Posted by admin at 17 April 2014

Category: Uncategorized

POLICE/ TORTURE/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

1. Counsel in Pakistan blasphemy case threatened (1)

Islamabad: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has voiced serious concern over threats extended to a senior lawyer representing a blasphemy accused inside a courtroom in the Multan Central Prison. In a statement issued on Thursday, the HRCP said it was extremely concerned about threats in open court to the lawyers of an accused in a blasphemy case, Junaid Hafeez. His lawyers Rashid Rehman and Allah Dad had appeared for a hearing on Wednesday. The case is being heard in Multan Central Jail in view of security concerns. “During arguments for acquittal of the accused, three persons addressed defence lawyer Rashid Rehman, in the judge’s presence and said: ‘You will not come to court next time because you will not exist anymore.’ Mr. Rehman drew the judge’s attention to the threat but the judge is reported to have remained silent. The difficulty that the accused has had in finding and retaining a lawyer is well known and HRCP said it views that as a systematic denial of legal representation to the accused. If this charade continues for much longer HRCP will have no qualms in concluding that it has been decided that the accused would not be allowed legal representation and there is no need to bother with a trial anymore, the statement said. HRCP demands action under the law against the three persons who threatened the lawyer in the case without delay and effective measures to ensure the defence lawyer’s security. In the case of former federal minister Shahbaz Bhatti who was killed in 2011, two eyewitnesses received death threats in February and were told not to give evidence by two terror groups. The trial is underway at Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi. The witnesses had sought increased police protection and filed a police complaint.  (The Hindu 10/4/14)

 

2. Candidates echo similar promise: Repeal of AFSPA (1)

IMPHAL, April 10: All eight candidates in the fray for the Inner Manipur Parliamentary seat were of one mind regarding their desire to see the Armed Forces Special Powers’ Act repealed. INC candidate Dr Th Meinya who has been the MP for two consecutive terms and aspiring for the third consecutive term spoke about the Act’s repeal even though the AICC leadership has never even mentioned about repealing AFSPA. He was speaking at the “Meet Your Candidates” of the inner constituency for the 16th Lok Sabha Election, 2014 organised by the Editors’ Guild, Manipur under the sponsorship of the CEO, Manipur at the Classic Hotel, today. Trinamool Congress Party candidate Manaobi and Jai Maha Bharat party candidate Jotin Oinam were however, absent from the meet. The interaction was moderated by Impact TV news editor Yumnam Rupachandra. Meinya said he will work for the repeal of the AFSPA and the state territory if elected for the third time. He continued that he has raised the AFSPA issue at the Parliament. BJP candidate, RK Ranjan also spoke on similar lines and on his concern regarding the removal of the Act which was different from the party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s view on the subject. Modi had earlier said that AFSPA was still relevant in some parts of the country. Dr M Nara spoke on electoral reform and said it was needed to bring down corruption in the state. The present UPA government follows a pro-rich policy, and if their policies are continued further in the state, than Manipur will suffer more, he observed. This is where a proportional representation is needed in the state, he said. He said he alone cannot bring any change to the conflict situation. However, he has already prepared mentally on what issues to rise inside the Parliament if elected, Nara said. He too spoke on his desire to see the draconian act repealed. The lonely lady candidate of the inner constituency, Oinam Indira reflected on women empowerment. All the male candidates have been serious about the issues confronting the state, she said. However, there has been no woman representation at the Parliament from the state, Indira lamented. She continued she will fight for the unemployed youth and for women’s empowerment to check crime against women. Meanwhile, Manipur democratic people’s front’s candidate Dr G Tonsana said that Manipur is in danger. He will fight for the people of Manipur in the parliament and there are no difference of opinion between Kukis, Nagas, Meiteis and Muslims. (Kangla Online 10/4/14)

 

3. CBI doesn’t want to part with IB report, moves Gujarat HC (1)

AHMEDABAD: After unearthing the role of the Central Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Gujarat Police in the killing Sadiq Jamal Mehtar in the 2003 fake encounter case, CBI now seems to be trying hard to keep the information secret. It has approached Gujarat high court against a special CBI court’s order which instructs the probe agency to part with a classified report prepared by the Maharashtra unit of IB just after giving custody of the Bhavnagar youth to Gujarat Police, sources said. On February 1, special CBI judge C R Thakker asked the reluctant CBI to supply copies of the IB report to the accused cops for a fair trial. The court, however, had permitted CBI not to share certain paragraphs of the report with the accused cops, to conceal certain information which is in the interest of national security as claimed by the central agencies. This document reportedly contains information about the prior custody of Sadiq and how his custody was given to Gujarat Police. However, CBI does not want to part with the report, as the central IB has been insisting upon this since the beginning. The report was generated by Maharashtra IB officer Gururaj Savadatti on January 6, 2003. This document was supplied by the CBI in a sealed cover to the court and, on the basis of this document, the court denied bail to some eight police officials in the case. The accused then sought this document for their defence. This petition may come up for hearing next week. (Times of India 12/4/14)

 

TRAFFICKING

4. 22 Punjabi ‘slaves’ free to leave Saudi Arabian soil (1)

Hoshiarpur: After five months of bonded labour in Saudi Arabia, 22 Punjabi victims of travel fraud and human trafficking are free at last to return home. Three, including one from Hoshiarpur, arrived late Tuesday. Promised work as driver in the Gulf, the young men ended up picking dirt after paying between `1 lakh and `1.5 lakh each to get to the foreign shore. “The travel agents had promised us a monthly salary of 1,500 Saudi riyals (`24,000) but on landing in Riyadh (Saudi Arabian capital) we were pushed into doing hard labour for an unfamiliar company that would pay us the wages of a slave,” said Jagjit Singh, 24, of Gokal Nagar locality here. “The employers said we should pay them 3,000 riyals (`48,000) each, if we wanted work licence. They tore our international driving licences that the agents had given to us in India, saying those were fake. Hired to pick garbage for 1,000 riyals (`16,000) a month, we would get only 200 riyals (`3,200) in hand,” said Jagjit Singh. He remembered the time the employers had asked him to deposit 7,000 riyals (`1.12 lakh) when he had sought permission to visit home to see his ailing mother. “We lived hand to mouth, got nothing of the promised free accommodation and food. Our Punjabi brethren helped us survive,” said Jagjit Singh, remembering the many Punjabi youth stuck there in worse circumstances. It was impossible to get back had the Indian media not reported their plight. “Fearing bad reputation, the main travel agent from Mumbai reached Riyadh to fix things but we insisted he gave us the exit pass. He agreed eventually but said only one at a time could leave,” said Jagjit Singh, adding that Baljinder Singh of Gurdaspur and Jagmit Singh of Kapurthala were also home. Feeling cheated, Jagjit said he would never think of going abroad. “In five months, I did not send home a penny. The loan my parents took to pay the agent still stands. I cannot take any more risk,” he added. (Hindustan Times 10/4/14)

 

5. Two booked under Bonded Labour Act (1)

Bangalore: Two men were on Wednesday booked under Bonded Labour (Abolition) Act for allegedly forcing 11 boys from Jharkhand sell chaat on the roadside in and around Coles Park. Volunteers of a city-based NGO International Justice Mission helped the Anti-Human Trafficking unit rescue the boys. According to the Bharathi Nagar police, the boys were employed by two brothers from Jharkhand. The rescued boys were handed over to Child Welfare Committee for rehabilitation. (The Hindu 11/4/14)

 

6. Infant rescued from disabled beggar at City railway station (1)

Bangalore: Cleaning staff at the Bangalore City railway station on Saturday helped child helpline volunteers rescue an eight-month-old baby boy from the custody of a man with disabilities, who had arrived from Mumbai and was allegedly found making use of the child for begging. The man, who was identified as Devanand, admitted that he had found the baby boy at the Mumbai railway station three months ago and had decided to make use him for begging. The incident came to light when the sweepers at platform no. 10 noticed the baby boy lying next to a beggar with disabilities and crying incessantly. Based on the information, a team of volunteers from BOSCO childline rushed to the spot and took the child and the man to the BOSCO shelter at Chamarajapet and fed the child, and made the man to take bath. The BOSCO counsellors tried to extract information from Devanand to ascertain whether it could be the case of a child trafficking racket, but he reportedly feigned ignorance and behaved as if he was mentally challenged, a staff member of BOSCO Mane said. The child was later referred to the Child Welfare Committee and shifted to Shishu Mandira, while the man was provided with the address of the helpline and asked to report for any help, Executive Director of BOSCO Father P.S. George said. It may be recalled that on April 7, a taxi driver at the City railway station helped the child helpline volunteers to bust a child trafficking racket, which led to the arrest of a 45-year-old ragpicker, who had abducted a 15-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy. The girl and the boy, who were allegedly forced to beg for him for the past one-and-half years, were freed from his captivity. The accused was charged under child trafficking and other sections while the boy and the girl have been referred to State home for boys and girls. (The Hindu 13/4/14)

 

7. Action sought against agents for luring Punjabis to US (1)

CHANDIGARH: The North American Punjabi Association (Napa) has sought action against travel and immigration agents who lured over 100 Punjabi youths with dreams of settling in the US but who are now behind bars. The youths, detained in prisons in the US for the past few months, have gone on hunger strike seeking early resolution of their plight, Napa said Monday. In a communication to the Punjab Non-Resident Indian (NRI) Commission here Monday, Napa sought action against travel and immigration agents who lured the youths with big dreams. “I want to bring to your notice the miserable plight of more than 100 Punjabi young men who (after paying lakhs of rupees) are languishing in a US jail on charges of illegal entry without valid visa. “More than 42 undocumented Punjabi youths were arrested on different occasions and detained in the El Paso Processing Centre in Texas, the US. Some of them are on hunger strike since five days. They are demanding early decision of their cases since they are in detention for periods ranging from three months to one year,” Satnam Singh Chahal, executive director, Napa, said. Chahal said in a recent incident a Punjabi youth committed suicide. Napa sent his body to his native village in Punjab for cremation, he added. In another instance, Jarnail Singh, father of a youth Amritpal Singh, claimed he paid Rs 22 lakh in instalments to an immigration agent to help his son migrate to the US. However, the son landed in a Texas prison following his illegal entry via Mexico. Asking for the intervention of the commission and the Punjab government, Napa has sought implementation of the Punjab Prevention of Human Smuggling Bill, 2010 to save Punjabi youths from fraudulent travel agents and the resultant humiliation and hardship abroad, apart from the suffering their families undergo, Chahal said. Napa said: “It is estimated that 10,000 to 20,000 Punjabis contribute to this flourishing business each year by paying Rs 20-30 lakh on the promise of greener pastures. Punjab has become the hub of this Rs 12,000-crore trafficking racket.” Napa has also demanded a probe into the role of politicians in the trafficking racket. (Times of India 14/4/14)

 

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

8. Tension at Uthapuram as police outpost comes under attack (2)

MADURAI: Tension prevailed at Uthapuram, a village near Usilampatti, where some caste Hindus allegedly pelted a police outpost with stones, protesting revenue and police officials conducting a meeting to allocate time for Dalits to offer prayers in a village temple on Monday. A large posse of police has been deployed in the village, where the district administration in 2008 demolished a “wall of untouchability” that divided the Dalit habitations from the caste Hindu residential area. The Dalits had represented to the Madurai District Police that they wanted to offer prayers at the Muthalamman temple, when the caste Hindus planned for a three-day ‘Panguni’ celebration between April 8 and 10. Following this, Usilampatti Revenue Divisional Officer M. Duraipandian and Usilampatti Deputy Superintendent of Police Saravanankumar held a meeting at the police outpost. “We wanted to know the time at which the Dalits wanted to offer prayers. The meeting was held as the High Court in 2012 ordered that the Dalits be allowed to enter the temple,” the RDO told The Hindu. Even as the talks were going on, scores of Caste Hindus gathered near the temple around 1.30 p.m. “They shouted slogans against allowing the Dalits into the temple. Suddenly, a few stones were hurled at the outpost,” the RDO said. A woman constable was injured, and the windshield of the official vehicle of the Perayur Tahsildar was smashed. One of the Dalit leaders, K. Ponnaiah, claimed that the caste Hindus had threatened their representatives, Sankaralingam and Nagamani, of dire consequences. “The DSP pacified our people, hence we kept quiet.” However, people from both sides started hurling stones at each other, the police said. Superintendent of Police Vijayendra Bidari, who rushed to Uthapuram, said the situation was under control. The constable sustained a minor injury, he said. A case would be registered against the accused. The Dalits entered the temple in 2011 with police protection, after a long-drawn peace process initiated by the then Superintendent of Police, Asra Garg, and leaders of both communities.  (The Hindu 9/4/14)

 

9. 4 years on, Mirchpur village’s Dalits still scared to return (2)

Mirchpur: “Polling station Number 39-Chamar Chaupal,” reads the freshly painted words on the outer wall of a structure that has served as a community building for the lower castes in Mirchpur, part of Hisar, for some years now. On Thursday, when Haryana goes to polls, the polling party manning this booth will await 1,059 voters — all of them belonging to the scheduled castes. All may not turn up. Most of the Dalits left the village after the 2010 caste violence between Jats and Dalits that left an old man and his daughter charred to death. Those who have chosen to stay back are still debating whether going to the Chaupal building in the Jat-dominated side would be a good idea. Villagers say Chamar Chaupal, originally Harijan Chaupal, has served as a polling station for the scheduled caste voters for years. But they admit that while a few Dalits may have cast their votes in the four other polling stations in the village, none from the upper castes have had their votes registered in this particular polling booth. Assistant returning officer Rajesh Koth says, “It is not as if an exclusive booth has been set up for the Dalits of Mirchpur”. “Proximity is the main factor, so that voters do not have to walk far to the polling station. It also creates voter confidence,” Koth says. That the authorities are clearly worried about Mirchpur is evident. Government officials on election duty have been making regular visits to the village. Duty magistrate D L Hansu has also visited all the five polling stations in Mirchpur in the past few days. “Though the booths here fall in the hyper-sensitive category, things appear peaceful,” Hansu says. The village, with a sizeable Jat population, has traditionally spilt its vote between Congress and INLD. The contest for Hisar this time is between incumbent Kuldeep Bishnoi from Haryana Janhit Congress, Dushyant Chautala from the INLD and Sampat Singh from the Congress. But for the Dalits of Mirchpur, Bishnoi appears to have emerged a preferred candidate not only because they think he has worked in the area but also because he is a non-Jat. It’s been two-and-a-half years since a Delhi court sentenced three people to life imprisonment for burning Tara Chand, 70, and his 17-year-old daughter Suman to death following a clash between Jats and Balmikis (Dalits). Time, and even justice, doesn’t appear to have healed Mirchpur’s scars. While everything appears quiet on the surface, the underlying strain between the two communities — despite assertions from Jats that everything is back to normal — is palpable. (Indian Express 10/4/14)

 

10. Uttarakhand village tense after dalits refused temple entry (2)

DEHRADUN: Weeks ahead of Lok Sabha polls, tension gripped the remote Kanora village of Kashipur after a group of Dalit women were allegedly denied entry into a temple to offer prayers. On a complaint from the Dalits, senior police officials rushed to the village and ensured that the “pooja” by Dalit women was performed, in the presence of a police team. Keeping in mind the exigencies of the situation and the Lok Sabha polling here on May 7, a team of the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) was stationed in the village. Kashipur police booked members of Saini Samaj under the Prevention of Atrocities against SC/STs Act and arrested one person on Wednesday. “I went there on Tuesday to inspect the situation, and found it under control,” ASP Kashipur Devendra Pincha told TOI. The police official said a group of Dalit women went to offer prayers in the temple on the last day of Navratra, but they were denied entry by members of Saini Samaj. The religious ceremony was later carried out with police presence, he said. The ASP said it did not appear to be a case of deliberate disruption of law and order, but one of personal enmity. “A meeting between the two communities was held and both have been requested to maintain peace and not indulge in any unlawful activity,” said Pincha. A PAC team is stationed in the village as a precautionary measure, and is likely to be withdrawn by Thursday if the tension abates.  (Times of India 10/4/14)

 

11. Dalits, Muslims treated worse than animals in Mumbai slums: Mayawati (2)

Mumbai: BSP chief Mayawati today alleged that poor people, especially Dalits and Muslims of Uttar Pradesh, who have come here in search of jobs and live in slums are being treated “worse than animals”.Addressing a rally here, the former UP chief minister claimed that condition of the state worsened due to successive Congress and BJP governments in the state and people were forced to migrate to big cities like Mumbai. “Before BSP came to power, Congress had ruled the state for many years, followed by BJP. Dalits and poor people were treated in a bad manner. When people did not get an opportunity to earn their livelihood and when they were made victims of atrocities, a large number of people migrated from UP to bigger cities, including your state of Maharashtra in search of employment,” she said. She alleged that people who came to Mumbai in search of employment have been treated in a bad way. “Not only is injustice being meted out to people migrating from Uttar Pradesh, but Dalits and poor people, including Muslims are unhappy. People living in Mumbai’s slums are being treated worse than animals,” she said. Mayawati said if the BSP comes to power in Maharashtra, Mumbai’s slum dwellers would get their own pucca houses. She also attacked BJP leader Narendra Modi. “BJP has chosen a candidate for the PM’s post whose Gujarat government has been blamed for post Godhra riots in 2002. If such a person becomes the prime minister of this country even by mistake, then our country will witness communal riots anytime,” Mayawati said. She said that when her government was in power in Uttar Pradesh, she never let atrocities take place against any particular caste. “Our government did not let any atrocities happen to people of any caste and people who committed any such crimes were put behind bars without delay,” she said. “Once we form a government in Maharashtra, we will provide two rooms, pucca apartments to people who don’t have a proper house, so that our people don’t have to live a life worse than animals,” Mayawati said, adding that while her government was in power in Uttar Pradesh, the BSP made pucca homes available to people who didn’t have proper houses. Criticising the ruling government at the Centre, Mayawati said that even upper caste people have not been doing too well financially, but the government paid no heed to BSP’s requests for special reservation to such people. “We have seen that upper caste people are also financially in bad shape. Therefore, we wrote to the government to give special reservations to them and Muslims, but the government has not respond so far,” she said. “During elections, opposition parties will try and malign BSP’s name. Be careful of them. Also do not get distracted by parties who use the media to show their condition to be much better than they actually are,” she said. (Zee News 14/4/14)

 

12. Dalits prevented from voting in Giridih: CPI (ML) (2)

Ranchi: CPI(ML) members have alleged that Dalit villagers were stopped from voting in Jamua in Giridih district in first phase of polling for Koderma constituency in Jharkhand on April 10 by upper-caste landlords and have demanded a re-poll. They alleged that the villagers, including women, were physically assaulted when they arrived at the polling booth. Election Commission officials said they had not received reports that confirmed CPI(ML)’s allegations from their staff. “We received reports that seals were broken and tampered with in two booths in Bagodar and four in Dhanwar and we will hold re-poll there but we did not receive inputs reporting any incident from Jamua,” said Chief Electoral Officer PK Jajoria. “When we reached the polling station, several men attacked us with lathis. One of them assaulted me on the chest and stopped me from casting my vote, ten persons from the village got injured, five were bleeding,” said Uma Devi a Dalit farmer from Gardi village in Giridih’s Jamua block. CPI(ML) Politburo member Manoj Bhakta said the party had registered an FIR against Suraj Narayan Dev who led the men whom he alleged injured 10 villagers. Giridih Superintendent of Police Kranti Kumar refuted the party’s allegation. “According to my staff, the party’s workers and Suraj Narayan Dev have a rivalry and a scuffle broke out between the two groups. We did not receive any such reports of villagers not being allowed to cast their vote,” he said. “There are six assembly seats in the Koderma consituency and six booths were captured. The administration is anti-Dalit and are siding with feudal powers in this area,” alleged CPI(ML)’s Koderma candidate Raj Kumar Yadav. “We were encouraging the villagers to vote as they think right but Suraj Narayan’s goons did not let them,” said Sunil Singh a CPI(ML) worker in Jamua. When the villagers asserted that they would vote for the candidates of their choice, the landlords became angry. For years they had suppressed them and dictated whom they should vote for, he added. (The Hindu 15/4/14)

 

HEALTH/ EPIDEMICS/NRHM

13. Making People With Disabilities Aware Of Their Entitled Benefits (3)

CHENNAI: Local NGOs will now be able to facilitate and increase awareness about the multitude of government schemes in five of the most backward districts of the country, thanks to the `7 crore fund given by the European Union, in a tie -up with the German Leprosy Relief Association (GLRA), towards the Sammalit Vikas Jankari (SVJ) project. At a press conference here on Wednesday, spokespersons from several NGOs claimed that the biggest obstacle to the uplift of the 2,68,10,557 disabled people in the country was the lack of awareness about the schemes launched by the government for their benefit. “At present, the basic public service delivery under The Persons with Disabilities Act 1995 and  poverty alleviation schemes for the disabled in India are weak,” said J Ravichandran, CEO of GLRA India. “Both support agencies and persons with disabilities find it very hard to access information about the services,” he added. The Sammalit Vikas Jankari project will use the local civil society organisations to increase awareness among the most backward districts in Gujarat, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. “Currently, these districts have about 2.7 lakh disabled persons. We will use the funds provided by the EU and the GLRA to strengthen civil society volunteer groups in these localities or in the absence of such a group, we will form one,” said one of the officials working for the SVJ project. “This way, even when the five-year project runs to a close, those districts will have groups that can assist other disabled,” he pointed out. According to the mission statement of the project, its objectives are to increase the quality of delivery of entitled public services to all persons with disabilities, to equip and empower civil society in the form of disabled people organisations, to increase their participation in society, promote accountability in Government of India systems and other service providers, to increase equal opportunities, reduce poverty of persons with disability and enable a better quality of life. Neeradha Chandramohan, director, National Institute for Empowerment of Persons with Multiple Disabilities, and several other representatives from NGOs, who would carry forward the project in the five districts, were also present at the conference. (New Indian Express 10/4/4)

 

14. Diabetics risk losing eyesight (3)

Hyderabad: More than half the patients visiting an eye doctor had had diabetes for over 10 years, 15 per cent of them for 20 years, making them high-risk groups for vision loss, says a multi-city India study on Diabetic Retinopathy (DR). The study, conducted by the Public Health Foundation of India in collaboration with Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, says 45 per cent of patients had lost their vision before they knew they suffered from DR. “It’s clear there is a lack of awareness on diabetes and its obvious link to vision loss. Hyderabad is the diabetic capital of South Asia and screening and awareness campaigns should be more focussed,” said director of the Indian Institute of Public Health, Hyderabad, G.V.S. Murthy told reporters. Interestingly, the study said 40 per cent of the patients in public hospitals, and 13 per cent in private facilities, did not receive any information about diabetes and its complications from care givers. Fifty per cent private eye clinics acknowledged that there was a need to train their health workers on DR. “Public health institutions in India should strive to provide one-stop service to diabetics. Patients should have access to diabetologists, kidney (nephrologist) and eye (ophthalmologist) doctor, foot check-up, dietician, and diagnostic services like urine and blood tests under one roof. There is also a need train personnel to detect DR,” said Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust CEO Astrid Bonfield. The study acknowledged that government-run diabetic clinics did not have services on DR, 70 per cent of the facilities (public and private) had no dieticians, a third of the patients (33 per cent) received no health education on DR and two-third of DR patients did not know that diabetes is the reason for their condition. “Early detection and management is the key to save patients from losing their vision. There is no organised screening and management programmes for DR in India and there is a need to evolve a sustainable model to control DR and reduce its risk by better control of diabetes,” summed up Dr. Astrid. The study was conducted in Hyderabad, Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Kolkata, Surat, Pune, Jaipur, Bhubaneshwar, Madurai, Thiruvananthapuram and Noida and covered a total of 86 eye clinics, 73 diabetic facilities and nearly 850 patients in the last four months. (The Hindu 12/4/14)

 

15. ‘Country needs more health volunteers than doctors’ (3)

Mangalore: United Nations-World Health Organisation Regional Advisor (retd) Derek Lobo has said that to enhance the health sector in the country, India needs more health volunteers than doctors. “India has 360 medical colleges producing 40,000 doctors annually. Still, the infant mortality rate and maternal mortality rate could not be checked. As the majority of people who have no access to healthcare are in rural areas, we want more health volunteers to address this grave issue.” Lobo was delivering address at the foundation day celebrations of NGO Health Care Foundation here on Saturday. To substantiate his argument, Lobo said that in many African countries National TB Manager or National Leprosy Manager are non-medical personnel and those countries have a commendable track record in eradicating diseases like Malaria, TB and Leprosy. He elaborated that to cure Malaria, TB and Leprosy, doctors are not inevitable but health volunteers are a necessity. “We should look at health care in a wellness perspective and not illness one. The focus in health care should be on promotion, prevention, curative and rehabilitative aspects. But we are putting all attention on the curative aspect neglecting preventive aspect,” he rued. Investment pour in curative section only with specialty and super-specialty treatments mushrooming all around. Lobo called upon authorities to hike the fund allocation to healthcare from a mere two per cent of the GDP to five per cent. “An affordable and quality medical care accessible to all should be our motto. To achieve this, every stakeholder should sit together and goverment has to evolve a comprehensive plan addressing all vital concerns,” he stressed. Dr Jeelani Qadiri, Dr Udayakumar K, Dr Prashanth Marla and district health and family welfare officer Dr H S Shivakumar participated in the panel discussion on ‘Affordable healthcare: issues and concerns.’  Editor of ‘Issues and concerns’ Jayaram Shriyan, Dr Sushil Jathanna, Dr Edvin Fernandes were present. The news-letter of  health care foundation was released. (Deccan Herald 16/4/14)

 

CORRUPTION

16. No Lokpal for Maha yet (5)

Mumbai: Two months after the passing of the deadline set up by chief minister Prithviraj Chavan regarding implementation of the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act 2013 in the state, the general administration department of the government of Maharashtra has said in reply to an RTI query that it is still in a limbo regarding whether the Act should be passed in the same format or should it be amended. After the Act was passed in the Parliament in December 2013, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan had announced that the Lokayukta Act in the state would be implemented by February 2014. The chief minister had said, “The state government is going to take every step needed to fulfill Rahul Gandhi’s directive on establishing a framework to tackle corruption by the forming of the Lokayukta in Maharashtra.” After the deadline was crossed, an RTI query filed by activist Jeetendra Ghadge found that government officials are making use of the Section 63 of the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act 2013, which mentions a one-year deadline for states that don’t have Lokayuktas. The Act is also silent about states that already have Lokayuktas. “Since Maharashtra already has a Lokayukta system in place, the officials are taking advantage of the ‘having no-deadlines’ to enact this Act,” said Mr Ghadge. mAccording to the reply given by A.N. Khot, under secretary of the state, “Lokayukta is already functional in the state since 1971, so there is no need to form a new Lokayukta. However, an amendment or new Act will be considered, but no decision has been taken yet.” This clearly proves that Maharashtra government has not even decided whether to amend the existing Act or make a new one. It shows the callousness of the government led by a party whose leader Rahul Gandhi was claiming it to be a game changer in the history of our country. I don’t see this Act getting passed in the next Assembly session in June this year either,” added Mr Ghadge. Preeti Sharma Menon, spokesperson of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) said, “This government knows very well that if this Act is institutionalised properly, then most of the ministers and babus would be behind the bars. Be it Congress or BJP, they would always debate and pass it, but would never endorse it. I am not surprised.”

State chief minister Prithviraj Chavan could not be reached for his comment. However, Fauzia Khan, minister of state for general administration department (GAD) said, “We have had a few meetings and we are hopeful to push the enactment after the elections are over.” (Asian Age 12/4/14)

 

17. Kejriwal Did Not Act in Haste to Resign As Delhi CM: Shazia (5)

Indore: Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader, Shazia Ilmi said here today that the party chief Arvind Kejriwal had not acted in haste by resigning as the chief minister of Delhi. “I don’t think that AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal has acted in haste by resigning from the post of chief minister of Delhi on the issue of Jan Lokpal as I was party to the decision and it (Jan Lokpal) is our major issue,” Shazia told reporters. She said had the party remained in power after it was not being allowed to table the Jan Lokpal bill, then media would have said today that he (Kejriwal) was “greedy for power”.Shazia termed as “malicious campaign” the Opposition’s charges, especially that of BJP that Kejriwal has run away from the ground after resigning as the Chief Minister. She said it appears that the party was unable to convince effectively to the people why it had resigned on the issue of Jan Lokpal and also blamed a section of media for it. “It was a matter of principle for us and we thought that people would be happier if we quit on the issue of Jan Lokpal,” she said. Earlier, Shazia addressed a rally in support of AAP’s Indore candidate, Anil Trivedi and questioned the rationale behind raising the slogan ‘Har-Har Modi’ in support of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. She said that people want power, water, roads, health and education and what will they do with “Har-Har Modi”, she asked. Taking a jibe at BJP leaders, Shazia asked, “When they have not spared Bhagwan and Allah, will they spare a common man?” (Outlook 13/4/14)

 

18. ED lens on contractors in multi-crore scam (5)

KOLKATA: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has started probing the Siliguri Jalpaiguri Development Authority (SJDA) scam in which funds to the tune of Rs 140 crore were siphoned off. Already, a petition is pending in Calcutta high court for a CBI probe in this case. The ED has already summoned the chairman of SJDA, Gautam Deb, who also happens to be the minister for north Bengal affairs. ED officials said as the chairman did not meet them, they have asked the CEO of SJDA to submit all relevant documents. The scam came to light after Deb became the chairman of the SJDA in March 2013. Deb could not be contacted for a comment. The ED officials are zeroing in on the contractors who got payments without even completing the construction work for three crematoriums. They also allegedly made payments to politicians who were part of the nexus. So, the interrogation of the contractors is going to be vital and their bank accounts are also under watch. “After encashing of cheques, how the cash was used can be a vital clue.” Police have already interrogated Dr Rudranath Bhattacharya, a Trinamool MLA and the former chairman of SJDA, under whose regime the scam allegedly surfaced. Police also interrogated Shankar Malakar, a Congress MLA who was a board member in SJDA, for his alleged links in the scam. In the SJDA scam, IAS officer Godala Kiran Kumar, the district magistrate of Malda, was arrested along with three government engineers. However, Kiran Kumar got bail a day after his arrest on November 30. He is now on leave and is staying in Andhra Pradesh. The government had removed the then police commissioner of Siliguri, K Jairaman, for not taking a nod from it before arresting the accused DM. The state was initially going soft on Kiran Kumar. and allowed his release on bail, as the state did not oppose his bail prayer. Even the state’s chief secretary Sanjay Mitra had stated “It is highly embarrassing and unwarranted.” Now, the state is contemplating to suspend the accused IAS officer and has written to the Centre’s department of personnel and training (DOPT). But, DOPT has asked for the necessary vetting from the law department and wants key statements made by the former DM in this case before processing his suspension. The alleged financial irregularities took place when Kiran Kumar was the CEO of SJDA in 2011. Sharad Dwivedi, who took charge from Kiran Kumar as CEO of SJDA, complained to police in May 2013 alleging misappropriation of funds. He said payments were made to firms violating norms. Major irregularities were found in the construction work of three electric crematoriums and sewerage treatment plants, along with cleaning and de-silting of Jorapani river. He alleged that no work was actually done. Moreover, Rs 10 crore was misused for installing CCTV cameras inSiliguri. There were total eight cases of corruption slapped against Kiran Kumar and the ED officials are processing necessary documents. Investigators said funds to the tune of Rs 140 crore were paid to private firms before the projects were completed. So, ED officials are trying to locate the fund flow to trace the beneficiaries. (Times of India 14/4/14)

 

19. Three more arrested in Shreesurya scam (5)

NAGPUR: Economic offence wing (EOW) of crime branch on Tuesday has arrested three Amravati-based persons, including a father-son duo, for their alleged role as agents for Shreesurya group that has been accused of duping many of several crore rupees. The three had pocketed around Rs 8 crore commission by urging people to invest in Shreesurya’s financial schemes. Mukund Pitle and his son Mohan, who had come to meet a kin at Dindayal Nagar in Nagpur, were arrested here along with accomplice Nitin Keshkar. It is learnt offences had been earlier registered against Pitles in Amravati. The cops in Amravati had also seized properties and frozen their bank accounts, it is learnt. Nagpur crime branch wanted custody of Pitles as a part of their investigation. Roles of six agents are under scanner by cops. Eight persons, including Shreesurya group chief Sameer Joshi and his wife Pallavi, have been so far arrested in the case. Police claimed that 837 have lodged complaint against the group. Police sources claimed most of Pitles’ victims were employees of MSEDCL in Amravati. Pitles and Keshkar, after being produced before a court, have been remanded to custody for four days. (Times of India 16/4/14)

 

TRIBALS

20. Tribals of Danwakheda forest demand voting rights (6)

Bhopal: More than 50 Gond and Korku tribals, under the aegis of the Samajwadi Jan Parishad (SJP), protested at the Betul collectorate in Madhya Pradesh on Thursday to have themselves enlisted as voters. The tribals on Danwakheda forest in Ghodadongri assembly segment of the Betul seat, who subsist on minor forest produce such as mahua and firewood, have been requesting the local administration for voting rights since 2012. However, an enquiry by the collector has deemed them to be residents of neighbouring Chhindwara district and held their settlement to be an illegal encroachment on forest land. Rajendra Garhwal who led the demonstration told The Hindu that these tribals migrated back from Chhindwara to their native village in Danwakheda forest in 2000 due to malnutrition deaths. “They have never voted in their lives, either in Chhindwara or Betul. Anyone who lives in any place for more than six months is eligible to vote there. The collector has not produced any electoral list that has their names on it,” he said. Collector RP Mishra told The Hindu that the tribals were being exploited in lieu of land. SJP’s Fagram is a candidate from the seat. “A report has been submitted to the Election Commission (EC) by its observer Sushil Kumar. No such village exists. It is a forest area, 13 km Rampur Bhatoli panchayat. I visited the area with two divisional forests officers on April 6 and we found only 10 people there. They are actually from Haldumatia in Chhindwara which is 3km from there,” Mr. Mishra told The Hindu. He added that a separate enquiry for deforestation in the area will be conducted. Garhwal claimed that when the collector visited, tribals had gone to collect mahua. It is currently mahua harvest season, an important tradition for adivasis, in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha and Maharashtra. The SJP is using the cases filed against adivasis for encroachment since 2001 to prove that they are residents here. After their huts were allegedly burnt down by foresters in 2001, an FIR was registered under directions of the EC in 2003. (The Hindu 11/4/14)

 

21. Tribal voters being misguided about NOTA (6)

VAPI: Chellu button NOTA dev nu chey, tey dabavi bija button upper mat apjo atley tamaro candidate jiti jasey (First press the last button..it is of NOTA god and then after press other so that your favourite candidate wins). Kala rang nu chellu button dabavso to current lagsey (If you press the black button, you’ll get an electric shock)  Nota etley Mota dev, button dabavo aney dukh dur karo (NOTA is one of biggest gods, just press and get free from all troubles)… In far-flung tribal areas of Valsad-Dang Lok Sabha constituency, a number of such misinterpretations of NOTA (None of the above) button have been spread, reportedly by politicians in those areas where they fear reverses. The aim is to mislead illiterate voters, especially women, a large chunk of whom are unaware about NOTA, the facility being introduced for the first time in Lok Sabha elections. In areas where a particular political party feels that it is losing ground, its workers are allegedly spreading wrong beliefs about NOTA so that the rival party candidate does not get the votes. “We have been hearing during family discussions that NOTA is God. Every auspicious work should start by taking God’s name and it is good that before voting for our candidate we do the same by pressing NOTA button,” says Babli Mani, 65, living in an interior village of Kaprada, unaware about the actual purpose of NOTA. Similarly, people are being discouraged from using NOTA by telling them that they will be electrocuted. Nayna Halpati from a remote border area of Valsad said, “Many in the village fear that they will get electric shock if they press NOTA button.” Champak Manilal, a skilled labourer in fabrication business from Dhol Dungri village of Dharampur, gives a blank look when asked about NOTA, “I don’t know what it is and how it is supposed to be used.” Sources in Valsad district election office admitted that they have received complaints of people being misguided about NOTA by political parties to suite their convenience. “We have been instructed to strengthen our focus on awareness about NOTA function in tribal area. The main barrier is the language and we have to put in extra effort to explain what it is in their tribal language,” said an official of election officer. (Times of India 14/4/14)

 

22. Tribals Vote against Mining in Khandadhar (6)

ROURKELA: With the election over, anti-Posco tribal voters in Bonai Assembly seat of Sundargarh district are anxious to know the results. In fact, the BJP and CPM believe the election result would be a referendum on Khandadhar. In the backdrop of the tribals’ vehement protest against prospective iron ore mining by Posco at Khandadhar, both BJP and CPM made it an ‘emotive’ issue to polarise voters in several gram panchayats (GPs) against the Congress and ruling BJD. Reports said the Assembly constituency reserved for Scheduled Tribe witnessed a turn-out of 80.83 per cent of electorate on April 10. Out of above two lakh voters, around 1.62 lakhs cast their votes. In the run-up to the Assembly and Lok Sabha (LS) polls, BJP’s Bonai Assembly seat nominee Luthar Oram backed by the party heavyweight and Sundargarh LS candidate Jual Oram raised the Khandadhar issue vigorously. The CPM nominee and former MLA Laxman Munda was also not left behind. Khandadhar region houses the scenic waterfall and cave abode of tribals’ presiding deity Kanteswari Devi. BJD nominee and former MLA Dayanidhi Kisan claimed that Khandadhar issue did not have polarising effect. But Kisan’s assessment seems misplaced. As polls drew nearer, about 2,500 voters of Talbahali GP which houses Khandadhar decided to boycott election. They voted after persuasion that boycott by one GP would not be fruitful. The anti-Posco sentiment subsequently spread to all 17 GPs of Lahunipara block including Talbahali, Khuntgaon, Kuliposh, Haldikudar, Phuljhor and Mahulpada. Moreover, Khandadhar further impacted sizeable voters of Bonai and Koida blocks. BJP nominee and Khandadhar Suraksha Samiti convenor Luthar Oram claimed that more than 60 village meetings were held with the main agenda of ‘Posco Hatao, Khandadhar Bachao’ and drew overwhelming response. A member of the diminishing Paudi Bhuiyan tribe Kishore Giri said for his tribe and other tribal communities, Khandadhar holds traditional, cultural and religious values. They worked hard to save Khandadhar through their franchise rights, he added. CPM’s Sundargarh unit Secretary Banamali Dhupal also claimed that Khandadhar issue brought voters towards CPM as Congress nominee and sitting MLA Bhimsen Choudhary lost credibility after quitting BJP. He said the ruling BJD was defensive and the Bonai unit of BJP was split with departure of Choudhary. Jual said the BJP is poised to retain the seat amid high turnout of voters and his party is committed to respect local sentiment over Khandadhar. (New Indian Express 15/4/14)

 

23. Distress Sale Leaves Mahua Collectors in Lurch (6)

SAMBALPUR: Despite the fact that Mahua, used to make country spirit, is a big source of revenue for the State Government, dilly-dallying in fixing a proper price of the flower has left the collectors, mostly tribal forest dwellers, in lurch. This has resulted in distress sale of the flower. In non-irrigated areas, people fall back on the forest produce for about six months in a year for sustenance. They engage in collection of non-timber forest produce (NTFP) which includes Mahua and sell them in the market to add to their family income. While the men go out to work, it is mostly women who collect the NTFP. But with prices of Mahua flowers getting slashed by almost half in the market, the toil they put in to collect NTFP is not being recompensed. While the brewed spirit that is prepared with the flower is priced at `50 a litre, the cost of a kg of Mahua flower is not even half of the amount. Normally, a committee is constituted at block level to fix the price of NTFP. The rate fixed is then intimated to the panchayats to inform the collectors. But the information hardly reaches the collectors, making the middlemen take advantage and cheat the collectors. Though price of the flower is yet to be finalised in Jamankira block, collectors have already started selling it at `10 a kg. In Nuapada and Boudh districts, it is being sold at the same price. The weekly haats present a dismal picture with the flowers being sold for as less as `6 to `7 a kg while the damaged flowers are priced at `2 a kg. To add to the woes, there are no storage facilities for the collectors. Urmila Pradhan of Kushadadar village under Khandahata gram panchayat said she hardly manages to get a day’s labour cost as sale proceeds of Mahua. She and three members of her family toil every day to collect and dry the flowers. Ward Member Sudam Gaigaria, belonging to Badbardakata village, said he has moved the district administration several times over the issue but in vain. He said considering the huge profit made by the country liquor brewing unit, the price for every kg of the flower should be fixed at `40. Although the Panchayati Raj Department implemented the Orissa Gram Panchayats (Minor Forest Produce Administration) Rules, 2002 empowering the gram panchayats to play greater role in procurement of NTFP, in absence of infrastructure, bargaining power of the collectors and knowledge of the market price, the poor collectors continue to be exploited. (New Indian Express 16/4/14)

 

MINORITIES, MUSLIMS, CHRSITIANS, COMMUNAL RIOTS

24. Shah moves HC for quashing FIRs (7)

Allahabad:  “The court has directed the state government to produce the CDs in connection with the FIR,” said Shamit Gopal, counsel for the petitioner. “The court has directed the state government to produce the CDs in connection with the FIR,” said Shamit Gopal, counsel for the petitioner. BJP’s UP in-charge Amit Shah Wednesday approached the Allahabad High Court seeking a stay on his arrest and quashing of FIRs registered against him for allegedly giving “hate” speeches at election meetings in Bijnor and Shamli on April 4. A Division Bench of Justices Arun Tandon and Satish Chandra has asked the state government and the Election Commission to ensure that the CDs of the alleged hate speech are presented before it by Thursday. Shah had been booked under Section 125 of the Representation of People Act and Section 153-A of the Indian Penal Code, both pertaining to promoting enmity between two communities. Both were registered on April 6 in Shamli and Bijnore. “The court has directed the state government to produce the CDs in connection with the FIR,” said Shamit Gopal, counsel for the petitioner. Election Commission counsel Bhupendra Nath Singh said: “The court asked the EC to produce the CDs. We submitted (before the court) that while we will try to get it in time from our headquarters, the state may be in a better position to do so. The court then asked both the state and the EC to ensure that they are brought before it in the stipulated time.” Gopal said that the petition has sought stay on Shah’s arrest and quashing of the FIRs on the ground that the alleged offence was not made in the speech. “Our contention is that the speech in question was not intended to disturb communal harmony or create a law and order situation. In the absence of intent, the alleged offence is not made. We have also argued that this speech was not made at a rally or a public meeting that is open to all. It was a meeting of limited people who were party workers. Third, our argument is that the speech did not lead to any law and order situation or breach of peace in public and, therefore, it cannot be concluded that it was inflammatory,” said Gopal. In meetings on April 4 in Bijnor, Shamli and Muzaffarngar, Shah had reportedly said it was time to seek revenge by casting vote. “A man can live without food or sleep. He can live when he’s thirsty and hungry. But when he’s insulted, he can’t live. Apmaan ka badla toh lena padega,” Shah had reportedly said. Amid an outcry from political parties, which termed it a tactic to polarise the 2014 elections, the BJP had defended Shah’s statement saying that asking for revenge through vote was not inflammatory. to help us personalise your reading experience. Muzaffarnagar and its surrounding areas had witnessed communal riots last year in which more than 50 people were killed and a large number of victims were rendered homeless. (Indian Express 10/4/14)

