India’s labour laws mandate the highest salary  deductions among various countries in the world; in a cost-to-company term, this can mean a 44.31 per cent salary deduction for low wage employees. And, contrary to public objectives, this is only 5.32 per cent for high wage employees,” stated the letter. Economic data tells us that most low wage employees do not have such high saving rates and this leads to high attrition and informal employment, as these employees cannot live on half their salary, the letter added. “What safety net do we talk about when 94 per cent of employees are out of it? We want to give the workers a simple choice to divest their funds according to their needs,” said Chakraborty. Employers, she said, were keenly awaiting the Union government’s reaction in the coming Budget session of Parliament in February. Recently, the Union labour ministry had proposed some changes in the Employees’ Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, to empower the government to waive or reduce the share of employees’ contribution towards the PF, if it feels the financial position of any class of companies covered under EPFO is getting weaker.(Business Standard 6/1/15)

Kerala pushes for more works under job scheme (14)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The State on Tuesday requested the Union government to include more works, including paddy cultivation, dairy farming, coconut farming, and production of coir yarn, under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). In a memorandum submitted to Union Rural Development Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh, the State made the following suggestions: MGNREGS workers to be part of paddy production expansion initiatives by engaging in land development activities such as bunding, fertilizer application, irrigation, harvesting and so on, apart from weeding, tilling, and land preparation. Cleaning sheds, feeding and milking of cattle, and so on as part of dairy farming using MGNREGS workers. Use of the workers for removal of disease-affected juvenile palms, old and senile palms, and replanting as part of coconut farming Inclusion of coir production – husk collection, retting and defibering, spinning, and bundling Inclusion of Khadi and handloom work under MGNREGS and payment of wages to the workers under the scheme Minister for Rural Development K.C. Joseph submitted the memorandum. (The Hindu 7/1/15)

Unemployment Rate Up at 4.9% in FY14: Labour Ministry (14)

New Delhi: Unemployment rate in India rose to 4.9 per cent in 2013-14, mainly on account of an increase in joblessness in rural areas despite the government’s flagship employment scheme MGNREGA. According to the latest survey report by Labour Bureau, a wing of Labour Ministry, the unemployment rate inched up to 4.9 per cent at all India level last fiscal year, from 4.7 per cent in 2012-13. On the positive side, the unemployment rate dropped in urban areas to 5.5 per cent in 2013-14, from 5.7 per cent in the previous fiscal year. Meanwhile, although 93 per cent of the households in rural areas benefited from MGNREGA, the unemployment rate increased to 4.7 per cent last fiscal year, compared to 4.4 per cent a year ago. Unemployment rate among men increased to 4.1 per cent in 2013-14, from 4 per cent in 2012-13. Among women, it increased to 7.7 per cent last fiscal year, from 7.2 per cent in 2012-13. However, the unemployment rate among women came down to 12.4 per cent in urban areas, from 12.8 per cent in 2012-13. The study revealed that the Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) is estimated to be 52.5 per cent last fiscal year, whereas the Worker Population Ratio (WPR) is estimated to be 49.9 per cent. As many as 49.5 per cent people are estimated to be self-employed, followed by 30.9 per cent as casual labour, 16.5 per cent wage/salary earners and the rest 3 per cent as contract workers. About 60.5 per cent of people aged 15 years and above, who were available for work for all the 12 months during the period, were able to get work throughout the year. In rural and urban sectors, this proportion was 53.2 per cent and 78.5 per cent respectively The ‘Fourth Annual Employment & Unemployment Survey 2013-14′ has been conducted in all the states/UTs by covering all the districts. The field work was executed from January to July last year. A total of 1,36,395 households were covered by the survey – 83,385 in rural areas and 53,010 in urban areas. (NDTV 8/1/15)

Centre Delaying Release of Rs.1,008 cr NREGS Instalment to Telangana Government (14)

HYDERABAD: Assurances belie the ground reality. As the endless promises stack up on one side of the Centre’s commitment to continue the largest employment scheme effectively, there is delay in providing states their due under the scheme. One of the largest beneficiaries of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), the Telangana government has been waiting since November for the release of over Rs.1,000 crore as second instalment for the current financial year. “The state government has sent proposals to the tune of Rs.1,008 crore. Any further delay in release of funds would seriously affect the implementation of the scheme,” a senior official in the government told Express. With whatever little is left with the rural development department from the previous funds, the programme is being continued in nine districts of the state. The inordinate delay in disbursal of the funds earmarked for the programme is likely to jeopardise the livelihood of over one crore NREGS workers. According to official estimates, there are a total of 61.31 lakh NREGS job cards in the state which guarantee at least 100 days of work per year on each card. The amount that is left with the government for the scheme can be utilised for a maximum number of ten days, another official in the rural development commissionerate has said. “Considering its a peak season due to harvesting, the funds may not last even ten days,” the official feared. Under the NREGS Act, applicants are entitled to get work within 15 days from the day of making application for the same. Failing which the government has to pay an unemployment allowance to them, organised into Shrama Shakti Sanghams. “If there is any dearth of funds, the state government will have nothing but to refrain from making commitments to provide work,” the official added. Besides, it would also come as a dampener to several developmental works planned by the state government: a substantial quantum of NREGS funds is also spent on developmental works in rural areas.  Asked about the Centre’s response to the state government’s requisition, he said,”The Centre has promised to release the funds in the next four to seven days and suggested to us to utilise the previous funds.” (New Indian Express 12/1/15)

Livelihood of 25,000 farmers affected: CPI(M) (14)

NAGERCOIL:  “Wrong policies” of the BJP-led NDA government and the previous Congress-led UPA government at the Centre were the cause for dwindling rubber price, said G. Ramakrishnan, State secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), here on Sunday. Addressing a public meeting at Atrur to mark the end of the party’s three-day 21{+s}{+t}district conference in Tiruvattar, Mr. Ramakrishnan said due to the “wrong policies” the livelihood of 25,000 farmers depending on rubber cultivation in the district was affected. He charged that Union Minister of State for Shipping and Highways Pon. Radhakrishnan had failed to fulfil the assurances given to the voters of Kanyakumari Parliamentary constituency. Prime Minister Narendra Modi opened the gates for multi-national companies to “loot” natural resources of our country in the name of “Make in India,” he charged. Mr. Ramakrishnan accused the NDA government of diluting the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. As many as 14 honour killings were reported in the State in recent past, he said. The meeting was presided over by N. Murugesan, district secretary. P. Sampath, central committee member, Noor Mohamed, State committee member, A.V. Bellarmin, former MP, R. Leema Rose, former MLA, and others spoke. (The Hindu 15/1/15)

Odisha first state to have migrant workers’ register (14)