 

25. Suspended priest prevented from entering polling station (7)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: At Government Lower Primary School, Pozhiyoor, the only signs of an election-related commotion on polling day on Thursday were when the police prevented M.T. Stephen, who was suspended from his priestly duties by the Latin Catholic Church for contesting the polls, from repeatedly entering the polling station. Fr. Stephen, an Independent candidate, argued that he had returned after voting only to help his mother, Thankamma, to cast her vote. “Is this what they call a democratic set-up? Can’t a son help his visually challenged mother to cast her vote?” asked the priest. With the police and the polling officials finally agreeing to allow him to accompany his mother till the door of the booth, he calmed down. Later, Fr. Stephen said the stand-off with the church was just ‘short-term,’ and his attempt was to serve the people. Archbishop of the Thiruvananthpuram Archdiocese of the Latin Catholic Church M. Susaipakiam had suspended Fr. Stephen from priesthood for a year, stating that the latter’s decision to contest the polls was in violation of the laws of the church, and disregarding a directive from the Archbishop. Fr. Stephen had replied that as per the canon law, he did not have to seek permission to contest elections but would only have to seek permission from the Archbishop if he won the polls and had to take an oath of office. (The Hindu 11/4/14)

 

26. Muslims stand united in their demand for a secular government (7)

New Delhi: The streets of Batla House — a Muslim-dominated neighbourhood that has echoed religious polarisation ever since the infamous encounter of 2008 — rang out with impromptu slogans against BJP’s Narendra Modi every now and then amid brisk voting on Thursday. ‘Vote for the Congress, vote for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) – vote for anyone you like, brothers and sisters, except Narendra Modi’ went the slogan followed occasionally by whistles. The general issues that had governed their choice, voters admitted, ranged from corruption to inflation, secularism, stability and their say in ensuring a government at the Centre that could promise them security. “Corruption, inflation, secularism and stability are the issues that I voted on. But the most important of these is secularism. I believe I’ve voted for someone who believes in treating people from different religions like siblings, not enemies,” said Mohammad Shariq, 28, a property dealer from Batla House which is a part of the East Delhi constituency. Mujid Ahmed, 42, a central government employee who resides in Jamia Nagar, agreed. “Anti-corruption is a big issue for me since I’m a government employee myself. But so is secularism. I can’t tell you whom I voted for, but who Muslims like me did not vote for is easy to guess.”(Hindustan Times 11/4/14)

 

27. Gujarat conjures up a minority commission (7)

AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat government has not set up any state minority commission for the redressal of issues concerning the minority communities. It does not even dispute it. But in a handbook, it claims to have set up a commission for minorities and provides a contact number for the same. In a handbook published for Children Protection Committee, the state department of social justice and empowerment has provided various contact numbers and addresses for the redressal of various issues. This handbook has contact numbers of state/national minority commissions on its list of institutions. While the Centre has one such commission in place and this handbook bears its address, the book also contains the number of state’s commission with the address of ‘Gujarat Minority Finance and Development Corporation, Jivraj Mehta Bhavan, Gandhinagar’. Social activist Mujahid Nafees wanted to know whether any such commission exists and the details of its office-bearers. To his RTI application, the department of social justice and empowerment replied that no such commission exists. Nafees said this handbook has been published by the government in collaboration with NGO, ‘Save The Children’ and Unicef. “This gives a clear message that the Gujarat government has got an organization in place to take care of certain issues of the minority communities, but it has got no power to address the issues that a commission is empowered to do,” he said. The social activist said he has asked the international organizations to throw light on the issue as to how such mistake has taken place. “I am waiting for their answer. But I am going to write to all three parties involved in the publication to correct this mistake,” he said. (Times of India 11/4/14)

 

28. ‘Pre poll survey unethical’ (7)

Mangalore: Union Minister for Minority Affairs K Rehman Khan has termed pre poll survey as immoral and unethical at a time when the electioneering process has already commenced in the country. It is an attempt to influence the voters indirectly.  Addressing a press meet here on Tuesday, he said that the 16th Lok Sabha poll is a battle between the forces of secularism and communalism. “We are confident that people will vote for secularism. We are seeking votes based on the achievement of the UPA government. All of us want India to remain a secular country. However, disturbances caused by communal forces to vitiate the peaceful atmosphere and endanger the secular fabric are a threat to democracy.” The Union Minister said that the opposition are accusing the Congress of not implementing Sachar C  ommittee recommendations. The government has implemented 66 recommendations of the committee. If the UPA III comes to power, then all the minorities who are entitled for scholarship will get it. What is Gujarat model BJP Prime Ministertial candidate Narendra Modi is talking about: Gujarat was a developed state when he became the CM. He had just carried forward the development. No new refineries were set up after he became the Chief Minister. Godhra riot occurred during his tenure as a CM. Owning moral responsibility, he should have tendered resignation. If he becomes the PM, then it would be the darkest day in the history of the country. Kerala Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala has said that there is no terrorist activities in Kerala. “It was Modi’s view that Kerala is nurturing terrorist activities. Kerala police are active and the State is safe.” Maoists have made their presence felt in four to five districts in Kerala. Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu officials are working out a strategy to contain the Maoist activities. Stating that restoring secular fabric of the country is need of the hour, he said Modi and RSS are trying to weaken the secular fabric of the country. People will not tolerate autocratic way of functioning of Modi. (Deccan Herald 15/4/14)

 

29. Some apprehension among Muslims vis-a-vis Modi: Kalbe Jawwad (7)

Lucknow: Maulana Kalbe Jawwad today said there was some fear among Muslims as far as BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi was concerned. Maulana Kalbe Jawwad today said there was some fear among Muslims as far as BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi was concerned. Prominent cleric Maulana Kalbe Jawwad today said there was some fear among Muslims as far as BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi was concerned, but its national president Rajnath Singh’s image was emerging like former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. “There is some apprehension among Muslims vis-a-vis Modi. They feel Rajnath Singh will prove better. They used to apprehend that if BJP comes to power, something could happen. But the ground reality is that the best relations with Pakistan developed when Vajpayee was the External Affairs Minister,” he said. Jawwad, however, said his meeting with Rajnath, who is contesting from Lucknow, last night was not political, but personal. “I don’t consider this meeting as political, but personal. We had been meeting earlier as well. When he was the Chief Minister, he used to meet us. He used to come and greet us when Namaz of Eid was held. From this point of view we have old relations…this meeting was not political, but personal,” he said. On being asked about the manner in which he had given a statement against Congress and whether he would give a statement in support of BJP, Jawwad said, “We don’t intend to issue any statement in the favour of any party. Whatever Rajnath has told us, we will keep it before our community.” “There is no compulsion from our side…It’s up to them (Muslim community) as to whom they wanted to vote,” he said. Asked whether he would issue any ‘fatwa’ (diktat) in favour of BJP, he said, “Fatwa is never political, it is always related to Shariyat.” On Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s meeting with Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid Syed Ahmed Bukhari, Jawwad said, “The basic difference is that Bukhari went to meet Sonia, whereas Rajnath came to us on his own.” To a question whether Rajnath would get the same support as Vajpayee got in Lucknow, Jawwad said, “Rajnath’s image is growing fast. In fact, he is reaching the same level (as that of Vajpayee).” (Indian Express 16/4/14)

 

WOMEN

30. Honour Killing lands In-laws Behind Bars (8)

In yet another case of suspected honour killing, a 22-year-old woman was brutally murdered by her in-laws who force-fed her poison after tying her up. According to police, Boobathi, daughter of Chellapillai from Pudukottai, belonging to the Udayar community, fell in love with Satish Kumar, son of Kannan from the Thevar community in Bodinayakanur, while they were working in a textile outlet in Chennai.   Despite strong opposition, the two got married on April 18, 2013 in Bodi and approached the police for protection.  Later, the police called members of both the families for talks, during which the girl’s family severed their relationship with Boobathi. The marriage also brought disappointment to Sathish ’s mother Sulochana, who was expecting huge dowry as Sathish was her only son. The couple was living with Sathish’s parents. Sulochana allegedly took away Boobathi’s earnings and tortured her for more dowry.  She also forced Boobathi to undergo abortion when she became pregnant the first time and also planned to marry off her son after separating the couple. On April 4, Sulochana and her husband Kannan tied Boobathi’s hands and force-fed her poison. Sulochana then made the death appear as suicide, but police developed suspicion over the injury marks on the victim’s hand and mouth and grilled Sulochana. Finally, she confessed to her crime and both Sulochana and her husband were arrested. A Kathir, executive director of Evidence, a Madurai-based human rights organisation, said that so far 25 honour killings had been reported in Tamil Nadu in the past 18 months. (New Indian Express 10/4/14)

 

31. Fury at Mulayam rape remarks (8)

Lucknow, April 10: Mulayam Singh Yadav today alleged that innocent men were being sentenced to death in false rape cases and asserted that when his party came to power, it would change the new anti-rape law and punish women who make false rape charges. He also asserted that rapes sometimes happen because “boys make mistakes”. “Rape ke liye phaansi dena galat hai; ladkon se galti ho jaata hai; hum satta mein aaye to kanoon mein badlav karenge (It’s wrong to hang people for rape; boys make mistakes; if we come to power we shall make changes to the law),” the Samajwadi Party chief told a rally in Moradabad. “Often boys and girls have differences although they may be in a live-in relationship. The girl makes a false statement saying she has been raped…” Mulayam had begun before appearing to switch the context. “And then, poor fellows, three of them were sentenced to death…” he added. The veteran politician seemed to be referring to the Shakti Mills double gang rape in Mumbai that led to three repeat offenders being sentenced to hang this month. “Should rape cases be punished with death? Two or three were sentenced to death…. We will change such laws. We will make a provision for punishing those making false statements,” he said. Last year’s criminal law amendment, following the furore over the brutal December 2012 bus gang rape in Delhi, brought in the provision for repeat rapists being punished by death or with a life term. The Shakti Mills trio are the only rapists sentenced in India to hang despite their victims being alive. S.D. Hasan, the Samajwadi candidate for whom Mulayam was campaigning and who was present on the dais, said Mulayam was expressing “his genuine sense of anger at men being implicated in false rape cases and awarded the death sentence”. He struggled to explain the context of his leader’s outburst. “He (Mulayam) was speaking about his commitment to farmers and Muslims. He was telling us that a leader like Narendra Modi should not become Prime Minister. He was speaking about justice for all and, in this context, took up the defence of innocent men implicated in rape,” Hasan said. But Bhukkal Nawab, a Samajwadi MLC, told reporters: “Mulayam Yadav is expressing anger because Muslim youths are being falsely implicated in rape cases.” The Samajwadi election manifesto, released on April 2, had alleged “large-scale misuse of… (the) new anti-rape law that came into existence after (the) ‘Nirbhaya’ rape case”. But it had added: “We are in favour of implementing the new law strictly and at the same time will initiate strict action against those misusing them.” Women’s activist Ranjana Kumari said the Election Commission should take cognisance of Mulayam’s remarks, lodge an FIR and arrest him, for “calling rape a small mistake is directly encouraging rape”, a PTI report said. The agency quoted former National Commission for Women chairperson Poornima Advani as saying: “A public apology is the least. The Election Commission should take up this matter. This is a negative and useless election stunt that is going to hit him (Mulayam) hard.” The Congress said Mulayam’s remarks were “unfortunate”. The BJP’s Subramanian Swamy accused the Samajwadi leader of playing “minority politics” against the backdrop of the recent Muzaffarnagar riots in which many women were allegedly raped, PTI added. After television aired Mulayam’s remarks, the Samajwadi chief became a target of attacks on the Internet. (The Telegraph 11/4/14)

 

32. IOC welcomes Saudi end to girls’ sports ban (8)

GENEVA: The International Olympic Committee on Sunday urged the Saudi government to push forward with moves to lift a ban on sports in girls’ state schools. The conservative Muslim kingdom’s consultative Shura Council last week recommended an end to the ban, which was relaxed in private schools last year, state media reported. “We welcome this development and look forward to approval by the Education Ministry,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said in a statement. The ministry must officially lift the ban as the council is influential, but only advisory. Adams noted that IOC president Thomas Bach had raised women’s involvement in sport when he visited Saudi Arabia. “On the IOC President’s visit to Saudi Arabia last week the National Olympic Committee outlined plans to increase women’s participation in sport in the kingdom at university level, which we fully support,” Adams said. “And following participation by female athletes from Saudi Arabia at the Olympic Games in London and the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore this would be a further step towards full participation by girls and women at all levels of sport in the country,” he added. All education in Saudi Arabia is single-sex, but sports in girls schools remains a sensitive issue in a country where women have to cover from head to toe when in public. The kingdom bowed to international pressure and sent its first ever female participants to an Olympics at the 2012 London Games. The IOC agreed to allow the two Saudi women — a judo player and a middle-distance runner — to compete with their heads and bodies covered in deference to the Islamic dress code enforced at home. Human rights campaigners say that millions of Saudi women remain effectively barred from sports. Saudi authorities shut down private gyms for women in 2009 and 2010, and women are effectively barred from sports arenas by strict rules banning men and women mixing in public. The kingdom follows a strict interpretation of Islamic law, forbidding women to work or travel without the authorisation of their male guardians. It is the only country in the world that bans women from driving. “Saudi Arabia has a long way to go to end discriminatory practices against women, but allowing girls to play sports in government schools would move the ball down the field in ways that could have major long-term impact,” said Human Rights Watch on Saturday. (Times of India 13/4/14)

 

33. Quick justice will curb crime against women: SC judge (8)

HYDERABAD: Justice Sudhansu Jyoti Mukhopadhyaya of the Supreme Court on Saturday urged AP Chief Justice Kalyan Jyoti Sengupta to give general instructions to all judicial officers in the state to fix a stipulated time frame to resolve cases of violence and discrimination against women so that it can lead to a fall in the crimes against women. Addressing the Motilal Setalvad – Vasudev Pillai Endowment Lecture at the AP Judicial Academy on how judiciary can help women victims, Justice Mukhopadhyaya said that speedier delivery of justice will serve as an effective solution to the increasing crimes against women. From 1953 to 2011, rape cases all over the country went up by 873 per cent, he said, adding that the only way left before us is to deal with the problem effectively, expeditiously and in a stipulated time frame to drive home a strong message that the judiciary will respond seriously against all such crimes. Explaining how relief can be accorded to women under legislations like the domestic violence prevention Act and anti dowry Act, the SC judge asked all subordinate court judges to deliver instant justice to women caught in matrimonial violence and economic abuses. Make dispossession of women from their in-laws’ homes very difficult and instead, you can ask the men to stay away from the house where the victim is residing irrespective of the ownership of the house, Justice Mukhopadhyaya said. All evictions of women should be in accordance with the law and until then men may be asked to stay away, he added. Making it clear that he is alive to the ground realities prevailing in our society which is overwhelmingly male dominant, the judge said the only way available is to change the male mindset and hoped delivery of instant justice would go a long way in this. He, however, added that the change should start at the family level. We must treat our women with respect and due recognition, he said. Chief Justice Kalyan Jyoti Sengupta, Justice K C Bhanu and several judges of the AP high court participated in the programme. Congratulating M Rajender, director of AP Judicial Academy, for organizing the session, he added said that the change should start at the family level. (Times of India 13/4/14)

 

34. Parties have similar solutions to gender-based aggression (8)

Women’s empowerment rocketed to the top of India’s national agenda in December 2012 with the globally reported rape of a medical student on a New Delhi bus. Unprecedented coverage of sexual violence sparked agitation in India and worldwide for more efficient police investigations, stronger penalties for assailants and improved security for women. This year, for the first time, every major party included women’s security in its platform. But parties offer very similar solutions to gender-based aggression. They also posit plans to increase women’s access to education and job training – currently just 19 percent of the formal workforce and 43 percent of classrooms are female. Women even hold leadership positions in every major party. So if female Indians are to vote based on “women’s issues,” stances will have to be more specific. “There is no doubt that there is a rising incidence of violence against women in this country,” said Meera Sanyal, the Aam Aadmi Party Lok Sabha candidate for Mumbai South. “All of India, across all political parties, realize that this is not a good thing. I can’t imagine there is any political party that says violence against women is a good thing.” The AAP, formed in Delhi in 2011, won headlines for picketing the city’s police in 2013. Unique in their manifesto is a call to disqualify from campaigns the Members of Legislative Assemblies (MLAs) and Members of Parliament (MPs) who have been charged with violence against women. A 2012 study found this rule would indict 44 current MLAs and MPs, as well as 327 candidates who contested in 2009. Sanyal said, “Twenty-nine percent of MPs are heirs. Thirty percent have criminal charges against them. There is no one else to vote for [other than AAP].” But, of course, there are other parties to vote for. The ruling Congress Party and its lead opponent, the Bharatiya Janata Party, hope to empower women by increasing their access to political power. Congress claims credit for a 2009 act requiring local panchayats to reserve 33 percent of their seats for women. In 2011 an amendment increased reservations to 50 percent. And Congress promises that, if elected, it will guarantee passage of the national Women’s Reservation Bill. The Rajya Sabha approved the bill in 2010, but it has been stalled in Lok Sabha for four years. Just four of 21 candidates in Mumbai are women — 19 percent — yet it’s the highest proportion among Indian states. BJP staff member Kushal Mehra said, if women want to vote for a party that gives women power, they should look to his. “BJP is the only party in India that has actually given 30 percent representation to female representatives in its parliamentary body, even to the board level,” Mehra said. (Indian Express 16/4/14)

 

TERRORISM

35. Sri Lanka Arrests 65 LTTE Members (12)

Colombo: Over 60 LTTE cadres, including 10 women, have been arrested for trying to revive the banned terror group in Sri Lanka, police said today. “We arrested 65 of them over the last month. Five of them later came to be released due to lack of evidence,” police spokesman and Superintendent Ajith Rohana said. They were nabbed for their terrorist financing and related activity aimed at reviving the LTTE, he said, adding that 10 of them were women. The 60 are currently being detained in gazetted detention centres of the government. “They have access to all the facilities under the law,” Rohana said. Sri Lanka has raised alarms over attempts by the LTTE to regroup just five years after they had been eliminated in a ruthless military campaign which ended in May 2009. Last month, the government announced a list of designated terrorist groups and over 420 individuals allegedly engaged in terror financing. The 16 listed organisations included the LTTE and several key Tamil diaspora groups such as the Global Tamil Forum and the British Tamil Forum. The diaspora groups are being described as the fronts for the LTTE in the Western world and seen as playing a key role in influencing the governments of countries like the US and the UK. Sri Lanka views the US-led three successful UN Human Rights Council resolutions on its alleged human rights abuses as an act of favouring the LTTE. Since the end to the conflict, Sri Lanka rehabilitated at least 11,000 LTTE members who had surrendered at the final battle. Up to 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed at the end of the nearly three-decade-long separatist war, rights groups and experts have said. (Outlook 10/4/14)

 

36. 2 cops killed in militant attack in J&K (12)

SRINAGAR: Two police personnel were killed on Sunday when militants opened fire at the house of a ruling National Conference youth leader in Pulwama, the first terror attack targeting election activities in Jammu & Kashmir this year. The security forces eliminated one of the two assailants in the ensuing gunbattle. Shohda (martyrs’) Brigade, believed to be a shadow outfit of militant group Lashkar-e-Toiba, claimed responsibility for the attack. Militants opened fire at the residence of Yawar Masoodi, who is organiser of NC’s youth wing in South Kashmir, at Khrew in Pulwama, 35 kms from here, this afternoon, police said. Two policemen — head constable Abdul Hamid and constable Vinod Kumar — posted on guard duty were injured in the attack. They were rushed to a nearby hospital where they were declared dead on arrival. The attack took place when Masoodi was holding a party meeting at his residence, a spokesman for National Conference said. The security forces chased the militants and engaged them in nearby fields, police said adding one militant was killed. The other militant involved in the attack was still holding up till last reports came in, the police said. This is the first militant attack targeting election-related activity in Kashmir since the schedule for Lok Sabha polls was announced by the Election Commission.  (Times of India 13/4/14)

 

37. Militants killed after 22-hour gun battle (12)

Jammu: The Jammu and Kashmir police on Monday killed two militants of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in a 22-hour gun battle at Ahmadnagar on the northern outskirts of Srinagar. Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Abdul Gani Mir told TheHindu that the two militants, who had injured two head constables, were identified as Abu Hufeza and Chhota Hafiz of the LeT. They are believed to be Pakistani nationals, but their belongings, including two AK rifles and some incriminating documents, are still under scrutiny, the IGP said. Two CRPF personnel were also reportedly injured in the operation. The IGP said the militants had taken a family captive and it took the security forces around 12 hours to evacuate the hostages. “When we swooped down on the locality on a tip-off last evening, the militants entered a house and held the inmates hostage at gunpoint. Our first priority was to ensure that there was no civilian casualty. We launched the assault only after we succeeded in rescuing all the family members,” Mr. Mani said. The local residents, however, said no one was taken hostage by the militants. Meanwhile, a valley-based militant outfit — Jamiatul Mujahideen — claimed that the two slain militants belonged to its outfit. The group, however, did not give their identity or residence particulars. The encounter in Srinagar took place four hours after two LeT militants, identified as Usman Gauri and Abu Zarr of Abbottabad, Pakistan, were killed by the army and police in a joint operation near Khrew on Sunday.  They were intercepted while fleeing from Khrew after launching an attack on the house of Jammu and Kashmir High Court judge Justice Hasnain Massodi, whose son Yawar is a leader of the ruling National Conference’s youth wing. Mr. Yawar, who, according to the police, was the target had a narrow escape as he escaped from the rear exit. (The Hindu 15/4/14)

 

JUDICIARY/ LAW

38. SC stays HC order on go-ahead for nursery admissions in Delhi (19)

New Delhi: The Delhi HC had in a recent order asked the govt to process the nursery admissions as per the Feb 27 notification of the Lt Governor. Legal row over nursery admissions in the national capital witnessed yet another twist on Friday with the Supreme Court staying the Delhi High Court order on going ahead with the admission process without considering the points for inter-state tranafers. A bench led by Justice H L Dattu issued a notice to the Delhi government, which is currently under the President’s Rule and the Lt Governor is the administrator. The Delhi High Court had in a recent order asked the government to process the nursery admissions as per the February 27 notification of the Lt Governor. It had said that the controversy over five points for inter-state transfers will be decided later and hence the schools had to make admissions on the basis of 70 poin criteria. The Delhi High Court has to hear the case next on April 16. (Indian Express 11/4/14)

 

39. Over 30,000 cases pending in UT court (19)

PUDUCHERRY: More than 30,000 cases have been pending in the Union Territory for the past five years, and to clear them, on average, each officer of the court disposes of 20 cases a month, Chief Judge of Puducherry C.S. Murugan said on Saturday. “To ensure proper dispensation of justice, however, it is vital that witnesses understand the importance of court and take their responsibility seriously. No matter how much investigation is done by the police, it is difficult to deliver a proper verdict without the cooperation of witnesses,” he told journalists at the end of a Mega Lok Adalat. During the Lok Adalat, 10,000 cases were presented, and 6,468 were dismissed. The settlement amount of all the cases was Rs. 9,87,96,664. Of the total, there were 219 accident settlements amounting to Rs. 4,35,63,000, 154 cases under the Negotiable Instruments Act (mainly dealing with bounced cheques) with settlements amounting to Rs. 1,42,40,720, he said. These apart, 3,822 petty cases, 1,569 criminal cases, 486 pre-litigation cases, 17 Family Court cases, 195 civil cases and six labour cases were dismissed. The previous Lok Adalat was held on November 23 last. It heard over 18,000 cases and the settlements exceeded Rs. 25 crore. During the Lok Adalat, ordered by the Madras High Court, three Bench were set up, each comprising two judges and one advocate. (The Hindu 13/4/14)

 

40. Supreme Court calls for scientific methods in crime detection (19)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has asked investigating agencies to adopt scientific methods in crime detection to save the judicial system from low conviction rates. “The criminal judicial system in this country is at a crossroads,” a Bench of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and A.K. Sikri said. “Reliable, trustworthy, credible witnesses to the crime seldom come forward to depose before the court and even hardened criminals get away from the clutches of the law. Even reliable witnesses for the prosecution turn hostile due to intimidation, fear and a host of other reasons. Investigating agency has, therefore, to look for other ways and means to improve the quality of investigation, which can only be through the collection of scientific evidence.” Writing the judgment, Justice Radhakrishnan said there was a need to strengthen forensic science for crime detection. The judiciary needed to be equipped to understand and deal with such scientific materials. “People think that practices and principles that served in the past must give way to innovative and creative methods, if we want to save our criminal justice system. Emergence of new types of crimes and their level of sophistication have made traditional methods and tools outdated,” he said. The Bench gave this ruling while modifying the death sentence awarded to Dharam Deo Yadav, who murdered Diana Clare Routley, a 22-year-old girl from New Zealand who visited Varanasi in 1997. The trial court had awarded death sentence and it was confirmed by the Allahabad High Court. The Bench said: “We have no eyewitness version in the instant case and the entire case rests upon circumstantial evidence. Due to lack of any evidence with regard to the manner in which the crime was committed, the case will not fall under the rarest of rare category. “So far as this case is concerned, the DNA sample from the skeleton matched with the blood sample of the father of the deceased and all the sampling and testing was done by experts whose scientific knowledge and experience have not been doubted in these proceedings. The prosecution has, therefore, succeeded in showing that the skeleton recovered from the house of the accused was that of Diana, daughter of Allen Jack Routley and it was none other than the accused who had strangulated Diana to death and buried the dead body in his house.” Consequently, the Bench said that it was commuting the death sentence to life and awarding 20 years of rigorous imprisonment, over and above the period already served by the accused, without any remission. “This in our view will meet the ends of justice,” the Bench added. (The Hindu 15/4/14)

 

41. Foreign divorce decree not conclusive for cases in India: HC (19)

CHANDIGARH: Deciding a divorce case of an NRI couple, the Punjab and Haryana high court has ruled that any judgment passed by a court of another country in a matrimonial dispute would not be considered “conclusive” in relation to the same matrimonial dispute pending before an Indian court. The court has held that couples who have tied the knot in India and migrated to foreign lands would be governed by Indian laws only and the matrimonial decree passed by a foreign court would be binding only if the orders are passed as per the Hindu Marriage Act (HMA). A single bench headed by Justice Rajiv Narain Raina had passed these orders while dismissing a petition filed by one Rupak Rathi, who had challenged the divorce petition filed by his wife Anita Chaudhary as the couple had already got divorce in a UK court on the grounds of “irretrievable breakdown” of marriage. Dismissing Rathi’s petition, Justice Raina held, “Since irretrievable breakdown of marriage is not available in HMA, the foreign court decree would neither be binding in India nor recognized.” The complexity of the matter had come to the fore during divorce proceedings initiated by Rathi in Brantford County Court (BCC) in the UK on March 17, 2011. While those proceedings were pending, Chaudhary filed a divorce petition in a Panchkula court under Section 13 of the HMA on grounds of cruelty by Rathi. Both the proceedings carried on simultaneously for sometime before the English court passed a decree of divorce on January 31, 2012, on the ground that the marriage had “broken down irretrievably”.Following the divorce in UK, Rathi moved the Panchkula court seeking rejection of Chaudhary’s divorce petition on the ground that the UK’s divorce decree was binding. He also argued that the Panchkula court has no jurisdiction to entertain the divorce petition. Chaudhary, however, contested that the UK had no jurisdiction to pass the decree of dissolution of marriage on the ground of irretrievable breakdown of marriage, which is not available in HMA. HC has now dismissed Rathi’s objection petition and the divorce would be decided by the Panchkula court.  (Times of India 15/4/14)

 

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

42. Uddhav appeals to rain-affected farmers to not commit suicide (20)

Aurangabad, Maharashtra, Apr 10 : Shiv sena president Uddhav Thackeray appealed to the rain-affected farmers in the state to not take extreme steps like suicide and pull down the present government who was the responsible for it. Addressing an election campaing rally last night at Parbhani in support of party nominee and sitting MLA Bandu Jadhv, he said the panic stricken farmers who lost their crops in the recent havoc of hailstorm rains in the region as well as in the state committed suicide for being debt ridden. He charged that when the farmers were committing suicide in the past months Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar was busy in election campaign instead of helping them. He said the people of the Parbhani always had love for Sena and so he appealed to the voters once to vote in favour of Mr Jadhav. In the history of Parbhani Lok Sabha election those candidates who were elected on Sena tickets were later deserted from the party and joined Congress and NCP. They are Suresh Jadhav, Tukarm Rege-Patil and Ganesh Dudgaonkar were now working hard for NCP nominee Vijay Bamble. Hence, he called Mr Jadhav and asked him to take an oath in front of voters that he will not quit the party. (New Kerala 10/4/14)

 

43. 79 debt-ridden farmers commit suicide in Marathwada region (20)

Aurangabad, Maharashtra, Apr 11 : Frustrated over their inability to repay loans after their standing rabbi crops and horticulture were destroyed in recent unseasonal rains and hailstorm, 79 debt-ridden farmers, including women, have committed suicide through different means in the Marathwada region of the state.

Following reported destruction of at least 8 lakh hectares of standing crops due to the hailstorm, 79 suicides by panic stricken farmers, including women, have been registered with concerned officials at different places in the eight districts of the region, sources in the divisional commissioner’s office here today said. According to statistical data, the Beed district has the highest number of suicides registered at 16, followed by 14 each in Nanded and Osmanabad, 11 in Hingoli, 9 in Latur, 8 in Aurangabad, 5 in Parbhani and 2 in Jalna. Of the 79 cases, inquiry into 48 cases had been completed by the administration, while 31 are yet to be completed. Meanwhile, even after the Election Commission’s nod and subsequent announcement of relief package for the affected farmers by the state government, the concerned farmers are yet to recieve the package amount in their respective bank accounts in Aurangabad, rued the affected farmers. (New Kerala 11/4/14)

 

44. FIR against Raj Thackeray for urging farmers to ‘kill than die’ (20)

YAVATMAL: An FIR has been registered against MNS chief Raj Thackeray for allegedly making a provocative statement at an election rally held here in support of his party candidate. While canvassing for MNS’ Raju Raje Patil on April 7, Raj allegedly exhorted farmers “not to commit suicide but kill those who have done injustice”.During the speech, the MNS chief read out a purported suicide note left behind by a farmer, urging people not to vote for the Congress-NCP as the leaders of those parties were responsible for him taking the extreme step. Raj appealed to the farmers that they should not end their lives because of the burden of debts. “Don’t commit suicide. It is not a solution to your problems. If at all you want to die, first kill those who have done injustice to you,” he reportedly said at the meeting. The FIR was registered by the legal cell of police at the City police station on Saturday. “So far, 51 cases have been filed, including the one against Raj Thackeray,” said returning officer Narendra Fulzele, without elaborating. (Times of India 13/4/14)

Posted by admin at 14 April 2014

Category: Uncategorized

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

1. Modi picks holes in RTI, NREGA (1)

Bagalkot (Karnataka): A day after his rival, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, picked holes in Gujarat’s development, BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi derided as ineffectual the Right to Information Act (RTI) and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) that the UPA government counts among its achievements. Addressing a rally here on Tuesday, he noted that while it was possible to get information through the RTI Act, corrupt officials or politicians could not be punished under it. “What is the use of getting information through the RTI Act when we cannot punish the corrupt?” he demanded. Calling the MGNREGS a mere eyewash, he accused the Congress of failing to keep its promise of providing at least one job to every household. “It has generated merely 1.25 crore jobs during its tenure, while the NDA government had created more than six crore jobs in a mere five years. The Congress has looted crores of rupees through MGNREGS and failed to redress the country’s unemployment problem,” Mr Modi charged. (Asian Age 9/4/14)

 

2. ‘Political Parties are Public Bodies, RTI Act Should Apply (1)

HYDERABAD: Political parties can by no means evade public scrutiny as they are essentially public bodies and should be brought under the ambit of the Right to Information Act Central Information Commission member Madabhushi Sridhar has said. Taking exception to political parties rejecting CIC’s order to come under the purview of RTI, Sridhar said at a seminar organised by the department of communication of Osmania University here on Wednesday, “The Congress, BJP, CPI, NCP, CPM and BSP _ whom we have asked to appoint public information officers _ have replied in unison that they need not divulge information to the public as they are not public bodies. If a political party is not a public body, then is it a private, family-run organisation? How absurd is this?” he asked. He mooted the idea of a provision that will make the contesting candidates disclose in their affidavit about the number of parties they have switched in a decade. “The affidavit for filing nomination should include this provision. Also, an elected representative should be brought under RTI by terming them as a public authority,” he suggested. He questioned the logic behind not letting the Election Commission of India to deregister and derecognise political parties. “Today, there are 1,147 registered political parties, most of which do not contest. In fact, some of these have never contested at least in one election. They exist just because, as registered political parties, they can avail income tax exemptions,” he pointed out. In view of this, the Election Commission should be given a free hand to derecognise all defunct political parties by amending the Representation of People Act 1951, he said. He observed that the RTI Act was benefiting a large sections of people. (New Indian Express 10/4/14)

 

3. Information panel member wants political parties under RTI (1)

HYDERABAD: Political parties can by no means evade public scrutiny as they are essentially public bodies and should be brought under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act says Central Information Commission (CIC) member Madabhushi Sridhar. Taking exception to political parties rejecting CIC’s order to come under the purview of RTI, Sridhar said that “the Congress, BJP, CPI, NCP, CPM and BSP–whom we have asked to appoint public information officers–have replied in unison that they need not divulge information to the public as they are not public bodies. If a political party is not a public body, then is it a private, family-run organisation? How absurd is this?” he quipped. He was addressing a seminar organised by the department of communication of Osmania University The Hyderabad-based journalist-turned-RTI activist mooted amendments to election law that will make the contesting candidates disclose in their affidavit about the number of parties they have switched in a decade. “The affidavit for filing nomination should include this provision and the elected representative, be it MLA or MP or MLC, should be brought under RTI by terming them as a public authority,” he said. Sridhar, who has authored several publications on RTI Act, questioned the logic behind restrictions on the Election Commission of India to deregister and derecognise political parties. “Today, there are 1,147 registered political parties, most of which do not exist in public domain and contest elections. In fact, some of these have never contested at least in one election.” He said most of them exist only because, as registered political parties, they can avail income tax exemptions and their public platforms could be exploited for different purposes other than public service. In view of this, the Election Commission should be given a free hand to derecognise all defunct political parties by amending the Representation of People Act 1951, Sridhar asserted. (Deccan Herald 11/4/14)

 

4. Govt departments find loopholes in RTI Act to delay, deny information (1)

CHENNAI: From redirecting queries to giving vague replies, or just ignoring the envelopes that land on their tables, officials in some government departments in the state are gaining notoriety for delaying information under the Right to Information Act. While the RTI Act was introduced to promote transparency in government departments, a section of them are misusing specific clauses in the legislation to stave off questions. A recent RTI filed by TOI is a case in point. The department of personnel and administration reforms – the nodal agency for the RTI Act – denied information on the grounds that it would affect its routine work. The public information officer (PIO) of the department cited Section 7(9) of the act, which says “Information shall ordinarily be provided in the form in which it is sought unless it would disproportionately divert the resources of the public authority or would be detrimental to the safety or preservation of the record in question.” Officials are also coming up with ways to delay information in instances that clearly would not require “disproportionate” diversion of resources. Metrowater, the transport department and TNEB keep passing the buck through their warrens of rooms, while departments like social defence, Tasmac and police are reluctant to collate information and insist that applicants file separate RTIs to different sub-departments. This is a violation of the act. Seven of the the 15 zones in Chennai corporation – Royapuram, Thiru Vi Ka Nagar, Ambattur, Anna Nagar, Teynampet, Kodambakkam and Valasarvakkam – are regular defaulters in furnishing information. A PIO in the corporation admitted they don’t have a centralised system to gather information from corporation zones. “Many PIOs are busy with other work and don’t have the time to furnish the information within the stipulated time,” he said, adding that the corporation also lacks a separate RTI cell to gather data from various departments and zones. The department of social defence has also consistently violated Section 6 (3) of the act, which mandates transfer of the information request to the concerned authority if the application is not meant for the department. “If the information relates to more than one public authority, the application need not be transferred to all. It is informed that the petitioner may send individual application to each of the public authorities concerned,” an RTI reply from the department to a query said. For most PIOs, staff shortage, lack of records and pressure from higher officials, are favourite picks from their pool of excuses to delay and deny information under the act. Activists have pinned the blame on the state information commission for these delay tactics. “The main threat to the RTI Act is the state information commission, which has failed to impose fines on PIOs,” said M Thuyamurthy, an RTI activist from Tondiarpet. “The PIOs are under no pressure to answer queries. So these delay tactics come as no surprise,” he said. (Times of India 14/4/14)

 

HUMAN RIGHTS/ RIGHTS GROUP/ NHRC

5. Activists deny development claims by Modi (1)

Mumbai: Rubbishing the development claims made by Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, a team of activists from Gujarat have brought out a fact-finding booklet called, Gujarat ki Sachchai (The Truth of Gujarat), highlighting the poor condition of the state in education, health, unemployment and farmers suicide. The figures are based on information obtained through RTIs and various reports of the Gujarat and the Central government. “Gujarat government’s boasts of attracting investments is a bluff. Take the case of ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ in which MoUs of `20.83 lakh crores were signed, but the actual investment that came to the state was only of `29,000 crores,” said Prof. Hemantkumar Shah from the department of economics, HK Arts College. The booklet is written by Mr Shah and supported by PUCL, Gujarat. Mr Shah said that in the state, 43 per cent of children below the age of five are malnourished and so are 47 per cent of the women. The people falling below the poverty line have gone up to 50 lakhs from 26 lakhs in 2000, Gujarat stands eighth in poverty and 16 lakh educated youth are unemployed. “Mr Modi’s claims about economic growth in the state were also a lie as per government figures. During 1960-80, economic growth rate of Gujarat was 4.34 per cent and India’s was 3.30 per cent. In 1980-2000, this rate went to 14.3 per cent for Gujarat 5.5 per cent for India. In 2000-12, Gujarat’s rate was 9.5 per cent and India grew to 7.5 per cent. So, what development are we talking about?” Mr Shah added. On industrial development, the professor said the state government had waived off penalties of many companies without giving any reason, causing a loss of crores of rupees to the state exchequer. He also denied the claim of 24-hour electricity supply to the entire state. “Only the domestic consumers are getting electricity supply. The farmers are getting power only for eight hours, instead of the earlier 16. The timing of the electricity supply is not known and the farmers have to sometimes work at midnight,” he said. Another activist, Mahesh Pandya, from Gujarat Social Watch, said that only 1.09 per cent of public expenditure in Gujarat in 2011-12 was on education and health, which is well behind states like Rajastan and Meghalaya. He also pointed that despite 31 farmers’ suicides in the state, the BJP spokesperson mentioned only one death. (Asian Age 9/4/14)

 

6. Human Rights Panel Comes to the Rescue (1)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The State Human Rights Commission has come to the rescue of a coconut plucker who was denied compensation when his property was taken over for the multi-crore Vizhinjam seaport project. Following the Commission’s intervention, the state government has provided compensation to the labourer, the Commission said in a statement on Wednesday. The action came on a complaint filed by C Surendran, Suneesh Bhavan, Kottukal. The complaint was that even though the government had acquired his seven-cent plot and house, he was not given compensation. Following this, the Commission had sought an explanation from the District Collector. Following this, the government announced that the property was being acquired at ‘Ponnumvila’ (rate fixed by government for acquisition of land). Surendran was also included in the rehabilitation package announced by the State Government in connection with the International Container Transshipment Terminal project. As part of this, he was also sanctioned five cents of land in Kottukal village. Government company Vizhinjam International Seaport Ltd (VISL) is acquiring land in two stages for the project – for establishing basic facilities like parking lots and godowns in the vicinity of the proposed port and for rail and road connectivity. Learning its lessons well from the vexatious Moolambilly land acquisition controversy in Kochi for the Vallarpadam port project, the state government had announced a proper rehabilitation package under which government officials held discussions with the land owners and fixed the price before taking over their property. The government is planning to award the contracts for the construction, development and operation of the port this year itself. (New Indian Express 10/4/14)

 

7. Sri Lanka Has No Faith in International Probe’ (1)

COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan government Saturday said it has no faith in an international investigation into the alleged human rights abuses occurred during the civil war in the country. President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s special envoy on human rights and Government Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said that Sri Lanka feels an international investigation will lack credibility and will not be independent, Xinhua reported. Samarasinghe was speaking to reporters after meeting some of the island’s leading Buddhist monks and briefing them on the latest developments in the country. The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva last month passed a resolution, calling for an international investigation in Sri Lanka over allegations that human rights abuses were committed during the war between Tamil Tiger rebels and the army. Human Rights Council members also called on Sri Lanka to reduce the number of troops in the former war zones in the north in order to restore normalcy, five years after the war ended. Samarasinghe said the decision to maintain troops on the ground in the North was justified following a clash between three former rebels and the army in the northern Vavuniya town. A most wanted rebel member identified as Gobi and two others were killed following a confrontation with the army Thursday. The Sri Lankan army and the Tamil Tiger rebels fought a 30-year civil war before the rebels were defeated in May 2009. Human rights groups and some Western countries pushed for an investigation into alleged war crimes committed during the final stages of the war. Sri Lanka, however, rejected an international probe and instead appointed a local commission to probe the allegations. The UNHRC had last month adopted the US-sponsored resolution which claimed that the domestic investigations fell short of expectations. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay urged the government to cooperate with an international probe. However, Sri Lanka’s strongest allies China and Russia refused to back Pillay’s call while India also felt an international probe was unacceptable. (New Indian Express 13/4/14)

 

HIV/AIDS

8. Patna high court informed about increase in HIV cases (3)

PATNA: There were only two HIV positive cases in the state in 2002 and, if the state government’s stats are to be believed, their number has increased manifold with there being around 1.25 lakh people with HIV in the state. This was pointed out by advocate Vikash Kumar Pankaj before a division bench of Justice Navin Sinha and Justice Vikash Jain on Monday while the bench was hearing a PIL filed by one Sanjit Singh on the alleged insensitive attitude of different bodies of the state and Union governments towards the dreaded disease. Pankaj, who is the counsel for the petitioner, pointed out the ambiguity in the records of the state government, saying the Bihar State AIDS Control Society’s report suggests there are around 39,000 people in the state with HIV. This number is far less than the number given by the state government. The large gap in the two reports shows they are hardly concerned about the exact number of such persons let alone providing them proper medical facilities, he argued. Despite the contradictions in the two reports, it can’t be ignored that the number of people with HIV was increasing every year, argued Kumar and submitted before the court newspaper reports regarding death of three HIV affected persons at Patna Medical College Hospital. These reports included a TOI report on the death of a woman at the hospital due to alleged lack of sensitivity on the part of hospital authorities. The PIL has been filed by a person with HIV. The matter will again be heard on Thursday. (Times of India 9/4/14)

 

9. Landmark Legislation to Provide Succour to AIDS/HIV-affected (3)

KOCHI: HIV/AIDS-affected persons and civil society groups working towards their betterment look up to the HIV/AIDS (Prevention and Control) Bill, which was tabled in the Rajya Sabha recently, as a landmark legislation. Bringing a ray of hope to the lives of HIV-infected persons, the Bill was approved by the cabinet and presented in the Rajya Sabha around two months ago. The Bill, said to be the first disease-centric Bill in the country, was drafted in 2006.  Once implemented, it could help protect HIV/AIDS-affected people against discrimination and curb human rights violations  meted out to them. Experts are hopeful that as the bill was presented in Rajya Sabha, it will not lapse though the the term of present Lok Sabha has ended. “ This Bill has many clauses which protect their rights. It states when and where the patients could divulge about their disease. There are provisions that clearly speak about disclosure of HIV positive status to partners, protection of property of children affected by HIV or AIDS and many other clauses which could prevent stigmatising them,” said  Dr Ajith Kumar K, additional professor, Thrissur Medical College and member of the technical resource group, National Aids Control Organisation( NACO). Unlike any other Bills drafted before, this was the first bill which was drafted after nation-wide consultation with different sections of people including HIV patients, civil society groups,  healthcare workers, children’s organisations, women’s groups, trade unions, lawyers, and State AIDS Control Societies. “ Grass-root level consultations were held before coming up with unique provisions for the Bill,” he said. Though this is the case, there are many apprehensions attached to it, say sources. “What delayed the Bill was the confusion pertaining to a clause in particular, which says the first, second and third line of treatment for the disease should be given free of cost. If something unexpected happens, the government will have to take responsibility. This will put the government in a tight spot,” they said. Some are apprehensive that the passing of the Bill may be delayed further. “ There are many Bills which have been delayed even after they were presented in the Rajya Sabha. We hope this Bill will not have to meet such a fate,” said Joseph Mathew, president, CPK+, an NGO which works for rehabilitation of HIV- infected persons. (New Indian Express 10/4/14)

 

10. No leniency, HIV patient gets 7-year jail for robbery (3)

NEW DELHI: An HIV positive man and his wife have been sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment in a robbery case by a trial court. The court rejected the man’s plea for leniency on health grounds saying such crimes need to be curbed. The court also imposed a fine of Rs 3,000 on each of them and said, “Nowadays, such crimes are being committed frequently which are required to be curbed, therefore, deterrent punishment is called for. No leniency is required to be taken in such matters.” Additional sessions judge Yashwant Kumar handed down the jail term to the couple after holding them guilty for offences punishable under various sections of the IPC including 392 (robbery), 452 (house trespass) and 397 (robbery with attempt to cause death). The crime took place on July 11, 2011, when the couple had forcibly entered the complainant’s house, where the woman had worked earlier as a maid, and had robbed Rs 8,000 cash and a ring. Police told the court that during robbery, the couple had assaulted the complainant and her family members. The neighbours, after hearing the screams of the victims, managed to rescue them. The woman was apprehended while trying to flee away, followed by the arrest of her husband on the same day, police had said. During the trial, the couple denied all allegations levelled against them and claimed innocence. However, the court convicted the couple while relying on the evidence brought before it. (Times of India 13/4/14)

 

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

11. Five Haryana villages may boycott elections (4)

Gurgaon: Even as the curtains were drawn on campaigning for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in Haryana slated for April 10 on Tuesday, the residents of five villages whose several hundred acres were acquired for setting up of a Special Economic Zone by Reliance India Limited are yet to make up their mind on whether to exercise their franchise or not. While one of the villages, Gadoli Khurd, has largely decided to boycott the election as a mark of protest, the remaining four want to exercise their right to vote. Over 1,300-acre belonging to five villages–Gharoli Khurd, Harsaru, Mohammadpur, Khandsa and Narsinghpur—was acquired by the Haryana Government in 2006 for setting up SEZ and handed over to Reliance. Though several hundred families across the five villages were affected due to land acquisition, Ghadoli Khurd bore the brunt with the RIL building over seven-foot wall around the village cutting it off from the neighbouring villages. “The process of land acquisition was initiated by the Chautala government and completed by the Hooda government. So who should we vote for? We cannot even vote for BJP’s Rao Inderjit Singh, who was in the Congress till weeks before the election and did nothing to help us while being our MP. And voting for AAP is sheer wastage. We have, therefore, decided at a panchayat meeting to boycott the election,” said Kamal Singh, whose 38 acres were acquired. Gharoli Khurd-resident Ram Kumar, a former panchayat member, said the land acquisition has rendered many jobless. “Neither did we get enough compensation nor the promised jobs. Our village is worst affected with a boundary wall around it and foul-smelling drains flowing on both sides.” (The Hindu 9/4/14)

 

12. Land row biggest hurdle in path to growth (4)

RANCHI: For a decade, the slogan “jaan denge par zameen nahin denge’ (we will sacrifice our lives but not give up our land)” has been echoing in rural Jharkhand. Tribals, who were for years dislodged from their traditional habitats after industries, mostly from the public sector, acquired their land at cheap rates, have swung to the other extreme. With no jobs or alternate sources of livelihood, they are now up in arms against companies, both public and private, looking for land to set up their projects. Locals are demanding answers from politicians trawling their villages for votes. The people displaced by Bokaro Steel Ltd (BSL), which acquired land in the area in 1958, recently forced supporters of Samresh Singh, the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (P) candidate from Dhanbad constituency, to beat a hasty retreat from Kandauri village after they pelted stones on them and their vehicles. Accusing politicians of not keeping their word, the displaced people have resolved not to allow any candidate inside the villages. Players in the private sectors, however, lament that though some cases of protests are genuine, unrest is also being fuelled by other factors – including the involvement of local leaders with vested interests who twist the situation to their advantage. “During elections or other economic demands, these people try to use industries. With such kind of governance, it is difficult to set up any industry here,” said a senior official with a private company. Not surprising then that the state, home to more than 40% of the country’s mineral reserves, is still one of the most laggard and backward in the nation. Thousands of its villagers migrate to other states in search of work. As people are battling insurgency and gang wars in rural areas, it has also inspired Bollywood potboilers like ‘Kala Patthar’ and ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’. A massive displacement of people took place when Heavy Engineering Corporation (HEC), SAIL’s Bokaro Steel Ltd and a couple of more projects in Tenughat and Masanjhore of the Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) – Jawaharlal Nehru’s dream projects – came up between 1958 and 1991. More than three lakh people, 40% of whom were tribals, were displaced, according to a survey. Over the last decade, however, several development projects – barring those of the Railway or National Highway Authority of India -have been stalled due to protests over land acquisition. The notable few among such projects are NHPC’s Koel Karo project and the Netarhat field firing project. More recently, the proposed land acquisition for setting up an Indian Institute of Management in Ranchi had to be shelved due to stiff resistance from land holders. “Agitations are perennial here, though BSL’s policy on compensation is clear,” said BSL chief executive officer Anutosh Maitra. Books of the PSU indicate there were originally 13,000-odd displaced people and BSL provided jobs to 16,000. Raghunath Mahato, leading a faction of the displaced people, said: “There are 20,000 people who have not been provided jobs or compensation by the company.”BSL chief of communications Sanjay Tiwari said BSL has welcomed such claims, provided they were supported by original documents. “Compensation and jobs were given to the original land-holders, but as the families split the number also rose,” he said. ”Land acquisition is the biggest hurdle on the path to industrialization and development. The Coal-bearing Areas Acquisition and Development (CBA) Act, Chhotanagpur Tenancy Act etc have various complexities involved. Growth is not being linked to the peripheries and has not been integrated. The literacy rate in the the periphery areas of Tata Steel, which is a 100-year-old company, was below 40% in 2001,” said economist Ramesh Sharan. More than 70 memoranda of understanding (MoU) have been signed between the state government and big ticket companies, including ArcelorMittal, but only a handful have seen the light of day and those which have are struggling for existence. “Mittal wanted to take a huge chunk of land in Torpa without offering proper compensation to the land holders, for which it never got the land,” Sharan said. (Times of India 10/4/14)

 

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

13. SC committee rejects 23 of 24 proposed Uttarakhand hydro projects (9)

DEHRADUN: The Supreme Court monitoring committee formed by the ministry of environment and forests to study 24 proposed hydro projects on the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi rivers in Uttarakhand has published minutes of meetings on the MoEF website, and unanimously decided not to recommend 23 of the new projects, worth 2683.6 megawatts. The committee was set up in October 2013 after the SC took note of a Wildlife Institute of India report that pointed the extensive threat to biodiversity because of these projects. The court directed the MoEF to set up a committee to examine the projects. The committee’s recommendations could hit Uttarakhand’s ambitious plan for self-sufficiency in the power sector. “We compute the cost of producing one megawatt of power at anything between Rs 8 crore to 10 crore,” a senior Uttarakhand Power Corporation Ltd official told TOI on condition of anonymity on Tuesday. By his reckoning, the cost of shelved projects could be as high as around Rs 20,000 crore. The minutes of the meetings were uploaded on UPCL website a few days ago. Members of the committee approved only one of the 24 projects, Kotlibhel (195mw), saying it was in a “comparatively low biodiversity sensitive area”, and would not significantly impact wildlife. However, they noted that the project could impede the free flow of the river up to 20 km downstream. The 13-member committee comprises experts from various fields. Member-secretary YKS Chauhan told TOI that immense pressure is being exerted on members from various quarters not to recommend closure of the projects. The committee has rejected most of the projects, as they are proposed in either eco-sensitive zones or within forbidden zones of wildlife sanctuaries or parks, in habitats of rare, endangered and threatened species. Some are in ecologically sensitive zones. The site of the proposed Rambara Project (24mw) on Mandakini river was washed out during the June 2013 deluge. Alaknanda project (300mw) and Khairon Ganga (4mw), are proposed within 10 km of the Valley of Flowers National Park, a World Heritage Site, in violation of SC directions. Lata Tapovan project (170mw), Malari Jhelam (114mw), Jelam Tamak (126mw) and Tamak Lata (250mw) on Dhauliganga river also fall within the Nanda Devi National Park, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Two projects on the Rishi Ganga river, with a capacity of 105mw, have also been proposed within a 10-km radius of Nanda Devi National Park. Hemant Dhyani, a member of the committee, said, “These 24 projects will leave a serious negative impact on the biodiversity of the surrounding areas. The state government should revoke these projects immediately.” Speaking of other projects not listed along with these 24, the members expressed concern that approval was granted to Lakhwar (300mw) and Vysai (120mw) recently, without the mandatory clearances, and also without an approved disaster management plan. (Times of India 9/4/14)

 

14. Lok Sabha polls: Party manifestos mum on pollution in rivers (9)

NEW DELHI: Pollution in Yamuna or Ganga do not figure in the manifestos of the capital’s three major political parties nor does any focused plan on addressing the crisis of rivers. Despite having its roots in Delhi, Aam Aadmi Party doesn’t talk about its plans for the extremely polluted Yamuna. With little progress made on the Ganga and Yamuna action plans, the Congress merely aims to “clean rivers on a large scale”. The BJP, meanwhile, continues to pitch its controversial pet project-interlinking of rivers. Environmentalists say little thought has gone into addressing urgent ecological concerns like the state of rivers or their position on dams. Congress in Delhi oversaw most part of the Yamuna Action Plan’s Phase II but, as per reviews by various civil society groups, neither YAP I or II contributed much in improving the health of the river. About Rs 6,500 crore has been spent on the river in the past 19 years, according to Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan. But this time, activists were hoping that AAP, which is more of a local party, would have a plan for Yamuna. “AAP doesn’t say anything on rivers. Since it appeared to be a more forward looking party, we hoped it would have some radical plans for the river and floodplains. This is a letdown,” Manoj Misra of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan said. The only ‘radical’ proposition by AAP is to transfer the ownership of minor minerals and forest produce to local communities and have a “royalty and revenue sharing agreement” with them in cases of commercial exploitation of natural resources. However, there are even more serious concerns about BJP’s manifesto that plans to interlink rivers and provide “piped water to all households”. “It’s a disastrous proposition to interlink rivers. It’s not just unscientific. The fact that it has not taken off in the past 10 years is proof of the fact that it can’t be done. It’s very expensive and can lead to huge displacement,” said Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator of SANDRP (South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People). BJP has been proposing interlinking of rivers since 2004 because it sees it to be a means to provide irrigation to all states, Thakkar says. He adds that the “right wing attempt to save the Ganga” also doesn’t reflect in the manifesto. Instead a very populist agenda comes across with BJP promising water for all but not reflecting on how it will manage that feat, he says. In the cultural heritage section of BJP manifesto, it does mention about “purifying” Ganga water but there is no action plan on how it can be purified. The plight of Ganga that hasn’t got any focused agenda from the three parties seems even more pertinent considering that the PM candidates of BJP and AAP are contesting from Varanasi. Congress, for its part, has a very simplistic view on rivers-it wants to “clean rivers on a large scale”. “Something that is successful can be replicated. But the action plans have not been successful, so I don’t know how they plan to clean all rivers. The manifesto should have elaborated on how they will clean the rivers,” said Thakkar. However, Congress has managed to put down a few concrete plans-like launching a Green National Accounts so that environmental costs are reflected in national accounts and setting up a National Environmental Appraisal and Monitoring Authority for environmental appraisals. (Times of India 10/4/14)

 

15. Agriculture and livestock emissions up 14%: FAO (9)

Mumbai: Between 2001 and 2011, emission of carbon dioxide from crops and livestock rose 14 per cent—from 4.7 billion tonnes to 5.3 billion tonnes—, showed data compiled by the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). In its first report on greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, forestry and other land use, FAO attributed the increase in global carbon dioxide emissions to a significant spurt in agricultural output in developing countries. The report showed emissions from agriculture, forestry and fisheries nearly doubled through the past fifty years; by 2050, these could increase 30 per cent, if immediate efforts to stop these aren’t taken. Net greenhouse gas emissions due to change in land use and deforestation fell 10 per cent in the 2001-2010 period, averaging about three billion tonnes a year of carbon dioxide. This resulted from reduced deforestation and a rise in the amount of atmospheric carbon being sequestered in many countries. Net forest conversion to other lands (deforestation) resulted in the release of four billion tonnes of carbon dioxide a year into the environment. The release of another billion tonnes of carbon dioxide a year was recorded from degraded peat lands, while an average 0.2 billion tonnes was released due to biomass fires. During the 2001-2011 period, about two billion tonnes of carbon dioxide a year were removed from the atmosphere as a result of carbon sequestration in forest sinks. FAO said the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture was enteric fermentation—when methane is produced by livestock during digestion and released via belches. In 2011, this accounted for 39 per cent of the sector’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Emissions from enteric fermentation increased 11 per cent between 2001 and 2011. Emissions during the application of synthetic fertilisers accounted for 14 per cent of agricultural emissions (725 million tonnes of carbon dioxide) in 2011; this is the fastest-growing emission source in agriculture, having increased 37 per cent since 2001. Greenhouse gases resulting from biological processes in rice paddies, which generate methane, account for 10 per cent of total agricultural emissions, while the burning of savannahs accounts for five per cent. In 2011, 45 per cent of agriculture-related greenhouse gas emissions were recorded in Asia, followed by the Americas (25 per cent), Africa (15 per cent), Europe (11 per cent), and Oceania (four per cent). This distribution was fairly constant through the 2001-2011 period. In 1990, however, Asia’s contribution to the global figure was less (38 per cent), while Europe’s was much higher (21 per cent). (Business Standard 12/4/14)

 

EDUCATION/ RIGHT TO EDUCATION

16. Orphans, disabled yet to get RTE benefit (11)

Bangalore: As many as 36 schools in Bangalore North and South districts have not admitted a single street children, an orphan or disabled under the Act. Picture for representation purpose only While a number of students belonging to ‘disadvantaged categories’ such as OBC, SC and ST in Bangalore North and South have benefited by availing themselves of the 25 per cent quota under Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE Act), other sections under the same category haven’t been that lucky. Street children, physically challenged, orphans and children infected with HIV have been largely ignored, a study has revealed. The study titled ‘Inclusion of Marginalised Children in Private Unaided Schools under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009’, was carried out by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in association with Oxfam, an international NGO, in the two education districts of Bangalore. In fact, primary data collected from 36 schools in the two districts show that no one from this ‘other’ disadvantaged category was admitted to any of the schools under the 25 per cent quota, according to Archana Mehendale, Associate Professor, School of Education, TISS. “Getting admitted under the 25 per cent quota entails submitting a number of certificates. For example, a child with HIV needs to get a certificate from the Health department. For an orphan, he/ she has to also give proof of being an orphan, which is cumbersome. Such processes need to be streamlined,” she said. Analysis of Education department data carried out in the study reveals that in the 1,927 private unaided schools in the two Bangalore districts, the share of enrolments under the RTE Act was the least among children belonging to the ST category compared with those from the SC and OBC categories. In 2013-14, the percentage of enrolments of children belonging to the ST category was between 1 and 5 per cent in Bangalore North. It was 23 to 33 per cent in the case of SC students and as much as 67 to 76 per cent of the OBC students. In Bangalore South it was between 2 and 4 percent, 24 and 37 percent and 59 and 72 percent for the ST, SC and OBC students, respectively. In 2011-12, the figure was between 0 and 6 per cent (North) and 3 and 5 percent (South) for ST students. For SC students, it was 29 to 45 per cent (North) and 34 to 52 per cent (South) and for OBCs it was 50 to 71 per cent (North) and 46 to 62 per cent (South). In addition to the disadvantaged categories, there is also the “weaker section” that comprises children of all communities and castes, excluding those mentioned under the disadvantaged categories, whose parent’s or guardian’s annual income is less than Rs 3.5 lakh. The study highlights that the government “by its own admission” had fixed this “arbitrary amount”. The study, therefore, states that these various classifications do not address the question of multiple disadvantages. (Deccan Herald 8/4/14)

 

17. High Court asks dropout kids to be re-enrolled (11)

Bangalore: The High Court on Tuesday said that education had become a luxury and child labour a compulsory activity for children in the State. These observations were made by the bench following a submission made by the counsel representing the Centre for Law and Policy Research Trust that the High Court of Punjab and Haryana had passed an order to ban child labour not just in hazardous industries, but in all sectors. Hearing a suo motu PIL petition on effective implementation of the Right to Education Act and to bring back the children who had dropped out from schools, a division bench comprising Chief Justice D H Waghela and Justice B V Nagarathna directed the labour department to ensure that the provisions of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, are enforced effectively. The government counsel submitted that two co-ordination meetings have been held, wherein suggestions from the members have been taken. The counsel said that enrolment of children (those who had dropped out of school) will begin from May 20 and will continue till the second week of June. The bench directed the government to ensure that all children, including those belonging to the lower strata of society and those in rural areas, are included for enrolment (in the age group of 6 to14 years).  (Deccan Herald 9/4/14)

 

18. Only 63 forms accepted online on Day 1 of 25% Right to Education quota admissions (11)

MUMBAI: Day One of the online 25% RTE quota admissions seemed to be slow as only 63 forms were accepted. Experts blamed the low turnout on the scarce publicity, which was initiated just one day before the online process for 8,242 seats from 312 city schools began on Thursday. Education officials said many parents visited the 26 help desk centres to enquire about the process. “We had to send back many parents as they did not have the correct documents. Our officials explained the process to them and by the end of this month, we are sure thousands of forms will be registered,” said Sambhavi Jogi, civic education officer. “Parents can fill forms till April 30 and then the dates for the two rounds of lottery system will be conducted decided and admission lists released.” The RTE quota admissions are being conducted on rtemaharashtra.in. The state-operated helpline number, 8237733022, is functional from 11am to 5pm. (Times of India 10/4/14)

 

19. Govt ignores Delhi high court order to reserve seats for disabled students (11)

New Delhi: The Delhi high court’s order on April 3 to restart the nursery admissions may have got all the attention but another directive with far-reaching impact seems to have fallen through the cracks. The HC had ordered schools to reserve 3% seats for students with disabilities. This was to be over and above the 25% seats reserved for students from the economically weaker sections and disadvantaged groups. The directorate of education, however, has failed to notify the order to date. The order was not even given a single mention in the admission guidelines that were released on April 4.  “Why was the order not notified in the same guideline? Are we going to take away the right to education of a set of children? The list of 43 schools that cater to children with disabilities was given to the court. Why has this not been put up to date? If these parents will go to court, a new guideline will have to be released. This will have more legal repercussions. These children need our deepest concerns,” said Ameeta Wattal, chairperson, National Progressive Schools’ Conference. The parents of students with disabilities have fought a long and hard battle to make sure that schools admitted students with disabilities and seats were reserved for them separately. “Parents have been fighting for this right for a very long time and were very happy when the court finally ruled in our favour. The DoE, however, seems to be skirting its responsibility. It has been more than a week already and there is still no notification. I can’t see any other reason for this,” said Mrinal Dhingra, a parent whose son suffers from Aspergers’ Syndrome.  Calls to officials of the Directorate of Education went unanswered. (Hindustan Times 12/4/14)

 

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

20. 3 CRPF officials killed, 8 injured in landmine blast (12)

AURANGABAD/PATNA: Three CRPF personnel were on Monday killed and eight other security officials injured when a landmine planted by Maoists in Bihar’s Aurangabad district went off while it was being defused. The incident took place ahead of the April 10 Lok Sabha polls in the Maoist-affected district. Deputy inspector general of CRPF Chiranjeev Prasad told PTI in Patna that the three deceased were from CRPF and out of eight, excepting for the officer in charge of Dibra police station Amar Kumar Chaudhary, seven hailed from the paramilitary force. The deceased were deputy commandant Indrajeet and jawans — Pawan Dahia and T Punnarao, the DIG said. Indrajeet was sent to Ranchi Apollo Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries, Prasad said. While two critically injured CRPF jawans have been sent to Ranchi Apollo Hospital, the rest six including the OC have been rushed to Anugrah Narayan Magadh Medical College in Gaya. Inspector general of police (Operation) Amit Kumar said a joint team of CRPF and Bihar police was defusing the landmine planted by ultras in Dibra police station area of Aurangabad district when it went off. The IG said two IEDs were recovered from the spot. Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) S K Bhardwaj said the incident took place when the forces were defusing landmines. Sources in the CRPF control room, however, said that while the CRPF team along with the OC of Dibra police station were on way for a search operation in a jungle near Gopal Dera village, the Maoists triggered landmines. (Times of India 8/4/14)

 

21. Maoists kill 2 jawans as 53% vote for 6 seats in Bihar (12)

PATNA: Two CRPF jawans were killed and seven others injured in Munger as sporadic incidents of violence threatened to mar polling in the six constituencies that reported 53% turnout in the first phase of parliamentary election in the state on Thursday. State chief electoral officer (CEO) Ajay V Nayak said the turnout figure could increase to 55% after the consolidation of the final figures coming from the fields. He said poll boycott was reported from five polling stations in Karakat constituency. Nayak said the voter turnout went up by about 12% compared to last parliamentary election in the six constituencies. The turnout this time was 56% in Sasaram (SC), 52.25% in Karakat, 51% in Aurangabad, 54% in Gaya (SC) and 52% each in Nawada and Jamui (SC). Two CRPF jawans on way to a polling station for poll duty were killed and seven others of the team injured when Maoists triggered an IED explosion around 3am near Bheembandh which falls under the Jamui parliamentary constituency. The deceased were identified head constables Ravindra Rai and Swami Gowda. While Rai belonged to Saran in Bihar, Gowda hailed from Karnataka. Their bodies were sent to their native places after being given guard of honour. Four of the injured jawans were brought to Patna and admitted to a private hospital where principal secretary (home) Amir Subhani and DGP Abhayanand also visited them. The hospital’s medical superintendent, Dr Anand Paderu, told TOI the injured jawans had received splinter injuries and were recovering. Polling at 22 polling stations in Jamui and Nawada were postponed by the authorities. The polling stations were located in Sikandra, Jhajha and Chakai assembly segments of Jamui and Govindpur assembly segment of Nawada. ADG (HQ) Ravindra Kumar said the police had to resort to firing in the air when a section of anti-social elements tried to damage the EVM and tore the election documents at polling booth number 180 located in a secondary school at Rahim Bigha under the Bela police station area in Gaya district around 1.30pm. Police recovered nine can bombs from Banke Bazar in Gaya. (Times of India 11/4/14)

 

22. CRPF, poll personnel among 14 killed in Maoist strikes (12)

Raipur: Relief over the relatively peaceful April 10 polling in Bastar in Chhattisgarh evaporated on Saturday, as Maoists blew up a bus taken by polling official and an ambulance by Central Reserve Police Force personnel, killing 14 and injuring several, in the State. In one of the deadliest acts of election-related violence, Maoists blew up the ambulance, ‘Sanjivani 108,’ near the Darbha Valley in Bastar, killing five CRPF personnel and two ambulance technicians. Five CRPF personnel were injured, the police said. Earlier, seven polling officials were killed and three were seriously injured when Maoists blew up a bus carrying polling officials in the Ketunlar area, 22 km from the district headquarters of Bijapur. “The polling officials were advised to walk and not to use any vehicle. But they were tired and boarded the bus, which was blown up in a landmine blast,” said Arun Dev Goutam, Inspector-General of Police, Bastar range. Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh condemned the attack, and said the Maoists were enemies of democracy. (The Hindu 12/4/14)

 

23. Police constable killed in Naxal attack (12)

Mumbai: A 34-year-old police constable was shot dead and five of his colleagues injured after a group of Naxals fired at them and threw pressure bombs while they were escorting poll booth officials in Aheri in the Gadchiroli district on Friday afternoon. The poll booth officials escaped unscathed. According to the Repanpalli sub police, the incident was reported at around 1 am in a jungle area known as Asha gaon, Tondal phata in Jimlagatta. There were about 15 to 16 poll booth officials from four to five booths. They were carrying the EVMs while the police personnel were walking in a circle around them. “Suddenly, the Naxals fired bullets from a distance and escaped into the woods. While one of our constables, identified as Giridhar Aatran succumbed to his injuries, five of our colleagues suffered burn injuries. All of them are being treated at a hospital, but they are out of danger,” said police sub-inspector Dharmendra Joshi, spokesperson for the Gadchiroli police. Suvez Haque, SP, Gadchiroli police, said, “It is difficult to say what firearms were used in the attack, but it will be clear in a day or two. We are trying to trace them.”

Aatran is survived by his wife, two sons, mother and a brother. On Saturday, all senior police officers related to anti-naxal efforts paid their tributes to him at his funeral. The election commission has given `20 lakh to Aatran’s family as immediate compensation. (Asian Age 13/4/14)

 

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

24. UN envoy raises alarm over west Myanmar ‘persecution’ (13)

Yangon: Acute shortages of water and medical treatment in western Myanmar following attacks on humanitarian groups are the latest hardships imposed on Rohingya Muslims that “could amount to crimes against humanity”, a UN expert has said. The United Nations’ human rights envoy to the country, Tomas Ojea Quintana, said a wave of attacks against aid organisations had choked off health, water and food supplies, increasing the vulnerability of the Rohingyas. “Recent developments in Rakhine State are the latest in a long history of discrimination and persecution against the Rohingya community which could amount to crimes against humanity,” he said in a statement yesterday. More than 170 aid workers were pulled out of the state as a result of last month’s unrest — the first time they have been forced to leave en masse — and there are fears that the entire relief infrastructure has been severely damaged. The exodus has deepened an already dire health situation for hundreds of thousands reliant on international medical relief, with some 140,000 in the camps, as well as more than 700,000 vulnerable people in isolated villages severely affected. Quintana said water supplies could reach critical levels within a week in some camps for displaced people, the vast majority of whom are Muslim, and urged the authorities to do more to ensure the safety of humanitarian personnel. Rakhine has been almost completely segregated on religious lines after long-standing animosity between Buddhists and Muslims erupted into bloodshed in 2012, leaving dozens dead in clashes. Tensions have been heightened by Myanmar’s first census in three decades, which has stoked anger among Buddhists that it might lead to official recognition for the Rohingya, a Muslim minority viewed by the authorities as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Quintana said the government’s decision not to allow Rohingyas to register their ethnicity in the census meant that the population tally was not in accordance with international standards. The outspoken envoy, who is approaching the end of his six-year tenure, urged the government to address “systematic discrimination and marginalisation” of the Rohingya in his final report on the country. British Foreign Minister Hugo Swire tweeted yesterday that he had summoned the Myanmar ambassador “to register our deep concern about humanitarian access and conduct of census in Rakhine”.Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine are subject to a web of restrictions on everything from movement and employment to marriage and in some areas family size. (Zee News 8/4/14)

 

25. 40,000 migrants among voters in Jammu (13)

Jammu: As many as 40,000 migrants from Pakistan are part of 1.7 million people who are eligible to cast their vote on Thursday in the Jammu Parliamentary constituency. These migrants, however, can’t vote in the Assembly polls. The 40,000 migrants are among nearly 100,000 refugees from Pakistan who could affect the electoral fortunes of the candidates in this constituency. These refugees came here after 1947 and after the two wars of 1965 and 1971 between India and Pakistan. Over 40,000 among them have voting rights in the Parliamentary elections. Ironically this is the only ‘privilege’ these migrants have of being Indian citizens. They cannot vote in the Assembly elections, have no property rights under the permanent resident or State subject rules of Jammu and Kashmir, nor can anyone of them apply for a government job here. (The Hindu 9/4/14)

 

26. SL Tamil Ends Hunger Strike After 34 Days (13)

VELLORE: After observing a fast-unto-death for 34 days demanding the closure of special camps for Sri Lankan refugees in the State, Sri Lankan Tamil Chenthuran (alias) Murugan on Thursday called off his hunger strike following an assurance from senior police officers who promised to look into his demands. Also, he demanded the police not to invoke the Foreigners Act against Sri Lankan Tamils and drop all the cases filed against him. Chenthuran (32) ended his fast at 7 am on Thursday by drinking tender coconut water, said his wife Mangayarkarasy. She along with her daughter came to meet her husband who was admitted to the ICU at Government Vellore Medical College Hospital. He began his fast-unto-death protest on March 7 when he was arrested under the provision of Foreigners Act, after he came out on bail. He was shifted to the hospital on March 3 after his health condition worsened. IG Kannappan and ADGP Ramanujam spoke to Chenthuran over the phone on Thursday and told him that they would not be able to take a decision in the present situation (elections). They said they would look into the demands of my husband after the elections were over, his wife said. (New Indian Express 11/4/14)

 

27. Govt Partial Towards Bangladeshi Refugees, Ignoring Those from Pakistan’ (13)

BARMER (Rajasthan):  Raising the issue of refugees, Narendra Modi today accused the government of giving undue favour to immigrants from Bangladesh while denying any facility for displaced persons from Pakistan. Modi also strongly pitched for extending citizenship rights to refugees from Pakistan.   “If any one comes from Bangladesh then he is welcomed and all rules are broken for him. But the same is not done for refugees from Pakistan coming here,” Modi said at an election rally here.   Sympathising with refugees from Pakistan, he said, “They come here because they love India. They have come from Pakistan not for any ulterior motives, but they are shouting Bharat Mata Ki Jai. They do not get any citizenship benefits.  Why should they be denied? we need to end this politics of  votebanks.” Assuring support to Pakistani refugees, he said, “I want to assure you that you are also like Indian citizens. We will do justice and give all rights to you.”    Hitting out at votebank politics, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate said it has weakened the nation.  “If we want to save the country then we have to get rid of this votebank politics. If the votebank politics continued then our country will not progress and cannot be a modern nation,” Modi said. Barmer constituency in Rajasthan has generated a lot of interest as expelled BJP leader Jaswant Singh is contesting from here as an Independent, defying the party. (New Indian Express 12/4/14)

 

28. Pilibhit Bengali refugees yet to get voting rights (13)

BAREILLY: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was in Pilibhit to address a rally on Saturday, failed to strike a chord with the Bangla-speaking refugee community living close to the India-Nepal border. The reasons were not hard to find. Although, more than half of this one lakh strong community has been granted citizenship, many are still to find their names on the voters’ list, revenue records and caste register. The people are still waiting for the PM to fulfill the promise he made during his last visit in 2007, when he assured the community Scheduled Caste status. These settlers migrated to India from East Pakistan (Bangladesh) after the 1965 and 1971 India-Pak wars. They were settled in the 22-km-long stretch of land compriSingh seven gram sabhas of Gabhria Sahrai, Naujaliah and Chanda Hazara areas in Pilibhit district. To rehabilitate them, the Government of India provided .05 acre of land to each family on a 90-year lease. The Bengali refugees who belong to Namoshudra, Pond and Majhi communities have been granted SC status in West Bengal and Uttarakhand, but not in Uttar Pradesh. According to Nityanand Malik, a senior member of the community and a lawyer, 47 years have passed but the issue of their nationality hangs fire and they have been deprived of voting rights. Moreover, the government has not awarded them the “patta” for the land which they have been tilling for the past 40 years, said Malik. He added that many among them living on the banks of river Sharda have lost their land owing to soil erosion and have been forced to make ends meet by making bidis and coir mattresses. In 2007, when the PM had visited the area, he had promised to accord SC status to the community. Senior Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee and Priya Ranjan Das Munshi who also visited the area in 2009 made similar promises, but nothing came of it, rued Thakur Das, resident of Chanda Hazara. He added that after Pranab Mukherjee became President, a delegation of Bengali settlers from Pilibhit had met him and apprised him about their demand, but to no avail. District magistrate of Pilibhit Om Narayan Singhh said, “The issue of nationality has to be decided by the Government of India and the state government is nowhere in the picture. As regards SC status, it would be decided by the state government once the issue of nationality is settled.” (Times of India 13/4/14)

 

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

29. Social activist bats for MGNREGS friend (14)

Dhanbad, April 7: Economist and social activist Jean Dreze today turned star campaigner for friend Gurjeet Singh at Topchanchi in Dhanbad. Singh, also a social activist, is contesting the Lok Sabha polls as an AAP candidate from Giridih seat. Topchanchi, although a part of Dhanbad district, falls under Giridih constituency that will vote on April 17. Dreze, who arrived at Gomoh station from Ranchi via the Hatia-Patna Super Express around 9.45am, was accorded a warm welcome by Singh and his supporters. After a stopover at Singh’s Topchanchi house, where he stayed for an hour or so, the economist, who used to advise Sonia Gandhi on development issues, went to Chitarpur, about 50km from the district headquarters, and met around 30-35 Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) labourers. He urged the rural workers to vote for Singh besides enquiring whether they were receiving timely payment under the scheme that was originally conceptualised by him, but later diluted and enacted into law by the Centre. The meeting concluded in less than 20 minutes after which Dreze reached Gend Nawadih in Topchanchi, around 6km from Chitarpur, where he addressed more than 200 farmers and MGNREGS labourers. “I am not here to support any political party, but to support an individual who is a genuine person working for the downtrodden sections of the society. I hope he will continue to work for the cause of the common people if he wins,” said the economist, who has collaborated with Amartya Sen in authoring major works on hunger and public action. Dreze also adressed public at Khairabad besides taking part in a road show at Ramkunda and a street corner meeting at Kharakia. “This is probably my third visit to Dhanbad and I am here to support a social activist, whom I know for several years. My support is not for a particular political party,” he reiterated while speaking to the media, adding that he might also campaign for Dayamani Barla, the AAP candidate from Khunti. “My support is based on principles and not for a party even though I feel that AAP is more transparent than other parties. Sources of fundings are more transparent in this party and scope of corruption is less,” he pointed out. Singh, who worked with Literacy Mission of Dhanbad from 1994 to 2002 before turning into a RTI and MGNREGS activist, said: “My association with Dreze dates back to 2003-04 when we were launched a campaign for implementation of midday meal. We later worked together as MGNREGS activists.” (Telegraph 8/4/14)

 

30. Job scheme won’t guarantee success (14)

New Delhi: In 2009, just after the United Progressive Alliance started its second term, leading social economists Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey wrote an article that said the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, as it was known then, had stood up to its promise of inclusive growth, right to work and dignity of labour. And, this had been vindicated by the people’s mandate. Roy and Dey were commenting on the role the scheme had played in bringing the UPA back to power. Five years down the line, the Act and its implementation have drifted so far apart that the ruling alliance is wary of using it as a vote catcher. The reasons for the drift are rampant corruption, inflexibility of the scheme’s design and inadequate monitoring. A 2013, report by the Comptroller and Auditor General showed only 20 per cent of the funds allocated between 2009-10 and 2011-12 had been released for Bihar, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, which account for 46 per cent of the rural poor in India. It said Rs 2,252 crore of inadmissible work was undertaken under the rechristened Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), including roads, ghats and cattle platforms. The auditor also found Rs 4,070 crore of work was incomplete while Rs 2,374.86 crore extra were released by the ministry of rural development to six states by an error in calculation. “The poorest of the poor were not fully able to exercise their rights under the MGNREGA,” the auditor said. Official data shows average employment under the scheme per household has dropped to a three-year low of just 41 days in 2012-13. Furthermore in early March, the Central Bureau of Investigation registered two cases against officials in Sant Kabir Nagar and Mirzapur districts of Uttar Pradesh for criminal conspiracy, cheating, forgery and misuse of position while implementing the scheme. Reports have also revealed how MGNREGS workers were forced to commit suicide by delays in wage payments and how the scheme had been plagued by widespread fraud in enlisting workers, with money being transferred to fictitious accounts. Clearly, MGNREGS has moved away from its core objectives of providing employment opportunities, creating sustainable livelihoods and rural governance. Even the claim that the MGNREGS led to a sharp increase in rural wages is debatable. A study by the former chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP), Ashok Gulati, showed that real farm wages rose almost 6.8 per cent per annum from 2006-07, but the impact of the growth of the gross domestic product, agriculture and construction was almost four to six times higher than that of the MGNREGS. The MGNREGS, of course, has impacted rural jobs and employment. Figures show 2008-09 and 2009-10 were perhaps the best years for the scheme, when employment and incomes surged. Its fillip to financial inclusion is also considerable. In 2011-12, almost 78 per cent of MGNREGS card holders reported having savings accounts. But then the scheme’s performance faltered. Oversight failed, leading to corruption and mismanagement. “Barring two or three states, the MGNREGS has virtually collapsed in the country. Delays in wage payments and an over-the-top technocratic approach (electronic muster rolls) are to blame. These, in turn, are a reflection of the dwindling political interest in the MGNREGS” Reetika Khera, assistant professor of economics at the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi, said. (Business Standard 9/4/14)

 

31. Job cards outnumber population in 760 GPs (14)

GULBARGA: Job cards issued under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act outnumber the population (according to the 2011 Census) in 760 out of the 5,621 gram panchayats in the State. In Gulbarga district, the number of job cards exceeds the population in 100 out of the 220 GPs.The fake job cards have been detected by officials in the Commissionerate of Rural Development that oversees implementation of the MNREGA in the State. The commissionerate had directed chief executive officers (CEOs) of zilla panchayats to constitute special teams to detect fake job cards in their districts. They have been told to cancel such cards and initiate action against officials responsible for creating them. The process, however, has been stalled as officials are busy with election work, sources said. The Commissionerate had also directed zilla panchayat CEOs to verify the claims of works executed by GPs that had spent more than Rs. 50 lakh under the MNREGA last year and also those that had created 25,000 man-days. As many as 723 GPs had claimed creating 25,000 man-days, including 39 in Gulbarga district. Zilla panchayat CEOs have filed criminal cases against panchayat development officers and other officials (who have been suspended) and presidents of 64 GPs, including seven in Gulbarga district, for alleged misuse of MNREGA funds, sources said. (The Hindu 12/4/14)

 

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

32. HC Raps Govt Over School Dropouts (14)

BANGALORE: The high court on Tuesday berated the State government for not taking effective steps to bring dropouts back to school and observed that “education has become a luxury and child labour compulsory” in the state. A division bench comprising Chief Justice D H Waghela and Justice B V Nagarathna passed directions to submit details on the number of children re-admitted to schools this academic year and the children still out of school. The Bench was hearing a suo motu petition based on media reports that even after the implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, there are still 54,000 dropouts in the state. Jayna Kothari, representing Azim Premji Foundation, submitted that the Punjab and Haryana High Court had banned all kinds of child labour in April 2013 and sought a similar ruling in the state. Noting that the Labour Department has failed to identify child labourers in unorganised sectors, the Bench directed officials to involve department officials, staff of gram panchayats and social activists to bring children back to schools. The Bench also directed the government to consider implementing the recommendations of the coordination committee on bringing dropouts back to school and adjourned the petition till June 16. (New Indian Express 9/4/14)

 

33. Child rights activists want parties to include KG to PG free education in their manifestos (14)

CHENNAI: Non-commercialization of education, free education for all from kindergarten to postgraduation and increase in budget allocation for education to 6% of GDP are some of the commitments child rights activists and academics want politicians to include in their manifestos. The All India Forum for Right to Education (AIFRTE), a collective of child rights activists and academics, released on Wednesday their list of demands calling mainly for reforms in education. They wanted political parties to take note of the demands, include them in their election manifestos and make a time-bound commitment to fulfil them. Several academics have criticized political parties for not including any reforms in education in their election manifesto earlier. Through their 50-point manifesto, the forum wanted regional and national parties to commit to withdrawing the policies of commercialization of education, including privatization of state educational institutions, self-financing courses, outsourcing, foreign direct investment and profiteering in education. This included voucher schemes, ‘school choice’ schemes, development grants and tax exemption to managements and parents of children enrolled in private educational institutions. The forum wanted politicians to put a stop to the provision of ‘reimbursement’ of fees for children admitted at private schools under the 25% reservation clause of the RTE. “Public funds should be used only to strengthen public education system and shall not be siphoned off to private agencies under whatever nomenclature,” a release from the forum said. They said ‘free education’ should be redefined to include classes from ‘KG to PG’ and in addition to tuition fees exemption from all other direct or contingent expenses such as miscellaneous fees and charges, cost of textbooks and supplementary texts, stationery, uniform, computer and internet usage, transport, extracurricular activities and hostels. They called for an increase in the budget allocation for education to 6% of the GDP and provide additional resources to fill up the cumulative gap of public expenditure. (Times of India 10/4/14)