BHUBANESWAR: Odisha has become the first state in the country to launch special drives to register migrant labourers working in different states. The effort is aimed at covering the migrant labourers under different social security schemes of the state government. “Since a huge number of people, especially from the southern districts of the state, are migrating to other states in search of jobs, they are deprived of the government’s social security benefits. Besides, there was no mechanism to identify them. Now we have decided to organize camps in different states to register the Odia labourers working in other states,” chairman of Odisha building and other construction workers welfare board Subash Singh told media persons here. Singh, who along with officials of state labour department had organized a camp recently in different brick kiln and construction sites in Telangana, claimed that no other state has launched such drives for welfare of construction workers. A source said the government had already registered nearly 1,500 construction labourers in Ranga Reddy, Nalgunda and Karim Nagar districts of Telangana. “We have issued a special card to them through which they can avail the benefits,” said Singh. Singh said similar drives would be conducted in states like Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Kerala and Gujarat where a substantial number of Odia workers are engaged in different construction sites. The state government has announced different welfare measures for the construction workers, like financial assistance for marriage. The wards of construction workers would receive Rs 5,000 per annum while pursuing intermediate (Plus-II) courses. They would receive Rs 7,000 per annum while pursuing graduation and post graduation, the release said. Similarly, students belonging to the families would get Rs 7,000 per annum for pursuing ITI, Rs 10,000 during diploma and polytechnics and Rs 40,000 during bachelors’ and masters’ degree in technical educations. The state has some 4.62 lakh registered construction workers. (Times of India 18/1/15)

Construction workers stage protest in Salem (14)

SALEM: Demanding that the State Government should fix price for cement bags, the construction workers in Salem district staged a demonstration near the District Collectorate here on Monday, Led by Federation of Salem Zone Traders Union leader K.A. Nagarajan, members said that the price of a cement bag was sold between Rs. 370 to Rs. 390 in the State. “People involved in construction of houses and buildings have stopped the work. This has left us jobless,” they said. Members wanted cement bags to be imported from foreign countries and other States. Also, the government should fix the price of cement bags. They said that the welfare assistance from the Salem Workers Welfare Board was not given to them in the past years and membership card was also not given to them from 2012-13. They said that the board without any prior information conducts camp for enrolment, renewal and also concludes camp. Later a meeting was held in which the following resolutions were passed including stringent action against persons involving in child abuse and sexual harassment of schoolchildren. Also the resolution urged for providing adequate protection in schools to prevent such incidents. Resolutions also urged for distributing monthly assistance without delay, reduction of power tariff by 15 per cent and also provide compensation to the members in case of natural death. (The Hindu 20/1/15)

Govt to provide tablets to Gram Panchayats under MGNREGA (14)

NEW DELHI: The Narendra Modi government is all set to give a digital boost to the flagship rural jobs programme by providing tablets to 2.65 lakh gram panchayats in the country to monitor its implementation. The mobile monitoring of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) will cost the Centre about Rs 265 crore, with the rural development ministry distributing tablets costing Rs 10,000 each to the gram panchayats, officials said. The government will roll out the first phase of the mobile monitoring system on April 1 in 35,000 gram panchayats, a senior government official told ET. The initiative comes after the government has already decided to switch over to direct benefit transfer under the scheme, which is expected to be expanded to the entire country in the next one year. The previous UPA government had, in March last year, notified usage of tablets to monitor the scheme in 10,000 gram panchayats. However, the plan did not take off because of the unavailability of AakashIV tablets, promoted by the department of electronics and IT, to be used to digitally update the scheme. The ministry has amended the earlier provision and extended the proposal to cover all gram panchayats in the country under the scheme, starting with 25,000 gram panchayats along with 10,000 identified by the previous government in the first phase. The government hopes mobile monitoring will enable access to real-time data at the village level, there by improving implementation of MGNREGA, which has drawn a lot of criticism for its failure to create new and durable assets. “The government has decided to extend the mobile monitoring to all gram panchayats and technical or supervisory personnel involved in implementing MGNREGA to empower them with live data from worksites besides location of assets with geo-tagging for easy verification. This will lead to complete transparency in the system,” said the official, requesting anonymity. The states have been asked to identify the gram panchayats under the first phase by January 31 and immediately start procurement of devices as well as training of personnel, the official added. According to the ministry officials, the mobile monitoring of MGNREGA will serve the twin purpose of making the scheme more effective and giving a panIndia platform to the government for rolling out its Digital India drive. The annual allocation for MGNREGA is Rs 34,000 crore and so far nearly Rs 2 lakh crore have been spent under the scheme. The scheme guarantees 100 days of wage employment in a financial year to a rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work. On average, 25% of rural households seek employment under the scheme annually. (Times of India 23/1/15)

EPFO wants speedy enrolment of construction workers (14)

New Delhi: To speed up the process of extending provident fund (PF) coverage to construction and contract workers, the Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) has asked all its regional offices to expedite the process of enrolment. Noting that a number of instructions had been issued in the past in this regard, a circular dated January 22 by the Additional PF Commissioner has instructed all its regional offices to hold meetings with State governments, large establishments (with over 500 employees), such as the Railways, units employing over 100 workers and unions and monitor the activities and send information to the head office. “At least five to 10 meetings be conducted in the areas where labourers are predominantly residing (involving labour unions also). The details of these should also be brought to the notice of the headquarters,” it said citing instructions sent on January 8. As per National Sample Survey (2011- 2012) estimates, there are about 50.22 million building and other construction workers, including contract workers, many of whom keep moving from one location to another. All regional PF offices have also been conveyed the concerns of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour, which in its meeting earlier this month, urged the EPFO to “work hard” on coverage of construction and contract workers. Last year, the EPFO had set up two sub-committees to suggest ways to close the gap in coverage of construction and contract workers, many of whom are not stationed in one location. According to Labour Ministry estimates, over ₹27,000 crore lying in operative accounts belong to this section of workers. In a circular in October 2013, the retirement fund body had also cited instances brought to its notice of placement agencies and contractors providing guards, security and other personnel to government departments, autonomous bodies and so on, which were diverting residual employer contribution and “pilfering provident fund money”. Addressing a seminar in December 2014, Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya had said that details of contract workers in each establishment will be put up on the Shram Suvidha Portal. (HBL 26/1/15)

2,000 migrant workers on their way home fearing retaliation (14)

Raichur: Around 2,000 migrant construction workers employed at the construction site returned to their native States on Tuesday fearing retaliation by local people. The labourers took whatever they could from their temporary shelters, located near the construction site, and left Yermarus in a hurry. The police escorted some families with women and children. The migrant workers had allegedly attacked a group of local workers for rushing the accident victim to the hospital. The migrants thought it would have been easier for them to get a good compensation for the victim’s family had they kept the body at the site. The situation got further tensed as thousands of local youths from Yermarus and the surrounding villages of Yeganur, Dandu, Chikkasugur, Odlur, and Kukanur gathered to retaliate against the migrant workers, particularly those from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. The migrant workers too were equipped with rods and stones to face the attack. However, the police managed to bring the situation under control by summoning additional forces. By evening over 1,000 police personnel, led by Superintendent of Police M.N. Nagaraj, encircled the workers at their colony to prevent further damage. Mr. Nagaraj announced that Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code had been imposed in the area and the migrant workers had been asked to leave for their native places. However, he later claimed that the workers had vacated voluntarily. (The Hindu 28/1/15)

MNREGA: Centre to ensure uninterrupted flow of funds to states (14)