 

34. Project to educate children of brick kiln workers in Jhajjar a non-starter (14)

Chandigarh: The ambitious scheme of Haryana Government to educate the children of labourers working at brick kilns has failed to take off in Jhajjar due to the casual approach of the authorities. After rolling out the scheme several months back, neither the Government teachers have visited the brick-kilns here to motivate the labourers for sending their children to the school nor do the authorities seem to bother about implementation of the scheme efficiently. Moreover, not a single bus is plying here to transport the children of labourers from brick kilns to the school while the district officials said they do not have any provision of bus for the children to commute. After withdrawing the teaching classes at the brick kilns, the Education Department had launched a new scheme to provide free education to children of the labourers some months ago. Notably, Jhajjar has highest numbers of brick kilns in this region. “Under the scheme, the Government school teachers were to visit their nearby brick kilns to ensure the admission of every child of the labourers in their schools. The scheme had also a provision of bus facility to transport the children in case the school is located far from the brick kilns,” said an official of the Education Department. Astonishingly, a visit to six brick kilns located Jahangirpur and its nearby villages by this correspondent presented a dismal picture of the scheme. “Last year, two teachers used to come here to teach our children but no one has so far contacted us this year. Since the school is faraway from here so we are afraid to send the children to school as they don’t know how to cross the road,” said Umesh of Nalanda (Bihar), a labourer at RBC brick kiln in Jahangirpur village here. Another labourer, Krishan, a resident of Navada District (Bihar), said no labourer at the brick kiln was aware of the Government scheme facilitating free education to their children while they all wished to send their children to schools if the Government make transport facility available. Shiv Charan, a labourer at BS brick kiln in Vaajitpur village, informed “As many as 46 children of 10 families are residing at the brick kiln and none of them go to school as we are not able to drop them to school. No teacher has approached us yet about admissions of our wards in the school but health workers use to come to administer polio drops to the children at regular interval.” Alaudin and Ashrudin of Assam, other labourers of the brick kilns, have also the similar tale to tell about the dismal show of the scheme. Chalitra, Sunari Devi, Shyam Lal and Banke Lal, labourers at HB brick kiln near Kot village here, said their wards used to go to school in Bihar last year but they had not been studying for last six months as they did not know about any school here and the facilities being made available by the Government. (Pioneer 14/4/14)

 

35. Children in Karnataka Prone to Alcohol, Tobacco Abuse (14)

BANGALORE: Alcohol and tobacco are the most common psychoactive substances that children in Karnataka prefer to use, a national survey on substance-using children has revealed. The study, which covered children aged between 5 and 18, found that 88.9 per cent of the kids surveyed in Karnataka consumed alcohol. The state accounted for 81.1 per cent in tobacco use, 24.4 per cent in cannabis, 27.8 per cent in inhalants and 2.2 per cent in heroin. Karnataka topped the country in alcohol consumption among the surveyed group, followed by Andhra Pradesh (84.7 per cent), Haryana (80 per cent) and Chandigarh (79.3 per cent). In tobacco use, Karnataka ranks only after Tamil Nadu (86.3 per cent) among south Indian states, and 11th in the country. The findings were published in a 2013 study by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) called ‘Assessment of Pattern and Profile of Substance Use Among Children in India’. It was conducted on 4,024 substance-using children in the average age of 13 to 17 in 27 states and two Union Territories. The World Health Organisation defines substance abuse as “harmful or hazardous use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol and illicit drugs.” Contrary to the widespread view that street children and those without homes are exposed and addicted to substance abuse, the study revealed that tobacco and alcohol abuse was higher among children living with their families. It found that of the total sample, an alarming 71.8 per cent of kids staying at home had used alcohol at some point in their life whereas only 53.3 per cent among those living on the street had consumed it. In the last one year, alcohol use was 68.2 per cent among those who stayed at home as opposed to 41.9 per cent among street children. Explaining this trend, P S George, executive director of BOSCO Yuvodaya, where many street children are rehabilitated, said a fundamental difference was in the reason why street children and home-based children take to addiction. “For street children, doing drugs, cigarettes and alcohol are part of their coping mechanism as being homeless is a struggle. Whereas, a child living with a family does it mainly due to pressures, tension and easy availability of pocket money,” he said. While gaining access to illegal substances is easier for street children, the extent of addiction is higher among kids living at home as poverty leaves street children with little freedom to consume drugs or alcohol whenever they wish. “There is always a restriction on the amount homeless children purchase — be it alcohol, drugs or tobacco — because they cannot afford too much of anything. So, there is a far lesser chance that it will develop into a prolonged habit which is the case with home-based children as, apart from money, there is also the influence of peers, friends and parents neglecting the kids and media,” he said. “ These habits are a greater danger to family-based kids,” George added. Among street children countrywide, while tobacco use was reported by 50 to 75 per cent, alcohol was being consumed by 25 to 50 per cent, cannabis by 15 to 25 per cent and inhalants by 20 to 50 per cent of the 18 million street children in the country. Further, tobacco happened to be the most popular, and pharmaceutical sedatives the least popular substances abused by girls, who formed about 4.2 per cent of the study sample. Use of inhalants, on the other hand, had a different usage pattern with more street children (45.9 per cent) using it than those living at home (26.3 per cent). Further, “Onset of substance use was one to one-and-a-half years earlier among street children compared to those living at home. Among the out-of-school children, the average number of days of use for all kinds of substances was higher compared to school-going children,” the report said. “A beer bottle that costs about `90 is less affordable for a street kid than a bottle of correction fluid that costs just `15, which will keep him going for a couple of days,” George added. Dr Prathima Murthy, professor of psychiatry at the Centre for Deaddiction Medicine at the NIMHANS, said more involvement by parents in their children’s lives can solve much of the problem. She insisted that parents must be good role models and constantly monitor their children, especially high-risk children like those who often face academic difficulties, and find it hard to control anger. “Kids can gain access to substances irrespective of where they are. Parental supervision is a must. They need to understand that kids are vulnerable, impulsive and easily influenced,” she said. Dr Murthy said when parents do not spend enough time with their kids and aren’t aware of their activities, it could lead to substance abuse. “When parents themselves are into alcohol and tobacco, it tends to influence the kids also to try them,” she added. (New Indian Express 14/4/14)

 

POVERTY/ HUNGER

36. UPA has uplifted 15 cr poor from BPL: Rahul (21)

Raichur, Karnataka, Apr 7 : AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi today said BJP cannot match the Congress’ feat of uplifting 15 crore people from Below Poverty Line (BPL) families and enabling them to lead a decent life during UPA’s decade-long rule at the Centre. Speaking at a election meeting here, coming under the backward Hyderabad-Karnataka region, after storming Sirsi in the coastal Uttara Kannada district earlier in the day, he said the Congress had provided the poor with food security and tried to eradicate hunger from the country. It provided free education in all schools, including top private institutions, for the poor students as well as provided free food. ‘What can the BJP claim?. Can it match the food security initiatives of the Congress-led UPA government that has not only provided food but also ensured substantial number of jobs?” he asked. He said Congress championed providing special status to backward HK region. ‘The new law under 371-J that will benefit the people of the region was Congress’ commitment and it now stands fulfilled. What sort of credit can BJP take from this,’ he asked. Mr Gandhi said Congress stood for the poor men and the poor women and worked hard to safeguard their interests. ‘I am very happy that Congress government in Karnataka is offering Re one per kg rice to all poor families in the stateevery month under ‘Anna Bhagya’ scheme. It has also waived off farm loans to help one million poor farmers. To top it all we have in this state the school children getting floured milk along with lunch in all government and other aided schools,’ he said. Mr Gandhi said the next focus of the Congress will be to further improve the lives of new middle class, who hitherto belonged to BPL. ‘We will ensure even better quality of life for these people if elected to power next,’ he said. The Congress leader said Karnataka, under the party’s one-year rule was now in second position in the country in development, while Gujarat was at fourth position. ‘Now you can see which party is developing the states better,’ Mr Gandhi added. (New Kerala 8/4/14)

 

37. ‘Only `12 of `100 reaches people’ (21)

BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi on Thursday attacked the Congress-led UPA government and Bihar’s Nitish Kumar-led JD(U) government in three rallies in Bihar and one in Jamshedpur, Jharkhand. He also promised a “special package” for Bihar if the BJP comes to power. Dubbing the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre as a “deaf and dumb, handicapped government, run by remote control,” Mr Modi said in Jamshedpur that the nation was geared up for a “Congress-free India.” Blaming the Congress for the poverty and hopelessness in minerals-rich Jharkhand, he said: “The country wants a sevak (worker) to lead it to new heights.” “Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had famously said that only 15 paise out of `1 released by the Centre reached the people, but I say that only `12 out of every `100 of Central funds go to the intended beneficiary due to the corrupt system,” said Mr Modi at Jehanabad in Bihar, attacking both the Congress-RJD combine and chief minister Nitish Kumar-led government over corruption. Mr Modi passionately spoke about the plight of farmers and the growth of Maoist insurgency. (Asian Age 11/4/14)

 

38. Global poverty figures grossly underestimated: Study (21)

London, April 11 : Calling the $1.25 (Rs.75) per day poverty line used by the World Bank “too low” and “artificial”, researchers have now estimated that global poverty could be a third higher than currently reported. The World Bank is reporting a ‘rosy’ picture because the poverty line is set too low due to its narrow definition, said the study. “If the World Bank had, in fact, used a poverty line grounded in basic needs, rather than its present artificial one which only looks at one monetary measure, the total number of poor people in the world would increase substantially, perhaps by as much as 30 percent,” explained Christopher Deeming from University of Bristol in Britain. With over one billion people in the world living on less than $1.25 per day, the World Bank aims to end ‘extreme poverty’ by 2030. The World Bank figures are widely used by the international community and play a significant role in international strategies to reduce poverty. For the study, researchers looked at those living on the Pacific island state of Vanuatu – taking into account not just their finances but also shelter, sanitisation, water, information, nutrition, health and education to build up a more comprehensive picture of poverty, deprivation and inequality. The study found that five percent of all children in Vanuatu live in poverty, as defined by the international ‘dollar a day’ measure. But a much greater proportion (17 percent) live in poverty defined by the national food and basic needs poverty line; and absolute poverty, where people are deprived of two or more basic human needs, affects 16 per cent of children, said the study. “Our findings suggest that the current international poverty line of a dollar a day seriously underestimates global poverty levels,” Deeming noted. In the context of Vanuatu, our triangulated results suggest under-estimation of poverty by at least a third in the population aged 17 years or under, he said in the study appeared in Journal of Sociology. The findings come amidst considerable controversy surrounding the international ‘dollar a day’ measure used to monitor progress against the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals and the future direction of the post-2015 development agenda. (New Kerala 11/4/14)

 

39. Naveen Ridicules Congress over Food Security Act, Targets BJP (21)

BHUBANESWAR: Terming Congress and BJP as “anti-Odisha”, ruling BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik today ridiculed Congress for implementing Food Security Act just before expiry of the UPA government’s tenure at the Centre. “Though the Congress in its manifesto in 2009 had promised to bring a food security bill, it enacted the law just before end of the UPA government’s tenure. The Act was passed keeping in eye on the elections,” Patnaik said while addressing a public meeting at Pallahara in Angul district. Patnaik said this while referring to Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s statement at a meeting in Balasore yesterday. Gandhi had blamed the BJD government for not implementing the Food Security Act in Odisha even as its objective is to end hunger.  Without taking her name, the Odisha chief minister asked whether the Act would meet hunger of the people. “What is exactly required for a hungry man? A Bill or food grain? A Bill cannot meet hunger,” Patnaik said. Rejecting the Congress chief’s claim that the UPA government worked to eradicate hunger from the country, Patnaik said, “The BJD government provided rice to poor people at the cost of Rs 2 per kilogramme for five years from 2008 to 2013. Now the needy people get rice at Re 1 a kg”. “Congress has failed in all fronts while its only success during last 10 years is rampant corruption,” Patnaik said.  Accusing both Congress and and BJP of working against the interests of Odisha, Patnaik said, “Successive governments at the Centre have neglected the state. They have not been helpful in according special category status to the state, neglected railway expansion, denied royalty on minerals and assistance during natural calamities.”  Referring to BJP’S Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s statement on poverty in Odisha at a meeting yesterday, he said, “The person who is worried for the poor people in Odisha never thinks about the poor in his home state. There is no one to look after the poor in his state.” On Modi’s claim of development in BJP ruled states like Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, Patnaik said, “The BJP ruled states need to learn a lesson from Odisha as how to uplift the poor.”  Patnaik claimed that Odisha was the first state in the country which recorded highest poverty reduction by over 20 per cent in last decade. (New Indian Express 13/4/14)

 

RESERVATION

40. No quota, only equal opportunity (25)

New Delhi: In a discernible difference in the way it proposes to address the aspirations of the reserved categories (SCs, STs, OBCs), the BJP has moved away from endorsing caste-based reservation to pushing for an ecosystem of equal opportunity in its manifesto released on Monday. Manifestos of all parties make explicit reference to quotas, but the BJP has restricted itself to empowerment and opportunity through widening the platform. This is in sharp contrast to the party’s 2009 manifesto, which stated that the BJP would “introduce education and job quotas on the basis of economic criteria for all economically weaker sections of society other than Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes, who will continue to enjoy quota benefits.” BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said: “Our idea of affirmative action is now being dealt with on a wider platform. We are talking of identifying 100 most backward districts for bringing them on a par with other districts.” The party in its manifesto talks of an enabling environment and equal opportunities. “Instead of pursuing identity politics and tokenisms, we will focus on empowering the deprived sections of society. Steps will be taken to create an enabling ecosystem of equal opportunity — for education, health and livelihood.” As evidence of its concern for the minorities, the BJP in its manifesto has outlined madrasa modernisation, empowerment of Waqf Boards and preservation of cultural heritage. “It is unfortunate that even after several decades of Independence, a large section of the minorities, especially the Muslim community, continues to be stymied in poverty. Modern India must be a nation of equal opportunity.” (The Hindu 8/4/14)

 

41. Supreme Court declines stay on inclusion of ‘Jats’ in OBC list (25)

New Delhi: In what may be music to the UPA government’s ears, the Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to stay the inclusion of ‘Jats’ in the central list of Other Backward Classes (OBC) category in eight states and Delhi, observing that the Centre had sufficient material to take such a decision even on the eve of polls. The apex court, however, said that all appointments and admissions made under the reservation would be subject to its final order. The decision by the UPA-II government to give benefit of reservation to ‘Jats’ was seen as a major election gambit just before the elections as the community had a strong social and political base in western Uttar Pradesh and its bordering areas of Uttarakhand, Delhi, Haryana and Rajasthan. Taking up a petition against the move, a bench presided over by Chief Justice P Sathasivam said that the court was prima facie satisfied that the government had material to rely upon for inclusion of Jats in the OBC category. “We have gone through the documents produced by them. We cannot say that the government had no material. They have sufficient material, in fact. Prima facie there are materials to make this decision,” the bench said. The court brushed aside an argument made by senior advocate K K Venugopal, appearing for the petitioner, raising a question mark over the government including ‘Jats’ in the OBC list merely a day before the model code of conduct was to be enforced in view of the general elections. “The government is a government. We can’t say, you cannot do it only because one day is left for the model code of conduct. If they want to take a decision, they are certainly entitled to do so even till one day before,” the bench also comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi and N V Ramana, said. The court also said that it could not stay at this stage the decision merely because the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) had recommended against the inclusion of Jats. “After all, the government is government and these institutions are to aid and advise them,” it added. The court, however, asked the government to file a comprehensive stand within three weeks, stating the rationale of the decisionWhile admitting a bunch of other petitions, the court listed those for hearing on May 1. The court had on April 1 asked the government to produce the original records with regard to the March 4 decision, acting on a petition filed by OBC Reservation Raksha Samiti, an organisation of members of communities that are included in the Central List of Backward Classes. (Deccan Herald 10/4/14)

 

42. Most converts to Islam are backward; they need quotas (25)

CHENNAI: In Tamil Nadu, the government grouped Muslims by caste names such as marakaiyar and rowther and provided them reservation by stating that these were the backward Muslims. Though social, educational and economic backwardness is widespread among Muslims, the government did not want to treat the whole community as backward due to legal obstacles. Unfortunately, the method adopted by the government sustains and perpetuates the caste-like system among Muslims. But, till the basis of this reservation is changed, Muslims have no other way except to say they belong to one of the groups enumerated by the government as backward. When a person embraces Islam, he loses his previous caste and comes to a casteless society. But he mingles with people who are socially, economically and educationally backward. It is a known fact that most of the converts to Islam are dalits and backward class people. After their conversion, their educational and economic backwardness continues. Such a convert, if he has to avail the benefits available from the government to backward class Muslims, has to say that he belongs to a particular caste-like group among Muslims. The recent judgment of Justice Hari Paranthaman of the Madras high court paves the way for such converts to enjoy the benefits provided to backward class Muslims. (Times of India 12/4/14)

Posted by admin at 9 April 2014

Category: Uncategorized

POLICE/ TORTURE/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

1. Custodial death sparks brawl between police and locals (1)

JAIPUR: Over a dozen people including a lady legislator and a DSP were injured after the suspicious death of a youth in judicial custody triggered violent clashes between police and local residents of Sriganganagar’s Raisinghnagar area on Friday. The man was arrested on charges of smuggling liquor on Wednesday and was remanded in judicial custody. The jail administration rushed him to a hospital in Sriganganagar, where he died while undergoing treatment on Thursday night. The family members and local residents alleged that he died due to police torture. The man, identified as Gurmeet Singh alias Meeta was a resident of Chak 44 PS village in Sameja police station area near Raisinghnagar. A court had issued an arrest warrant against him after he was booked for three different cases of liquor smuggling. A police team from Sameja police station arrested Meeta on Wednesday and produced him in court on Thursday. He was remanded in judicial custody. Meeta allegedly fainted in the jail following which he was brought to the local government hospital. The doctors there referred him to the district government hospital in Sriganganagar. He died while undergoing treatment on Thursday night. Meeta’s family members gathered outside the police station on Friday. Local MLA Sonadevi Bawari also reached the police station. While people started hurling stones at the policemen, the cops resorted to lathicharge. Eleven policemen and three local residents were injured in the clashes. DSP Mukesh Kumar Sankhala and MLA Sonadevi also got injured. Police said the allegations leveled by the family members are baseless as Meeta had been produced in a court before being remanded in judicial custody. The legislator, family members and locals, however, alleged that Meeta was tortured when he was in police custody for a day after his arrest. A judicial enquiry has been launched into the mysterious death of Gurmeet Singh. (Times of India 5/4/14)

 

2. Nido case: 4 sent to custody (1)

NEW DELHI: Four people arrested in connection with the death of 19-year-old Arunachal Pradesh student Nido Tania were on Monday remanded in 14 days’ judicial custody by a trial court. Additional chief metropolitan magistrate Pritam Singh extended the custody of accused Farman, Sunder Singh, Pawan and Sunny Uppal till April 21 after CBI did not seek their custodial interrogation. The case was transferred to CBI from Delhi Police after the victim’s parents met Union home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi demanding speedy justice. They had alleged police negligence in the case and also demanded action against the guilty personnel. The accused were apprehended after relatives of Tania, alleged that he had an altercation with some shopkeepers at Lajpat Nagar market on January 29 after they made fun of his hair style. Following the altercation shopkeepers had allegedly thrashed him. He was brought dead to AIIMS the next day. (Times of India 8/4/14)

 

3. Tortured boy’s kin to meet Maharashtra DGP (1)

MUMBAI: Relatives of the teenaged boy who was allegedly tortured by the police in the city decided to meet the director general of police with a request to withdraw the case registered against him. The 17-year-old boy, Mohammed Wajid, was talking on his cellphone when policemen escorting a handcuffed suspect on a Wadala street thought he was taking their pictures and arrested him. Wajid said he was subjected to third-degree torture at the police station, which left him with severe internal injuries to his private parts. The police booked Wajid under Section 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) of the IPC. They also mentioned his age as 19 years. Subsequently, an inquiry was ordered by senior police officers. After Wajid’s relatives met senior IPS officer Sanjay Pande of the Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission, the officer asked them for related papers, medical documents and Wajid’s age proof. He also asked for the police report. Wajid was treated at the Sion hospital OPD when he complained of being unable to pass urine but was admitted after complications on April 6. His medical report said he sustained blunt trauma on his abdomen and chest, probably caused by belts and lathis. It also said a toothpick was inserted in his anus. (Times of India 9/4/14)

 

TRAFFICKING

4. Neighbour sells woman for Rs 30,000 (1)

DEHRADUN: In a horrifying case of human trafficking, a woman was sold for Rs 30,000 allegedly by her neighbour. She was kept captive for four days and sexually exploited by her buyer. Her trauma was alleviated when she lost her four-month old son in captivity since she could not provide medicines for him. not provide the required medical assistance. Having no As she had no money, she was forced to immerse the boy’s body in a canal. Two people, including a woman, involved in the racket have been arrested while another accomplice is still at large. Police said the rape survivor, who is from Kauria in Kotdwar, and her child went missing under mysterious circumstances on April 2. The neighbour, Sunita Devi, allegedly took her to a secluded spot on the pretext of getting medical treatment for her son. There she was offered a drink laced with sedatives. After she fell unconscious, she was sold to a Bijnor resident, Jaipal. As the child was not given the required medical attention, he died a day or two after she was sold, police said. The woman’s husband, a rickshawpuller, alerted the police, who traced her at Bijnor and rescued her. When the efforts of her husband, who is a rickshaw puller, to trace them went in vain, he informed police about the incident. He suspected the involvement of neighbour Sunita Devi and her son Gajendra in the incident. (Times of India 6/4/14)

 

5. Taxi driver helps bust child trafficking racket (1)

Bangalore: A taxi driver at the Bangalore City Railway Station helped child helpline volunteers bust a child trafficking racket, leading to the arrest of a 45-year-old rag-picker. The rag-picker had allegedly kept a 15-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy in his captivity and reportedly forced them to beg for him. Following the taxi driver’s tip-off, a team of volunteers from BOSCO childline swung into action on Saturday and found the boy begging at the railway station’s taxi stand. The boy initially told the volunteers he was living with his parents and was begging since his father was ill. The sceptical volunteers traced Raju, a rag-picker sitting in a corner of the railway station along with a 15-year-old girl. Raju claimed that the girl was his wife, but a detailed inquiry by the officials of the human trafficking unit and Railway Protection Force exposed the racket. During the conversation with the children, the girl said she was around 15 years and was from a slum in Kalyan in Mumbai. The girl said she was a high school dropout and worked as a domestic help until she was lured by Raju in Mumbai 18 months ago. Raju promised big money and the two went to Rajasthan. Once there, Raju forced her to beg and allegedly abused her when she did not. “Whenever the girl tried to escape, he would torture her and insist she was his wife,” the girl told the officials. Raju would move from one place to another, and during a visit to Delhi, they found the 12-year-old runaway boy from Uttar Pradesh. Raju forced the boy to work for him and the three landed in Bangalore. The boy said he ran away from home a year ago since his parents used to beat him. He met Raju last month in Delhi. Raju took him along promising to get a job and later forced him to beg. The children have been referred to the Child Welfare Committee and have contacted their counterparts in Kalyan and Uttar Pradesh, seeking their help to trace the victims’ family, Executive Director of BOSCO, Fr. P.S. George said. The Anti Human Trafficking unit officials arrested Raju and produced him before the court, which remanded him in judicial custody. (The Hindu 7/4/14)

 

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF PRESS

6. Two female Western journalists shot in Afghanistan, one dead (1)

A female Western journalist was shot dead and another wounded in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Khost on Friday, police said, on the eve of the country’s presidential election. “Two female journalists were shot this morning inside a district police headquarters, one has been killed, while the other is seriously wounded,” Khost provincial spokesman Mobarez Mohammad Zadran said. Zadran and deputy Khost police chief Yaqub Mandozai said that the gunman was wearing police uniform. The woman is the second Western journalist killed in Afghanistan during the election campaign, after Swedish journalist Nils Horner was shot dead in Kabul on March 11. to help us personalise your reading experience. AFP’s senior Afghan reporter Sardar Ahmad, his wife and two of his three children were killed on March 20 when gunmen smuggled pistols into Kabul’s high-security Serena hotel and shot dead nine people including four foreigners. Horner, 51, a veteran of Swedish national radio, was killed while researching a story about a January attack on a nearby restaurant which killed 21 people, including 13 foreigners. Khost province borders Pakistan’s restive North Waziristan tribal area, a stronghold of the Haqqani militant network blamed for numerous high-profile attacks in Afghanistan, many targeting foreigners. Kabul has been rocked by a string of high-profile attacks in the run-up to tomorrow’s election, which will be the first democratic handover of power in Afghanistan’s turbulent history. In addition to Horner’s murder and the Serena assault, a charity’s guesthouse has come under attack, along with offices of the Independent Election Commission (IEC). Most recently, six police officers were killed in a suicide bombing at the interior ministry in Kabul on Wednesday. Security was tight across Afghanistan ahead of the vote to elect a successor to President Hamid Karzai, who is constitutionally barred from standing again. More than 400,000 personnel including police, army and intelligence services have been deployed to ensure security around the country, Interior Minister Omar Daudzai said. (Indian Express 5/4/14)

 

7. Politicians use social media to woo voters (1)

PATNA: Their busy schedules in the Lok Sabha election notwithstanding, politicians have been wooing the voters through popular social networking sites. Many of them are also promoting their rallies, speeches and events by posting photos and videos on Facebook, YouTube and Google+, which go viral soon. Leaders like Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal are proving their presence strongly on Twitter with 3.66 million and 1.59 million followers, respectively. Both are often seen not only sharing their views but also verbally spitting on each other through these sites. Bihar CM Nitish Kumar and RJD chief Lalu Prasad, once known for IT-YT comment, are also active on social networking sites. Though LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan does not believe in following the trend, his son Chirag Paswan is very social on these sites. Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi have so far stayed away from this race, but other Congress leaders like Kapil Sibal and Prem Chandra Mishra keep their accounts updated. Mishra said, “I am an active Facebook and Twitter account holder. I never forget to post updates at least once every day, either early morning or late evening.” BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi seems to be leading among Bihar leaders as far as their presence on social networking sites is concerned. He regularly updates his blog. “I have over 66,600 followers on Twitter and their number increases by 500 daily. Nowadays I don’t get to write on my blog daily, but to keep it updated I post articles on them and same goes with my Facebook page. I cannot let even a single day go without doing some workout to keep myself fit and updated on social media. These are integral part of my life.” NCP leader Tariq Anwar, who is also a visible face on social media sites these days, said, “I mostly update my daily schedule on Facebook and my views on Twitter.” Social media has become a key platform for reaching out to voters, especially the young lot who are actively present on such sites and get their updates mostly from there, instead of other news sources. “Maybe, that’s the reason why leaders are opting for their active presence on social media,” said Prabha Kumari, a postgraduate student. Going with the data available with Bihar chief electoral office, nearly 12.75 lakh people from Bihar in the age group of 18-19 years are expected to vote in the ensuing LS polls. (Times of India 6/4/14)

 

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

8. Dalit Chaitanya Yatra begins (2)

ANANTAPUR: Union Minister J.D. Seelam on Friday kicked off the Dalit Chaitanya Yatra from Anantapur in the company of another Minister Panabaka Lakshmi. The yatra, which was kicked off after garlanding the statue of Ambedkar at Anantapur, received a little more than a lukewarm response in the townSpeaking to the press, Mr. Seelam said that the Congress is not the sole cause for bifurcation and that the consent from all political parties, except the CPI(M) had forced the party to go through with bifurcation. Nonetheless, he opined that the Seemandhra region is presented with a unique chance to grow in an unprecedented manner with the help of a Congress Government at the Centre, which would facilitate such fast growth. Even as he said that the UPA government led by the Government had ensured enough safeguards for the realisation of fast growth in the bifurcation bill, he argued that the Dalits owe it to the Congress for bringing about their upliftment. Meanwhile, Ms. Panabaka Lakshmi said that the Congress manifesto is part of a new deal for the Dalits in the country as it sought to explore employment avenues for them in the private sector too by trying to arrive at a consensus on the issue with the industry. The meeting was also attended by Tirupati Congress MP China Mohan, besides former Minister Dokka Manikya Vara Prasad. Leaders of the Congress party urged the cadre to take the pro-Dalit message in the Congress manifesto to people and ask for their support. (The Hindu 5/4/14)

 

9. Dalit man ‘beaten to death’ by Yadav girl’s family in UP (2)

Allahabad: A 25 year old Dalit man was Thursday murdered allegedly by the family of the girl he was having an affair with in Wajidpur village under Mau Aima police station area here. The girl belonged to Yadav community while the victim was from Pasi community, the police said. Police said they got a call about a man being thrashed in the village and when they reached there they found the body of Raju Bharatiya, a resident of Sarangapur village. Police said there were injuries, apparently caused by a blunt object, all over his body and ligature marks around his neck. Though a post-mortem report is awaited, they suspect he was strangulated to death after being beaten up. “Raju’s father lodged a complaint on the basis of which an FIR has been registered against Jagdish Yadav and his three sons. They have been booked under Section 302 of the IPC, and various sections of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities Act),” said SO (Mau Aima), Raj Kumar Sharma. Circle officer (Soraon) Dr Ram Yash Singh said: “Raju and Jagdish’s daughter had known each other for over a year as she was staying at her grandfather’s home to pursue her studies and Raju, who worked in a local music group, was known to her cousin. Raju developed a friendship with her, as he used to frequent the house where she stayed.” The two allegedly eloped around Holi. “It is being said the girl’s family had traced them and brought her to her father’s house. Raju traced her and Thursday went near her house with a friend. The girl’s family saw Raju and beat him up. His friend escaped,” he added. No arrests have been made so far and the girl’s entire family is absconding. (Indian Express 5/4/14)

 

10. Dalit Activists Attacked (2)

KASARGOD: Nine Dalit activists, including three women, were admitted to Kanhangad District Hospital after they were allegedly attacked by CPM workers at Nandankuzhi in Madikai on Sunday. The injured have been identified as Binu Palankal, 30; Rameshan Arinkal, 27; Manikuttan Kallanchira, 27; Binu Karivedakam, 27; Usha Kallanchira, 26; Priya Kodumkuzhi, 30; Reshma Karivedakam, 18; Rajeev, 30;  and Sukumaran Palankal, 30. The incident took place around 11 am when a group of people, allegedly CPM workers, unleashed attack on Dalit Service Society (DSS) activists who were campaigning for their candidate Gothramooppan Nellikkadan Kannan at Nandankuzhi. “People who believe in democracy must wake up to realise that we no more enjoy our rights enshrined in the Constitution. “Dalits are living oppressed in the so-called CPM party villages. It’s the politics of the CPM and people must vote without fear or favour to have a democratic secular government,” said O K Prabhakaran, district president of the DSS. This is the third attack against Dalits in the past seven days. Earlier, a woman was allegedly attacked by a police officer on duty and DSS activists were restrained from seeking votes for their candidate by an unknown gang. When contacted, ADM O Muhammed Aslam said: “Strict instructions have been given tothe police for taking immediate action against the culprits. The District Collector will initiate action against the police officers if they fail to do so.” Police, when contacted, said: “CPM workers are behind this attack and two people, named Ananthan and Subhash, were identified by the petitioners. “They threatened the Dalits from visiting the colonies seeking votes and also beat them up.” A case has been registered against the culprits under Sections 364, 323, 324, 147, 143, 148, 341, 323, 506 and 149 of the IPC. (New Indian Express 7/4/14)

 

11. Dalit voters hold key to Northwest Delhi (2)

NEW DELHI: It’s a battle for Dalit votes in the largest of Delhi’s seven Lok Sabha constituencies. Scheduled castes and Jats are the two large communities in North West Delhi, and the three important candidates are using their reserved-category background to the hilt to win support. The fight this time seems to be between BJP’s Udit Raj and AAP’s Rakhi Birla as the two-term MP and Congress candidate, Krishna Tirath, battles anti-incumbency towards the UPA government and widespread disenchantment with her for “neglecting” the constituency. Tirath, ironically, was the last to start campaigning. While Birla hit the streets within two days of AAP declaring her candidature, Udit Raj started his rallies, public meetings and padyatras immediately after joining the party in March. Analysts say Tirath’s over-confidence could be her undoing. “There is a strong anti-Congress wave in Delhi, and to counter it Congress candidates should have campaigned more aggressively. But in North West Delhi, BJP and AAP candidates are seen and heard more,” said Madan Khurana, a Rohini resident. Much of the constituency has a rural character with thousands of migrant workers living in unauthorized colonies, JJ clusters and slums spread across Mangolpuri, Sultanpuri, Sultanpur Majra, etc. Jats form the other large vote bank. The middle and upper-middle classes have a presence in areas like Rohini, Ashok Vihar and Civil Lines. Voters in the resettlement colonies and slums seem to be backing Birla despite all the controversies and criticism surrounding her party’s short-lived government in the state. “Congress and BJP did not let Kejriwal work. He took steps to reduce power tariff and improve the water supply but the bigger parties pulled down his government. And now they are targeting him,” said Surti Devi, a resident of Mangolpuri. She said AAP leaders are attacked because they represent and raise concerns of the poor. AAP’s supporters are not touched by the Modi “wave”. Nor has BJP’s decision to field Udit Raj, a known Dalit leader and former IRS officer, helped the party poach AAP’s Muslim and SC support. However, the party may still benefit from the popularity of Narendra Modi, in villages like Narela, Bawana and Mundka where people swear by him. “There is no issue, no party. This election is about Modi and we will vote for him,” said Ashok Rana, who lives in Prahladpur Village. Support for Modi could help the BJP candidate counter the weight of AAP’s Dalit vote bank. North West Delhi constituency came into existence in 2008 and is reserved for candidates belonging to the scheduled castes. While BJP and AAP seem more popular than Congress this time, they have got their share of criticism. Birla’s candidature raised eyebrows in her party as she is an MLA and was accused of asking for money to campaign for the original AAP candidate, Mahender Singh. Udit Raj, meanwhile, is battling the ‘outsider’ tag. (Times of India 9/4/14)

 

HEALTH/ EPIDEMICS/NRHM

12.  ‘Delhi slums are fast turning into high-risk zone for children’ (3)

NEW DELHI: Registering an infant mortality rate of 35.6 per 1,000 and an under five-year-old mortality rate at 73.6 per 1,000 in Delhi slums, the Capital has registered itself as a high-risk zone for children. Highlighting the condition of children in urban slums, over a hundred representatives from 50 bastis across all the nine districts of Delhi met in the city recently to spell out the agenda to ensure safety and protection, access to health care and education for urban slum children. The agenda, which has been handed over to all major political parties, noted that the absence of day-care arrangement led to many accidents, while poor quality of schools, anganwadis and dispensaries adversely impacted the children. The worst hit are differently-abled children and those whose lives have been disrupted by relocation and slum clearances. Batting for the children, Devika Singh from non-government organisation Delhi FORCES said: “We appeal to the political leaders to put their will behind the various Acts that have been passed for the benefit of children; implement the programmes for children that have been planned – this is the action needed.” “At the meeting, we had speakers from the slum clusters who listed the problems faced by their children. A mother spoke of her child falling into an open drain when she was at work. The child was being looked after by her eight-year-old daughter. Though the child survived, the prospects of child safety in the slums is frightening. The only anganwadi in the area works for a few hours, which isn’t enough,” noted Devika. A release issued by NGO Alliance of Peoples’ Rights noted that “gangsters roam in the areas (urban slum clusters) where both parents work. Once a child is picked up he/she is almost always untraceable. Shockingly, at least 14 children go missing every day.” “Eviction from bastis is another major issue and has adverse impact on women and children due to the collapse of the system and absence of basic services, anganwadis, schools, etc., in the area that they are relocated into,” added the group. (The Hindu 6/4/14)

 

13. Are communicable diseases covered under health insurance? (3)

Communicable diseases including the vector borne type like Dengue and Malaria are at an all-time rise in India owing to urbanization and globalization. India’s climate and huge population have both been favourable for the spread of the disease. On the other hand, medical inflation, rising healthcare cost and advancement in medical technology has directly affected the treatment cost of such diseases. Health insurance extends help to cover hospitalization expenses however with health insurance penetration level at less than 5% in India; most people would end up paying it from their pockets. At Max Bupa, we cover hospitalization for vector borne diseases  under our  indemnity and fixed benefit plans including our flagship product Heartbeat, Health Companion and also as a part of Hospital cash under our fixed benefit product Health Assurance wherein  the customers can claim for additional expenses incurred due to hospitalization of their loved ones. Over the past one year, we have observed a 25% increase in claims related vector borne diseases. There has been a 5% increase in claims related to Dengue and Malaria. With the increase in hospitalization costs, the average claim amount for such diseases is also on a rise, with most customers claims over Rs 40,000. In our experience, there have been more customer claims from key Northern cities like Delhi, Mumbai,  Bangalore and Surat for dengue while we have received more claims for Malaria from Eastern cities like Kolkata. (Financial Express 7/4/14)

 

CORRUPTION

14. Congress promises CBI probe into Odisha mining, chitfund scam (5)

Bhubaneswar: Promising CBI probe into mining, chitfund and other scams in Odisha, the Congress on Friday said it would review all MoUs signed by BJD government in the state in last 10 years, provide pucca houses to landless and allowance to unemployed youths if voted to power. “Congress will provide good governance and get scams like mining, water, land and chitfund scandals investigated by CBI,” Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) president Jaydev Jena said while releasing party’s manifesto for Odisha where both Lok Sabha and Assembly polls are being held. In order to provide corruption free administration, an empowered and strong Lokayukta would be set up in the State by undertaking necessary amendments in the law, Mr. Jena said. Effective steps would be taken for protection of precious mineral resources and their proper utilisation, while all MoU’s signed by the State government during the last 10 years would be thoroughly reviewed, he said. No individual and private agencies would be given mining lease, Mr. Jena said adding steps would be taken for providing lease to Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) and similar other government agencies if Congress is voted to power. While local industrialists would be encouraged, steps would be taken to ensure proper compensation and rehabilitation for people being displaced due to projects, Mr. Jena said. Promising proper implementation of Justice M.B. Shah Commission’s recommendation on mining scams, the Congress manifesto said Rs. 60,000 crore would be recovered from those who looted minerals by auctioning their property. While all registered unemployed youths would be provided allowance in five years, over two lakh vacant posts would be filled, Mr. Jena said adding minimum pay would be fixed for those working in unorganised and private sector. Stating that all revenue villages would be converted into panchayats, he said a pension scheme would be introduced to cover all marginal and handicapped farmers and landless farm labourers. Similarly, farm loan would be given at 1 per cent interest and loan up to Rs. 25,000 will be interest free and farmers would be provided free electricity. All landless persons would be identified and given permanent land patta and pucca house in a time-bound manner, the OPCC chief said adding no one would be allowed to die of starvation for which food security law is in place. All urban slum dwellers would also be provided with pucca houses, Mr. Jena said. For the welfare of minority communities, there would be a minority commissioner and special policy would be framed for security of these communities, he said. Recommendations would be made for establishment of permanent benches of Odissa High Court in western and southern regions of the State, while steps would be taken for setting up four medical colleges in these two regions. The headquarters of Western Odisha Development Council (WODC) would be shifted to a main location in western region to make it more effective, he said. (The Hindu 5/4/14)

 

15. Charges framed against eight in investment scam (5)

MUMBAI: The special Maharashtra Protection of Interest of Depositors (MPID) Act court on Saturday framed charges against eight persons in the alleged multi-crore investment Suman Motels scam. Over the years, several complaints were filed by investors who were unable to recover funds deposited in a time-share investment scheme of Suman Motels. Suman Motels had floated 12 investment schemes offering stakes in holiday homes, plantations and resorts. “The company floated bonds, certificates, promissory notes and even advance cheques, all of which bounced, and investors were left in the lurch,” said Chetan Kothari, an RTI activist. (Times of India 6/4/14)

 

16. PIL questions govt inaction against tainted officials (5)

HYDERABAD: A public interest petition was filed in the AP high court on Saturday urging it to direct the state government to explain why it is not according sanction to prosecute the officials facing corruption charges. The petitioner, advocate O Yella Reddy of Secunderabad, complained that the state government has been consistently failing to grant prosecution permission even in cases where the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) had recommended it. He sought a direction to the government to submit a detailed report to the court explaining its inaction, while alleging that it is shielding corrupt officials. He also wanted the government and ACB to disclose the information regarding corrupt officials to the general public as it would facilitate people to come forward and give evidence against them. The petitioner submitted that there are a total of 1,860 cases wherein the ACB had recommended prosecution from 2005 to 2014 (till Feb this year). About 817 cases of trap and disproportionate assets were pending during this period. The chief secretary and ACB director general were named as respondents. HC to review safety norms for power plant workersThe AP high court has taken up the cause of those working in coal-based power plants. In accordance with the directions of the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Kalyan Jyoti Sengupta has decided to oversee the steps initiated by the State, Centre and statutory authorities in putting in place relevant rules and regulations, health and safety norms for those working in various Coal Fired Thermal Power Plants (CFTPPs) in Andhra Pradesh. In January this year, the Supreme Court had issued directions while dealing with a case pitting the Occupational Health and Safety Association against the Union of India. The petition pertained to framing of guidelines with respect to occupational safety and health regulations to be maintained by various industries, constituting a committee to monitor the working of thermal power plants in AP.  (Times of India 7/4/14)

 

17. PGMET scam accused sent to judicial remand (19)

VIJAYAWADA: Four students and seven brokers who were arrested by the CID sleuths in Hyderabad on Monday in connection with PGMET-2014 scam, were produced before the Additional City Metropolitan Magistrate here on Tuesday, and sent for 14 days judicial remand. Today being a holiday on account of Sri Rama Navami, the accused were produced before the judge at his residence. With these 11, the total number of persons arrested has gone up to 20. Earlier, about nine days ago, two brokers and seven students were taken into custody. The brokers who were produced before the Magistrate today include — Ch. Bhushan Reddy, Paulson, Kistappa, Chakravarthi, Vijay, Abhimanyu and Patrik. The students includes Ch. Rama Rao (14 ranker), Ch. Sai Praneeth (15), K. Ramana (26) and P. Bharath Kumar (7).