NEW DELHI: Allaying apprehensions of the state governments, the Centre today said it is committed to strengthening MNREGA and is taking all steps to ensure uninterrupted flow of funds for the implementation of the improvised version of the rural job scheme. Noting that MNREGA helped arrest distress migration of people from rural areas to urban centres, Rural Development Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh said he will request the Finance Ministry for more funds for implementation of the improved version of the scheme in which skill development is a major component. Addressing the 10th Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) Divas here, the Minister said, “We are talking about creation of quality assets and physical infrastructure but why don’t we have human assets under MNREGA?” Singh said the government did not want to keep MNREGA workers unskilled labourers forever and efforts would be made to turn them into skilled ones. “If 30 youngsters of a village are to be trained to become physically fit for joining Armed forces, and if such a training is given by a retired security personnel for two months, why they should not be treated at the same footing as MNREGA workers’ training?,” he asked. “He (the trainer) is creating that quality asset, which is a human asset,” the Minister said, emphasising the need for infusing skill componenent in MNREGA enacted for providing at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every household. Singh said, “If we want to stop distress migration from villages, we will have to take such kind of steps.” Responding to some states about about delay in release of funds, the Minister hinted that in most cases, states were to blame more than the Centre as they did not follow procedures like sending audit reports while seeking money from the central government. He also indicated that unspent money from one state will be sent to another state, which is in need of funds, because MNREGA is a demand-driven programme. (Times of India 2/2/15)

Govt seeks changes in 20 labour laws (14)

KOLHAPUR: The Devendra Fadnavis led government has asked the labour department to study 20 laws — some of them over 100 years old — and present a report suggesting changes in 30 days. The government has formed a committee of six bureaucrats of the department, including thw labour commissioner, and others to prepare a report on some sensitive laws such as minimum wage (1936), contract labour (1970) and Child Labour Act, 1986. The government issued an order on January 30, in which deputy secretary D S Rajput has asked the members to present the report within 30 days from the formation of the committee. The order mentioned that the Union government has adopted ‘Make In India’ mission to boost domestic manufacturing, production and research. “The state government has also adopted ‘Make In Maharashtra’ and ‘Digital India’ missions. The government was considering to appoint a committee to amend or change and simplify laws and acts of the labour department. The committee has been established under the labour commissioner,” Rajput stated in the order. Meanwhile, the order has irked labour leaders, who believe that the state government is tampering with the system to please the industrialists. Former labour minister Hasan Mushrif has alleged that the government is working at the behest of industrial lobbies. “This government is following the path set by Gujarat and Rajasthan governments that have modified, changed and made laws and acts suitable to the industries only. All the labour unions in the country have demanded that they should be consulted before making any changes. We have already opposed the changes suggested by the Union government,” said Govindrao Pansare, a veteran leftist leader. “Cutting across political affiliations, the labour unions are united over the proposed changes. We will oppose the changes which will harm the interest of labours,” he added. Anti-child labour activist Anuradha Bhosale criticized the bureaucratic approach of the government and demanded inclusion of social organizations in the committee. “Child labour and some of the other acts are sensitive and will impact larger section of the society. We cannot afford a bureaucratic approach. It seems the present committee is formed within the labour department. Besides, it is highly impossible to study and recommend changes in 20 laws in 30 days,” she said. Mushrif said unnecessary changes would harm labours in the state. “It (government) is working on the behest of industry tycoons. How are they going to change all these laws within 30 days? Everything is fixed already,” he told TOI. (Times of India 3/2/15)

Work generated in MGNREGS declines in West Bengal (14)

Kolkata: The number of person days of work per family under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) in West Bengal has decreased by nearly 25 per cent in a year. While the number of person days of work generated per family in 2013-14 was 37, it decreased to 28 in 2014-15. Expressing serious concerns over the issue, agricultural workers across the State have decided to protest in various parts in the State by observing Lazza Dibas. MGNREGS day is observed every year on February 2 and thus the workers have decided to protest in February before various offices involved in the implementation of the Central scheme. On Wednesday, activists under the banner of Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity (PBKMS) went to the office of the MGNREGS Commissioner after distributing black batches to his staff. “When we asked Dibyendu Sarkar, the MGNREGS Commissioner, whether he would also pay the workers compensation for late payment of wages, he claimed it was not his responsibility because the Centre was causing the delay,” said Anuradha Talwar, a social activist associated with the workers forum. Uttam Gayen, the general secretary of PBKMS, said that a good programme of the MGNREGS would have helped agricultural workers of Bengal to stay in the villages and stopped distress migration to other States for work. Last year, West Bengal Legislative Assembly had passed a resolution expressing apprehension on the curtailment of MGNREGS by the Centre. (The Hindu 6/2/15)

 ‘Ensure social security for unorganised labourers’ (14)

VIJAYAWADA: Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu asked the Labour Department to ensure social security to one crore labourers working in the unorganised sector in the State. At a review meeting on labour policy at the State Secretariat in Hyderabad on Monday, Mr Naidu suggested officials to explore the possibility of issuing licences to small-time shopkeepers through a hassle-free online process. He asked the authorities to prepare modalities for providing accident cover, ‘Aam Admi Bima Yojana’, driver’s insurance, vehicle insurance and other policies which will ensure security for these vulnerable sections. (The Hindu 10/2/15)

Posted by admin at 30 January 2015

Category: Uncategorized

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Pappu’s prescription to Dalits: convert to other religion to escape caste oppression (2)

Patna: Amid reports of conversion and re-conversion from different parts of the State, Rashtriya Janata Dal MP Pappu Yadav has suggested that poor Dalits can convert to other religions to escape caste oppression and prejudices. He also supported the Aamir Khan starrer PK and demanded a ban on militant Hindu outfits for protesting against screening of the movie in theatres across the country. “Dalits and poor people who are victims of caste oppression and prejudices in society should convert to Christianity, Buddhism or any other religion of their choice. This is the only way for them to get rid of the so-called thekedar [contractors] of religion,” declared the RJD MP from Madhepura. Mr. Pappu Yadav, who, of late, has waged a war against corrupt doctors, further said that he too would have converted to another religion had he been born in a poor and oppressed caste. “There is no way out to escape from these dharm ke thekedars [religious contractors]”, he told The Hindu wondering why some people have any objection to poor people converting to any other religion for their growth. “Why don’t they do something for their welfare instead of hyping up their re-conversion?”, he asked. He further said that only those people who were opposing conversions were against reservation for the backward and deprived sections of society. “Do they think that those who have converted are their personal property?”, asked the heavyweight MP, whose wife Ranjit Ranjan too is a Congress MP from the neighbouring Supaul Lok Sabha constituency. They are the lone MP couple in the 16th Lok Sabha. While lashing out at Hindu outfits like Bajrang Dal and others opposing the screening of PK, he demanded a ban on them while suggesting that everyone should watch this “entertaining” movie. “I demand a ban on Hindu outfits indulging in vandalism on movie theatres and burning posters of the film. Films are the mirror of society but organisations like Bajrang Dal are making this issue political for their vested interest”, he said while admitting that he watched the movie and found it a “complete entertainer with nothing objectionable”. He said, he had also asked members of Yuva Shakti, a youth organisation formed by him, to confront those protesting the screening of the film and indulge in vandalism. “When BJP veteran L.K. Advani has found the film quite entertaining, why should not those who are protesting it?”, he asked. Recently, the five-time MP, hit the headlines for waging a war against corrupt doctors fleecing poor patients in various ways in the State. He had even prescribed fees for the doctors as per their qualifications and degrees to charge from the patients. The doctors, though, have been opposing his move but the MP has been receiving a warm response from the locals wherever he held a people’s court to raise the issue. “In the next two-three days, I’m also going to file a defamation suit against state BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi who had earlier said that the doctors of the State are frightened because of me. Giving such statements, he is tarnishing my image,” said Mr. Yadav who, earlier, was acquitted of the murder of former Purnea MLA Ajit Sarkar.