Probe. The probe was ordered by Governor and Chancellor of Dr. NTR University of Health Sciences E. S. L. Narasimhan, after students and PG aspirants, raised hue and cry over some students with questionable credentials, securing top ranks in the examination. After a detailed probe by the CID, it was assessed that the PGMET-2014 question paper was secured by the brokers before hand and sold to a select group of students who secured top ranks. (The Hindu 9/4/14)

 

TRIBALS

18. Tribal people to confront leaders over fate of villages (6)

ADILABAD: Tribal voters in over 40 villages falling under the buffer zone of Kawal Tiger Reserve (KTR) in the Assembly constituencies of Khanapur, Bellampally and Asifabad in Adilabad district continue to be worried over rumours of their villages getting evicted as part of the development plans for the only Tiger Reserve in Telangana. “We will question leaders who come to us seeking votes,” asserts Atram Letha, a Kolam bamboo artisan from Ravunur Kolamguda on the border of Sirpur (U) and Tiryani mandal in interior Asifabad constituency. The issue has been hanging fire since the declaration of the 892 sq. km. area of Kawal Wildlife Sanctuary, mainly located in Jannaram forest division, as a Tiger Reserve in April 2012. The plan for the development of KTR includes relocation of four tribal villages located within the core area with the consent of the inhabitants. The government has offered a rehabilitation package of Rs. 10 lakh for each member of the family in these villages — Alinagar, Dongapalli, Malyal and Maisampet which was agreeable to the inhabitants. Tribal people, however, grew apprehensive when an area of 1,100 sq. km. encompassing the over 40 habitations in question around the KTR was incorporated as its buffer area. “Authorities say that there will be no eviction in the buffer zone but we do not trust their word,” says Letha. “We want leaders to settle the matter once and for all,” demands Jugnaka Ramu of Dampur village, which lies on the fringe of the buffer zone in Tiryani mandal. “We do not want to be dispossessed of our villages and lose our livelihood,” Letha says. His fear stems from the rumour that his village will be resettled far away from the bamboo forests from which he ekes out his livelihood. (The Hindu 6/4/14)

 

19. ‘Atrocities on tribals by Cong, BJP gov led to rise in Maoism’ (6)

Raipur: Senior Aam Aadmi Party leader Prashant Bhushan today held atrocities on tribals during the rule of both Congress and BJP governments responsible for the rise in Maoism in Chhattisgarh. “The parties looted natural resources of tribals. They (tribals) have suffered huge atrocities when they took stand for their rights. Even today, thousands of tribals are languishing in jail. All these things gave rise to Maoism,” the lawyer-turned politician said in a press conference here this late evening. “I squarely held responsible Raman Singh government and Congress for this,” he said. He also accused ruling BJP of snatching farmers’ land for developing new Raipur capital without providing them adequate compensation. Bhushan was in the state to campaign for AAP candidate Soni Sori who is contesting from Bastar Lok Sabha seat which is going to polls on April 10. “Both BJP and Congress gave preference to dynasty politics in selecting their candidate from Bastar while we have nominated a woman (Soni Sori) who is a victim of this system and has been fighting for the tribal rights,” he said. BJP has fielded the sitting MP and the son of a former MP late Baliram Kashyap, Dinesh Kashyap from Bastar seat. Similarly, Congress has fielded the son of former leader of opposition late Mahendra Karma, Deepak Karma from the seat. He further alleged the BJP government of not taking action against its MP and MLA who were allegedly linked with people involved in raising funds for Maoists. Kanker Lok Sabha’s sitting BJP MP Sohan Potai and Antagarh BJP MLA Vikram Usendi allegedly had connection with businessmen who were recently arrested on charges of raising fund for Maoists but no action was taken against the leaders, he alleged. Meanwhile, a group of youth reached the venue of the press conference and raised slogans against Bhushan. However, they left the spot later. (Deccan Herald 7/4/14)

 

20. Of 85 lakh tribals, not one up for Pune’s tribal centre (6)

Pune: Here’s an example of a big plan that went horribly wrong. Of the 85 lakh tribals in the state (figures as per the last census data), not even 15 are interested to come to the Pune-based Tribal Research and Training Institute for a course that could help improve their financial condition. The course, which was started amidst much fanfare with the nobel mission of preserving tribal community’s arts and improving their economic conditions is now staring at a gloomy future.  Merely four months after its inception, the course is struggling to get tribals to enroll themselves. The course imparts special training on making tribal arts such as Warli paintings, paper masks and bamboo products more commercially viable and suitable to newer markets.  However, after the first batch of 15 tribals completed the two-month long course, the centre struggled to get even a dozen people for their second batch. The reason – the remuneration paid is so less, that even the tribals are refusing to leave their families struggling for daily expenses while they learn in these hallowed halls. The centre pays Rs200 per day to tribals undertaking the course and provides lodging. All other expenses including food and travel are expected to be borne by programme participants, apart from their own household expenses. In December 2013, TRTI which is the first training centre in the state for tribal arts completed its golden jubilee, and was inaugurated by President Pranab Mukherjee. Interestingly, he had at the function said, “As we have to learn from the tribal society, we also have a duty to empower rural and tribal communities and contribute to the guiding spirit of the Indian Constitution.” Speaking to dna, Santosh Nanaware, a museum curator of the centre, said, “In our first batch, we received a good response as 15 people attended the training session. However, we do not have a single person to train in the second batch as people say that they cannot afford to spend money on food and manage house expenses simultaneously.”  He added, “According to them, they are the breadwinner of their house and have responsibility to look after other family members. And thus they cannot stay here.”  On being asked how the centre will get the students in future, Nanaware said, “We have sent new proposal to the government where we have demanded that attending persons should be given meals and Rs300 remuneration along with accommodation.” The other reason for the low appeal for the course could be that most of the tribal communities stay in Nandurbar, Gadchiroli, Nashik, Thane and other parts of the state.  As a result, it is not easy for them to come here for training at Pune.  “The government is planning to start a new training centre in tribal districts as well,” added Nanaware. (DNA 7/4/14)

 

21. Tribals to Use NOTA Option to Protest Non-inclusion in ST List (6)

PUDUCHERRY: Nettapakkam Commune Pazhankudi Makkal Nala Sangam, an association of tribal community in Puducherry, has decided to use NOTA option to protest their non-inclusion in the Scheduled Tribe list. The tribals have been seeking recognition as Scheduled Tribe for more than 15 years. Though a survey done by a committee appointed by the government of Puducherry had recommended inclusion of five castes as Scheduled Tribes,  the recognition has not yet come through. Though the tribal community is backward, they are not entitled to benefits under ST. Till recently, they were included under ‘general category’. However, the Puducherry administration had granted them backward tribe status and one per cent reservation. But the community is still trying to get ST status. “We have sent representations to the State  and Central government, Union Minister of State for PMO, but nothing has materialised.  The candidates have neither included the issue in their agenda nor given assurance,” said G Shankar, presidet of the Nala Sangam. He said that around 18,000 tribal people are residing in Puducherry, who will exercise the NOTA option to reject all candidates, to protest their non-inclusion in the ST list. (Indian Express 9/4/14)

 

MINORITIES, MUSLIMS, CHRSITIANS, COMMUNAL RIOTS

22. ‘BJP-led Gov would be detrimental to religious minorities’ (7)

Washington: Several eminent officials and experts from both India and the US have told lawmakers that a BJP-led government at the center would be detrimental to the basic rights of the religious minorities in India. Testifying before the influential Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the US Congress (TLHRC) on ‘The Plight of Religious Minorities in India’, the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Vice Chair Katrina Lantos on Friday said the USCIRF has been closely monitoring the situation in India. “Many religious minority communities have reported to USCIRF that they fear that a BJP win, and the election of Narendra Modi as the country’s Prime Minister, will be detrimental to them and religious freedom. The BJP last led the national government between 1998 and 2004,” Lantos said. “Between 2002 and 2004 USCIRF had recommended that the State Department designate India a ‘Country of Particular Concern’ (CPC) for the government’s systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom,” she said. She said the USCIRF long has been concerned about the BJP’s and Modi’s close association with Hindu nationalist organizations. “The activities of these groups, especially those with an extremist agenda or history of using violence against minorities, often negatively impact the status of religious freedom in the country,” she said. Many of these groups exist under the banner of the Sangh Parivar, some 30 organisations including the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). “Sangh Parivar entities aggressively press for governmental policies that would promote a Hindu nationalist agenda, and adhere in varying degrees to an ideology of Hindutva, which holds non-Hindus as foreign to India,” Lantos said. Meanwhile, Congressman Tulsi Gabbard, the first ever Hindu lawmaker in the US Congress, questioned the timing of the Congressional hearing and alleged that its goal is to influence the Indian elections. “I do not believe the timing of this hearing is a coincidence. The national elections in India begin on Monday and continue until May 12. I am concerned that the goal of this hearing is to influence the outcome of India’s national elections, which is not an appropriate role for the US Congress,” Gabbard said. (Indian Express 5/4/14)

 

23. Pakistan Christian couple gets death over ‘blasphemous’ text message (7)

LAHORE: A court in eastern Pakistan has sentenced a Christian couple to death for sending a blasphemous text message insulting the Prophet Muhammad, their lawyer said on Saturday. Judge Mian Amir Habib handed the death sentence to Shafqat Emmanuel and Shagufta Kausar in a jail in the town of Toba Tek Singh on Friday, defence lawyer Nadeem Hassan told AFP. Prosecution department officials confirmed the sentence. The impoverished couple, who are in their forties, have three children and live in the town of Gojra, which has a history of violence against Christians, Hassan said. Both denied the charges, Hassan said, adding that they would appeal the sentence. Maulvi Mohammad Hussain, the prayer leader at a local mosque in Gojra, lodged a complaint against couple on July 21 last year for sending him a text message which he said was insulting to the Prophet Muhammad. Hussain accused the husband of sending the message from his wife’s cellphone. However, defence lawyer Hassan said that the text originated from a cellphone which the couple had lost some time before the incident, so they could not have sent the message. The defence lawyer said that the couple had suspected rivals of implicating them into blasphemy case to settle personal scores and that they had ties with the complainant. Pakistan has extremely strict laws against defaming Islam, including the death penalty for insulting the Prophet Muhammad, and rights campaigners say they are often used to settle personal disputes. In 2009 a mob attacked a Christian neighbourhood in Gojra and burned 77 houses and killed at least seven people after rumours that a Quran had been desecrated. On March 27 another Christian man Sawan Masih was sentenced to death in eastern city of Lahore for insulting the Prophet Muhammad during the course of a conversation with a Muslim friend in the Joseph Colony neighbourhood in March last year. Some 97 per cent of the 180 million population are Muslim, and even unproven allegations can trigger a violent public response. (Times of India 5/4/14)

 

24. Parliamentary Panel Punches Holes in Minority Welfare Programme (7)

NEW DELHI: A parliamentary standing committee on social justice and empowerment headed by Biswal, who is seeking re-election from Sundergarh on a Congress ticket, has rated the UPA government poorly on minority welfare and expressed displeasure over the Centre’s failure to implement Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s 15-point programme for the Minority Affairs Ministry. Though the Prime Minister’s 15-point programme was announced in December 2005, nine years on, its implementation has been dismal. The 15-point programme is an umbrella project monitored by the Ministry of Minority Affairs. There is no separate budget for it, except for schemes implemented for minorities by the Ministry of Minority Affairs. The standing committee in its 46th report on “Implementation of Prime Minister’s New 15 Point Programme” of the Ministry of Minority Affairs, said, “The committee is shocked that despite a plethora of schemes for minorities, the Muslim community, being the largest minority, is still lagging behind in respect of socio-economic parameters and social status.” “Even if some progress has been made in the Muslim community in terms of relevant parameters, they have not been able to catch up with the rest of the population. This gives rise to the question of the efficacy and reach of the various programmes or schemes,” the committee said. The committee noted that apart from lack of relevant data on the output from the ministry, a huge amount of money specially sanctioned for the minorities has not been utilised properly and with the result, goals could not be achieved. “The committee are of the considered view that had there been concerted efforts and better synergy between the Centre and states, Muslims would have surged ahead in terms of developmental indices, as has been in the case of Christian and Sikhs, with the aid and assistance of the minority-targeted programmes and schemes involving thousands of crores year after year,” the committee said. During election season, every party bats for minorities. However, the committee was disappointed to note that no financial assistance had been asked for by states and no amount released during the year 2013 for appointment of Urdu teachers in schools.  “The committee cannot comprehend how there is no demand for Urdu teachers across the country, especially when the Sachar Committee Report categorically emphasized the need for Urdu teachers at the primary level, which according to it, should be imparted in Urdu where it is child’s mother tongue,” the committee saidReferring to state-wise grants sanctioned by Maulana Azad Education Foundation (MAEF) during the last three years, the committee said it is evident that the lion’s share of the grant-in-aid has gone to Uttar Pradesh, both in terms of money (Rs 1662.90 lakh) and the number of NGOs assisted (132), whereas other states with sizable population of Muslims such as Assam (6 NGOs and `86 lakh) have been given a pittance. (New Indian Express 6/4/14)

 

25. SC to J&K govt : Book culprits of Kishtwar violence (7)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today directed the Jammu and Kashmir government to ensure proper investigation of all cases arising out of communal clashes in Kishtwar last year and asked the Commission of Inquiry set up by the state government to submit its report on the incidents within three months. A bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam also upheld the state government’s policy in awarding a higher amount of compensation to state subjects who are victims of the violence. “The state government is directed to ensure due and proper investigation of all such cases registered in connection with the two incidents in question if such investigation has not been completed in the meantime and thereafter bring all such cases to a logical end in accordance with law by completion of the trial against the accused, wherever necessary,” it said. Communal clashes had broken out in Kishtwar town in Jammu region on August 9 last year leaving three persons dead and dozens others injured. Property worth crores of rupees was set ablaze by the rival communities, forcing the government to impose curfew and seek army assistance in controlling the situation. The government then appointed a Commission headed by Justice R C Gandhi, a retired judge of the Jammu & Kashmir High Court, to inquire into the incident. “We, accordingly, request the Commission to complete its enquiry as early as possible, preferably, within a period of three months from today, if the final report has not already been submitted in the meantime. The government will naturally be duty bound to take all necessary and consequential steps on the basis of the said report as would be mandated in law,” the apex court said. In the meanwhile, the bench rejected a bunch of petitions filed by family members of contract labourers who were killed by militants at Mirbazar Tehsil Kelgam in Anantnag district in 2000. They had pleaded for enhanced compensation. Business Standard 7/4/14)

 

26. Anti-secularism act is treason, says Rajinder Sachar (7)

PATNA: Justice (retd) Rajinder Sachar has hit out at his critics who spread wrong propaganda about the famous comparative report on the condition of Muslims submitted by a panel headed by him, and said Muslims and Christians in India are not outsiders but an integral part of the country. “Secularism and socialism are fundamental elements of the preamble of the Constitution, without which no government can run, and those against these fundamentals can be tried for treason,” said the 90-year-old legal luminary while addressing a seminar on ‘Educational, economic and social uplift of Muslim minority in Bihar’. The seminar was organized by Tauheed Educational Trust here on Monday. The former chief justice of Delhi high court said secularism is wrongly defined by some people, but the fact remains that it is not against any religion. Secularism means religious equality and that no religion is superior to others, he added. Justice Sachar said all persons are equal before law and there can’t be any discrimination on the basis of religion, race, colour and region. The Indian constitution also accepted this position. He also quoted Swami Vivekanand, who had asked Hindus not to treat themselves as superior, and said all religions are one and Vedantism was incomplete without Islam. “The country can’t progress without equal rights and participation of Muslims and Christians. Discrimination on the basis of majority and minority is sheer foolishness. The governments should examine conflict as a result of discrimination and inequality in society,” he said. Justice Sachar said his report, which he submitted in 2006, is a comparative study of the condition of Muslims and other religious groups and so far nobody could prove his findings wrong. Lauding the work done by the Bihar government for Muslims, he said the state government made good schemes in 19 districts where Muslim population is 25 to 30% and above. “Targeted schemes should be made for minorities and implemented at block level,” he said quoting his recommendations. Justice Sachar also lauded the teachings of Islam and said no other religion gave so much stress on education, equal rights to women and right of inheritance. He also condemned the attitude to see Muslims with suspicion in the wake of terrorism. He referred to the December 6, 1992 demolition of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya and said the Lucknow high court had observed that those involved in this act were not suited to run government. The Supreme Court had also put its seal of approval on this observation. Following the shameful tragedy of December 6, 1992, its anniversary should be observed as national mourning day, he added. (Times of India 8/4/14)

 

WOMEN

27. Will parties help 50 million domestic helps get a fair deal? (8)

NEW DELHI: Estimates say there are over 50 million of them in the country. Yet, domestic workers remain unrecognized and unaccounted for in the legal framework. Their demand for a legislation to recognize and regulate domestic work isn’t new. But as India heads to the polls yet again, hardly any party raises their issues. Mostly women, domestic workers refuse to be drowned in the overarching definition “marginalized”, for fears of violence, abuse and trafficking stalk them like never before. “We domestic workers of India, a large number of us women hailing from dalit, backward and tribal communities, petition parliament through you to enact an appropriate law for our protection,” this is from a petition 1 lakh domestic workers submitted to MPs last year after a public rally. The petition said they were part of the National Platform of Domestic Workers an umbrella formation of over 20 organisations representing workers across 15 states. Delhi alone has an estimated 10 lakh workers. With their families, they account for 30 lakh national Capital voters. To reinforce their vulnerability, the petition cites the fact that till date there is no precise data on their numbers. “Our estimated numbers vary from 4.75 million (NSSO 2005) to over 90 million. The former is a gross under estimation, the latter may be exaggerated. It can be safely estimated that we number more than 50 million,” it says.  The network’s national convenor, Subhash Bhatnagar, says beginning with the Domestic Workers (Conditions of Employment) Bill, 1959, there’ve been many attempts to legislate for this sector, without success — the most recent being the Domestic Workers (Conditions of Service) Bill, 2009. But there still isn’t an Act of parliament to protect the largest and fastest-growing sector of employment for women in urban areas. Rishikant from NGO Shakti Vahini talks of the rising cases of traffi cking. Due to uneven development in many states with substantial tribal population such as Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bengal, Assam and Orissa, the migration of women to the big cities has been on the rise. “The migration happens through unregulated placement agencies that often indulge in human traffi cking,” Rishikant says. NGOs working with domestic workers say traffi cking in Delhi /NCR has grown over 10 years. “Many girls end up in exploitative circumstances and are treated as slaves. Placement agencies make huge profi ts and human traffi cking victims never get salaries for their back- breaking work,” he says. (Times of India 7/4/14)

 

28. Govt to launch insurance scheme for girl child (8)

Mumbai: The Maharashtra government will soon table an insurance scheme under which a girl child born in below poverty line families will get Rs 1 lakh for education on turning 18. Mooted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development,the scheme —Sukanya —will be tabled in the Cabinet meeting on Friday. to help us personalise your reading experience. Under the scheme,if a girl child is born in a BPL family,the government will deposit Rs 21,200 in her name after January 2014. “The girl will get Rs 1 lakh on maturity after she is above 18,for her education purposes,” said an official. Earlier,WCD Minister Varsha Gaikwad,who had initiated the scheme,had met with opposition from the finance department and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar in view of the possible burden on the state exchequer. “Over 2 lakh girls are born every year in BPL families and they are expected to be covered under the scheme,which is likely to cost the state government around Rs 576 crore,” said the official. The ministry is also expected to table a proposal aimed to provide financial aid to rape and acid attack victims in the next week’s cabinet meeting. Around Rs 3 lakh would be granted as financial assistance to victims of rape and acid attacks for their treatment,legal aid,counselling and rehabilitation purposes,” added the official. (Indian Express 8/4/14)

 

29. Supreme Court notice to Maharashtra government on women’s safety (8)

MUMBAI: The Supreme Court has issued notice to the Centre and Maharashtra and Gujarat governments and has sought an ‘action taken’ report from their agencies on women’s safety measures. The apex court’s order came after a PIL filed by a Delhi advocate on the basis of a TOI report about a woman whose breast was cut off by a pimp for her refusal to join the flesh trade. A bench of Chief Justice P Sathasivam and Justices Ranjan Gogoi and P V Ramana acted immediately when advocate Kumud Das presented the PIL and sought judicial intervention for protection of women. She said the TOI report highlighted a gruesome reality. The SC will hear the PIL again on April 15 and directed that in the meantime the local police must “file an action taken report and status on the health condition of the victim regarding the incident published in the Times of India (Delhi edition) dated March 24, 2013 —Women says no to sex trade, pimp chops off her breasts”. The TOI report said that the victim, who hails from a poor family in Gujarat, was promised marriage and lured to Mumbai where she was sold for Rs 30,000 to a brothel owner and pimp, Ruby Munshi, in Bhiwandi. (Times of India 9/4/14)

 

30. Criminalisation of politics affects women most: Brinda (8)

Mangalore: Communist Party of India (Marxist) Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat on Tuesday reached out to the people on issues of the region, including the talk of a ban on arecanut, assaults on women, and the “criminalisation of love”. While campaigning for CPI(M) candidate K. Yadav Shetty from Dakshina Kannada Lok Sabha constituency, she referred to the rape and murder of a 17-year-old girl near Ujire in October 2012. Ms. Karat said: “A person with mental disabilities was arrested to protect the actual culprits. Political parties go to police stations not with the victim, but to protect the accused. The criminalisation of politics affects women the most.” Referring to the recent sexual assault of a woman councillor here allegedly by right wing activists, and assaults on inter-faith couples, she said there was a “criminalisation of love” where there was no safety in consensual relationships. She said the “tragedy” of Indian politics was that both the national parties were an “unholy alliance” that worked for the interest of the corporate sector. “There is no difference between the manifestos of the two parties… They want to remove the little labour laws there are, to benefit the industries. The BJP uses tax terror in their manifesto. Terrorism implies attack on innocents. In the BJP’s language, this implies not price rise that affects the ordinary person, but taxes that are levied on corporates,” Ms. Karat said and added that in the process, the rights of health activists, beedi, anganwadi and midday meal workers were ignored. She lambasted the ‘Gujarat model of development,’ saying the State had high malnutrition rates and the “worst” record in the public distribution system. The Left had consistently demanded a universal, right to 35 kg of rice at Rs. 2 a kg. “The Hindutva agenda is sure to spread under Modi…,” said Ms. Karat. With the Congress being “an army without soldiers,” she believed it was only the Left and regional parties that could defeat the BJP. Terming the BJP manifesto as representing corporates and Hindutva, Ms. Karat said the three divisive points of the Hindutva agenda that had been “kept on the back burner” by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government in 1998 were now back in the “forefront”. (The Hindu 9/4/14)

 

TERRORISM

31. U.S. gives Mumbai police equipment to fight terror (12)

New Delhi: The Mumbai Police on Thursday received counter-terror equipment from the United States. The explosive incident countermeasures equipment, worth $300,000, which include explosive ordnance disposal suits, specially designed helmets, disruptors and scanners, were handed over to the Mumbai Police, a statement from the U.S. Embassy here said. Addressing a special function organised to hand over the equipment, the outgoing U.S. Ambassador, Nancy J. Powell, said the relationship between the U.S. and India, the oldest and largest democracies in the world, was very strategic. “Our two nations are committed to fighting terrorism and working to make life safe for all. I am delighted to give explosive incident countermeasures equipment worth $300,000 to the Mumbai Police to aid in the fight against terrorism,” she said. Since the first anti-terrorist assistance programme in 1995, the U.S. State Department has partnered with the Government of India in delivering 113 courses to the Indian Police. More than 2,000 officers have received training. “Since my arrival to New Delhi, the U.S. has contributed approximately $10 million in training and equipment through the anti-terrorist assistance programme,” Ms Powell said. The Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD-9) bomb suit and helmet have been designed with direct input from bomb disposal technicians to provide the highest degree of modular protection and operational flexibility, the statement said. The helmet offers protection against fragments with velocities of over 683 metre per second, is made of high-strength fibre and weighs only 3.6 kg with visor. The ergonomic design allows easy movement and good visibility without strain. (The Hindu 5/4/14)

 

32. IM terrorists brought to Kerala (12)

Thiruvananthapuram, Apr 5 : Indian Mujahideen (IM) head Tehseen Akhtar alias Monu and another top militant Waqas were on Saturday brought to Kerala for collecting evidence. “They were brought to Cochin in a special aircraft and from there to Munanr in Idukki district in separate helicopters,” reported CNN-IBN. The Special Cell of Delhi Police arrested Akhtar, who is the India commander of terrorist outfit Indian Mujahideen (IM), on Mar 25. According to the police, Akhtar was heading the outfit post the arrest of IM founder Yasin Bhatkal. He was interrogated by a joint team of Delhi Police Special Cell and central intelligence agencies. This came after four IM terrorists were arrested by the Special Cell of Delhi Police from two locations in Rajasthan on Mar 22 evening. The arrested terrorists were identified as Waqas, Mahroof, Mehraj and Saquib. “One of them, Waqas, is alleged to be the chief bomb-maker of the banned outfit and a close aide of its jailed co-founder Yasin Bhatkal,” NDTV channel reported. Waqas, a Pakistani national, is one of the most wanted men in connection with several blasts in the country, including the serial blasts in Mumbai in July 2011 that killed 27 persons and injured over 130. (New Kerala 5/4/14)

 

33. Militant killed, two policemen injured in Kashmir gunfight (12)

Srinagar: A militant was killed and two policemen injured Monday in a gunfight between security forces with separatist guerrillas holed up in a house in in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kupwara district, police said. The exchange of fire was still on late in the evening. One of the two militants believed to be in the house in Zunrishi (Chokibal) village of Kupwara district, 130 km from here, was killed in the operation launched by security forces on specific information, a senior police officer said. “When the security forces cordoned off a house and challenged the hiding militants to surrender, they started indiscriminate firing at the surrounding security forces,” he said, adding that two police personnel – an assistant sub-inspector and a constable – were injured. “The cordon around the house where the militants are hiding was tightened and the injured policemen were shifted to hospital for treatment,” he added. He said exchange of firing and the security forces was going on as on 9.30 pm. (Zee News 8/4/14)

 

34. High court acquits 6 persons accused in terror conspiracy case (12)

HYDERABAD: A division bench of the high court on Monday set aside the conviction of six persons in the infamous 2005 Arms Procurement Case related to terror outfit Hizbul Mujahideen and acquitted all of them. Jahangir Khan, Shabbir Ahmed, Ravinder Kumar, Mohammed Yaseen alias Pappu, Zohra Nishat and Shaik Awadh, all associates of self-styled commander of Hizbul Mujahideen Mujeeb Ahmed, were arrested by the sleuths of Special Investigation Team (SIT) of Hyderabad police in December 2005 for allegedly hatching a criminal conspiracy against the state by procuring sophisticated AK 47 rifles from Hizbul chief Syed Salahuddin of Pakistan. The illegal arms procurement and criminal conspiracy case was busted in Rajasthan after the Ajmer district police arrested a truck driver Shabbir and cleaner Ravinder and recovered AK 47 rifles from their vehicle. The SIT booked them under IPC Sections 122 and 124 (A) and Section 23 (2) of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. Mujeeb, who is accused number one in this case, was also convicted in section 39/40 of Indian Wireless Telegraphic Act. After four years of trial the first additional metropolitan sessions judge at Nampally criminal courts convicted Mujeeb Ahmed to life imprisonment in August 2009. The judge also convicted the other six accused to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment. The same year all the convicts filed an appeal in the high court and pleaded to set aside the order of the lower court. After hearing the argument of public prosecutor and defence counsels, the division bench of Justice L Narsimha Reddy and Justice M S K Jaiswal, while allowing the appeal of six accused, upheld the conviction of Mujeeb Ahmed. Two other accused, former Naxalite Nayeemuddin alias Bhongir Nayeem and Hizbul chief Syed Salahuddin, have been declared as fugitives. Mujeeb Ahmed is in Ajmer district jail following his conviction by a local court in the same case. (Times of India 9/4/14)

 

JUDICIARY/ LAW  

35. High Court Lawyers Cry Foul over Selection of Judges (19)

HYDERABAD: The recommendation reportedly made by the AP High Court collegium to consider the names of some of the advocates to fill up the vacancies of judges in the High Court has come in for sharp criticism from the general body of the AP High Court Advocates’ Association. The general body of the association demanded on Monday that the recommendations be recalled forthwith. At a meeting held in the association hall, it resolved to launch a protest against the appointment of judges to the existing High Court. There was difference of opinionover giving a boycott call. Members of the association, including Telangana Advocates’ JAC convener S Satyam Reddy, state Congress committee legal cell convener C Damodar Reddy, advocates Gandra Mohan Rao, V Raghunath, Javed, Chandrasekhar Reddy, P Govardhan Reddy and others said that the entire process of recommending the names of advocates by the collegium to appoint them as judges as unconstitutional, arbitrary, not in good taste and smacks of some unknown urgency before the state bifurcation. They wondered how the governor can process the recommendation of the collegium even before the appointed day i.e. June 2. “The collegium consists of two judges from outside the state and the remaining member is being elevated to the Delhi High Court as chief justice. Moreover, there is no representation from the Telangana region in the collegium. Therefore, the recommendation by the collegium is not proper.” They pointed out that the present strength of the High Court was 36. Earlier, it had functioned with only 24 judges. As such, there was no urgency to send the above proposal at this stage, it said.  The members condemned the process adopted while making it clear that the merits of individuals was not the subject matter. They contended that when the popularly elected governments were not in place at the Centre and in the state and on the eve of  formation of state of Telangana such a move was most unwarranted. The general body further demanded that the process for selection of junior civil judges also be stalled and the notification withdrawn as the subordinate judiciary was in the process of being bifurcated and allotted to two states.  The executive was authorised to make representations to the authorities concerned and chalk out agitation programme which includes abstaining from work. Advocates belonging to Seemandhra also attended the meeting. (New Indian Express 8/4/14)

 

36. Can Supreme Court impose life imprisonment without remission? (19)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court, which has become increasingly reluctant to uphold the death penalty even for those guilty of brutal multiple murders, had 7 years ago devised a method to balance the scales of justice by imposing life sentence without remission, meaning the convict would spend rest of his life in prison. Award of life sentence without remission has raised a serious legal and Constitutional question – can the Supreme Court take away the Constitutionally conferred power on governments to remit sentence of a lifer after he/she has served 14 years in jail? Noted legal expert Fali S Nariman sought an early adjudication of this question, which he had raised more than five years ago and still remains pending. A bench of Chief Justice P Sathasivam and Justice Ranjan Gogoi agreed that the question needed to be referred to a five-judge Constitution bench and posted it for hearing on April 30. On April 6, 2010, after hearing Nariman and Attorney General G E Vahanvati, the apex court had agreed to consider the question, but felt impeded by a three-judge bench judgment of July 22, 2008 in Swami Shraddananda case. Swami Shraddananda was sentenced to death by a Karnataka trial court for murdering his wife, who was the rich granddaughter of former Dewan of Mysore. The high court upheld the sentence. On appeal, a two-judge bench of SC in 2007 gave a split verdict – Justice S B Sinha preferring life sentence without remission and Justice Markandeya Katju upholding death sentence. In 2008, a three-judge bench of Justices B N Agrawal, G S Singhvi and Aftab Alam unanimously endorsed Justice Sinha’s view and said: “We accordingly substitute the death sentence given to the appellant by the trial court and confirmed by the High court by imprisonment for life and direct that he shall not be released from prison till the rest of his life.” Appearing for writ petitioner Subash Singh Thakur, Nariman had questioned the Constitutionality of the apex court’s decision to order imprisonment of a person for life without remission, which is a power conferred on state and central governments by the Constitution. While admitting the petition for hearing, a bench of Justices H S Bedi and R M Lodha had on April 6, 2010 said: “The basic issue raised by Nariman in this case is whether the direction of the Supreme Court in Shraddananda case that imprisonment of life would mean imprisonment till the rest of the life encroached on the legislative field as it ignored the provisions of Article 21 of the Constitution and Sections 53 to 55 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 433A of the criminal procedure code.” Though the bench had four years ago referred the petition to the CJI for hearing by a larger bench, it had not been taken up for hearing. But, the apex court appeared careful in later cases, like the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case where it commuted the death penalty of three to life imprisonment with provision for remission of sentence. It is another matter that, the Tamil Nadu government immediately proposed to release the three by remitting the rest of their life term on the ground that they had already served more than 20 years in prison. The SC had to step in on the Centre’s petition to stay their impending release. Swami Shraddananda too has filed a petition posing the same question. Shraddananda was first lodged in Bangalore Central Prison and is now kept in Sagar Central Prison in Madhya Pradesh. (Times of India 8/4/14)

 

37. Don’t blame judges for death penalty: SC (19)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday reprimanded the two convicts in the December 16 gangrape case over their attempt to blame the judges for handing out death penalty. Summarily shooting down the endeavour to put the blame on the judges who dealt with the case, a bench of Justices B S Chauhan and J Chelameswar warned the convicts against adopting this line of argument as they challenge their conviction and the consequent punishment. The court also told the counsel for two the convicts not to seek refuge under a contention over inadequate and inefficient legal representation in the trial court and the Delhi High Court so as to say the conviction was a result of bad lawyering. “Don’t try to find fault with the judges… and with the lawyers. We cannot permit you to start levelling these baseless allegations against them. You have to argue only on the legal and factual points and not preach us about the judges and the lawyers,” the bench told advocate M L Sharma. Sharma represented convicts Mukesh and Pawan Gupta, whose death sentences have been stayed by the SC, pending their appeal. Sharma had tried to argue that a “grave miscarriage of justice” had been caused by sentencing his clients to death since there were serious issues in the manner their lawyers argued the matter in the lower courts. The bench however cut him short. “We don’t need to know how good you are and what you would have done had you represented them. We are also not interested in any public debate on the issue. Just tell us what according to you are the flaws in the judgments of the two courts that held you guilty and sentenced you to death,” the court said. At this, Sharma began by pointing to the injuries caused to the victim and the medical reports in this regard. But when asked by the court, he failed to show from the case record where these medical reports lay. The apex court then gave him a week to present all the medical records, including the post-mortem report of the Singapore hospital where the victim was treated before she succumbed to injuries. It extended till April 14 the stay on the execution of death penalty of the two convicts. Besides Mukesh and Pawan, the High Court had also upheld the conviction and death penalty of Akshay Thakur and Vinay Sharma. While dismissing their appeals, the High Court had termed the offence as “extremely fiendish” and “unparalleled in the history of criminal jurisprudence” while adding that the “exemplary punishment” was the need of the hour. The court also asserted that if this case was not the rarest of rare cases” then “there is likely to be none”. (Indian Express 9/4/14)

 

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

38. Farmers’ widows: Forgotten by state, neglected by society (20)

Amravati: The block development officer (BDO) in Amravati’s Teosa taluka had promised to help Bhavnatai Patil (name changed) get compensation for her husband’s suicide. Hence, when she went to meet him at his office the next time, she did not suspect anything to be amiss. But minutes after she reached, he allegedly forced himself on her. She fought back and hit him before escaping. In Amravati’s suicide-ridden villages, tales abound of the suffering inflicted on the widows of farmers who have killed themselves because of the agrarian crisis in the region. While candidates from national parties in the district slug it out ahead of the April 10 polls in suicide-hit villages in the state, farmers’ widows continue their battles. In Amravati’s villages, tales abound of the suffering inflicted on the widows of farmers who have killed themselves because of the agrarian crisis in the region. Stuck between a state that is apathetic to their plight and a society that is insensitive to their emotional needs, these widows often end up fighting several battles. According to Aarti Bais from the Apeksha Homeo Society, who works extensively with such widows, it is worse for those widowed in their 20s. Fearing society’s reaction if they remarried, these women seldom seek companionship. “After the husband’s death, they cannot forge new relationships with men. Even if they make friends with other women, they cannot share everything since they all belong to the same village.” Many face harassment from those they confide in, like the inlaws. “Young widows have often been sexually exploited by the father-in-law or the brother-inlaw. Often, their maternal families refuse to take them back, so they have nowhere to go,” says Bais. Bais adds that many men in the village change the way they look at a young widowed woman. “There are deliberate transgressions when they speak to her. She is also subjected to intense scrutiny by the village. Each step she takes attracts close attention.” A patriarchal mindset isn’t the only obstacle. Often, insensitive authorities cause serious financial problems. After her husband Sanjay killed himself by consuming poison, Sangeeta Dodke, 33, who got married at 20, had to take charge of the house. Even though the suicide was three years ago, she is yet to receive compensation for it. She saw a ray of hope with Sanjay’s insurance policy. But she has to submit his body’s post-mortem report to claim the money. The local police, however, claim they can’t find it. Gajanan Kale, another member of the Apeksha Homeo Society, says such roles are tough for women who have never stepped out of their homes. “When faced with extreme situations, they break down.” But in Saavla most widows are stoic. “At first, they depend on authorities for help. But when it doesn’t come, they realise the need to move beyond the tragedy and take charge of their life,” said Kale. (Hindustan Times 7/4/14)

 

39. Attack those who caused you distress, Raj tells farmers (20)

Mumbai: In his first election rally in Vidarbha’s Yavatmal district, infamous for a large number of farmers’ suicides, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray asked peasants to attack those responsible for their distress instead of committing suicide. “Rather than killing yourself, attack those who are responsible for your condition. Those who committed atrocities against you, those responsible for such crime, attack them and then commit suicide if you want,” he said on Tuesday. “Suicide can never be the solution to your problem,” Mr. Thackeray said while campaigning for his party’s candidate from Yavatmal-Washim constituency. Mr. Thackeray also attacked the Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra for neglecting pending farmers’ issues in the state. “It is really sad that the only thing for which this district is known for is farmers’ suicides,” said Mr. Thackeray. The Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan on Tuesday said that the Congress party is examining the speech of Mr. Thackeray. “Any decision on whether to file a complaint with the Election Commission or not will be taken only after going through his entire speech,” Mr. Chavan said. (The Hindu 8/4/14)

 

40. No aid yet, hailstorm-hit villages may shift loyalties (20)

On January 19, two days after a 20-minute spell of hailstorms destroyed the wheat harvest over his 2-acre farm in Amravati’s Bhivkundi village, 33-year-old Anand Panade had decided to end his life. Unseasonal heavy rainfall last June had already wiped out his cotton plantation and left him in a debt of Rs 1.2 lakh. But Panade was stopped by other farmers in his village before he could consume the fatal mix of klinol phenyl and alcohol. While the government claims to have already disbursed Rs 600 crore of the total relief package of Rs 4,000 crore announced for hailstorm-hit farmers, the situation on the ground is different. All farmers that The Indian Express spoke to in the district said they had not received any aid so far. An official from the relief and rehabilitation department said 12.75 lakh farmers had to be compensated in all and many had not been reached out to yet. Panade is one of the 130 families in this small village in Morshi taluka on the border of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. “Lemon-sized” hails started pouring here on the night of January 17 and destroyed the entire standing crop. But the government issued the special compensation package only for villages affected by hailstorms in February and March, angering farmers in this region. “Being a farmer is difficult, but the last two years have made us feel like it is a curse. No aid has reached this village either for last year’s heavy rainfall or this year’s hailstorms. The government knows that hailstorms lashed our village on January 17 but they announced the special aid only for February and March,” said Panade.  The village that has traditionally been voting for the Congress till now is now showing signs of shifting loyalties. Sarpanch Tejabhau Dike, who lost crop on 12 acres, said most farmers had now decided to vote for BJP candidate Ramdas Tadas even though they never saw or heard of him. Wardha is a stronghold of Congress, where sitting MP Datta Meghe’s son Sagar is contesting. “In 2009, 99 per cent of the votes went to the Congress. But the government has been inconsiderate to us at a time when our losses and debts are at an all-time high owing to natural calamities,” said Panade. Three farmers who have got pucca houses under the Indira Awas Yojana, too, are not happy. They complain about receiving only 8 hours of electricity for agriculture while the village in MP less than 6 km away receives 18 hours of power. Only 40 km away from Morshi is the Warud taluka, which was famously termed “the California of India” by Maharashtra’s first chief minister Yashwantrao Chavan. It is the only region in the state that exports orange saplings. The hailstorm on January 17 destroyed 70 per cent of saplings and half of the orange plantations in Shendurjana Ghat village… (Indian Express 9/4/14)

 

HINDUTVA

41. BJP manifesto comes under attack for ‘Hindutva agenda’ (26)

NEW DELHI: Political parties on Monday slammed BJP’s manifesto especially over inclusion of Ram temple and other ‘Hindutva’ issues, saying it was only aimed at hoodwinking voters. Congress leader Digvijaya Singh accused BJP of exploiting religion for political gains. Pointing to a recent sting on the Ram Mandir agitation, he said many VHP leaders were heard saying that the death of some Hindus was required to infuse a new life into the movement. “They spoke about religion and have exploited it politically,” the Congress general secretary said. He welcomed BJP’s offer to help madrassas, saying it is a good sign for country. Left parties also came down heavily on BJP for the mention of Ram Temple issue in its manifesto, saying it is intended to “consolidate” Hindu votes. Observing that BJP has reiterated its “hardcore Hindutva agenda” by highlighting issues like the Ram Temple, abrogation of Article 370 and a uniform civil code, senior CPM leader Sitaram Yechury said “this is its real agenda”.”That it will abide by the Constitution on the temple issue is a total eyewash. Which constitutional provision has endorsed the destruction of Babri Masjid,” he asked. Terming the manifesto as mere sloganeering, Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah said people have witnessed in the past that issues like Common Civil Code, Ram Mandir and Article 370 are “handles” for BJP to come to power. Similar views were echoed by his father and president of National Conference Farooq Abdullah who said BJP was trying to fool people of this country by “selling dreams”.Omar reminded that this is not the first time that issues like Article 370, Ram temple and Common Civil Code have been raised. “Please tell me when did they actually address these issues when they were in power. What was the development done by them on these issues,” he said, adding, “This is purely an effort to hoodwink the voters of this country.” Naresh Agarwal of Samajwadi Party said the manifesto was only a showpiece and BJP was interested in grabbing power by any means. “Their manifesto is eating… and cheating. It is about grabbing power, doing the politics over dead bodies…,” he said. Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi questioned how BJP will fulfil its promise of building a house for every family and reaching drinking water to all villages. “Where from will money come? How long will it take? They should be clear about it,” he said. Meanwhile, in Farukkhabad, Union minister Salman Khurshid said “if taking revenge was a part of Modi’s manifesto, then it’s wrong. Revenge would pose a threat to the democracy.” While talking to reporters here, Khurshid attacked Modi saying how a party which could not frame its manifesto could claim to run the country.  (Times of India 7/4/14)

 

42. Besides Article 370, VHP demands jobs for Hindu youths (26)

Indore: Togadia said Hindus should also vote for a party which cares about their rights. Togadia said Hindus should also vote for a party which cares about their rights. Senior VHP leader Pravin Togadia today asked the political parties, especially BJP, to promise various concessions and schemes for Hindu community in their manifestos, apart from enactment of law to build the Ram temple in Ayodhya. “We on behalf of the majority of Hindus have demanded that all the political parties should promise to provide fee-reimbursement to Rs 10 crore poor Hindu students in their manifestos,” said Togadia, the international working president of VHP. Jobs should be provided to Hindu youths and security to over four lakh Kashmiri Hindus living in refugee camps, he said. The parties should also promise to enact a law to facilitate construction of the Ram Temple in Aydhya, he said. Cow slaughter and religious conversions should be banned, article 370 of Constitution should be removed and common civil code should be implemented, he said, listing other demands. He said he has high hopes from BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi in this regard. When asked about Congress President Sonia Gandhi seeking support of the Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid, Togadia said “in the democracy everyone has the right to seek votes”. He said Hindus should also vote for a party which cares about their rights. (Indian Express 7/4/14)

 

43. RSS, Ramdev, Ravi Shankar Engaging in Politics: Congress (26)

NEW DELHI: The Congress Tuesday moved the Election Commission against the RSS, yoga guru Ramdev and Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, saying they have been conducting political activities. It also urged the panel to keep a close tab on any campaign-related issue. In a complaint to the poll panel, K. C. Mittal, secretary of Congress’ legal and human rights department said that persons and organisations other than BJP “namely, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Ramdev and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar have been conducting political activities without being registered as a political party”. The complaint said that the RSS claims to be a social and cultural organisation and also referred to reports about political message at yoga camps held by Ramdev in the capital. “Unfortunately, all of them are indulging in political activties without following down norms laid down by the poll panel for free and fair elections,” the Congress alleged. The party urged the poll panel to issue instructions so that all activities and movements relating to election campaign were monitored and video-graphed. It said that any activity to arouse religious feeling to seek votes in the name of religion, caste or community should be booked under the relevant laws. The Congress said special observers may be deputed to ascertain the actual expenditure incurred by organisations and “saints” indulging in campaigning and it should be added to the account of the respective candidate. (Indian Express 9/4/14)

 

 

Posted by admin at 7 April 2014

Category: Uncategorized

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

1. Info on MLAs’ Assets Held up for 16 Months (1)

HYDERABAD: For nearly 16 months the information on year-by-year appreciation of the declared assets of MLAs and MLCs sought under RTI Act continues to elude the RTI applicants as the Assembly and Council authorities delaying their response. This, despite the authorities admitting that RTI petitions on the subject were piling up. The information sought being a public document according to Assembly rules makes RTI activists wonder what prevents its disclosure. Rule 364 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in AP Legislature states, “Every member should declare his/her assets and liabilities to the Speaker within 30 days of taking oath and, thereafter, shall declare only whenever there is a change in his/her assets and liabilities before July 31 next, while in office. Such declaration shall be treated as a public document.” Secretary of the AP Legislature Secretariat S Raja Sadaram, however, cites suspended animation of the legislature as the latest hurdle in the process. “Of course, it is a public document but the issue is still pending with the ethics committee which does not exist now. Some legislators have declared their assets but a considerable number have not. It is not a penal offence,” he says. Rakesh Kumar Dubbudu, who had filed a petition seeking details of year-by-year appreciation of assets of MLAs and MLCs in November 2012, is yet to receive a response even after a second appeal. “Since it is a public document, there is no question of hiding it under the pretext of ethics committee or any other committee. A public document has to be in the public domain. This is once again an attempt to hide information which is supposed to be public in the first place,” he points out. Chief information commissioner Jannat Hussain, without admitting that many petitions on second appeal were pending before him, just said that it was a public document and had to revealed. Another official at his office, suggested, “Since the commission is keeping silence, it is best to file an ad-joinder petition before the High Court keeping the upcoming elections in mind.” The second appeal, made in February 2013, is still pending despite Dubbudu’s appeals to the CIC several times in writing. “I have requested the CIC multiple times in writing that this hearing be expedited since this is an important issue with elections approaching. The SIC has decided not to act on this. With elections just a month away, I hope that the SIC does something on this,” he hopes. Responding to Dubbudu’s RTI, Assembly officials said some information was available on their website and as for the rest of the information the issue is pending with the ethics committee. A webpage meant to divulge the said information on the AP Legislature website launched in July 2012 is still under construction. (New Indian Express 2/4/14)

 

2. No RTI reply, BMC to pay Rs 50,000 to South Mumbai man (1)

MUMBAI: The state chief information commissioner (CEC) has directed the BMC to pay Rs 50,000 compensation to south Mumbai resident Nandu P Kapadia who had sought information under an RTI application, but did not get it within the 30-day stipulated period resulting in his house on Princess Street being demolished. This is the second such landmark ruling by the state CEC. In 2013, the Mumbai University was told to pay Rs 1 lakh compensation to an RTI applicant, who had sought records of the minutes of the management council meetings in the last 10 years. After hearing Kapadia’s complaint, state CEC Ratnakar Gaikwad directed the first appellate officer to ensure payment of the compensation before April 30, and issued a show-cause notice asking the officer to appear before him for clarifications. “If not, then a penalty will be imposed on the officer,” the order said. The penalty can be up to Rs 25,000. On October 11, 2013, Kapadia filed an RTI plea seeking information from the C ward office on certain documentary proof related to his property, which was under litigation, that had to be presented in court. When he did not get the information, he approached the first appellate officer on December 6, 2013. The officer ordered that Kapadia get the information within seven days, but he never got it. Kapadia told Gaikwad that the official neither responded to his plea properly nor told him that he had to deposit an amount to get photocopies of the required documents. “He has suffered an irreparable loss following the inability of the officials in giving information within the stipulated timeframe,” the order said. (Times of India 2/4/14)

 

3. HC stays CIC order on withdrawal of security clearance to GVHL (1)

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court has stayed a Central Information Commission order directing the Ministry of Home Affairs to disclose the reasons behind withdrawal of security clearance to Global Vectra Helicorp Limited (GVHL), the country’s largest private helicopter company. Justice Manmohan was of the “prima facie” view that the ministry was exempted under the Right to Information (RTI) Act from providing the information as directed by the commission. The order had come on the plea of the ministry which has contended that security inputs of government agencies cannot be disclosed as it would impede the process of ongoing probe by agencies like Enforcement Directorate. “Having heard counsel for petitioner, this court is prima facie of the view that exemption under Right to Information Act 2005 are attracted to the present case. Consequently, the order of the CIC dated November 20, 2013 is stayed till further orders,” the court said. The Central Information Commission (CIC) had directed the ministry to broadly provide the reason, as available on the record of the public authority, for withdrawal of the security clearance of GVHL, after which the company’s Non-Scheduled Operator’s Permit was suspended by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation. The CIC had passed the order on the plea of an RTI applicant Rakesh Soni. The court also issued notice to Soni and others and has sought their responses by the next date of hearing September 30. (Business Standard 6/4/14)

 

4. RTI impact: Neither transparent, nor opaque but translucent (1)

New Delhi: The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre lists the Right to Information (RTI) Act – enacted in 2005 – among its foremost contributions during a decade in power. While Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi insists the Act brought transparency into governance, Congressmen say it has become the party’s bane. The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, an international non-governmental organisation that works for human rights, estimates four million RTI applications were filed across the country in 2011-12. A majority of these, 33.8 per cent, were filed in Maharashtra, followed by 32.5 per cent with the central government. Armed with a right to seek information from public authorities, citizens have been using it to expose corruption and misgovernance. Prominent scams unearthed through the RTI include the Adarsh Housing scam in Mumbai and the mismanagement of finances during the Commonwealth Games held in Delhi. Venkatesh Nayak from the Access to Information Programme of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative in New Delhi, said, “Even in the ninth year of its implementation, the RTI has not realised its potential. As far as imbibing the values of transparency in governance and responsibility of citizens are concerned, these areas need to be developed.” Even the government did not realise the extent to which the RTI could be used to demand accountability, he added. So, when the Central Information Commission ruled that the six national political parties were covered by the RTI, the Congress-led UPA government moved the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2013, to curtail it. But the controversy it generated forced Members of Parliament (MPs) to send the Bill to a parliamentary standing committee. The main obstacle to the RTI fulfilling its potential are bureaucrats who still treat it as a burden and provide information on a need-to-know basis. Nayak emphasises the right must be viewed holistically as a provider of information, supplemented by digitisation of records and routine disclosures. Transparency in governance also entails administrative reforms the authorities are reluctant to undertake. The ineffectiveness of information commissions is another factor hampering the RTI. Activists have been opposing the government’s practice of appointing retired bureaucrats as information commissioners. Those who spent their professional lives opposing disclosure of information are unlikely to be votaries for access to information, activists claim. The UPA has also failed to implement the awareness activities it was required to undertake in the countryside, thereby restricting the Act’s impact to cities. Maharashtra and Karnataka lead in the number of RTI applications filed mainly because these states enacted their own laws much before the central legislation. Again, several state governments appoint favourably disposed information commissioners and the commissions themselves are poorly staffed. As the band of dedicated RTI activists grows, several have become targets. Approximately 250 activists have been killed in the past nine years. This group is keenly awaiting presidential assent for the much-needed Whistleblowers Protection Act, 2011. Taking the right to information campaign a step further, organisations like the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative are working with the Comptroller and Auditor General, on social audit of public authorities. Politicians who have been attacking the CAG for its zeal in unearthing scams like those over selling air waves to telecom companies and allocation of coal blocks, could face a formidable challenge if ordinary citizens armed with the RTI were to aid the auditor. (Business Standard 7/4/14)

 

HUMAN RIGHTS/ RIGHTS GROUP/ NHRC (5)

5. Rights Groups Want Views Reflected in Manifestoes (1)

BHUBANESWAR: As political parties try to reach out to all sections of the electorates by setting their priorities for the next five years and making a bagful of promises, several civil society and rights groups have seized the opportunity to ensure that their views are reflected in the election manifestoes. The State chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) has recommended enactment of a legislation to protect and conserve Odisha’s heritage. In a memorandum to mainstream political parties Congress, BJD and BJP  State convener of INTACH A B Tripathy has pleaded for a heritage policy for the State. The organisation has further recommended  setting up special training centres for the continued skill training in ancient art forms like temple architecture, murals and carvings for capacity building. “The Archaeological Survey of India is neglecting the proper upkeep of the valued heritage of the State. The State Archaeological department is in moribund state. There is an urgent need to take these measures on a war-footing,” the memorandum said.  The Nisha Mukti Odisha, a voluntary organisation spearheading a public movement against sale of liquor, has called upon the political parties to impose  total prohibition. ‘Drushti Daan,’ which is committed to the cause of eye donation and combating corneal blindness, has approached the political parties for enactment of organ donation laws to facilitate eye donation. The Eastern India Philatelic Association, Bhubaneswar chapter, has also made a representation to the political parties to fight for the State, which is neglected by the Centre. “The State is not getting adequate representation on the postage stamp issued by the Government of India,” said Anil Dhil of the association. Patita Udhar Samiti, an organisation working for the welfare of commercial sex workers and destitute, has made a strong plea to the political parties for economic welfare measures in their agenda for these marginalised groups so that they can live a life of dignity. While organisations working for tribal and forest dwellers’ rights have drawn the attention of the political parties to their plights, the LGBT groups have demanded that they be covered under social security net. Several Child  Rights groups, non-governmental organisations like Action Aid, CRY and CYSD, senior citizen organisation like Helpage India and organisation fighting for the rights of women have also made separate representations to the political parties to accommodate their views in the manifestoes. (New Indian Express 1/4/14)

 

6. UN asks Sri Lanka to cooperate with UNHRC (1)

United Nations: UN chief Ban Ki-moon has asked Sri Lanka to engage “constructively” and cooperate with its human rights body to implement a resolution calling for an international inquiry into alleged war crimes committed during the final stages of the country’s civil war. Mr. Ban has “consistently underlined the importance of an accountability process for addressing violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in Sri Lanka,” the UN Secretary General’s Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters here on Tuesday. “He welcomes the determination by the High Commissioner for Human Rights to advance accountability and promote lasting peace and reconciliation in the country,” he said. Mr. Haq said Mr. Ban “calls on the government of Sri Lanka to constructively engage and cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner (for Human Rights) on the implementation of the resolution adopted last week by the Human Rights Council.” Mr. Haq was responding to a question on comments by Sri Lankan Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe that Sri Lanka would not participate or cooperate in the investigations into human rights violations. The Council had on March 27 voted to open an international inquiry into alleged war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the final stages of a decades-long conflict that ended in 2009. India had abstained from voting on the resolution which was adopted by a vote of 23 in favour to 12 against. The Geneva-based Council requested the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to undertake a “comprehensive investigation” into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by both parties, and to establish the facts and circumstances of such alleged violations “with a view to avoiding impunity and ensuring accountability.” Mr. Haq said Mr. Ban recalled the commitments made to him on accountability by the President of Sri Lanka in their joint statement of 2009. The United Nations will remain engaged with Sri Lanka to support Sri Lanka’s efforts to make progress in accountability, reconciliation and a lasting political solution,” Mr. Haq added. The resolution had also called on the Sri Lankan government to release publicly the results of its investigations into alleged violations by security forces, including the attack on unarmed protesters in Weliweriya in August 2013, and the report of 2013, by the court of inquiry of the Sri Lanka Army. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay had stressed the need to ensure justice and accountability, including through the establishment of an independent and credible investigation, saying: “This is essential to advance the right to truth for all in Sri Lanka and create further opportunities for justice, accountability and redress.” (The Hindu 2/4/14)

 

7. Row over timing of US panel’s Modi remarks (1)

WASHINGTON: A US Congressional panel’s hearing on religious freedom in India came under fire from some of its own members on Friday. They called it an attempt to influence elections in India, even as Hindu activists in the US said the partisan event was aimed at undermining BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi. The hearing by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC), named after a late Congressman whose holocaust survival resulted in a lifelong devotion to human rights, was deliberately timed to impact the election, US lawmaker Tulsi Gabbard, a self-described Hindu-American, told the panel, after a Hindu activist group complained that the panel had packed the hearing with witnesses who have an “ulterior motive”.”I do not believe the timing of this hearing is a coincidence. The national elections in India begin on Monday and continue until May 12. I am concerned that the goal of this hearing is to influence the outcome of India’s national elections, which is not an appropriate role for the US Congress,” Gabbard, a Democrat, told the panel. “We need to be especially careful not to directly or indirectly contribute to sectarian strife in India or other countries,” Gabbard added. “Any attempt by the United States to have an effect on the Indian elections will backfire,” Gabbard’s senior colleague Brad Sherman cautioned. Leaders of the Hindu American Foundation ( HAF) echoed similar concerns, noting the “unbalanced” panel of four witnesses, all of whom expressed concern over the prospective election of Modi as PM. A witness that would have offered a Hindu perspective to ground realities and the multi-dimensional nature of inter-religious tensions in India was not included, despite requests by some members of the TLHRC, the Foundation said. Witnesses who testified before the committee included Katrina Lantos Swett, vice chair, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, John Sifton, Asia Advocacy Director, Human Rights Watch, Robin Phillips, executive director, The Advocates for Human Rights, John Dayal, member, National Integration Council, Government of India. Swett has been a leading advocate of continuing the US denial of visa for Narendra Modi. The panel’ s leading witness made no secret of her concern over a Modi-led government coming to power. “Many religious minority communities fear religious freedom will be jeopardized if BJP wins and the Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi becomes Prime Minister. We hope that is not the case,” USCIRF’s Katrina Swett said. (Times of India 6/4/14)

 

HIV/AIDS

8. Govt to continue focusing on AIDS prevention (3)

MUMBAI: From a programme that was wholly funded by foreign donors, India’s HIV/AIDS control programme now enjoys 67% domestic funding. “When we launched the National AIDS Control Programme-III, the government’s contribution to the programme was only 12.3%. But with NACP IV, the domestic funding has increased to 67%,” said Dr B B Rewari, who is the national programme officer with Naco (National AIDS Control Organisation). The percentage of local funding has increased mainly due to the fact that foreign funding is no longer available. In fact, the Planning Commission has earmarked Rs 13,400 crore for the next five year for HIV\AIDS control. “The AIDS control programme is one of the most successful health programmes of India. Every rupee that is allocated to it is spent in a transperant manner,” said the official. A big chunk of the budget allocated for HIV\AIDS control will be dedicated to advocacy or creating awareness about the disease. “We have to remember that 99.7% of India is not infected by the disease. We have to keep it that way. Hence, 60% of the budget will continue to be spent on advocacy,” said Dr Rewari. Around 24% of the budget is spent on providing care, support and treatment. (Times of India 1/4/14)

 

9. Aids Stigma Claims 4 lives (4)

NAMAKKAL: In tragic incident, a couple allegedly hanged their two children before hanging themselves at their house near here on Sunday night. Police sources said Govindaraj (45), his wife G Valaramathi, (35), their daughter G Priya (14) and son G Sarathkumar (16) were found hanging from the ceiling of their house located at a farm in Pottireddipatti near here on Monday morning. The incident came to light when a milk vendor went to their house for collecting milk. Since no one responded to his calls, the milk vendor peeped into the house through a half opened door and found them hanging. On information, top police officials including DSP A Rajendran visited the spot. “The girl, Priya has just completed here Plus Two board examinations while the boy, Sarathkumar, was a Plus One student,” the DSP said, adding that the Erumaipatti police registered a case and further probe is on. The bodies were taken to the Govt District Headquarters Hospital for autopsy. Meanwhile, inquiries have revealed that Govindaraj, who had been a truck driver, and his wife were infected with HIV and it could have driven them to commit suicide along with their children, police sources told. A suicide note, found at the site, stated that the properties belonging to the couple must go to their parents and a brother of Govindaraj. (New Indian Express 1/4/14)

 

10. A lab staffer arrested in false HIV +ve report (3)

MUMBAI: The Charkop police arrested a staff of a Malad based pathology laboratory on Sunday who had allegedly gave false HIV positive report to a patient and cheated him. The police are inquiring about one more accused in the case. On Saturday, the police registered the cheating case against the arrested accused Rajendra Mehra and his wanted accomplice Geeta Mehra of a pathology laboratory, Pacific Lab, in Malad. The complainant, Joel Chettiar, 38, is a real estate consultant. Last month, he had submitted a blood sample at the lab for a routine blood investigation including an HIV screening. He was shocked when the report revealed that he was HIV positive. Chettiar was very worried and after an argument at home, he decided to get another HIV screening done where he tested negative. To be sure, he did a third screening which too was negative for HIV. He then approached a social worker and eventually the Charkop police station earlier this week. After an initial probe, the police registered an FIR on Saturday under sections 467, 468, 420, 34 of IPC against the Mehras. (Times of India 7/4/14)

 

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

11. ‘Court order on Land Act draws clear lines on implementation’ (4)

New Delhi: Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh today said the Supreme Court judgement upholding the retrospective clause of the new Land Acquisition Act has drawn “clear and humane lines” for the implementation of a significant clause in the law. He said that the March 14 judgement by a two-judge Supreme Court bench deals with land acquisition which had been pending for over the prescribed five year period (in the retrospective clause – Section 24). “In this case, the award was passed in 1995 and the parties had still not accepted compensation or parted with possession. In the light of this, the Supreme Court, relying on the retrospective clause, ordered the return of the land to the original owners,” the Minister said in a release here. The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013, enacted by Parliament in September last year to provide just and fair compensation to those whose land is taken away for constructing roads, buildings or factories, came into force on January 1, replacing the 120-year-old legislation. Ramesh also said the Supreme Court had passed a similar judgement on the new law on February 2. “This judgement also relates to the operation and interpretation of Section 24 – the retrospective clause. The learned bench overturned a 2004 judgement of the Punjab and Haryana High Court (which had upheld a long pending acquisition) and quashed the quashed the acquisition, returning the land to the original owners,” he said. Welcoming the judgements, the Minister said, “This demonstrates the Hon’ble Supreme Court has drawn clear and humane lines for the implementation of a very significant clause in the law.” “These add to the growing list of important precedents which will have a far-reaching impact on those who have suffered historically from arbitrary acquisitions and give life to the intention behind the new law,” he said. (Business Line 1/4/14)

 

12. Probe allotment of land to metro rail: Country club to high court (4)

HYDERABAD: The Country Club of India Limited (CCIL) on Thursday said it would move the high court seeking a CBI probe into alleged irregularities in land allotment to the Hyderabad Metro Rail project. CCIL was responding to a notice by Hyderabad Metro Rail Limted (HMRL) to partially demolish their corporate office in Begumpet. Addressing the media, club chairman Rajeev Reddy said the move was illegal as the HMRL had given a no-objection certificate (NOC) for the office. HMRL was going ahead with the demolition process despite the high court staying the construction on the premises of the CCIL, he said. “The CCIL had spared over 1700 sq yards for the Metro Rail project in 2006, following which the HMRL issued an NOC to build the corporate office. We built the office only after receiving the NOC. But now the HMRL has issued a notice to partially demolish the building,” Rajeev Reddy said. Apart from CCIL, buildings including White House, Lifestyle and Varun Motors face the threat of demolition . Charging HMRL with deviating from norms and changing the alignment of the project to save properties of some vested interests at the cost of the traders in Begumpet, Reddy said there were irregularities in the land acquisition and allotment. “I see vested interests of real estate sector behind the move. We will request the High Court to order a CBI probe into it,” Rajeev said. (Times of India 4/4/14)

 

13. Over 300 hectares land lying vacant in SEZs in Odisha (4)

Bhubaneswar: More than 300 hectares (ha) of land are still lying vacant within the processing area of some of the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in Odisha. Aditya Birla Group owned Hindalco Industries Ltd, Saraf Agencies and stateowned Odisha Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (Idco)are the developers yet to utilise full land within their notifiedSEZs. In Hindalco’s aluminium products SEZ at Lapanga near Sambalpur, 115.70ha land is lying vacant. Saraf Agencies is yet to utilize 105.20 ha for its  mineral products SEZ at Chhatrapur in Ganjam district. The Kolkata-based developer had proposed to set up a titanium dioxide plant, committing an investment of Rs 1,200 crore. In the first phase, the company had decided to produce 10,000 tonne per annum (tpa) of high titanium slag and 6,000tpa of high purity pig iron. Similarly, Idco has used 20.44 ha out of a notified area of 106.26 ha within the IT SEZ at Jatni in Khurda district. According to data compiled by the Board of Approvals of SEZ under Union commerce ministry, developers like Tata Consultancy Services (TCS)and Vedanta Aluminium Ltd (VAL) have achieved full utilization of land in their notified SEZs in Odisha. TCS has set up a software development centre in Bhubaneswar that has been notified as an SEZ. VAL’s1.25 million tonne per annum (mtpa) aluminium smelter at Jharsuguda set up as a sector specific Special Economic Zone (SEZ) at Jharsugudais lying idle presently for want of power. Due to non-finalisation of its SEZ policy by the Odisha government, VAL was unable to avail SEZ benefits. The ministry’s data reveals out of 47,803.77 ha area notified in seven SEZ zones- Cochin, Madras, Noida, Vishakhaptnam, Kandla, Falta and Santacruz Electronics Exports Processing Zone, 21,310.03 ha is lying vacant in the processing area. (Business Standard 4/4/14)

 

14. Settle Posco ore lease issue: Centre to Odisha (4)

NEW DELHI: The Centre has asked the Odisha government to resolve without delay the issue of giving iron ore lease to Posco’s Rs 52,000crore steel project, the largest ever FDI in India. The development comes in the wake of a high-level panel’s meeting last month. The committee was formed to address issues impeding mega projects in the steel sector. The South Korean steel player’s plans to set up a 12-million tonne steel plant at Jagatsinghpur entailing an investment of Rs 52,000 crore has been stuck for the past eight years due to regulatory hurdles and delays in land acquisition. In May last year, the SC had set aside an Odisha HC order that quashed the state decision to allot iron ore licence to Posco in Khandadhar hills. “The SC judgment on the matter should be initial point for finding the way forward to resolve the issue. The state government in consultation with the ministry of mines should discuss and settle the matter without further delay,” steel secretary G Mohan Kumar, who chairs the Inter Ministerial Group (IMG), has conveyed to the Odisha government. (Times of India 7/4/14)

 

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

15. Climate change may lead India to war: UN report (9)

NEW DELHI: Asia is facing the brunt of climate change and will see severe stress on water resources and food-grain production in the future, increasing the risk of armed conflict among India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and China, the latest report of a UN panel has warned. UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in its report assessing impacts of climate change on human health, settlements and natural resources released on Monday, carried a dire warning. “The worst is yet to come,” it said, if no measures are taken to curb the ill-effects of global warming. India, like other developing economies, may lose up to 1.7% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) if the annual mean temperature rises by 1 degree Celsius compared to pre-industrialization level, hitting the poor the most. The report also predicts an increase in extreme weather events such as last year’s flash floods in Uttarakhand and cyclone Phailin in Odisha if steps are not taken to control the rise in temperature. “Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change,” R K Pachauri, IPCC chairman said while making the report public in Yokohama, Japan. The report says rise in temperatures would also affect ‘beach tourism’ in many countries. India surprisingly stands out as the most vulnerable among 51 countries where beach tourism is an important sector. Climate change is not just about the future. The report said people around the world were already getting hit as it directly affects livelihoods, reduces food-grain production, destroys homes and raises food prices. These trends will accelerate if climate change is left unchecked. Among other things, the report warns that climate change increases the risk of armed conflict around the world because it worsens poverty and economic shocks. “Climate change is already becoming a determining factor in the national security policies of states”, said a statement issued by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which has been working to arrive at a global climate deal by 2015 to fight the menace effectively through combined efforts of nations. Though the report doesn’t have country-specific predictions, its region-wise findings brought out many eye-opening conclusions for India. Aromar Revi, lead author of one of the chapters of this report, said the impacts of climate change would be felt severely in Indo-Gangetic plains, affecting poor people in the entire region. “The areas which are facing frequent floods these days may face drought like situation in the distant or near future. We cannot ignore the changes which are taking place either in the Indus river basin or in Brahmputra river system over the longer period,” said Revi, explaining the implications of the report in Delhi. Another lead author, Surender Kumar, explained how climate change would affect the poorer nations. He said if mean temperatures increased beyond 1 degree C, it would knock 3% off the GDP of developing economies…. (Times of India 1/4/14)

 

16. Reduced year-round flow killing Yamuna river (9)

NEW DELHI: A recent scientific study has established the need to maintain at least 50% to 60% of the total monsoon flow into a river throughout the year for transporting river sediment, biodiversity balance and preventing algal choking . The study found that Yamuna’s Delhi stretch gets only about 30% of the flow during the rains and only 16% during the rest of the year. Yamuna is overexploited and its flow needs a proper recharge for it to support life. Long-term overuse will terminally affect the river and its surroundings. The study published in the Current Science journal is the first attempt, according to its authors, to understand the minimum flow required for desilting and carrying debris. Godavari fares well with 70% of the total monsoon flow kept up throughout the year. The monsoon flow is also called ‘virgin-free flow’. Narmada, meanwhile, is gradually deteriorating with less than 50% of free flow all year round. The study has measured the size of sand particles and then calculated the discharge required to transport these particles. “These are approximate averages of how much flow is required to carry sand particles. Through various calculations we have deduced the velocity needed to carry these particles. This is the first such study, and Yamuna has fared very poorly. Its total free flow is extremely low,” said Vikram Soni of Jamia Millia Islamia, co-author of the study. The total monsoon flow is measured during July, August and September, when the waters peak. The study says that at least 50% to 60% of this peak level needs to flow during the remaining nine months. Activists have highlighted the issue. The study, co-authored by Shashank Shekhar of DU and activist Diwan Singh, points to heavy sewage discharge of grit and metallic waste. It explains why Yamuna is lifeless compared to other rivers. Before the river flows into Delhi, its depth is 0.6m through peak summer, which is too little for a fish population. The flow downstream of Delhi is mainly sewage. If the mean annual environmental flow is maintained at about 50%, some biodiversity can be revived. (Times of India 3/4/14)

 

17. March had lowest air pollution in 4 years, IITM scientists say (9)

NEW DELHI: This March recorded the lowest particulate matter (PM2.5) levels-fine, respirable pollutants-in the past four years. While this could seem like a relief at the moment, scientists at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) say pollution levels are becoming increasingly unpredictable because of erratic meteorological conditions. The average monthly PM2.5 level dropped to 72 microgram per cubic metre this year from 112 (approximately) in March 2012. Scientists who analysed the data said the extreme pollution event in 2012 could be linked to the dust storm in the Gulf that time. “The 2012 event was like the Saharan dust cloud that has covered England. This year, winds are blowing from cleaner places at a relatively high speed and have swept away the pollutants. Such events can either take air pollution to dangerous levels, or bring it down. So while the local emissions are increasing, we need to factor in climate change,” says Gufran Beig, chief project scientist at System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research. The PM2.5 levels in 2008, 2009 and 2010 were around 100 microgram per cubic metre, he said. IITM, under the ministry of earth sciences, is preparing a report on the link between air quality and climate change. “The higher temperature raises boundary layer and a relatively high wind speed swept away the local pollutants. This brought down the PM2.5 levels in March 2014. The trend will change soon,” added Beig. While the monthly average for March 2012 may not seem too high, there were instances of PM2.5 levels crossing 250 microgram per cubic metre against a standard of 60. “Between October 7 and October 9 in 2012, peak levels touched 500 microgram per cubic metre. The winds that usually come from the northeast and are usually clean changed direction and came from northern India. Burning of the agricultural residue in Punjab and Haryana meant the winds were laden with particles that added to the pollution. Instances of extreme weather have affected pollution levels,” said Beig. “It’s obvious that the unusual rain in February and March this time has swept away all pollutants. But I am not sure if the 2012 pollution levels were linked to dust from the Gulf. We will have to go through IITM’s study to see the link with climate change,” said Anumita Roychowdhury of Centre for Science and Environment. (Times of India 7/4/14)

 

EDUCATION/ RIGHT TO EDUCATION

18. AMU to set up school for riot-affected kids (11)

ALIGARH: Disenchanted with the ruling party in Uttar Pradesh, and sending out messages against it ahead of the elections, the Aligarh Muslim University Teachers’ Association has now set about offering riot-displaced children their right to education. The fraternity plans to build a school, and some members of the university’s teachers’ association and students went scouting for land in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts on Sunday. The university has a tradition of organizing an annual dinner in honour of its founder, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. Each year, teachers and students pool funds for the dinner. The amount collected this year for the purpose, amounting to Rs 60 lakh, will be used for the purpose of educating children living in the relief camps in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli. At least 5,000 students are expected to benefit from the effort. Vice Chancellor Lt General Zameerud-din Shah has constituted a committee for the purpose, comprising members of the teachers’ association and three students. AMUTA secretary Aftab Alam said, “Earlier we thought of sending the displaced students to schools already running in unaffected Muslim villages. But we discovered that the Muslim villages are without schools. Now we have to put more money into the effort, to build a school and find the land.” He said that ideally, the school could be located at the Kairana-Malakpur bypass, within easy reach of Shamli and Shahpur. “The children have suffered displacement, and many are still in trauma. We also have to hold sessions with families, because there are people in the camps who believe education is no use, and the children had better work,” said Alam. Faraz Badr, who is part of the university’s committee and has also worked with NGO Jagriti that helped some displaced children appear for their board examinations, said, “As part of my work with the NGO, we sent 85 displaced children to Shiksha Niketan (a nearby school). We have only three months before a fresh academic session begins, so we need to work on a war footing now.” (Times of India 1/4/14)

 

19. NGOs to push schools to follow rule, parents to use law (11)

The government and private schools have for two successive years failed to ensure that 25% of seats are reserved for underprivileged students under the RTE Act and that these seats are allotted to the intended beneficiaries. But the situation may be looking up, with student volunteers and NGOs getting ready to take needy children to schools in their neighbourhood and ensure they are admitted under the legislation. Schools and government officials in 2012 fell back on the excuse that they could not meet the stipulated number of admissions because the RTE Act was still in its pilot stage. Last year, they said the government had curtailed the time for admissions, making it hard for students to get admission under the law. Instead of taking up the problem of limited time with the state at the eleventh hour, groups of student volunteers have decided to get parents to complete admissions within the seven-day window between May 3 and 9 set by the government. In Project Knock Knock, student volunteers will reach out to economically backward families, inform them of their children’s rights under the RTE Act and urge them to make use of its provisions. “We want to move quickly in the short period available and get admissions for as many underprivileged students as possible,” said Kota Ashwin Kumar, a final-year engineering student working for the project organised by Becoming I Foundation. “We will organise an outreach venture between April 25 and May 2 to create awareness on the right of underprivileged children to study in good schools,” Kumar said. He said college students who want to take part in the campaign can apply at chennai@becomingifoundation.org or contact 9884270145/9840841607. Meanwhile, NGOs under the RTE Forum, a group comprising several organisations, are also working to make sure the seats reserved for children from poor families are filled. “Individuals are ready to volunteer to ensure that children from poor families are not denied a proper education. This should help increase the number of RTE admissions,” said RTE Forum Tamil Nadu state convener K Murthy. Siva Amirthavalli of the Krishnagiri-based NGO Rural Organisation for Action and Development says the government is likely to receive the number of RTE seats by April 3. “We will then go from house to house to encourage parents to use the RTE Act for the benefit of their children ,” Amirthavalli said. The organisation has been keeping tabs on schools that illegally charge RTE students a fee after admitting them. (Times of India 3/4/14)

 

20. Treat children with special needs separately for admissions: Court (11)

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Thursday directed the Union and Delhi Governments to treat “children with special needs” (CWSN) separate from those belonging to the economically weaker sections (EWS) and the disadvantaged group for admissions in pre-primary and other classes. A Division Bench of Justice S. Ravindra Bhat and Justice R.V. Easwar gave this direction on a public interest litigation challenging an amendment to the Right to Education Act and a paragraph of the Delhi Government guidelines for nursery admissions that clubbed these students with those belonging to economically sections and the disadvantaged group. The petitioner, Pramod Arora, is the parent of a child with special needs. He argued that he got his ward admitted with great difficulty to a Delhi school last year. The child could not progress and was neglected on account of lack of proper attention and infrastructure. He further submitted that the number of schools equipped with infrastructure and personnel to handle these students were very few. The nature of the guidelines is such that these children have very little chances of getting admission in these institutions. Allowing the plea, the Bench said: “This Court is therefore of the opinion that the petitioner’s argument is merited and has to prevail. First, the imperative of Section 26 [of The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995] is that the Government has to ensure that all CWSN are given access to education till age 18.” The Court directed the Delhi Government to “create a list of all public and private educational institutions catering to CWSN. This list shall be created zone wise. It shall include full details as to the nature of disability the institutions are able to cater to, the facilities available, whether residential or day-boarding, and the contact details for the concerned authority in that institution in case of any clarifications”. The Court also directed it to create a nodal agency under the authority of the Department of Education (DoE) for the processing of all applications pertaining to admission of CWSN. “This nodal agency shall structure a single form to be utilised by parents and guardians of CWSN for admissions into public and private institutions, including all relevant details required for the purposes of admission,” the Bench said. This Court had during the pendency of this petition directed the Delhi Government to ensure that a certain number of seats are set aside in the pre-primary and primary admission processes to 43 schools. The matter will now come for hearing on May 7. (The Hindu 4/4/14)

 

21. Disabled Kids Face Bias Under RTE: Study (11)

BANGALORE: Anjum (name changed), aged five, from KR Puram, is special. She suffers from a physical disability which has left her with tiny hands joined. Born to a disabled father and into a poor household, little did she imagine that she would go to school or hold a textbook in her hands. NGOs came to her rescue and worked hard to get her enrolled under the Right to Education (RTE) quota at a private school in Devasandra. Taufiq (name changed), an orphan, too was enrolled  along with her. But not all children are as lucky as these two. A study has found that disadvantaged children living with HIV and those with disabilities face discrimination at schools and the Education Department as a majority of RTE seats are taken by children from scheduled castes and tribes and other backward classes. The study covered 36 unaided schools in Bangalore North and Bangalore South  and 16 in Delhi. The study, titled ‘Inclusion of Marginalised Children in Private Unaided Schools under the RTE Act, 2009: An Exploratory Study’, has been brought out by rights group Oxfam India. It notes that the problem stems from the fact that neither does the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) maintain records on such disadvantaged children being admitted under the RTE, nor do schools indicate such admissions. Anjum and Taufiq belong to a very small per cent of kids who have made it to schools, says Premalatha, who works at the Association for Promotion of Social Action (APSA). The study says that certain disadvantaged groups such as children with disabilities have been left out in the larger pool of disadvantaged children. Orphans, street and migrant children and those with HIV are not included. But SC, ST and OBC children have benefited from this quota, with OBCs availing the most number of seats. Student enrolment under RTE last year paints a different picture. Of the 17,011 kids enrolled in 1,927 schools in Bangalore North and South, 69 per cent belonged to the OBC category, 28 per cent to SC and the rest ST. Rao said even the lottery process, conducted by schools that have surplus RTE applications, is not done in a fair manner for these kids. “While drawing lots, schools use only three categories — SC, ST and OBC. So we don’t really know where these disadvantaged kids figure,” he said. In fact, the study points out that there is an emerging issue of ‘multiple disadvantages’ as the definition of ‘disadvantaged’ doesn’t account for the complex multiple disadvantages existing on ground, for eligibility under RTE Act. According to a government order dated March 18, 2013, 16 per cent of seats of the 25 per cent quota are earmarked for children from disadvantaged and weaker sections (including OBCs), while 7.5 per cent is for SC and 1.5 per cent for ST. DPI statistics reveal that not a single child from this disadvantaged group was admitted under RTE Act in unaided schools. Meanwhile, only 69 children found seats in 5,790 aided schools across the state… (New Indian Express 7/4/14)

 

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

22. 33 booths shifted in Gadchiroli due to Naxal threat (12)

NAGPUR: Election commission has approved shifting of 33 polling booths to safer places in Naxal-affected Gadchiroli district while polling in four assembly constituencies will be held between 7am and 3pm. Around 22 polling booths in Aheri would be shifted along with six in Armori and five in Gadchiroli. In the last parliamentary election held in 2009, around 35 booths had to be shifted in Gadchiroli. Around 46 booths were also shifted to safer zones in the last assembly election. This time, polling at Amgaon (Gondia), Gadchiroli, Armori and Aheri assembly segments will be held till 3pm only. However, voters at Brahmapuri and Chimur assembly segments, which is also part of the Gadchiroli-Chimur Lok Sabha parliamentary constituency, can exercise their franchise till 6pm like rest of the state. According to deputy district election officer, Subhas Choudhari, the restriction on voting timing is to ensure that polling parties return to the base camps during the daytime itself due to Naxal threat. Though the official claimed tight security arrangement, he maintained that every precaution is being taken to ensure smooth poll proceedings. “District has been exempted from shifting the polling officials to other talukas during randomization due to inhospitable terrain and Naxal threats but they would be definitely deployed at different polling stations other than the places where they had been posted for regular duties,” he said. Collector and district election officer Ranjit Kumar stated political parties and candidates or their representatives have been asked to remain present when the electronic voting machines (EVM) are being readied in the first week of April. Party representatives, including independent candidates, were also present during randomization process when polling parties and EVMs were allotted booths last week to ensure transparency. “The lists generated after randomization of EVMs were also handed over to party members and representatives of the candidates,” he said. The administration informed that voters’ slips would be distributed through booth level officials in the first week of April. Apart from Gadchiroli, officials from Gondia and Chandrapur districts too were present during the randomization. The process was conducted in presence of general observer K Shrinivasan. (Times of India 1/4/14)

 

23. Maoists urge people to boycott polls (12)

Bhubaneswar: Urging people to stay away from the ensuing elections, the Maoists have called for a bandh in four southern Odisha districts where polling would be held on April 10. In an audio tape released to the media, Maoist leader Umakant of Bansadhara-Ghumusar-Nagabali Division has urged the people of Rayagada, Kalahandi, Kandhamal and Gajapati districts not to allow the political parties including the Congress, BJP, BJD and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) as the leaders of these parties are trying to woo the people for power. “The BJD Government during its 15-year rule in Odisha has been exploiting the poor and innocent tribals while it has handed over the land, forest, mines, minerals and water to the companies,” he said, adding the policy of the ruling party would not be tolerated and the people should try their best to unseat the party from power this time. The Maoist leader has also informed that to protest the elections, the Maoist outfits have called for bandh on April 10 in these four districts. Reports said president of the Odisha Maobadi Party Sabyasachi Panda in an audio release has also given the bandh call in these districts. (Pioneer 2/4/14)

 

24. Naxal commander surrenders in Rajnandgaon (12)

Raipur: A Naxal commander surrendered before the police here on Saturday. The red-rebel was working for the Maoists since 2007, police informed, adding that the ultra was a commander of the Dallirajhara area committee and deputy commander of Pallemade local operating squad (LOS). He was deeply dissatisfied with the dual standards adopted by the Naxals, informed Additional Superintend of Police (Naxal Operation) YP Singh on Saturday. According to police, Dinesh alias Naval alias Billu, resident of Ghodagaon area of Khadgaon region, was working for the Naxals since 2007. Initially he used to paste posters for the ultras and in this way he came in contact with Maoists leaders. He worked for them for about six months after which he detached himself from the Naxal activities. However, in 2010 he formally joined the Naxal cadre and was given a 12-bore gun. In 2012 he was allotted a 303 gun and was made member of the area committee. While he was working for the Naxals he realised that the ground level Naxals had to live hard life. After closely watching the real condition he decided to shun the path of violence, police said. (Pioneer 6/4/14)

 