Asked about the political situation in the State, he said Bihar needed leaders such as Arvind Kejriwal and Mamata Banerjee “to make the functioning streamlined and corruption-free.” (The Hindu 1/1/15)

2. Bharat Ratna to two Brahmins discrimination against Dalits: Mayawati (2)

Lucknow: BSP supremo Mayawati Saturday accused the Narendra Modi-led NDA government of discriminating against Dalit icons like party founder Kanshi Ram and social reformer Jyotiba Phule while awarding Bharat Ratna to two Brahmins Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Madan Mohan Malaviya. She said the move shows the “casteist” mindset of the Modi government. She also attacked the Centre for adopting the “ordinance route” on key issues terming it “anti-farmer and made with an intention to give undue benefit to the business community”. “The BJP government has the same discriminatory attitude as that of the previous Congress-led UPA government. The Congress government had not declared national mourning after the death of Kanshi Ram and the BJP government has continued with the same casteist mindset. It has given Bharat Ratna to two persons from the same caste, which my party does not oppose, but none from the Dalit or OBC category was chosen,” she said. Mayawati said Kanshi Ram should have been given the highest civilian honour for his sacrifice and hard work for the upliftment of Dalits. “Similarly, Jyotiba Phule, who belonged to a backward caste, should have been given the award for working in the field of education and and efforts to establish equality in society. Taking exception to the Modi government adopting the ordinance route, Mayawati said this was not in keeping with the spirit of the Constitution. On the land acquisition ordinance, she said it was against the interest of farmers. “I do not find it right…the amendments could have been brought in the next session of Parliament,” she said, adding interests of capitalists were being safeguarded by the government. She said the NDA government has not shown any interest in last seven months of fulfilling the promises made during the elections. She alleged that as per a conspiracy, the quotafor Dalits and backwards was being neutralised by allocating major works to the private sector. Mayawati also criticised the organisations affiliated to BJP, saying they were hatching a conspiracy to spoil the atmosphere by raising the issue of conversion and promising a ‘Hindu Rashtra’. To a question on replacing Planning Commission by a new think-tank, NITI Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India), she said government should concentrate on solving problems of the poor and unemployed. “Changing names will not usher in any change in the country,” she said. (Indian Express 4/1/15)

3. Dalit girl burnt alive at home in Ghaziabad, police suspect honour killing (2)

GHAZIABAD: A 16-year-old girl was burnt alive in her house in Hapur on Saturday during what her father claimed was a robbery by four men. But a dodgy account of events the father gave has turned suspicion on him, with the police not ruling out the possibility of an honour killing. In the complaint he filed at Kotwali police station, Mahesh (45) claimed his daughter was killed by the four robbers for putting up a resistance. According to Mahesh, they broke into the second floor house in Ganeshpura, where the Dalit family lived, around 1am. The robbers allegedly took a pair of silver anklets from Mahesh’s wife and were leaving when 16-year-old Neetu raised an alarm. The men, Mahesh claimed, then doused her with kerosene and set fire to her. But this theory, police officers said, fell apart when investigators visited the crime scene and started making inquiries. None of the neighbours, for instance, reported hearing any commotion from the building at the time Mahesh said Neetu was killed. Besides, there were seven family members in the house, including Neetu, at the time of the alleged crime but no one else was injured. Mahesh sells fruits to earn a living. Other than Neetu, he has three sons and a daughter. “The victim was wearing gold earrings and so was her mother. Yet, both ornaments were secure. This casts a doubt on the claims made by the family,” said Kotwali SHO Rajender Singh Yadav. Each family member also gave a different version of the cash allegedly stolen from the house. Another loophole the police found in Mahesh’s theory was his claim that the robbers had gained access to the house by jumping from the roof of an adjacent building. “We inspected the building where Mahesh lives. It’s not possible to jump into the house from the adjacent buildings because of the distance between them,” said Yadav. Hapur police superintendent R P Pandey said, “It seems the girl’s father filed a false complaint to mislead us. The girl, a school dropout, was working as a domestic help in several households. Suspecting her of having an illicit relationship, Mahesh had asked her not to work at some of the houses. It seems when she refused to obey him, her father and other members of the family killed her. A number of facts pointing towards honour killing have surfaced during our investigations.” The police are yet to receive the girl’s autopsy report. As of now, police have lodged an FIR against four unknown persons under sections 302 (murder), 302 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 394 (robbery) of the IPC. The SP said they would take action against the Mahesh based on findings of their probe. “Afresh FIR will be filed depending on the probe’s outcome,” said Pandey. (Times of India 5/1/15)

4. VHP rushes to prevent Dalits embracing Islam in Meerut (2)

Meerut: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad has rushed to the “rescue” of about 60 members of a Dalit community who had threatened to embrace Islam after they were not allowed to worship at the Balmiki Ashram in Baghpat. The Dalits who are residents of Jamaalpur village in Meerut alleged they were not allowed to celebrate Balmiki Jayanti, birth anniversary of Saint Balmiki on October 8, 2014 at the Balmiki Ashram. They alleged that an upper caste priest of the Ashram had been discriminating against the Dalits. The U.P. unit of the VHP approached the families and assured that action will be taken against the priest if their allegations were found to be true. Shyam Sundar Singh, a member of the Dalit community told The Hindu that an upper caste priest had put a ban on their entry in the Ashram which he claimed belonged to Balmiki community. “There is an upper caste priest who has hijacked the Balmiki Ashram and for quite some time now has been refusing us the permission to perform pooja inside its premise. We have approached the administration against this kind of injustice,” he alleged. “If our grievances are not solved by January 26, all of us will convert to Islam en masse,” he reiterated the threat. The local VHP leader Sudarshan Chakra told The Hindu that he will look into the grievances of the Dalits to ensure the Dalits don’t convert. “We have approached the Dalit families who are angry at being discriminated. We are going to sort out their issues and ensure that they get access to the ashram and perform puja there,” he said. (The Hindu 6/1/15)

5. Dalit groups slam ‘casteist’ event in Hyderabad (2)

HYDERABAD: Banners recently put up across the city, inviting members of the Catholic Reddy Association (CRA) to the ‘tricentenary celebrations of Global Catholic Reddy families’ on January 11, has left some dalit Catholic Christian groups fuming. Lashing out at the organizers, these groups have termed the event as regressive and ‘casteist’ in nature. “Dalits can never organize such lavish gatherings. We fear that the CRA’s event would further alienate us from the mainstream, owing to our weak economic status. And this despite dalits representing 70% of the Christian population in both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh,” said Jerusalem Mathaiah, president of All India dalit Christians Samakhya. He said dalit groups would stand in protest outside the venue, if the programme is not called off. “Though we have embraced Christianity, caste issues are still haunting us. We already feel wronged by the fact that not many dalit Catholic Christians have been elevated to high posts,” Mathaiah rued. When TOI contacted CRA office, Vijay Bhaskar Kommareddy speaking on behalf of the group said the tricentenary celebrations would be nothing more than a community event being organised to mark the conversion of the first Reddy member to Christianity 300 years ago. The incident took place in Anantapur in 1715. The CRA found support in Christine Lazarus, former MLA in the erstwhile AP assembly, who strongly came out in defence of the event. “We are living in a free country and there’s nothing wrong if a community comes together to celebrate an occasion,” she said. (Times of India 7/1/15)