25. Naxal attack in Chattisgarh, CRPF official injured (12)

RAIPUR: A CRPF official was today injured when Naxals attacked a camp of paramilitary forces in insurgency-hit Sukma district in southern Chhattisgarh. The incident took place at the camp of 150 battalion of the Central Reserve Police Force in the premises of Chintagufa police station early this morning, Sukma Additional Superintendent of Police Neeraj Chandrakar told PTI over phone. Armed rebels opened indiscriminate fire at the camp leaving sub inspector rank official Mahendra Singh Meena seriously injured, he said. However, rebels fled the spot after security forces launched retaliatory attack on them, he said adding a rescue team is being sent to retrieve the injured official out of the jungle. (Times of India 7/4/14)

 

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

26. Polling begins in Bru refugee camps (13)

AGARTALA: A week before the country’s first phase of polls is slated to begin, Bru refugees living in six relief camps of North Tripura on Tuesday exercised their franchise by casting postal ballots for the lone Mizoram Lok Sabha seat amid tight security. Despite protests from a few Mizoram-based NGOs, about 3,200 electorate have cast the postal ballots to decide the fate of three contestants on the first day, said a senior election official of North Tripura. Over 11,200 eligible voters will exercise their franchise till Thursday through seven polling desks set up by the Election Commission. To facilitate free and fair polls, about 200 polling personnel from both Tripura and Mizoram and more than 1,000 men in uniform have been deployed around the camps. Special security measures have been taken in all the entry points of the camps and entry points of Mizoram. BSF has deployed extra forces along the Tripura-Bangladesh-Mizoram border to make sure the voters can exercise their franchise fearlessly, said Tripura chief electoral officer (CEO) Asutosh Jindal. Five NGOs, including the Young Mizo Association and Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP), have been opposing the Election Commission’s decision to let the Bru refugees vote through postal ballots and had organized protest rallies in several places of Mizoram last week. They said the refugees should be told to come back to their native villages and vote from there. They also wrote to chief election commissioner V S Sampat detailing their demand before the assembly elections in Mizoram last November, but the Commission did not respond. The Commission has sent seven observers for conducting election in the Bru refugee camps. They will be escorting the ballot boxes to Aizawl after the voting ends on April 3, Jindal said. He said the district administration in North Tripura has arranged all logistics and extended support to the election observers and officials of Mizoram during the polling. (Times of India 2/4/14)

 

27. Nepal repressing refugee Tibetans following enormous pressure from China, … (13)

Washington: Nepal has restricted the political freedoms of Tibetan refugees living in the country after enormous pressure from China. The Tibetans are subjected to abuse and harassment by the security forces, and are even spied on for Chinese officials, according to a report released by Human Rights Watch. According to the New York Times, the 100-page report, ‘Under China’s Shadow: Mistreatment of Tibetans in Nepal’, revealed the repression faced by Tibetans who cross into Nepal, often illegally, from Tibet. The report also discussed how some of those refugees might never enter Nepal, as there are ‘serious concerns that Nepal may at times forcibly return Tibetans to China’. Many Tibetans have complained of repression, including torture and suppression of religious practices, under Chinese rule. Brad Adams, the Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said the situation for the Tibetan refugee community in Nepal has markedly deteriorated since China’s violent crackdown on protests in Tibet in 2008. (New Kerala 2/4/14)

 

28. Syrian refugees in Lebanon surpass 1 million: UN (13)

Beirut: The number of Syrians registered as refugees in Lebanon after fleeing war in their country has surpassed one million, the UN refugee agency said on Thursday. Refugees from Syria, half of them children, now equal a quarter of Lebanon’s resident population, the UNHCR said in a statement, warning that most of them live in poverty and depend on aid for survival. The UN agency said the figure is “a devastating milestone worsened by rapidly depleting resources and a host community stretched to breaking point”.Tiny Lebanon has now become the country with “the highest per capita concentration of refugees worldwide,” and is “struggling to keep pace”, the statement said. “The influx of a million refugees would be massive in any country. For Lebanon, a small nation beset by internal difficulties, the impact is staggering,” UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres said in the statement. Syria’s three-year war has killed more than 150,000 people, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights while half of the population is estimated to have fled their homes. Of those who have fled Syria, nearly 600,000 have registered as refugees in Jordan and around 670,000 in Turkey. According to the Guterres, “Lebanon has experienced serious economic shocks due to the conflict in Syria”, while security has deteriorated as a result of rising regional instability. The influx has put severe strains on Lebanon’s health and education sectors as well as on electricity, water and sanitation services. “The Lebanese people have shown striking generosity, but are struggling to cope. Lebanon hosts the highest concentration of refugees in recent history,” Guterres said. The UNHCR chief urged the global community to boost its support for Lebanon. “International support to government institutions and local communities is at a level that, although slowly increasing, is totally out of proportion with what is needed,” Guterres said. The humanitarian appeal for Lebanon “is only 13 percent funded,” even as the needs of a rapidly growing refugee population become ever more pressing. “The number of school-aged children is now over 400,000, eclipsing the number of Lebanese children in public schools. These schools have opened their doors to over 100,000 refugees, yet the ability to accept more is severely limited,” it added. The vast majority of Syrian refugee children, however, are out of school. Because of the dire economic situation their families endure, many children are now working, “girls can be married young and the prospect of a better future recedes the longer they remain out of school,” it said. (Hindustan Times 3/4/14)

 

29. Ill Health Lands SL Refugee in Hospital (3)

VELLORE: Sri Lankan Refugee Chenthuran (alias) Murugan (32) has been admitted to the Government Vellore Medical Hospital after his health deteriorated on Thursday, the 28th day of his fast unto death. Prison department sources said, Chenthuran had been observing the hunger protest since March 7, demanding the closure of special camps for Lankan Tamils in the State. He also urged the State not to file case against Lankan Tamils under the Foreigners Act 1956 and drop all the cases filed against him. After he refused to consume food, the prison authorities had filed a case against him in the Bagayam Station on charges of attempt to suicide. On March 19, the prison authorities forcibly administered IV fluid on him after he refused to end his hunger protest. He was drinking water during his protest. But in the last few days, he had stopped even drinking water, said the prison official, adding, “After his health condition worsened, he was shifted to the GH in Adumgamparai.” The doctors said Chenthuran was admitted to the intensive care unit and his health condition was stable now. “The hospital administration has received a strict order from the Directorate of Medical Education (DME) that no one should be allowed to see Chenthuran,” said a hospital source. Chenthuran’s wife Mangayarkarsy, who came to see her him from Chennai, told Express that the she was not allowed to see her husband. “I was informed by the officials in the special camp in Chengalpattu that my husband was admitted to the hospital. I came all the way to meet him along with our daughter, but the police are not allowing us to see him,” she said. “I was also not allowed to see my husband in the prison on March 19. I waited for more than four hours. I will not leave the place until I am allowed to see my husband,” said Mangayarkarsy firmly. (New Indian Express 4/4/14)

 

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

30. Rural job scheme: a game changer now too? (14)

Chennai: Many still believe that the UPA regime’s flagship rural job scheme, the ‘Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS)’, silently did wonders for the Congress in 2009 Lok Sabha polls. Will it be a game-changer in the 2014 polls also? There is no straight ‘Yes’ or a ‘No’ for an answer, as this correspondent discovered during a tour of some of the districts in Tamil Nadu where MGNREGS has increased incomes of rural households. Lakshmi of Surapattu village in Villupuram district, Punithaeswari of Bouthiramanickam village in Tiruvarur district and Magudeeswari of Muthunaickenpatti near Oddanchatram in Dindigul— from three different rural pockets of the State— have hardly anything in common. But perhaps one thing that bonds these women, in the 25- 40 years age-group, vis-à-vis sarkaari intervention in poverty alleviation, is that they all proudly claim that they “participate meaningfully in the implementation of MGNREGS”. Will that straight translate into dividends in the coming election? They are hardly sure. Those courageous women were nonetheless affirmative about one thing: rural voters would take the Centre’s rural job scheme as one of the factors, but only that much. People’s traditional party preferences are another factor when they go to the polling booths on April 24. Thus, opinion is divided in rural parts of the State on how much this scheme would impact voting behaviour. Some of the villagers spoken to – like A. Siva, a former Chairman of Anniyur primary agricultural cooperative society in Villupuram district and P.R. Pandian of the CPI-affiliated ‘Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam’ in Kottur block in Tiruvarur district are categorical that MGNREGS would have no impact on the polls. The supervening issue of “corruption” against the Congress will be a strong determinant of voter preferences in the coming polls, they feel. However, there are other voices too. D. Murugan of Ariyalur Thirukkai and K. Malayathipathi of Surapattu, both in Villupuram district, said, “There may not be any visible impact now.” But any future government in Delhi trying to tamper with MGNREGS, will have to face disastrous consequences, they warned. This seems like a back-handed compliment to the Congress, but will its campaigners pick up the cue? Perhaps, Union Finance Minister, P. Chidambaram already did it partly, expressing worries that the job scheme could be withdrawn if the BJP was to form the next Government in Delhi. The BJP denies it, but irrespective of outcomes, MGNREGS is already part of poll discourse. (The Hindu 1/4/14)

 

31. Khader decries Swamy’s statement on MNREGA (14)

MANGALORE: Health Minister U.T. Khader condemned the reported statement of BJP leader Subramanian Swamy seeking withdrawal of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) if the BJP comes to power. Talking to reporters here on Wednesday, Mr. Khader said the MNREGA has brought in much needed confidence among rural masses, who had been struggling to get proper wages. “There might be some deficiencies in the implementation. But it cannot be a reason for its scrapping,” Mr. Khader said. Getting proper wages has been a right granted under the Act and it cannot be withdrawn. “I am surprised with statement of Mr. Swamy.” The Bharatiya Janata Party should make its stand clear about the Act. When pointed out at the reported effect of MNREGA on paddy cultivation as wages of labourers was ill-affordable in Dakshina Kannada, Mr. Khader said the MNREGA had worked wonders in areas such as Gulbarga, Bidar, Koppal and Jamkhandi. Mr. Khader dismissed reports that a section of young Congress activists brandished swords when they had come to meet the Ullal Block Congress president on Monday. Mr. Khader said like in any other party these young party workers were in disagreement with the Block Congress President. “The same was resolved in 30 minutes and the young activists apologised for their conduct. There is no question of brandishing swords during the meeting,” he said. Asked whether he agreed with the stance of B. Janardhana Poojary to oppose the Yettinahole Project, Mr. Khader said, “Mr. Poojary is a senior politician. He has strength and thinks in a broader sense. We respect him and ensure he gets elected.” On the move of some of environmentalists calling voters to exercise NOTA (none of the above) as a mark of protest against the Yettinahole Project, Mr. Khader said, “At least this will make them come out of the house and exercise the right.” (The Hindu 3/4/14)

 

32. Tripura tops rural jobs scheme for the fifth year (14)

Agartala: Tripura maintained its top position for the fifth consecutive year by providing 87 person-days’ rural jobs per household during the 2013-14 fiscal, an official said on Friday. “Tripura has been providing the highest average employment for the past five years under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS),” state’s rural development joint secretary C.K. Jamatia told reporters in Agartala. “Tripura provided 87 days of work per household in the 2013-14 fiscal against the national average of 45 person-days,” he said. “Tripura has retained the top position since 2009-10. Another north-eastern state, Sikkim came second with 58 person-days per household, followed by Tamil Nadu with 56 person-days,” he added. The MGNREGS mandates 100 days of employment in a financial year to at least one member of each rural household. According to the central government performance report on the MGNREGS, of the 644 districts in India, South Tripura district topped with 97.46 person-days. Mr. Jamatia said the central government has allocated Rs.1,406.93 crore for the current financial year (2014-15) to generate 5.13 crore person-days. He said Tripura can further improve its figures if central funds are received on time. Tripura also leads in participation of tribals in the MGNREGS with 45 percent against the national average of 16. A total of 48 percent women got rural jobs directly in the state against India’s average of 54. The official said Tripura also expects a rise in its MGNREGS allocation for the coming fiscal. He said Tripura was the first to introduce the e-FMS (Electronic Fund Management System) last year to make the monetary system – from fund allocation by the union and state governments to payment to labourers – transparent, hassle and error-free and paperless besides eliminating administrative delays. Tripura is providing wages to the MGNREGS workers at their doorstep through business correspondents engaged by various nationalised and regional rural banks, he said. Besides providing rural jobs, the MGNREGS has created rural assets that include household latrines, drinking water sources, rural road connectivity, livestock promotion, pisciculture, watershed management, and afforestation, securing livelihood activities. (The Hindu 4/4/14)

 

33. Pension Parishad appeal to voters (14)

NEW DELHI: Traversing the seven parliamentary constituencies of the National Capital to raise awareness among voters of their rights and entitlements, Pension Parishad members have asked electors from the most vulnerable sections to support only political parties or candidates who back their demand for social security. Supported by activists of the Right to Food Campaign, the Parishad is demanding an inflation-indexed universal old-age pension, a hike in pension every six months and provision of ration and free healthcare to all the elderly, particularly the vulnerable groups. “Another campaign would be organised in Rajasthan next week to defend the existing social welfare measures like NREGA [National Rural Employment Guarantee Act], food security and free medicines which are being described as doles by the present government,’’ Right to Information activist Nikhil Dey said here on Friday. “Individual income, rather than family income, should be made the criterion [for approval of pensions] and the upper limit for inclusion should be at least Rs.1 lakh per year, and pension should be disbursed on a specific date every month,’’ said activist Aruna Roy. A single-window approval system should be adopted for pension. “Irregularities in the Delhi Pension Scheme like the requirements of a five-year domicile certificate and proof of the beneficiary being a current voter should be done away with,” Ms. Roy said. (The Hindu 6/4/14)

 

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

34. After Polio, Target Other Child Killers (3)

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has finally certified that India and 10 other Asian countries are now free of polio, meaning the disease has been eradicated in 80% of the world. The WHO certification is particularly significant in India, home to 1.2 billion people, which until 2009 accounted for half of all cases globally. It confirms one of India’s biggest public health success stories, accomplishing something once thought impossible, thanks to a massive and sustained vaccination programme. There are only three countries where polio is still endemic: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. However, isolated outbreaks in the Horn of Africa and war-torn Syria emerged as causes for concern in 2013, and vaccination workers in Pakistan are still being killed by the Taliban. Until polio is globally eradicated, all countries are at risk, and the region’s polio-free status remains fragile. India embarked on the programme to rid the nation of polio in 1995, when the virus used to cripple over 50,000 children annually. A 2.3-million strong team of polio volunteers and 150,000 supervisors worked hard to reach every child. On Monday, India completed three years without reporting any case of polio. It is only the second time in history that a disease is being eliminated in India through immunisation after small pox in May 1980. For India the success in the campaign against polio means it has for the first time the tools and infrastructure to tackle other childhood diseases. Polio eradication in India used mass vaccination campaigns. These social networks of volunteers and some paid staff should now be retooled to fight measles and other child-killing diseases in India. Measles is a leading cause of childhood deaths. Every year around three million cases are seen and about 900,000 children die because of measles around the world. In India, 500 children die of measles every day. The most worrying part is that the vaccine coverage against measles in India is only 66% and even below 50% in many states. By eradicating polio, India has shown that it is up to the challenge of rooting out measles. (New Indian Express 1/4/14)

 

35. 36 Per Cent Delhi Kids Malnourished: Report (14)

NEW DELHI: About 36 percent of the children in Delhi are malnourished with a nutritional scheme targetted at the 0-6 age-group reaching only 30 percent of the intended beneficiaries, a report released Wednesday said. At 38 percent, the malnutritional rate is higher among girls than boys (34 percent). This means that four out of every 10 children in Delhi are malnourished. And, while the coverage of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme is already low, its monitoring of the growth of children is its weakest element said the report of NGO Child Rights and You (CRY) and Alliance for People’s Rights (APR). It covered 21 blocks/wards and 3,650 children living in slums of west, southwest, north, northwest and northeast areas in Delhi. “The fast pace of urbanisation poses a significant challenge to children living in urban slums – especially newborns and infants whose health depends on the availability of the mother to breastfeed,” CRY associate general manager Jaya Singh said. The report highlights the fact that only 35.2 percent of women breastfeed their children due to their low socio-economic condition. “The analysis of our report suggests there is an urgent need to strengthen government mechanisms to ensure access to services to curb the growing menance of malnutrition,” Jaya Singh added. With malnourishment figures at 51 percent being the highest in the northwest district, 56 percent girls there were found to be malnourished. Further, there is a shortfall not only with the ICDS scheme but also with the 11 Nutritional Rehabilitation Centres (NRC) that are operational in the national capital. “The children are hardly availing referral services for their immediate care in the NRCs and also the community health workers are unaware of such a facility,” CRY regional director Soha Moitra said. “We were shocked at the plight of people residing in the slums of Delhi. There is no streamlined targeting of nutrition related programmes for pregnant women and children in these areas. There is a need to increase coverage and central funding to schemes in Delhi,” said APR convener Reena Banerjee. The report recommends making ICDS centres functional, sensitising the community and policy prioritisation towards reducing malnutrition. (New Indian Express 2/4/14)

 

36. Activists flay TV reality shows for ‘abuse’ of kids (14)

HYDERABAD: Child rights activists on Thursday accused vernacular TV channels of abusing children in reality shows and warned them of legal consequences. They said such treatment of child contestants is in violation of the Juvenile Justice Act and the Child Labor Protection Act. In one such instance, children were made to perform various tasks in a scary location, said Anuradha Rao, general secretary AP Balala Hakkula Sangham. “This could lead to permanent fears and mental stress,” she said, adding that almost all vernacular channels were guilty of violating sections 22 and 23 of the Juvenille Justice Act. She pointed out how in another programme, children as young as five were made to stand for several hours to do tasks set by judges. “In yet another show, children are made to perform dangerous feats like standing on ice, which could lead to physical problems,” she said. Activists alleged that in a popular show, children were being ‘honoured’ with perfume if they did well or punished with pepper spray if they failed. The BHS has already given a complaint to the human rights commission regarding one of the programmes. “We will now make a complaint to the Commission for the Protection of Child Rights,” Rao said. (Times of India 4/4/14)

 

37. Children seek to raise issues before lawmakers (14)

New Delhi, April 5 : A manifesto written by children about issues facing them and what they need from the government and lawmakers was Saturday unveiled by 23 NGOs in the “Vote 4 Children” campaign for “children’s representation” in the Lok Sabha. Devendra Tak, national manager of media and communications for NGO “Save the Children” said: “36 percent Indians are children and some of them have written this manifesto. We are fighting against child labour and for better health and quality education.” Steve Rocha of “Nine is Mime” and convenor of the “Vote 4 Children” said: “The children can’t vote. Therefore, it is important they should be able to influence people who represent their issues and concerns in parliament.” The demands include increasing allocation for child protection, health and nutrition in the union budget to 10 percent of the GDP, raising public expenditure on health as per WHO standards and stopping child labour. The manifesto demands amendment of child labour laws and considering every individual below the age of 18 as a child. It has called for abolition of foeticide, infanticide and gender-based selection of children. A national nutrition policy to combat malnutrition has also been asked for. Surabhi, a student, who was part of a children’s delegation to the UN, said: “We went to the general assembly in New York and designed the manifesto after a lot of rational discussions.” She added: “I feel political parties should include it in their manifestos.” She added: “Development is not development unless it has women and children who form a major part of India’s population.” (New Kerala 6/4/14)

 

POVERTY/ HUNGER

38. UN’s poverty index shows 41% of Gujarat is poor: Congress (21)

Maharashtra Congress said the United Nations’ multi-dimensional poverty index developed in 2013 showed that 41 per cent of people in Gujarat were poor. “Out of 41 per cent of the poor, 18.5 per cent live in severe poverty. How can a state where every fifth person lives in abject poverty and 41 per cent in poverty claim to be a model for anyone,” Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee spokesman Sachin Sawant said at a press conference here today. He said the study showed that besides 41 per cent poor, another 17 per cent are vulnerable to poverty in Gujarat. The state is ranked 12th in terms of development needs and falls in the “less developed” category. It is not the most developed state in the country, but on the contrary, it is the 12th most developed state, according to the RBI, he said. Similarly, a state that boasts of agriculture growth, has 25 per cent of its population suffering from hunger and its condition is even worse that Odisha, he said. Gujarat is ranked 13th (24.69 per cent of its population facing hunger) out of 17 states, in terms of states with the highest percentage of population affected by hunger, while the national average of such population is 23.31, he said. Hitting out at BJP national treasurer Piyush Goyal, who on Sunday said that Gujarat had not seen farmers’ suicides, Sawant, quoting documents submitted by the Gujarat government in the legislative assembly, said from 2008 to 2013, 122 farmers committed suicide due to inability to repay their loans, crop losses and other reasons. Sawant said the national growth rate had reached 9.3 per cent during the UPA regime and all states, including Gujarat, had benefited. “By speaking about Gujarat and criticising other states, Modi insults people of those states,” he said, adding that the MPCC would bring out a book highlighting Narendra Modi’s “lies”.”BJP should be called Bahut Jhooti Party,” he said.(Rediff 1/4/14)

 

39. India ranks 102 on 132 in social progress index (21)

London: New Zealand came first in a global index published on Thursday that ranks countries by social and environmental performance rather than economic output in a drive to make social progress a priority for politicians and businesses. The Social Progress Index (SPI) rates 132 countries on more than 50 indicators, including health, sanitation, shelter, personal safety, access to information, sustainability, tolerance and inclusion and access to education. The SPI asks questions such as whether a country can satisfy its people’s basic needs and whether it has the infrastructure and capacity to allow its citizens to improve the quality of their lives and reach their full potential. “The index shows that economic growth does not automatically lead to social progress,” Michael Green, executive director of the Social Progress Imperative, a non-profit organisation that publishes the index, told Thomson Reuters Foundation. “If we are to tackle problems such as poverty and inequality, it shows that measuring economic growth alone is not enough.” New Zealand received high scores for personal rights and freedom, internet access and school enrolment. It was followed in the Top 10 by Switzerland, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Canada, Finland, Denmark and Australia. Some of the world’s largest economies did not fare so well, with Germany in 12th place, the United Kingdom in 13th, Japan 14th, the United States 16th and France 20th. All of them except Germany scored poorly on environmental sustainability. The United States also ranked poorly on health and wellness – despite being a top spender on healthcare – and on access to basic knowledge, with just 92 percent of children in school. France lagged Slovenia (18th) and Estonia (19th) and had low scores on sustainability and opportunity, especially tolerance and inclusion. Italy was in 29th place, hurt by poor access to advanced education, sustainability and tolerance and inclusion. The low rankings of China (90th) and India (102nd) showed that their rapid economic growth is not yet being converted into better lives for their citizens, said Green. Chad ranked last, below Central African Republic, Burundi, Guinea, Sudan, Angola, Niger, Yemen, Pakistan and Nigeria.Even though economic growth and social progress are correlated, especially for poorer countries, the connection is far from automatic, said Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter, one of the index’s backers.Costa Rica and South Africa, for example, have similar levels of gross domestic product (GDP), the most commonly used indicator for economic performance. But the central American nation achieves much greater social progress than South Africa thanks to progressive environmental and healthcare policies. Social upheavals around the world prompted by citizens’ frustration over a lack of opportunities and inequality are also a sign that economic performance alone is not an adequate measure of progress, said Green. A 2014 survey by Deloitte found that the majority of the almost 7,800 millennials (people born in the 1980s and 1990s) it had surveyed in 28 countries prioritised education, health care, employment and protection from crime above improving their financial situation. They also believe social progress lies not just with governments but also with businesses. “GDP doesn’t necessarily tell you what to do whereas the SPI does give indications where you need to focus attention to make progress,” Steve Almond, global chairman of Deloitte, which supports the SPI financially, told Thomson Reuters Foundation. (Hindustan Times 3/4/14)

 

40. India needs multi-pronged approach to eradicate poverty: Report (21)

NEW DELHI: A multi-pronged approach with focus on inclusive economic growth would help eradicate poverty, which is increasingly getting concentrated in a few geographical areas, says a research report. The observations are part of the India Public Policy Report ( IPPR) 2014 jointly published by O P Jindal Global University and Oxford University Press. “Overcoming poverty requires a context specific multi-pronged strategy that includes: a basic needs approach, a human rights entitlement approach, a natural resource management approach and a focus on inclusive economic growth,” the report released this week said. Poverty in India is getting increasingly concentrated in a few geographical areas, among specific social groups and is increasing in urban areas, it said. It also noted that access to a diverse food basket alone may not help in effectively overcoming malnutrition. The report’s Policy Effectiveness Index ( PEI) showed that at all India level there is a gradual, but only a marginal, improvement in the policy effectiveness index over the three decades – period from 1981 to 2011. The index is based on four factors – livelihood opportunity, social opportunity, rule of law and physical infrastructure development. (Economic Times 5/4/14)

 

RESERVATION

41. SC notice to govt on Jats in OBC list, to hear Apr 9 (25)

New Delhi: In a setback to the UPA-2 government on the eve of the Lok Sabha polls, the Supreme Court Tuesday asked the Centre for an explanation over its decision to include Jats in the OBC category even though a statutory body had allegedly advised against it. “This seems to be a serious matter and we want to know if serious application of mind went into it,” said a bench headed by Chief Justice P. Sathasivam. The bench asked the ministry of social justice and empowerment to place before it all files and records on the decision to extend reservation benefits to Jats by a March 4 notification. The bench, that included Justices Ranjan Gogoi and N.V. Ramana, also sought attorney-general G.E. Vahanvati’s assistance and will hear the matter April 9. The orders came on two petitions challenging the notification to include Jats in the OBC list and seeking a stay on it. The notification included Jats in the OBC list in Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan (Bharatpur and Dholpur districts), Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Senior advocate K.K. Venugopal, appearing for OBC Reservation Raksha Samiti, alleged it was an “outrageous notification” issued in haste with “votebank” politics in mind. “Before the election, largesse is given by the party in power to purchase votes,” Mr Venugopal said. (Asian Age 2/4/14)

 

42. With growing SC population, more reserved seats in Rajasthan likely (25)

JAIPUR: Rajasthan has four Scheduled Caste (SC) and three Scheduled Tribe (ST) reserved seats for the upcoming Lok Sabha election. The SC reserved seats are located in eastern and northern Rajasthan while two of the ST seats are located in the southern part and one is in eastern Rajasthan. Barring the Bikaner SC seat, which was bagged by BJP’s Arjun Ram Meghwal, a former IAS officer who has a record number of questions asked in the current Lok Sabha, all other seats – Bharatpur, Dholpur-Karauli, and Ganaganagar – were in Congress’ kitty. The SC has the highest individual population comprising almost 18% of the state’s total population enjoys reservation in 34 out of the 200 Assembly constituencies. Their estimated population in the state is over 1.20 crore. Apart from Udaipur, Dungarpur, Banswara and Rajsamand, the SC has reserved Assembly seats in all the districts. In each district, the number of reserved seats for the SC is either one or a maximum of two. But in Ganganagar and Huamnumangarh districts, the percentage of SCs voters are quite high and their percentage is above 26. In the Ganganagar reserved constituency of which Hanumangarh is a part has about 34% SC electors. Common SC communities settled across the state are Meghwal, Berwa, Raigar, Koli, Jatav, Khatik, Harijans, Naik, Dhobhi, Dhanuk, Mochhi, Jeengar, Dome, Dholi, Mehaar, Mehra, Nat, Bedi, Mogia and Sansi. Percentagewise, the Meghwals are about five, Berwas and Raigar about four each, and other castes collectively are 5.16%.The highest percentage of SC in an Assembly segment is in Ajmer’s Lok sabha constituency Ajmer(South) where their percentage is above 33 followed by Dholpur-Karauli’s Assembly segment Hindaun (SC) 29.71%, Bharatpur’s (SC Reserved) Weir (SC) 27.33%, Bayana (SC) 26.29%, Kota Lok Sabha constituency’s Assembly segment Ramganjmandi (SC) 24.76%, Tonk’s Khandar (SC) 24.56% and Jaipur (rural) Bagru (SC) 23.61%. Altogether, 13 Assembly segments have the percentage of the SCs between 20 and 23. Interestingly, the highest number of SCs in a single constituency is Ganganagar; however, the highest SC voters in one single constituency is Raisingnagar where their number is over 1.30 lakh, closely followed by Anupgarh at 1.26 lakh and both are SC reserved Assembly segments. Even in the Assembly segment of Karanpur, the number of SC electors is over a lakh and in Sadulshahar it is 95,000. Pilibanga, which is also a reserved Assembly segment in Ganganagar, the number of SC electors is 1.1 lakh. Suratgarh constituency in Ganganagar has 86,000 SC electors while Sangaria has over 85,000. Hanumangarh constituency has also over 85,000 SC electors. Thus, in Ganganagar and Hanumangarh districts, if the population of the SCs grows further, in all likelihood they will follow suit of Banwara, Dungarpur and Pratapgarh which are all reserved for ST. Both the districts may have to be reserved for SC where their presence is more than 50,000 and there will not be a single general seat left. (Times of India 3/4/14)

 

43. JD(U) promises job reservation for pvt sector (25)

Patna: The Janata Dal (United) on Saturday promised job reservation in private sector and a special law for protection of migrant labourers. Releasing its manifesto for the Lok Sabha elections, the party also promised 50 per cent reservation for women in elections to the panchayati raj organisations along with special status for “states like Bihar”.The party manifesto said if it came to power at the Centre, it would introduce reservation for scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other backward classes in the private sector. It has also pledged “zero tolerance” against corruption and communal violence. Attacking his bête noire Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said if Modi comes to power at the Centre, Bihar’s development would take a beating. “Anything can happen,” said Kumar. Kumar said his party’s manifesto offered an “alternative vision” for development and pledged to replicate Bihar’s model of “inclusive growth” on a pan-India basis. He said, “Good governance, inclusive growth, communal harmony, revamped state-centre relations and rule of law are our five basic pillars of this alternative vision for the future of the country. We want bring development to every section of the society. Therefore, we have promised a commission to study the socio-economic condition of the economically weak section of upper castes at the national level.” “Given the rising attacks on migrant labourers, we want a special law against that. These attacks endanger the very notion of our right to freedom. Therefore, we will seek a new and tough law, making it mandatory for the state governments to guarantee security of life and property of all migrants.” The chief minister said central schemes should be abolished. “It is a complete wastage of our scarce resources. They formulate schemes without even consulting us and then want us to finance those schemes. Shoes of particular kind cannot fit every person,” said Kumar. He also harped on redefining Centre-State ties. Meanwhile, party leaders also launched a scathing attack on both the Congress and the BJP on this occasion. Party President Sharad Yadav said his party had fulfilled Dr Ram Manohar Lohia’s dreams and attacked the saffron party, saying the tie-up between corporate and communal forces is complete. “The BJP has purchased all the choppers. It is shamelessly flaunting its money power.” Meanwhile, Kumar also took on the corporate sector and said, “Earlier capitalists used to help in the election, now they are investing. Corporate houses are pumping in money in elections.” Kumar also slammed the Congress. He said, “Nowadays the Congress is busy distributing certificates of secularism. It must look its own track record. Who was responsible for the 1984 riots, who opened the locks in Ayodhya Ram Janmabhoomi temple and who was responsible for the 1989 Bhagalpur riots? It becomes secular only during the elections.” (Business Standard 5/4/14)

 

44. BJP will end quota for SC/STs if it comes to power, warns Mayawati (25)

LUCKNOW: Launching a blistering attack on BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, BSP chief Mayawati on Sunday said if he became the PM, the country would become vulnerable to communal riots. “If Modi becomes the Prime Minister, communal riots will take place in the country any day. The country will be destroyed,” Mayawati said while addressing a rally for Meerut and Bijnor parliamentary seats on Hapur Road. She said it was in the interest of the people and the country to stop BJP from coming to power. “And for this, it is important that Muslim votes are not divided,” Mayawati reiterated. She said all Muslims should vote for only one party. The former UP CM said if BJP came to power, it would end the reservation being given to the SC/ST. “When BJP came to power at the Centre for the first time, it formed a panel to review the Indian Constitution for ending the reservation in education and services being given to Dalits,” she said. Taking on Congress, Mayawati said it should also be stopped from coming to power, as during its 50 years of rule, the party had done nothing for the welfare of the people. The BSP chief raked up the Muzaffarnagar riots to attack SP. “Apart from Hindus, Muslims also suffered losses. The Supreme Court has blamed the SP government for failures during the communal violence,” she said. Later, while addressing a rally in Baghpat, Mayawati attacked Rashtriya Lok Dal chief Ajit Singh. Mayawati said she hardly considered RLD a political outfit. She alleged that Ajit Singh hardly did anything for the farmers in the region despite being a Union minister. THE BSP chief said it was during her government that the farmers, especially of sugarcane, were given their dues. (Times of India 7/4/14)

 

Posted by admin at 4 April 2014

Category: Uncategorized

POLICE/ TORTURE/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

1. NHRC denies it asked Delhi Police to take action against Somnath Bharti (1)

NEW DELHI: Dispelling the confusion following reports that the National Human Rights Commission has directed Delhi Police to take “appropriate action” against former Delhi law minister Somnath Bharti in connection with the midnight raid to bust an alleged drug and sex racket involving Ugandans, the panel clarified that it “has not given any such direction”.In a statement, the NHRC said a complaint received on the incident at Khirki Extension was “forwarded to the concerned authority for taking such action as deemed appropriate”.Meanwhile, the NHRC has received a judicial enquiry report in the matter. The report is under its consideration. The rights panel had earlier taken suo motu cognizance of the incident and sought reports from authorities concerned. A team of the rights panel is also probing Bharti’s midnight raid and the report is awaited. On January 15, Bharti, then a minister in the AAP government, had gone to Khirki Extension area in his Malviya Nagar constituency claiming a drug and prostitution ring was being run from a house and demanded police raid the place. The police had refused saying they did not have a warrant. An FIR was registered following a court order. (Times of India 1/4/14)

 

2. NCP pledges to scrap AFSPA (1)

Imphal, April 02 2014: Noting that the controversial AFSPA 1958 has been repealed from seven assembly constituencies, NCP national general secretary and spokesperson Narendra Verma said if the party nominee in the Outer Manipur Parliamentary Constituency Chungkhokai Doungel is elected to the 16th Lok sabha the party would initiate all possible measures for scrapping the Act from the entire State. Speaking to newspersons at the party’s State office today, Narendra said NCP considers AFSPA and insurgency problem as important issues and is determined to settle them as well as other local issues on priority basis. Affirming that NCP will do the needful for protecting Manipur’s territorial boundary at any cost along with ensuring that suitable steps would be initiated for safeguarding Manipuris studying or working at Delhi and other cities, he also said that as Union Agriculture Minister NCP national president Sharad Pawar waived bank loans of over Rs 60,000 crore owed by farmers in addition to tabling the Food Security Bill in the Parliament. Citing political acumen for the election of C Doungel to the State Assembly for four terms, Narendra Verma exuded confidence that unanimity on nominating Doungel for the outer seat would be one of the factors for his success in the upcoming parliamentary election. Taking into account experience and political background of Doungel the NCP nominee would certainly get maximum vote than his rivals, said the party leader in the presence of NCP State president L Ibomcha and Doungel  (E-Pao 2/4/14)

 

3. Consider within 3 months mercy plea of old prisoners: Allahabad High Court (1)

ALLAHABAD: Taking serious note of the fact that several old prisoners have been languishing in jails even after completing 14 years of term, the Allahabad High Court has directed the state government and other authorities to consider within three months the mercy petitions of approximately 153 prisoners, who are over 70 years old and have undergone more than 14 years of imprisonment. Passing the above order, the court also directed that in case their mercy petitions are rejected, then written orders be passed mentioning reasons why further detention of these old prisoners are necessary and also provide concrete information on which inference is based. The court directed to list this PIL on April 21 for the next hearing. Passing the above directives, a division bench comprising Justice Amar Saran and Justice Vijay Lakshmi observed, “Prima facie under normal circumstances, there appears no good reason for further detaining such prisoners, some of whom have crossed 75, 80 or even 90 years and some are incapable of walking without support or are suffering from other ailments, whose continued detention is a burden on the jail and the state after they have served out 14 or more years.” The court also took serious note of the fact that a total of 247 prisoners are suffering from mental ailments in various jails of Uttar Pradesh in six ranges of Agra, Allahabad, Bareilly, Lucknow, Meerut and Gorakhpur. The court also seriously considered the fact that only a limited number of them are being kept in mental hospitals, mainly at Varanasi and a few in Agra, while the rest are confined in normal jails. While directing the Additional Director General (Prisons) and Director General (Medical and Health) UP to provide better information on this point on the next date, the court observed, “There appears to be no proper protocol for treating or caring for these prisoners in jail.” Regarding the women prisoners and their children kept in various jails of UP, the court directed all the jail superintendents and also the district judges to provide information whether doctors have been provided, who are visiting jails and addressing problems of women prisoners and their minor children. The court passed the above order when the Director General (Medical and Health) UP disclosed in his affidavit that directions have been issued for providing private health care for women prisoners in Kanpur and Allahabad jails, and that an order has been issued on February 21 by the Director General (Medical and Health) to the chief medical officers across the state to assign duties of specialist government women doctors for female inmates and for their minor children in jails. (Times of India 3/4/14)

 

TRAFFICKING

4. Gang of Child Traffickers Busted, 7 Held (1)

SALEM: The city police have busted a child-trafficking gang by detaining seven persons and rescued a 4-year-old boy here on Monday. According to Suramangalam police, Fathima (30), a resident of Selathampatty, and her husband Sherif, who died a few months back, had two children, Basha (4) and a one-year-old girl. Fathima was a hearing and speech impaired and her friends Selvi, a resident of Selathampatty and Azhamelu, a resident of Thiruvagoundanur, earned money through begging in Salem junction. On March 25, Selvi allegedly bought liquor and gave it to Fathima, who fainted on consuming it. The next morning, Fathima woke up and found Basha, Selvi and Azhamelu missing. She lodged a complaint with Suramangalam police, who interrogated Selvi and Azhamelu and found that the child was allegedly sold to Venkatesan, a resident of Namakkal district. The police rescued Basha. On inquiry, Venkatesan revealed that he wanted a boy child and told this to Sathish, a resident near Salem Junction. Sathish gave this information to Selvi, who was begging with Fathima. Then as per their plan, Sathish and his wife Suganthi, Venkatesan and Raja Lakshmi allegedly kidnapped Fathima’s son Basha. Police detained Selvi, Azhamelu, Venkatesh, Raja Lakshmi, Sathish, Suganthi and Manikandan. (New Indian Express 1/4/14)

 

5. 15 held for flesh trade in Purnia, 35 women rescued (1)

PATNA: The anti-human trafficking unit of Purnia police on Wednesday night arrested 15 men for their alleged involvement in flesh trade and rescued 35 women from five areas in the district. The team led by SP (weaker section) Kim conducted raids on residential premises in five different areas of Mujra Patty, Lakhan Jhari, Gulabagh, Zero Mile and Harda in Purnia. Kim said the 15 pimps were sent to jail and the rescued 35 women would be sent to the rehabilitation centre in Purnia. “Their medical tests are being conducted and after we get the reports, the minor among them will be sent to the children’s home,” she said. According to Kim, the Purnia, Araria and Katihar districts falling in Seemanchal area have become safe den for the pimps involved in flesh trade. The flesh trade is flourishing in the region engaging women brought from Nepal, West Bengal and Bangladesh. “The antisocials easily access these areas because of the porous border. They were running the flesh trade in palatial houses equipped with modern electronic gadgets. We have identified five such houses and are trying to verify the ownership of the property,” Kim added. Under the Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act, the police will give a requisition to the district magistrate of Purnia to attach the property of people who own the property beyond their disclosed or known sources of income. “The property can also be seized if we prove that flesh trade was running on the premises,” said Kim. “We are planning a crackdown on the flourishing sex racket in different cities as the gangs operate through well organized network beyond the state’s border. Often it is found that the girls get trafficked to Bihar and then the pimps route them to Delhi and other states. We are aiming to hit the economy behind flesh trade,” she said. Police source said, “The pimps often hide their business by running some orchestra troupe or dance group. They involve young girls by offering them hefty amount for a single show. The girls are not always poor and uneducated. But they are too young to judge the trap. But many times their parents are not aware of the girls’ involvement in any such entertainment troupe.” (Times of India 4/4/14)

 

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF PRESS

6. Expose corrupt journalists, says Kejriwal (1)

Ghaziabad, March 31 : AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal Monday told party activists to expose “corrupt journalists” for targeting his party but said most journalists were doing a honest job. Addressing over 1,000 volunteers at Vaishali, Kejriwal named a couple of journalists in the electronic media who he said were biased in their reporting. “The rest of media persons are performing their duty without prejudice,” he said. “Go to the masses directly and expose the biased reporting and corrupt journalists.” (New Kerala 1/4/14)

 

7. Seamless media management system serving BJP well (1)

NEW DELHI: BJP may still be stuck with its ticket distribution, and its poll manifesto, vision document and chargesheet against the UPA government may have got delayed but the party has successfully created a media management system involving leaders, spokespersons, the party’s media cell and a team of tech-savvy volunteers that seems to be working well. Within minutes of the ‘Har Har Modi’ controversy breaking out, BJP media managers swung into action to save the party from further embarrassment. A tweet from party spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman within half-an-hour of the issue coming to the fore clarified the official campaign line and denied that ‘Har Har Modi’ was endorsed by the BJP. That was picked up immediately by the media, and the message went out that BJP was dissociating itself from the spontaneous slogan for Modi in Varanasi. The prompt damage control, Sitharaman said, was possible because of a well coordinated media management system which was in place. Party spokespersons speak of another recent success by its team working on the social media network, providing 24×7 backup to the media cell. Within minutes of Congress candidate Narendra Rawat pulling out of the Vadodara contest against Modi and being replaced by the seasoned Madhusudan Mistry, BJP media managers were ready with background information on Rawat to be used against Congress. The attack began in minutes as BJP spokespersons targeted Rahul Gandhi. The backup team had found that Rawat was Rahul’s choice who came up through the primaries held by the Congress vice-president and that he was a Scheduled Caste candidate. BJP took the line that Rawat had been made the scapegoat. The party felt it worked well. BJP has learnt from goof-ups too, like the Pramod Muthalik incident. No one in the central BJP leadership knew that Muthalik was already inducted into the party by the Karnataka unit. National spokespersons started getting calls from mediapersons for reaction to the Sri Rama Sene chief’s entry into the party. They refused to take calls, as they were in no mood to defend the induction. Calls were made to party chief Rajnath Singh and other senior leaders who were out of town. It took the whole day’s firefighting to reverse the decision, but by then it had made headlines to BJP’s great embarrassment. What seems to be working like a well-oiled machine now is the use of social media like Twitter, Facebook and blogs. The party’s view on any issue is promptly backed up by senior leaders and spokespersons on social media. It has created a link with the mainstream media, which helps. Apart from this, the party’s spokespersons and TV panelists meet or speak three times a day to ensure that no one goes out of sync. There is also an audio bridge that happens at 1 pm every day when all state BJP units and their spokespersons come on line. “So we give them the party line on national issues and get the state input on something that has happened there,” Sitharaman said. At 4.30 pm, leaders, spokespersons and TV panelists exchange notes through video and audio conferencing, with national organization secretary Ram Lal (RSS representative) overseeing the hookup. Usually, Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and occasionally Modi brief the group at the 4.30 meeting. (Times of India 2/4/14)