TRIBALS

6. Project Palash gives new life to Jharkhand tribe (6)

NEW DELHI: The year 2014 definitely ushered in “acche din” for the Sabar tribe of Jharkhand. This endangered tribe, once trapped in the Maoist zone, is still struggling to beat extreme poverty and underdevelopment. It is looking forward to the New Year with new hope, all thanks to Palash, that not only offered them sustainable livelihood but also saved their tribe from extinction. Palash is an initiative to train Sabar artisans from Saraikela district to weave eco-friendly designer products to make a livelihood. Out of 32 tribes in Jharkhand, nine are endangered. Sabar is also one of the most primitive and languishing tribes in the country. Their strong resistance to British dominance resulted in the community getting listed among the 68 denotified tribes who were tagged criminals under the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871. Most Sabar people in Jharkhand now live in Samanpur, a village surrounded by hills and forests. Situated 60km from Jamshedpur, it doesn’t have proper road connectivity. “It was beyond my imagination to see the pathetic condition of the Sabars when I first went to Samanpur in 1996. People had not seen the light of civilization. A paradoxical situation of abject poverty prevailed in the prosperous forests. They lived in small huts of three-by-four feet, which they could enter only by crawling. They survived on roots and fruits from forests or on dead animals,” said Suchitra Sinha, joint director (industries), Jharkhand government, who initiated the project Palash. “We practically lived in the jungle, ate whatever we could gather from the forests. Never knew of education and even today I am illiterate. We used to gather firewood and sell them to earn Rs 100-200 a month. There is still no road, hospital or anything,” said Sagar Sarwar, one of the 10 artisans who are present at the India International Trade Fair. Things started turning around when Sinha saw a woman weaving a basket out of Kanshi grass in one of the huts. “I saw a huge potential in this intricate weaving. I was told that these articles had an unorganized market with meager incentives.” With the help of National Institute of Fashion Technology in Delhi, Sinha arranged training of 50 such artisans. And they now earn Rs 4,000 per month, said Vijay Sawar, an artisan. “To develop it as a model village, we need to increase our production base and participate in events like IITF. This village can also be projected as a tourism destination as it still retains its greenery,” said Sinha. The project has managed to wean many away from the Maoist movement, she added. “There is also a decrease in deforestation. Their life has improved. Now I hope these people will get the attention of the governments.” (Times of India 1/1/15)

7. Rift within govt over tribal rights (6)

New Delhi: The tribal affairs ministry has described the environment ministry circular relaxing the forest rights act provisions as in “violation of the law”. Tribal affairs ministry said diluting the forest act  had the potential to create public unrest in tribal areas, which are also Maoist-affected districts. The environment ministry in October, 2014 had written to district collectors that plantations notified as forests in 1930 and falling in areas having no tribal population should not come under the purview of the forest rights act, meaning that mandatory consent for the projects coming up there will not be required. “The letter violates the law,” said Hrusikesh Panda, tribal affairs secretary. He asked his counterpart in the environment minister Ashok Lavasa to immediately withdraw the circular dated October 28. Panda had also objected to the environment ministry issuing advisories on FRA without consulting them, the nodal ministry for implementation of the FRA. Panda also said the forest rights act does not provide any scope for an executive agency to relax the applicability of the law and the relaxation can be done only after a due process is followed. And in case of the October circular that due process was not followed. The secretary said that repeated dilution of the FRA has sent the message that the government was against “fair” implementation of the forest rights act and it was not desirable in the interest of “peace and governance” in forest areas. Panda also marked the copy of the letter to home secretary Anil Goswami saying that the issue needs to be taken up at the meeting on Left Wing Extremism (LWE) affected districts, which are also the home for majority of tribals in India. Panda had also objected to repeated claims that the Forest Rights Act was leading to delay in project approvals and execution saying there was no evidence to this effect. “If there has been any study or evidence on delay of projects because of the processes of FRA, this should be brought to the notice of the (tribal affairs) ministry. Clearance of major projects take a long time because of the layers through which such clearance is given,” the letter stated. (Hindustan Times 2/1/15)

8. Govt urged not to divert SC, ST sub plan funds (6)

Bengaluru: The Karnataka State SC/ST Entrepreneurs and Industrialists Association has urged the State government not to divert funds allotted for Scheduled Caste Sub Plan/Tribal Sub Plan (SCSP/TSP) to projects other than those meant for development of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Addressing a press meet during a workshop on SCSP/TCP Priority Allocation – 2015-16, Association President L Hanumanthaiah said that Rs 8,818.31 crore was allotted under the plan during 2013-14 and the allotment had been increased to Rs 15,834.18 crore in the current fiscal. “More than 50 per cent of the funds has been diverted for general schemes such as schools, colleges, roads, government buildings, drains, irrigation projects. The Planning Commission has strongly recommended that the diversion of funds for general schemes should not be more than five per cent,” said Hanumanthaiah. He said that SCSP/TCP Act provides that funds should be spent only for three purposes – members of Scheduled Castes/Tribes, their families and for general schemes. Elaborating further on the diversion of funds, JD(S) MLA from Mudigere constituency B B Ningaiah that approximately SCSP/TCP funds to the tune of Rs 6,000 crore had been spent on irrigation schemes during the period 2010-11 till date. “I was in the SC/ST Welfare Committee to oversee the utilisation of funds for the downtrodden communities. On department-wise verification of projects, we found that  SCSP / TSP funds to the tune of Rs 6,000 crore have been utilised for irrigation. After field visits, we also found out that a majority beneficiaries of the irrigation projects were not SC/STs. This is nothing but misuse of funds,” Ningaiah said. Taking lessons from the past, the association will set up its own monitoring system for utilisation of funds. It has also urged the government to utilise the funds for skill development of SC/ST youth. Association executive president G Srinivasan said that the funds under the scheme were being equally distributed among all the districts without considering the population of SC/STs. “Gulbarga has a maximum SC population, whereas Udupi has very less. But the funds are equally allotted to both districts. This leads to diversion of funds. Funds should be allotted to the districts based on the population of SC/STs in Karnataka,” he said. (Deccan Herald 5/1/15)

9. Adivasi group sniffs conspiracy theory (6)

Guwahati, Jan. 6: The All Adivasi Students’ Association of Assam today alleged a political conspiracy behind the recent killing of Adivasis and questioned the ongoing operation against NDFB (Songbijit), the militant group held responsible for the massacre. The association’s president Raphael Kujur alleged that the attack was politically motivated and demanded an inquiry to identify the political forces that might have used the NDFB (S) to attack the Adivasis on December 23. “Although the NDFB (S) carried out the massacre, we suspect that a political force used them for mileage. Hence, apart from NIA investigation, a probe needs to be conducted into the political conspiracy angle too,” he said. Kujur also saw a pattern in the killing of Adivasis in the past decade. “There were attacks on Adivasis in Assam in 2006, soon after the Assembly election. The attack at Uriamghat in Golaghat district in August last year was carried out after the Lok Sabha election. The fresh attacks come ahead of the Bodoland Territorial Council election scheduled for this year and the Assembly election scheduled for next year. Although the NDFB (S) carried out the December 23 massacre, we suspect that a political force used them for mileage,” he said. So far 81 people have died in the December 23 attacks (66 Adivasis), backlash (12 Bodos) and police firing during protests (three Adivasis). Over 2.86 lakh people, both Adivasis and Bodos, have been displaced in Sonitpur, Kokrajhar, Chirang and Udalguri districts. The association also said that though the Centre had rushed hundreds of army and paramilitary forces to Assam soon after the attack, it had not yet yielded any results. “Cadres of the rebel group are still moving freely with arms in many places and recently they looted cattle and goats from Adivasi villages at Majbat in Udalguri district and Mainaupur village in Chirang district,” Kujur said. He alleged that the administration in Kokrajhar and Chirang districts were forcing displaced Adivasis to leave the relief camps without making security arrangements in their villages. “Ration has been stopped in some camps. People are caught between the fear of militant attacks and the administration’s warning to leave relief camps. We demand that fixed pickets must be set up in the vulnerable areas before sending relief camp inmates back to their villages,” he added. According to the Assam State Disaster Management Authority, eight relief camps have been closed down in the past 24 hours and over 24,600 people have been sent back to their villages. More than 1.29 lakh people are still taking shelter in 77 relief camps.The executive committee of the association today decided to stage demonstrations for two hours in every district and subdivisional headquarters on January 19 and light lamps in each Adivasi household on January 23 to pay tribute to the deceased. (The Telegraph 7/1/15)

WOMEN

10. 50% girls would cancel wedding if in-laws demand dowry (8)

Kolkata: More than half of the Indian girls would cancel their wedding if their would-be in-laws demand dowry, according to a new survey.DH Illustration For Representation Purpose Only More than half of the Indian girls would cancel their wedding if their would-be in-laws demand dowry, according to a new survey. When single Indian women were asked in a survey by Shaadi.com about what they would do if they learnt about a dowry demand made to their parents, 51.4 per cent women said they would call off their wedding. Another 48.6 per cent women said they would name and shame the would-be in-law’s family by publicly humiliating them, as per the survey. The online poll received 5,680 responses from single Indians in the age group of 24 to 35 years. When single Indian men were asked how dowry seekers should be treated, 59.8 per cent of them said such persons should be instantly jailed, while 40.2 per cent said those making the demand should be socially humiliated. More than 75 per cent respondents felt dowry could be prevented, the survey said. Commenting on the survey, Gourav Rakshit, COO of Shaadi.com said the website was working towards making India a dowry-free society. (Deccan Herald 1/1/15)

11. PM to Launch ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ Programme from Haryana (8)

CHANDIGARH: Modi will launch ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ programme, a nationwide scheme aimed to address the dipping child sex ratio and empower girl child in the country, from Panipat in Haryana next month. Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar today said the Prime Minister, in his first visit after the formation of BJP government in Haryana, would launch the programme from Panipat in Haryana on January 22. The nationwide programme ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ is in the direction of preventing unfavorable impact of declining sex ratio in the country and also to sort out this serious trouble, Khattar said in a release here. The prime objective of this programme was to bring a change in people mindset towards girl child on or after her birth. Preventing determination of sex, female foeticide, ensuring safety of girls, their best possible care and providing quality education are integral part of this programme, he added. Khattar said a national level media and multi-sectoral campaigns in 100 districts in the country would also be carried out under the programme. ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ programme would be implemented in 12 districts of Haryana namely Mahendergarh, Jhajjar, Sonipat, Rewari, Ambala, Kurukshetra, Rohtak, Karnal, Yamunanagar, Kaithal, Bhiwani and Panipat which have the lower girl child sex ratio. The Chief Minister said a two-day seminar-cum-conference would also be organised on the beginning of the programme on January 20 and 21 next month. He said Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel, Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee would be special invitee in the seminar. Besides, women and child development ministers and Principal Secretaries concerned of all states have also been invited to express their views in the seminar. PTI (New Indian Express 1/1/15)

12. Strip search: police record statements (8)

Kochi: The city Vanitha police cell recorded the statements of the women employees of a company in the Cochin Special Economic Zone who were allegedly subjected to a strip search after a used sanitary napkin was found in the office washrooms. “The complaint was filed by 15 employees of the company. We have recorded the statements of a few of the women and will probe the matter further in the coming days,” said an officer of the women’s cell. CSEZ Development Commissioner Safeena A.N. said the SEZ had a committee in place to look at complaints of sexual harassment. “The SEZ office has such a committee and all complaints received there are resolved quickly. In this particular issue, none of the women filed a complaint with us,” Dr. Safeena said. (The Hindu 1/1/15)

13. 30 per cent of all rapes by live-in partners, on promise of marriage (8)

New Delhi: Rape by live-in partners or on the promise of marriage accounted for almost 30 per cent of all reported rape cases in Delhi last year. DH illustration Rape by live-in partners or on the promise of marriage accounted for almost 30 per cent of all reported rape cases in Delhi last year. Women reported being raped by strangers only in four percent of the 2,069 rape cases registered with police till mid December, 2014. In any case, incidents of alleged rape in the national capital in 2014 have gone up by almost one-third since the previous year, police revealed during a press conference on Friday. Twenty per cent of the rape cases this year remain unsolved, said police. Culprits in 60 per cent of the solved cases were nabbed within a week of the crime being reported, police claimed. Friends of victims or of their family members were the main perpetrators of the crime, accounting for about 45 per cent of the reported rapes in Delhi this year. Other main perpetrators were neighbours at 20 per cent and relatives in 13 per cent of rape incidents, Delhi Police’s annual report said. Over 4,000 complaints of molestation, a 25 per cent rise since 2013, were registered during the same period. Police managed to solve 67 per cent of these cases. A senior officer told Deccan Herald that the involvement of strangers in molestation incidents was higher as compared to rapes because of which many culprits continued to roam scot-free. Police’s ability to work out complaints related to eve-teasing has been even poorer. Of the 1,282 such cases registered till mid-December last year, only 54 per cent were solved. Incidents of eve-teasing increased by 45 per cent over one year. Commissioner of Police B S Bassi said women are being trained to fill the “physical capacity gap”. He said Delhi women would be trained to take on men when harassed or not given due respect. Over 15,000 women in the capital have been trained in self-defence this year and about 1.25 lakh over the last 12 years. Apart from the basic self-defence techniques, they are also taught how to use their belongings like pens, dupattas and handbags to protect themselves from molesters and snatchers. Bassi, however, said that was not adequate. He said he wanted to see women undergo unarmed combat training for a year and emerge with a minimum of a brown belt in karate. (Deccan Herald 4/1/15)

14. Modi govt proposes to set up 150 teams to probe crime against women (8)

New Delhi: The Centre has proposed to set up 150 special investigative units on a pilot basis, in some of the most crime-prone districts in the country to probe grievous offences against women, particularly rape, dowry harassments, acid attacks and human trafficking. As part of the new initiative, the Home Ministry has proposed to set up investigative units on crimes against women (IUCAW) in 20 per cent districts of each state on a 50:50 cost sharing basis with the states. In a letter to chief ministers, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said that there is a need to strengthen various elements of the criminal justice system, namely, investigation, prosecution and trials by courts to deal with the issue of rise of crimes against women. The Union home minister said the objective of these units will be to investigate cases referred to them, augment the investigative machinery of the states in relation to the heinous crimes against women, especially rape, dowry death, acid attack and human trafficking. The units will also instill confidence and encourage women to come forward and lodge their complaint and improve the gender ratio in the state police forces which is adversely impacting effective implementation of the legislations relating to women. Besides, these units will have the additional functionality of proactive policing, intelligence gathering, tackling organised crime, monitoring proper implementation of the legislative provisions, helping awareness generation and promotion of social participation in checking crimes against women, an official statement said. The ministry has proposed to set up 150 such IUCAWs units initially on a pilot basis in most crime-prone districts of each state. Each IUCAW will be headed by an officer of the rank of Additional Superintendent of Police assisted by two DSPs. Out of the total 2,250 personnel required for the 150 IUCAWs, 750 will be women. This will involve a total expenditure of Rs 84 crore annually, out of which Rs 42 crore will be provided by the Centre. (Zee News 6/1/15)

15. Government Order on Sexual Abuse in Schools (8)

BHUBANESWAR: The State Government on Tuesday asked the schools under ST and SC Development department to sensitise and educate girl students through life skills to prevent sexual harassment and abuse. In fresh guidelines issued by the State Government for schools under the department, teachers and other employees have been asked to create an enabling environment for students in schools and hostels. Measures have been prescribed in the guidelines for prevention and protection from sexual abuse. Besides, a code of conduct and duties for teachers and other staff have also been issued. There should be frequent interaction between the teachers and students, the guidelines stated and asked the hostel authorities to record every movement of boarders and visitors. The guidelines also stated that school monitoring reports of the district welfare officers (DWOs), assistant district welfare officers (ADWOs) and district inspectors of schools will be submitted to the ST and SC Development Department through e-mail. (New Indian Express 7/1/15)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

16. Mission Khoj to find missing kids (14)

New Delhi: The Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) on Wednesday has launched an operation ‘Khoj’ for finding the missing children. Chairperson of DCPCR Arun Mathur said that the commission was concerned over the increasing number of missing children in the capital. He said that under the operation ‘Khoj’ the DCPCR will tap information about “missing children from all sources and circulate the same along with photographs to all networked Homes for immediate action.” A network of approximately 45 children’s homes in Delhi has been created and in case a child is found in one of the homes, the DCPCR will take appropriate steps to identify and reunite the child with his family. “The information will be sought through email ID missingchild.dcpcr@gmail.com and the reply is also expected on the same ID,” said DCPCR. The DCPCR decided to commission a study to assess and analyse the available data about rescue, recovery and post rescue procedures besides issues of inter-state coordination. Mathur said that the commission intends to enlarge the network to include more homes and organise regular meetings for sensitisation of the home in-charges. The Commission expects that through proper follow-up many cases related to missing children can be solved. According to the DCPCR, 7,235 children were reported missing in Delhi in 2013. Some 5,248 children went missing in 2012, 5,111 kids were reported missing in 2011. About 5,946 children went missing in 2009 and some 5,091 kids were reported missing in 2010. Some 6,268 children were reported missing from Delhi in 2008. Mathur said the DCPCR has been monitoring the cases both at an individual level as well as the policy level. “In individual cases, the commission issues notice to the concerned police station for an Action Taken Report in the matter. It was seen that the replies from the police station reach the commission quite late,” said DCPCR in a statement. A national consultation on inter-state coordination for rehabilitation of rescued child labourers came to the conclusion that there is not the need for strengthening the rehabilitation mechanisms of child labour in source states as well as in Delhi, but also the necessity of improving inter-state coordination. (Deccan Herald 1/1/15)

17. Railways’ SOP about rights of kids found on its premises still on paper (14)

The standard operation procedure (SOP) laid down by the Railway Board to safeguard rights of children arriving at and living on railway stations doesn’t seem to have amounted to much. It’s been a year since the Board passed an order to implement the SOP immediately, but the order has just remained on paper. The detailed SOP talks about the role various stakeholders need to play to ensure that children on railway platforms, including those who have run away from home, have gone missing from railway premises and who work there, are safe and protected. “We received the letter about the implementation of SOP a year back, but we have not been given any funds to implement it,” said a city station master. “I have written several letters to my superiors for kick-starting the implementation of the SOP, but I haven’t got any reply so far.” According to the SOP, the railways needs to create children assistance centres at all major stations. It further demands that the railways make arrangements for proper clothing, toilet, first aid and medicine for children. “We don’t have a single centre; whenever we get such children, we make a basic entry in our register and hand them over to the Government Railway Police (GRP),” said a station manager.  The SOP instructs the railways to maintain a detailed record of children found alone or in distress on platforms. The station master is expected to maintain a record of the children — name, age, parents’ names, details of siblings, address, and reason for leaving home. The SOP adds that there need to be advocacy messages put up at stations to create awareness on this, installing a functional public telephone at the centres, and creating a sufficient fund with station masters to meet the expenditure on food, clothing, toiletries and first-aid kit, and commute cost when a child is taken to the Child Welfare Committee (CWC). A station master, however, said, “We aren’t given any money to spend on the children, we spend from our own pocket. We just hand them over to the GRP, who later they take them to the CWC.”.. (DNA 4/1/15)

18. Cuttack police rescue 10 child labourers (14)

CUTTACK: Ten child labourers who were rescued by the police, were on Sunday sent to a local shelter home here after conducting an ossification test on them to determine their ages. The children were brought here from Murshidabad district of West Bengal by two agents to employ them as labourers in coal mines at Talcher. They were however, rescued by Chauliaganj police on Saturday after they alighted from a train here to catch a bus to Talcher. The police arrested one of the agents—Sheikh Majibul and sent him to court. On the other hand, the district Child Welfare Committee (CWC) made arrangements to keep the children at a shelter home here until they are reunited with their families. (The Hindu 5/1/15)

19. Muzaffarnagar cops to launch hunt for missing kids (14)

Muzaffarnagar: Following directions of the state government, police have launched a month-long campaign called “operation smile” to trace missing children in the district. The drive will go on till January 31. Of the 11 children who had gone missing in 2014, three are still missing. According to senior superintendent of police, HN Singh, a task force has been formed for Operation Smile. The aim of the initiative is to trace and rescue children who had been reported missing in the district in the last ten years. “The campaign aims to identify, trace, locate and rehabilitate children who were either kidnapped or who had left home on their own and have been subjected to abuse, exploitation or employed as child labour,” Singh said. Police sources say that a list of missing children has been prepared. Once such children were identified as missing, cops will match their details with those of the kids in the list. Data from the district, zonal and state levels would be compared. It will also be shared at the national level. Cops will keep strict vigil at bus stands, railway stations, shelter homes and other public spaces. If children are found in these places, the police will take their details and upload them, along with photographs of the kids, on a dedicated portal for missing children. Recently, the operation was launched in Ghaziabad and was deemed a huge success. 225 missing children were traced and reunited with their parents. After the success of the campaign in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh’s principal secretary (home) instructed police officials in all districts to launch the operation. SSP HN Singh has ordered all station officers in the district to launch the drive in areas within their jurisdiction. (Times of India 6/1/15)

20. Street Kids Find Home and Mentor (14)

VIJAYANAGAR: Eighteen children of construction workers are looking at a bright future, thanks to the Right to Education Act and a kind education official. For many years, the street was their home, their playground and workplace. Today they have found shelter, protection and admission, and are basking in their newfound life. For these children, moving from the dusty, chaotic streets to a safe, steady and protected environment has been a life-changing experience. Children of workers who have migrated from Madhya Pradesh, they are grateful to Nagarathnamma D, Block Education Officer, South Range-2, for making it possible. When they were fending for themselves, they sold balloons on the streets, looked after their younger siblings, and played amid the dirty, dug-up roads beneath the Metro Rail bridges. They cannot believe they have a roof over their heads, food on their plates, books to read, a place to relax and play, and school uniforms and good clothes to wear. They even go on picnics and Metro rides. In 2013, 33 children were identified under the ‘out of school’ Education Department survey in Vijayanagar. The department initially put up a tent school and imparted a bridge course, preparing the children for school. Eventually, 18 children were admitted to five private, unaided schools. They have adjusted well, face no discrimination, and are coping with their studies, say officials. Schools that have admitted them are RNS Vidyaniketan, Holy Angels School, Sree Bharatiya Vidyalaya, Adichunchungiri English School, and New Cambridge School. If nine are studying in the first standard, the rest are in LKG. The schools follow the ICSE and the state syllabi. Nagarathnamma told City Express the department had to overcome much suspicion and opposition from parents. “They are homeless, illiterate, and speak only Hindi. Since they had been working on the stretch along Yelahanka, Peenya and Vijayanagar for 10-15 years, they were on the streets, with no avenues to educate their children. We managed to convince them about the importance of school,” she said. Nagarathnamma is passionate about educating such children and does her best to get them to school.”Of the 33 we initially identified, 10-12 went back to Madhya Pradesh but the rest were clothed, housed, and admitted to big schools,” she said. She is assisted by many people, including teacher C H Chandrashekaraiah and parent Jayanthi. After much thought, they decided to house the children at the Government Model Primary School in Hosahalli and turned two big classrooms into a dormitory with an attached kitchen. Others pitched in to help. If Vijaynagar MLA Krishnappa looks after their daily breakfast needs and provides clothes, NGO Annapurna is donating their groceries. The group has not taken any funds from the government to run this initiative. Mela, a chirpy girl now enjoying her holidays on the streets with her big family of five siblings, is happy she is studying. Playing at the government school that has become their home, Kiran and his friends shower all their love on Nagarathana whom they affectionately call amma. Mela, who has started learning English and Kannada, said, “I enjoy going to school.” Thanks to the initiative, these children are finding a way out of their poverty and squalor. (New Indian Express 7/1/15)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

21. Minorities’ welfare still on the backburner in Telangana (7)

HYDERABAD: At a time when the Telangana government is making announcements, minorities continue to be discriminated against at the policy level in terms of eligibility criteria vis-a-vis other weaker sections, experts opined on Tuesday. At a meeting on ‘Development of Minorities in Telangana State – Possibilities and Challenges’ at Lakdi-ka-pul, speakers cited the example of schemes rolled out by the Centre. “The income ceiling for the minorities for pre-matric scholarships is Rs one lakh, for post-matric is Rs 2 lakh and for merit cum means is Rs 2.5 lakh. On the other hand for the OBC creamy layer it is Rs 4.5 lakh per annum. There must be parity in the ceiling,” said MIM legislator Syed Amin Jafri. He also underscored the glaring differences in age restrictions in availing bankable schemes. “While the SCs and the STs have a five-year age relaxation, there is no such provision for minorities. For minorities, the age limit for this scheme is between ages 21 and 40, whereas that for other communities is 21 and 45. The number of beneficiaries has decreased because of this and also because of an income ceiling of Rs 75,000 per annum. This is not right,” he said. Analysts said that the role of the AP state minorities finance corporation was reduced to that of a “post office”, with no schemes of financial inclusion. They expressed concern over the abysmal utilisation of budget for the welfare of the minorities. Of the Rs 1,030 crore allocation in Telangana, only Rs 174 crore has been released. Similarly, of the Rs 372 crore earmarked in AP, only Rs 126 crore has been released, they claimed. “There are only three months for the budget to lapse. In these circumstances, the Telangana government must increase the allocation for the next financial year to Rs 2,000 crore,” an analyst reasoned. Analysts observed that contrary to the missive of the Reserve Bank of India, which directed banks to earmark 15 per cent priority sector lending for minorities and meet this target by 2009, the current achievement stands at around 6 per cent in Andhra Pradesh and around 7 per cent in Telangana. Bureaucrat Mohammed A Abid said that many bureaucrats were under the impression that schemes for minorities were a “fad” and not a part of the “mainstream”. “For instance, the wakf act is not taught in the Lal Bahadur Shastri, National Academy of Administration in Mussoorie. Sooner or later the two states will start recruiting. Muslims should see how they can enter lower judicial services and police,” he said. (Times of India 1/1/15)

22. Socio-economic status of minorities to be assessed (7)

Shivamogga: Balkhees Banu, Chairperson of the Karnataka State Minorities Commission, has said that the socio-economic survey of minorities in the State will commence by February-end. The survey, conducted once in 10 years, will help the government to assess the socio-economic status of minorities and design programmes for their uplift. The enumerators will visit every household as part of the survey and elicit answers to 58 questions, she said at an interaction programme organised by Shivamogga District Working Journalists Association here on Saturday. Cooperation of the local masjid committees, the district-level wakf advisory boards would be sought for the survey. Teachers from government and aided educational institutions would be deputed for the survey, she said. Ms. Banu said she had requested the State government to establish a legal cell in the commission. Many innocent youths were being booked under false charges during communal violence. The commission plans to extend legal assistance to such victims through the cell, she said. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had responded positively for the request, she said. In 2014–15, education loan was sanctioned to 2,000 students from minority communities who joined professional courses, under the Arivu scheme. The government wants to extend the benefit to 5,000 students in 2015–16, she said. The commission would recommend to the government to fill vacant posts of teacher in Government Urdu Schools at the earliest. The commission would organise programmes to promote communal harmony across the State and first one would be held in Dakshina Kannada district. President of the Shivamogga Working Journalists Association N. Ravi Kumar and general secretary Vaidya were present. (The Hindu 4/1/15)

23. Jain community’s PIL wants say in minority commissions (7)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre to consider a representation by the Jain community demanding to be treated on par with other minorities and given representation in the state and national minority commissions. Akhil Bhartiya Jain Mahasabha (ABJM) in its PIL alleged that the governments had been pursuing policy to appease the Muslim community alone by extending the benefits meant for minorities while ignoring other similarly placed communities. The petitioner said even after being declared a minority community, it had not got any governmental financial assistance as was given to other minority communities. Till date only 11 states have recognized Jains as minority group, it said and alleged that the Centre was not responding to its representation on this issue. A bench of Chief Justice H L Dattu and Justice A K Sikri, after a brief hearing, asked the Centre to consider the earlier representation given by the Jain community. ABJM alleged the government had ignored the interests of the Jain community. “The government has adopted an appeasement policy towards Muslims and in the name of the minorities all the benefits are being given to this community whereas other minorities are not being given the same benefit and status. It has come to notice and it is a matter of record that the government has always appointed chairman of Minority Commission from a particular community. The Muslim community is given the major share in the representation ignoring the interest of Jains. Till date no