 

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

8. Woman attacked by upper caste men for questioning their atrocities (2)

MADURAI: A middle-aged woman belonging to the paliyar tribe was allegedly attacked in Theni district recently by the dominant caste Hindus, when she questioned their atrocities against her community people. The attack has brought to light decades of exploitation by the upper caste people on the innocent paliyar tribe. R Malliga, like many of the tribal people does not know even her age. She was attacked in broad daylight at a bus stand in Periyakulam. She was attacked to force her to pay a debt, her family owed for lease amount of the caste Hindu’s land. Malliga said that they never received cash and were actually trapped into debt by the caste Hindus to exploit their labour. S Thanaraj, a Madurai-based tribal activist attached with Ekta Parishad, an NGO said that the usually shy paliyar tribe, habitat of hilly forests used to keep themselves away from others, until a decade ago. They are nomadic by nature and would shift their place in search of forest produce. Most of them do not even have voters’ identity cards. But, after the forest lands were encroached upon by people from the plains, they were forced to mingle with them. They slowly started to work in their lands and soon the exploitation started, Thangaraj said. The case of Malliga is just a tip of the iceberg. There are hundreds of families spread over Palani hills in Dindigul district, Varusanadu hills and hills in Bodi and Periyakulam in Theni districts are exploited by the upper castes, according to Malliga, who boldly fought against the upper castes for almost a week to force the police to book the caste Hindus under the SC/ST Act. A case against the upper caste has been registered and being investigated upon. There was a counter complaint from the caste Hindus against the paliyar people of attacking them. But it seems the complaint is a false one, said R Sethu, deputy superintendent of police, Periyakulam range. The livelihood of paliyars conventionally depended on forest produce like honey, medicinal plants. Later, they started relying on silk cotton, lemon and coffee grown in forest lands belonging to caste Hindus. The upper castes would lure and provide the paliyars their land for lease. Since they would not have money they have to harvest and sell the produce to none other than the landlords and settle the amount. Since the tribal people do not have any idea about the money value, land and their produce, the landlords would fix the lease amount and price for the produce. At the end of lease the easily gullible paliyars would have earned nothing. However, they would be forced by cough up money as the caste Hindus would show some accounts that there is mismatch between the money lent and the produce they received. They would be tortured to pay or would be forced to work in their land as bonded labourers until they pay the rest, claimed Thanraj. (Times of India 1/4/14)

 

9. Guru Packages Maniratnam as the new Dalit face of PMK (2)

CHIDAMBARAM: Nearly a fortnight after his party joined the rainbow NDA coalition in Tamil Nadu, PMK leader and Vanniyar Sangam president Kaduvetti J Guru on Wednesday hit the campaign trail at the Chidambaram constituency, supporting party candidate K I Maniratnam, whom he helped join the PMK recently. Guru formally introduced Maniratnam, a former Congressman, to the NDA cadre here. Guru joining the campaigning perked up the morale of the PMK, as it has been missing party boss S Ramadoss at rallies since the deal with the BJP was sealed. While the party maintains Ramadoss is recovering from a bypass surgery, the buzz was that he was unhappy with the poll alliance.   At the meeting here, PMK leaders, including Guru and R Govindhasamy, counted Maniratnam among the prominent Dalit faces of the party after former union ministers Dalit Ezhilmalai and E Ponnusamy. “PMK is proud to introduce Maniratnam as the candidate for Chidambaram constituency. Our leader Ramadoss and I have the desire to unite of Dalits and Vanniyars. To achieve the goal, we joined hands with (VCK chief) Thirumavalavan but due to some reasons he moved away from us. At present, some forces are creating bitterness between these two castes. I hope Maniratnam will solve such problems and unite the people belonging to both castes,” Guru said. Guru poked fun at the other candidates, implying that they would lose their election deposits. Maniratnam strongly criticised Thirumavalavan, though he did not name him directly. “I have resolved to remove a person from politics. That person has been betraying Scheduled Caste people for several years and has done nothing for their upliftment. This constituency should not fall into the hands of that anti-social element again.” (New Indian Express 3/4/14)

 

10. In Odisha, AAP proud of its NaMo (2)

Bhubaneswar: The Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP’s) stand on honesty and transparency is no secret, but a candidate it has fielded for the 2014 polls in Odisha has 28 criminal cases against him. The number of cases against Narendra Mohanty (the NaMo of Odisha) is highest among the 98 candidates in the fray for the first phase of elections, according to Odisha Election Watch, a body compiling and disseminating candidates’ affidavits. Odisha has 21 Lok Sabha seats. Polls in 11 of them, including Mohanty’s seat Kandhamal, will be held in the first phase on April 10. The AAP is, however, proud of its NaMo. The party’s Odisha convenor, Nishikanta Mohapatra, said Monanty was a social activist fighting for tribal rights, spearheading anti-liquor campaigns and was also known for his stand against fake police encounters in Kandhamal, one of the most backward constituencies in the country. “In Kandhamal, where innocent tribals are tortured by police in the name of tackling Maoists, Mohanty has been their saviour and is in the forefront of fighting state atrocities against innocent people. “By giving him a ticket, AAP has already stood for commoners’ right to fight state injustice and police atrocities,” Mohapatra said. Tribals (53.58%) and Dalits (15.75%) account for the majority of Kandhamal’s population. Most of the Dalits here are Christians. In 2008, the district witnessed an anti-Christian riot that left 36 dead following the murder of Hindu leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati. In the fray against Mohanty from Kandhamal are ruling party Biju Janata Dal’s Hemendra Kumar Singh, a scion of Nayagarh royal family, and veteran Congress leader Harihar Haran. The cases against Mohanty include three murder cases (Section 302 of IPC), an attempt to murder (Section 307 of IPC), and a dacoity and murder (Section 396 IPC). But Mohanty said the cases against him were not on the basis of FIRs by individuals, but on police information. “These are used by the state for suppression and repression of the masses.” (Hindustan Times 4/3/14)

 

HEALTH/ EPIDEMICS/NRHM

11. After Polio, Target Other Child Killers (3)

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has finally certified that India and 10 other Asian countries are now free of polio, meaning the disease has been eradicated in 80% of the world. The WHO certification is particularly significant in India, home to 1.2 billion people, which until 2009 accounted for half of all cases globally. It confirms one of India’s biggest public health success stories, accomplishing something once thought impossible, thanks to a massive and sustained vaccination programme. There are only three countries where polio is still endemic: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. However, isolated outbreaks in the Horn of Africa and war-torn Syria emerged as causes for concern in 2013, and vaccination workers in Pakistan are still being killed by the Taliban. Until polio is globally eradicated, all countries are at risk, and the region’s polio-free status remains fragile. India embarked on the programme to rid the nation of polio in 1995, when the virus used to cripple over 50,000 children annually. A 2.3-million strong team of polio volunteers and 150,000 supervisors worked hard to reach every child. On Monday, India completed three years without reporting any case of polio. It is only the second time in history that a disease is being eliminated in India through immunisation after small pox in May 1980. For India the success in the campaign against polio means it has for the first time the tools and infrastructure to tackle other childhood diseases. Polio eradication in India used mass vaccination campaigns. These social networks of volunteers and some paid staff should now be retooled to fight measles and other child-killing diseases in India. Measles is a leading cause of childhood deaths. Every year around three million cases are seen and about 900,000 children die because of measles around the world. In India, 500 children die of measles every day. The most worrying part is that the vaccine coverage against measles in India is only 66% and even below 50% in many states. By eradicating polio, India has shown that it is up to the challenge of rooting out measles. (New Indian Express 1/4/14)

 

12. Health threat from water supplied without permits (3)

Kozhikode: The ban on supplying drinking water by tanker lorries without obtaining proper permits from the local self-government institutions concerned is reportedly being flouted in many locations in the city. In the wake of the increasing water scarcity, commercial establishments such as hotels and restaurants are dependant on the supply of water by tanker lorries. According to sources, many of these tanker lorries lack a valid licence to supply the drinking water. Also, the water sources of the tanker lorries are unknown in many cases. Last year, the situation was a bit different as the health department convened a special review meeting of its officials to ensure proper vigilance in the sector and prevent all unauthorized supply of drinking water to prevent the spread of water-borne diseases. It had also alerted local self government bodies to check the licences and seize all vehicles those violated the norms. As per the recent orders from the government, three-tier panchayats, municipalities and the city corporation have the legal powers to seize vehicles that supply water without obtaining licence from the concerned local bodies. The rule also makes it clear that people who are caught for the illegal water supply will also be liable to face further legal action if the seized water contains impure substances or is found to be contaminated after checking in a government laboratory. A health department official said it is the responsibility of the local self-government bodies to enforce the rule. Meantime, efforts are on to ensure the purity of all public drinking water sources through chlorination process. The private wells too will be covered in the drive shortly. The plan of the department is to begin the pre-monsoon health campaign by the middle of May. (The Hindu 1/4/14)

 

13. 36 Per Cent Delhi Kids Malnourished: Report (3)

New Delhi: About 36 percent of the children in Delhi are malnourished with a nutritional scheme targetted at the 0-6 age-group reaching only 30 percent of the intended beneficiaries, a report released Wednesday said. At 38 percent, the malnutritional rate is higher among girls than boys (34 percent). This means that four out of every 10 children in Delhi are malnourished. And, while the coverage of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme is already low, its monitoring of the growth of children is its weakest element said the report of NGO Child Rights and You (CRY) and Alliance for People’s Rights (APR). It covered 21 blocks/wards and 3,650 children living in slums of west, southwest, north, northwest and northeast areas in Delhi. “The fast pace of urbanisation poses a significant challenge to children living in urban slums – especially newborns and infants whose health depends on the availability of the mother to breastfeed,” CRY associate general manager Jaya Singh said. The report highlights the fact that only 35.2 percent of women breastfeed their children due to their low socio-economic condition. “The analysis of our report suggests there is an urgent need to strengthen government mechanisms to ensure access to services to curb the growing menance of malnutrition,” Jaya Singh added. With malnourishment figures at 51 percent being the highest in the northwest district, 56 percent girls there were found to be malnourished. Further, there is a shortfall not only with the ICDS scheme but also with the 11 Nutritional Rehabilitation Centres (NRC) that are operational in the national capital. “The children are hardly availing referral services for their immediate care in the NRCs and also the community health workers are unaware of such a facility,” CRY regional director Soha Moitra said. “We were shocked at the plight of people residing in the slums of Delhi. There is no streamlined targeting of nutrition related programmes for pregnant women and children in these areas. There is a need to increase coverage and central funding to schemes in Delhi,” said APR convener Reena Banerjee. The report recommends making ICDS centres functional, sensitising the community and policy prioritisation towards reducing malnutrition. (New Indian Express 2/4/14)

 

CORRUPTION

14. Irrigation scam probe fails to name Pawar (5)

MUMBAI: The Chitale committee which probed the irrigation scam in the state has found “major irregularities” in the way project costs were increased through revised administrative approvals (RAA) and recommended “strict action” against officials involved. The Special Investigative Team (SIT) headed by Madhav Chitale found that RAAs for 27 projects in Vidarbha, Tapi and Godavari-Marathwada were illegal. The state finance department was kept in the dark when these RAAs were sanctioned by various irrigation corporations between October 7, 2006, and August 20, 2009. “That the government did not know this is difficult to digest and cannot be accepted. These officers must be identified,” it said. But the committee did not investigate the core issue of corruption, including arbitrary increase in tender costs, awarding additional works to contractors without inviting tenders and involvement of senior ministers in the scam, saying the issues were beyond its mandate. The report mentioned that “these core issues were riddled with grave irregularities which require deep and thorough investigation by a competent authority”.The man at the centre of the controversy, the then water resources minister Ajit Pawar who briefly resigned following a TOI expose in September 2012, finds no mention in the report. This newspaper had reported how Pawar had issued circulars which circumvented the mandatory approval of the state finance department and were directly responsible for jacking up tender rates. The report has apportioned the blame on officials… (Times of India 1/4/14)

 

15. HUDA land scam: Final buyers move HC for re-allotment letters (5)

Chandigarh: The Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) scam about multiple plot allotment in 18 reserved categories, including defence, has left the present purchasers a harried lot and forced them to move the Punjab and Haryana high court for re-allotment letters. In one case where a defence officer had sold his HUDAallotted reserved plot further and then secured another, two Kurukshetra people have challenged HUDA’s refusing to issue the re-allotment letter for the initial sold plot. Taking up the petition of Parveen Kumari and her husband, the division bench comprising justices Surya Kant and Lisa Gill on Tuesday issued a notice of motion to HUDA to demand its reply before May 20. In the petitioner’s case, officer Jasvinder Singh Ghotra was the original allottee of 325 squareyard defence-quota plot at Urban Estate, Kurukshetra, in May 2002. In May 2005, he sold the plot, after which it had six owners in eight years. In September 2013, it came into the petitioners’ hands. In June 2006, after a year of selling his first plot, officer Ghotra had another HUDAdefence-quota plot in his name at Jagadhri. In September last year, after the execution of sale deed, the petitioners approached the HUDA officials in Kurukshetra for the transfer of ownership in their name. In October 2013, the HUDA office issued them a letter stating that the plot could not be re-allotted, as the original allottee, officer Gohtra, had obtained multiple plots fraudulently. The plot in question was first allotted to officer Jasvinder Singh Ghotra in 2002 when he had no other HUDA plot in his name and there was no cap on re-sale in the allotment letter, the petitioners’ counsel, Vijay Kumar Jindal, has argued. Since Ghotra was allotted another plot in 2006, the first cannot be said to be illegal, and so HUDA cannot refuse re-allotment in petitioners’ name, the counsel has added. (Hindustan Times 2/4/14)

 

16. Rs 1.76L Crore Scam-hit Raja Has Just Rs 3.61 Crore (5)

COONOOR/COIMBATORE: Former Union Telecom Minister A Raja, the DMK’s articulate Dalit face accused of being the architect of the 2G scam, the ‘Mother of all Scams’ which caused a presumptive loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore to the country, is not among the richest candidates in the fray this General Elections. Far from it, on Wednesday he declared assets of Rs 3.61 crore, which is merely one-and-a-half times the assets worth Rs 1.45 crore he declared in 2009 when he had no corruption case against him. Raja’s net worth would be dwarfed if one were to even compare it with his predecessor from the constituency and current Congress candidate in Coimbatore, R Prabhu, who has declared an asset value of over Rs 61 crore. Raja, 50, filed his nomination before Nilgiris Returning Officer P Shankar declaring in his affidavit that he has been named as an accused in a corruption case that could attract a punishment of two years or more adding that no other criminal case is pending against him. While declaring a liability of Rs 35.51 lakh and Rs 3.92 lakh in his and his wife M A Parameswari’s name respectively, he declared a Toyota Corolla Altis car worth Rs 13.81 lakh which he bought in 2010-11. His movable assets total Rs 1.45 crore, including Rs 7.98 lakh cash, Rs 64.79 lakh bank deposits, Rs 22.09 lakh worth investments and Rs 1.2 lakh in National Saving Certificate.  Besides, his gold holdings remain the same as 2009 — a 108 sovereign-memento — except that its value has appreciated to Rs 26.58 lakh. His silver holdings are worth Rs 1.95 lakh. He owns furniture worth Rs 2.3 lakh. While he earned an income of Rs 8.09 lakh in 2012-13, his wife earned Rs 5.74 lakh during the same period. Interestingly, he has also loaned Rs 3.91 lakh to his wife. His 2,400 sqft house at Ganapathy Nagar, Tiruchy, which he had purchased in October 1994, is now worth Rs 32.85 lakh. Parameswari owns 5.53-acre agricultural land at Serkudi in Musiri near Tiruchy valued at Rs 5.53 lakh. She also has five acres of land at Melapuliyur in her native Perambalur district worth Rs 8.59 lakh. Besides, Raja has inherited 1.62 acres of agricultural land at Velur in Perambalur. His wife has movable assets worth Rs 93.93 lakh, 175 sovereign gold jewellery valued at Rs 43.07 lakh and silver worth Rs 4.68 lakh. She also has a stake of Rs 32.38 lakh in partnership firm Shivakamam Agency Capital. Raja’s daughter Mayuri has Rs 18.15 lakh worth movable assets, including 25 sovereigns of gold worth Rs 6.15 lakh and a Rs 12 lakh diamond stud. Raja has Rs 41.03 lakh worth Hindu Undivided Family assets. (New Indian Express 3/4/14)

 

TRIBALS

17. Preserving the tradition of tribal art in modern times (6)

NEW DELHI: In an attempt to acknowledge the roots of a great artistic tradition established by communities which have been consistently kept outside the ambit of established art history through blatant marginalisation, the National Tribal Art Conclave organised by Lalit Kala Akademi began here on Monday. The conclave at Rabindra Bhavan, Meghdoot II, will be on till April 6. The event was inaugurated by well-known art critic Keshav Malik. The Akademi hosted its 55th National Exhibition of Art recently wherein it awarded 10 artists with national awards for their contemporary art works. The Institute has now brought 100 artists from all over the country to the conclave where the tribal and contemporary artists will experiment and create art forms to narrate their landscape. Speaking about the event, Lalit Kala Akademi chairman Dr. K.K. Chakravarty said: “The transformation, over the past two centuries, of forests from non fiscal, non timber, ecological habitats into timber mines, empty areas for development, carbon sinks and fiscal resource have deprived the folk and tribal artists of kinship, imagery and rituals. The co-evolutionary inter-dependence of human and non-human, organic and inorganic communities has also been lost.” “The presentation of these arts in urban festivals and formal state celebrations rather than celebrating them in their unique context has tended to dilute the arts of their relevance in addressing the rhythm of life and livelihood,’’ he added. These artistic work, according to a Lalit Kala Akademi official, has been appreciated in the international market for its aesthetic sensibility and authenticity but has failed to get its due in it’s own homeland. “This initiative by Lalit Kala Akademi is to give the ‘Tribal Arts’ its due credit and create a mass awareness,’’ said Dr. Chakravarty. Gond, Warli, Rathwa, Muria Gaud, Konda,Tiba, Manjuli, Dhuri, Maring, Maram, Mizo, Mishing and Meena are few of the tribal traditions that are being showcased in the conclave. The art works produced by the artist in the conclave will go on to become a part of ‘XIIth Triennale India’s National Pavilion”. (The Hindu 1/4/14)

 

18. Anti-Polavaram activists to file mass nominations (6)

KHAMMAM: In a bid to register their protest against the Polavaram project, the town-based Sparsha Samajika Adhyayana Vedika is mulling filing nominations en masse to the Khammam Lok Sabha seat. Sources said the move was aimed at highlighting the plight of lakhs of adivasis facing the threat of submergence and “large-scale” displacement on account of the project. The proposal comes close on the heels of the decision of the Mumpu Pranthala Parirakshana Samithi to boycott the ZPTC and MPTC elections in Kukunoor and Velerupadu mandals, which fall under the Polavaram submergence zone. Not a single nomination was filed for the local body elections in the two mandals. Although the strategy of the Sparsha Vedika appears opposite to that of the Samithi as the latter gave a call for the total boycott of polls, the two approaches are aimed at highlighting the Polavaram issue at the national level. Both organisations have been vociferously opposing the Centre’s “decision” to transfer several mandals of Bhadrachalam Agency to the residual State of Andhra Pradesh and demanding cancellation of the project. When contacted, Sparsha Vedika convener K. Bhaskar said the move to file nominations en masse was intended to bring the burning issue of Polavaram project to the focus at the national level for spearheading a mass movement against the project. “In such a scenario, elections in the particular constituency could be postponed due to technical reasons like inability to print election symbols of a large number of contestants on the ballot papers to be uploaded into EVMs,” he said. Meanwhile, the CPI ML-New Democracy (Chandranna Group) has also mooted a similar plan, with an objective to garner public support against the project. In a similar move, people of the fluoride affected areas in Nalgonda district filed nominations en-masse to register their protest against “government’s apathy” to provide them safe drinking water. (The Hindu 2/4/14)

 

19. Gram sabha to decide forest fate (6)

A crucial gram sabha is being organised by the local tribal population to decide the fate of the Mahan forests in Madhya Pradesh. This gram sabha will be along the lines of the gram sabhas held in the Niyamgiri hills, which had said no to bauxite mining. These ancients forests comprising of virgin sal trees have been in the eye of a storm ever since Stage 2 clearance was granted to the Mahan coal block, which would see the destruction of over five lakh hectares of forest. The local tribals, organised under the banner of the Mahan Sangharsh Samiti (MSS), have now girded their loins and are determined to give voice to their anger at losing this last tract of green. “Signatures had been forged in the earlier gram sabha meet held on March 6, 2013. We will not allow this to be repeated a second time over,” said Bechan Lal Shah, a member of the MSS. Singrauli collector M. Selvendran concedes there was “some discrepancy in the signatures in the earlier gram sabha” which is why he instituted an inquiry, whose result “I am still awaiting… but we will hold another gram sabha meet whose recommendations will be forwarded to the state government. Forest land diversion can start only after that.” Rukun, a tribal woman who lives in Budher village located inside the forest, is emphatic that “Our livelihood , our customs and our culture are tied up with our forests.” Ram Lelu Singh Kerhwar, also a resident of Budher, who does agriculture on two acres of revenue land which falls within the forest, said, “When we raised the issue of how our signatures had been forged with our chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, he did not respond to our queries.” Pria Pillai, a Greenpeace campaigner working in Singrauli district, said, “The decision of the gram sabhas in Niyamgiri has set a precedent in terms of the Forest Right Act since 40 per cent of the population in the Mahan forests is tribals.” “There are no individual tribal rights to settle but community rights of grazing and pasture do remain to be settled,” the collector, Mr Selvendran, said. He explained, “We received 20,000 applications for individual tribal rights from which 1,200 are still pending. Forty-five hundred pattas have been given in the district.” (Asian Age 3/4/14)

 

MINORITIES, MUSLIMS, CHRSITIANS, COMMUNAL RIOTS

20. Several Injured in Clash Between CPM, RSS (7)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Five people were hacked and several others injured as CPM and RSS workers clashed at Aruvikkara late on Sunday night. Party workers, who were engaged in campaigning work in Irumba and Pandiyodu regions, had differences over the installation of flex boards at Aruvikkara, leading to the clashes, the police said. Anilkumar and Shivan, both CPM activists, were hacked in the forehead and thighs respectively. The police have registered cases against 15 RSS activists based on the complaints lodged by the duo. RSS activists Pradeep, Pradosh Kumar (Pradeep’s brother) and Nitish also suffered cuts on their bodies. The police also registered cases against several CPM activists. (New Indian Express 1/4/14)

 

21. Goa BJP using Catholic legislators to criticise Church: NCP (7)

Panaji, April 1 : The Goa BJP is using Catholic legislators in the party as a “mask” to openly criticize the Church in Goa for hyping the secularism versus communalism debate ahead of general elections, the NCP Tuesday alleged. Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) vice president Trajano D’Mello also told a press conference here that the drug mafia had shifted its allegiance to the present government, which was why a legislative committee report on drug trade in Goa was not being adopted by the BJP-led coalition government. “Why are BJP’s Hindu MLAs not coming forward to criticise the Goa Church for starting a debate on secularism and communalism? Why are only Christian MLAs being used as a mask by the BJP?” D’Mello said, accusing the Bharatiya Janata Party of trying to start in-fighting within the minority community in Goa. Goa Deputy Chief Minister Francis D’Souza of the BJP and other Catholic legislators, who are either members of the saffron party or are part of the ruling coalition, have been openly criticising the Church as well as the Roman Catholic priests in Goa for the last one week. While D’Souza blamed the Church for trying to create a secularism versus communalism divide, Benaulim legislator Caitu Silva accused Catholic priests of supporting the Congress. “I want to know why the priests do not tell the people two months in advance to support the Congress. Why do they tell us to support the Congress only on the eve of election,” Caitu told reporters Sunday. The criticism of the Church and one of its social organisations by the ruling Catholic MLAs follows attempts by the former to kindle a secularism versus communalism debate ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, much to the displeasure of the BJP, which has insisted on development as the agenda for the general elections. A circular and a voters’ pledge issued by the Church and its satellite organisations was also obliquely critical of exclusionary and corrupt governance methods adopted by both BJP’s prime ministerial hopeful Narendra Modi and Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar. The Goa Church is a significant player in Goa’s socio-political space with its Catholic population pegged at nearly 27 percent. D’Mello also said the delay by the BJP-led Goa government to act on a crucial legislative committee report on the police-politician drug mafia in Goa, could mean that the drug mafia had switched loyalties to the incumbent government. The report, which was tabled last year, has not been adopted by the government yet. “When was the report tabled? Why is the government not adopting it? BJP MLAs themselves are on record in the assembly as saying that minor children are slowly being addicted to drugs. Does the government want to encourage this?” D’Mello said. Incidentally, D’Mello’s NCP is backing Congress candidate Ravi Naik for the North Goa parliamentary seat. Naik and his son Roy find themselves indicted in the very same report for their links to Goa’s drug mafia. (New Kerala 1/4/14)

 

22. Shiv Sena Opposed to ‘Anti-national Muslims’, Says Uddhav (7)

MUMBAI: The Shiv Sena will continue to oppose the “anti-national Muslims” who do not respect the country’s laws and create problems for people, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said on Tuesday. “Like my father (the late) Bal Thackeray, those Muslims who consider India their motherland, respect the laws of this country, don’t ignite riots and live amicably, we have nothing against them — as far as the others, they have no right to live in India,” Thackeray told his party journal “Saamana”.When asked about how Hyderabad-based Muslim leader Akbaruddin Owaisi was spewing venom against Hindus by threatening to wipe out the majority (Hindu) community in 15 minutes, Thackeray cited the example of his father. “Though he was the only Hindu ‘Hridaysamrat’ (Emperor of Hindu hearts), Bal Thackeray never said he would annihilate the Muslims in 15 minutes. Can somebody dare to speak in this fashion (like Owaisi) among the Pakistani Hindus? Under such a situation, it is up to the Hindus to decide who will protect them,” Thackeray said. Referring to ally Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s brand of “Hindutva”, Thackeray rued that whenever there is talk of Modi, it gets linked to Gujarat riots and attempts are made to measure his “Hindutva” based on that incident. “However, one thing is clear — under Modi, Gujarat has not witnessed any communal riots and the Hindus are feeling secure in that state,” Thackeray said. Discussing the prospects of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Maharashtra, Thackeray recalled that way back, the late Bal Thackeray had advised social campaigner Anna Hazare to keep away from his “Team Anna”.”Now ‘Team Anna’ has distanced itself from Hazare — on whose name it came up in the first place… AAP came with a bang and fell with a whimper in Delhi and only the people of that state had to suffer,” Thackeray said. He dismissed the contention that the AAP broom (party symbol) was sweeping Maharashtra, and said it doesn’t pose any challenge to the established parties. “In fact, the people of Mumbai are already irritated by the AAP. The Shiv Sena is the only voice of the people of Maharashtra,” he said. (New Indian Express 1/4/14)

 

23. BJP could have fielded at least 1 minority candidate in Goa to prove they are secular: Coutinho (7)

MARGAO: Congress spokesperson Pratima Coutinho congratulated deputy chief minister Francis D’Souza for openly airing the apprehension of minorities that they feel threatened by the prospects of Narendra Modi becoming Prime Minister of India. Coutinho said that in the 2012 assembly elections, about 34% of the minorities in Goa voted for the BJP based on their manifesto promises. But the numerous U-turns of the BJP government has made them realize that the BJP has fooled them. Coutinho said the BJP had a great opportunity to show the people they are secular by fielding at least one minority candidate in Goa. (Times of India 1/4/14)

 

24. NIA torturing minority youths in the name of probe: Kavita Krishnan (7)

PATNA: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has donned political and communal colours and is torturing youths of the minority community in the name of investigations. This was revealed by ML politburo member and All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) secretary Kavita Krishnan at a press meet after the party consulted few alleged terrorists arrested in Patna serial blasts. Some of the alleged terrorists were also present. “Most of the youths arrested are being forced to admit their involvement in the blasts,” Krishnan said, adding, “Muslim youths from Arwal district were detained by the investigating officers and tortured till they admitted to committing terrorist acts. Many such youngsters have narrated to us the horrid tales of torture.” Maksood Alam, whose 19-year-old son Aslam Parvez was arrested by NIA in the Patna blasts case, said, “My second son Rustam Ansari and I were told by the officers to coax Parvez to admit his connection in the blasts. He was beaten and tortured in front of me and was kept in custody from March 5 to 30 without any documents.” Another youth Irfan Ahmad, who was also arrested, said, “Initially, the questioning was done in Jehanabad. Then I was called to Delhi where I was beaten up so that I could admit my connections in the bomb blasts.” The ML leaders also alleged the NIA to be influenced by political outfits. “Aslam Parvez, who was arrested by NIA, was asked about his political affiliation by the investigating officers,” Krishnan said, adding, “Why should any investigating agency ask people which party they vote for?” ML politburo member Dhirendra Jha, who was also present on the occasion said, “Earlier we had freed two youths of north Bihar – Meher Alam and Aftab Alam, from the NIA, who were accused of being involved in the Patna bomb blasts. We will take the matter to the court if needed.” The party also plans to approach the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and National Commission for Minorities (NCM) for providing justice to the youths. “The investigating agencies should also be made answerable to the Parliament,” said the ML leaders. (Times of India 2/4/14)

 

25. Mulayam’s SP unveils poll manifesto, promises muslim quota (7)

Lucknow: Mulayam Singh Yadav said it would ensure justice to 2002 Gujarat riot victims and implementation of recommendations of Srikrishna commission. Mulayam Singh Yadav said it would ensure justice to 2002 Gujarat riot victims and implementation of recommendations of Srikrishna commission. Seeking to woo Muslims as well as upper castes, Samajwadi Party on Wednesday promised quota in police and other government jobs for minority community, release of “innocent” youths jailed on terror charges and constitution of an Upper Caste Commission in its manifesto brimming with sops. Vowing to enact tough law against communal violence, the SP led by Mulayam Singh Yadav said it would ensure justice to 2002 Gujarat riot victims and implementation of recommendations of Srikrishna commission. Provisions for free education and healthcare will be made in the country if a non-Congress, non-BJP government of which SP is a part is formed at the Centre after the Lok Sabha polls, the party, which is in power in Uttar Pradesh, said. “The party will constitute a commission on lines of women, minorities and others commissions for problems pertaining to Upper Caste. The party will also make amendment in Constitution for providing reservation to Muslims on basis of their population in government jobs and give them 15 per cent reservation in police and PAC,” Mulayam said while releasing the party’s 24-page manifesto. “The party will include 17 backward castes in the SC category if voted to power,” he said. The manifesto also promised to release “innocent” Muslim youths lodged in jail on terrorism charges. Party National General Secretary Ramgopal Yadav said if SP is voted to power, it would make education free from primary to higher level. “We will do this by increasing expenditure in education. Presently four per cent of the GDP is spent on education and we will increase it to seven per cent for making education free,” Ramgopal said. For service class, SP manifesto promises increasing the retirement age to 65 years for government employees, judges of higher and lower courts and teachers and other employees of educational institutes. Priority will be given to Agriculture sector, Mulayam said, adding his government would ensure that the “ignored” sector is given due weightage. “Only a country, where agriculture is promoted can make progress. China’s economy became better than India due to agriculture sector,” he said. Highlighting the steps to be taken in the health sector, the SP supremo said that mini AIIMs would be opened in rural areas and facilities like x-ray, MRI, CT-scan and pathological tests would be made “free for the poor”.  (Indian Express 2/4/14)

 

26. Bukhari likely to announce support to Cong, AAP claims Muslims rooting for Kejriwal (7)

New Delhi: On Tuesday, a delegation of Muslims leaders led by Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid Syed Ahmed Bukhari met Congress president Sonia Gandhi at her 10, Janpath residence. After a meeting that lasted 45 minutes, Shahi Imam Bukhari said issues such as, “the arrest of Muslim youths in terror cases, implementation of Sachar Committee and Ranganath Misra Commission recommendations and Anti-Communal Violence Bill” were discussed. Sources close to Bukhari said the decision to support the Congress has been finalised and an announcement is likely on Friday. While an endorsement from Bukhari can bolster the Congress’s campaign in the upcoming elections, especially in Uttar Pradesh, the AAP believes that by directly contesting against BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, Arvind Kejriwal can change equations. to help us personalise your reading experience. Four of the eight seats that the Congress managed to win in the Delhi Assembly elections came from areas where the Muslim population was significant. “The tide has changed. Muslims no longer view Congress as the natural alternative to vote in order to keep communal forces at bay. During the Assembly elections, we received 15-20% of the Muslim vote in Delhi. In the Lok Sabha elections, we expect this to reach 80%,” Irfanullah Khan, leader and the president of AAP’s Jamia Nagar coordination committee, said. Fearing this loss from their traditional vote bank, the Delhi unit of the Congress had proposed the fielding of at least one Muslim candidate from Delhi for the Lok Sabha elections. But with each of the seven sitting MPs being renominated by the party, senior Congress leaders said that they expect the endorsement from the influential Muslim cleric to further consolidate their vote bank. “The Congress will get the Muslim votes in Delhi. Bukhari’s endorsement of the Congress party will help us win votes not just in Delhi but elsewhere as well,” senior Congress leader Mateen Ahmed said. (Indian Express 3/4/14)

 

WOMEN

27. Dowry death: Husband, in-laws booked for woman’s death (8)

HYDERABAD: KPHB police registered a dowry death case against a human resource manager of an optics firm and his family members after his 26-year-old wife committed suicide by hanging at their house in Nizampet on Tuesday. The victim was identified as Indira, 26, wife of Vastavai Deepak Varma from Bhimavaram. Deepak and Indira were classmates while pursuing MBA at Eluru a few years ago. The couple fell in love with each other and got married with the consent of their parents two years ago. Indira left behind a seven-month-old daughter. After the marriage, Deepak and Indira shifted to Nizampet. At 11.30pm on Monday, Indira called her sister and told her that Deepak had been beating her up and mentally harassing her for the past few months by finding fault with her about petty matters. A little while after midnight, Deepak’s family alerted Indira’s brother Madhu saying that her condition was critical and asked the latter to come to a hospital at KPHB. “Madhu reached the private hospital and he was told by doctors that Indira was pronounced dead on arrival,” Indira’s cousin Palla Srinivas told TOI. The victim’s relatives then lodged a complaint with KPHB police on Tuesday alleging that Indira committed suicide by hanging due to the harassment of her husband and in-laws. “At the time of marriage, Indira’s father Raju gave 50 tolas of gold and Rs 7 lakh cash as dowry. Despite that, Deepak and her in-laws harassed Indira and drove her to commit suicide,” Srinivas said. The victim left no suicide note. After the inquest, KPHB police registered a case under section 304-B (Dowry death) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against Deepak, his parents Ramachandra Raju and Soumya Sree. No arrests were made yet. (Times of India 2/4/14)

 

28. Suryanelli Case: HC Judgment on Friday (8)

KOCHI: The Kerala High Court will pronounce its judgment on the appeals filed by the accused in the sensational Suryanelli rape case on Friday. A Division Bench comprising Justice K T Sankaran and Justice M L Joseph Francis had reserved judgment on conclusion of the arguments. The Suryanelli case relates to the abduction and sexual assault of a minor girl by several men in 1996. The prosecution case was that the 16-year-old schoolgirl from Suryanelli in Idukki district was enticed, abducted, and sexually-exploited by a bus conductor on January 16, 1996. She was later handed over to two others, including the prime accused, who was a lawyer. The duo presented her to several other men. The abductors released the girl some 40 days later, on February 26. On September 6, 2000, a special court sentenced 35 accused persons to rigorous imprisonment for varying terms. The first accused, conductor Raju, and the second accused, Usha, were sentenced to 13 years’ rigorous imprisonment with fine, and an additional jail term of four years on different counts. The key accused, Dharmarajan, had been absconding, but was arrested later. The trial court had convicted all the 35 accused on charges of rape, gangrape and kidnapping, but the High Court had acquitted all except one. Based on an appeal filed by the state and the victim, the Supreme Court had ordered the High Court to consider afresh the appeals filed by the accused. (New Indian Express 2/4/14)

 

29. Five booked for kicking pregnant housewife over dowry demands (8)

Thane: The police booked five family members, including a couple, for allegedly kicking a pregnant housewife due to which the foetus died, the police said today. Reuters file photo for representation onlyThe police booked five family members, including a couple, for allegedly kicking a pregnant housewife due to which the foetus died, the police said today. Police sub-inpsector Avinash Mahajan of the Vartak Nagar police station told PTI that the 22-year-old Chayya Prakash Rathod was married to Prakash Rathod in 2013 and she was four months pregnant. Soon after she began residing with her husband and in-laws at Lokmanya Nagar, her husband and in-laws began harassing her constantly for dowry, demanding Rs 4 lakh from her family members. After she expressed her inability to fulfill the dowry demands, her in-laws, including her husband, tortured her mentally and physically, though she was pregnant by four months, the complaint said. Allegedly, they also kicked her in the abdomen after which the foetus died and she had to undergo abortion, the complaint said. The police based on her complaint booked her husband Prakash Pattu Rathod (25), mother-in-law Yashoda Rathod (45) father-in-law Pattu Rathod (50), sister-in-law Mukta Rathod (22) and brother-in-law Vikas Rathod (20), the police said. The five have been booked under Sections 498-A, 406, 313, 323, 504 and 506 read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code, the police said, adding that investigations are on. (Deccan Herald 3/4/14)

 

30. Women’s safety clinching factor this election, survey finds (8)

NEW DELHI: Women’s safety is going to a be second most crucial factor in the coming Lok Sabha elections, finds a survey conducted by Marketing and Development Research Associates (MDRA) and Avaaz, an online campaigning community. The issue will be top-of-mind for 91% voters, as per the study. Of the 8,284 people surveyed between March 28 and April 1, 94% would like the new government to initiate a public awareness campaign on the issue of gender violence. The survey, which was conducted on those who said they intend to vote in the coming elections, found that corruption was ranked as No1 issue followed by women’s safety at number two. When asked if they were willing to vote a candidate who commits to specific policies to stem violence against women, 85% answered in the affirmative. The survey also found that 75% of respondents were dissatisfied with the electoral promises made so far by politicians to tackle gender inequalities. The survey also quizzed people on Womanifesto, a six-point plan created by 70 civil society movements, organizations and eminent individuals to address problems of women’s safety and empowerment. The Womanifesto calls on all candidates fighting elections to commit to enforcing this plan within one year of being in power. Already, the AAP and CPI (ML) have committed to these six points and BJP MP Jay Panda has promised to get the party to commit to it. “This election parties are addressing voters’ concerns on women’s safety and equality more often,” says Karuna Nundy, a Supreme Court lawyer and co-drafter of the Womanifesto. “Politicians can still make equal power and real freedom for women a cross-party common minimum programme,” she adds. Educating for equality, making laws count, putting women in power, policing for the people, ensuring swift justice and support for survivors of violence and safe spaces for women are the six points of the Womanifesto. (Times of India 4/4/14)

 

TERRORISM

31. Britain considering ban on Muslim Brotherhood: report (12)

Cairo: According to The Times newspaper in London, Prime Minister David Cameron has ordered intelligence agencies to review the Islamist group’s operations in Britain. Britain’s government is considering banning the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, according to a report Tuesday, over concerns the group is behind terrorist attacks in Egypt. Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsy was ousted as Egypt’s first democratically elected President last year by the military and the group has since been blamed by Cairo for a wave of attacks. The Brotherhood insists it is a peaceful organization with no links to violence. Egyptian authorities have launched a crackdown on Islamists since July, during which hundreds were killed and thousands injured. Last months, a court in southern Egypt handed down death sentences to 529 alleged backers of Morsy over rioting and killing a police officer in August, drawing strong condemnations from human rights organizations. A verdict is expected on April 28 for a further 683 defendants on trial under similar charges. According to The Times newspaper in London, Prime Minister David Cameron has ordered intelligence agencies to review the Islamist group’s operations in Britain. One of the key incidents under review is an attack in February against tourists in the Sinai peninsula, which killed four people. Since being banned in Egypt, the Brotherhood has moved some of its operations to Britain. The British review is being handled by the country’s top diplomat in Saudi Arabia. Riyadh, historically hostile to organized political Islamic movements, this year declared the Muslim Brotherhood to be a terrorist organization and the monarchy has supported Egypt’s military rulers. Meanwhile, al—Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula — the networks’s Yemen—based branch — released a new video in which they mocked the Saudi government as being a pawn of the United States. AQAP condemned the ban on the Brotherhood and said it was a sign the Saudi government would never tolerate Islamist groups. “The infidels will not accept them until they give up everything associated with Islam,” the terrorist group said. The video was released following US President Barack Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia over the weekend. AQAP has hundreds of Saudi and other foreign fighters in its ranks and is considered one of the most dangerous branches of al—Qaeda. (The Hindu 1/4/14)

 

32. Sri Lanka bans LTTE, 15 other Tamil diaspora groups (12)

Colombo: Sri Lanka today banned the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and 15 other Tamil diaspora groups for their alleged terror links and involvement in reviving the Tamil rebel movement. Defence Ministry spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya said Sri Lanka has banned 16 organisations, including the LTTE, in accordance with the UN Security Council resolution 1373. These organisations have been classified as “terrorist” under the new government proclamation, he said. From now on it will be illegal to have any contact with these organisations, Wanigasooriya said. He said among the organisations proscribed are the LTTE’s Trans National Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE), Global Tamil Forum (GTF), which is active in Europe, and the UK—based British Tamil Forum (BTF). Wanigasooriya said all these groups are being led by four different individuals. The announcement came as the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva last week adopted a resolution calling for an international investigation into alleged war crimes committed by Sri Lankan troops during the final battle with the LTTE that ended in 2009. Sri Lanka had accused the LTTE front organisations of moving the resolution against the country as means to take revenge from Colombo for militarily crushing the LTTE, which had fought for nearly 30 years for a separate Tamil homeland under Velupillai Prabhakaran. Up to 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed at the end of the separatist war, rights groups and UN experts have said. Sri Lankan officials claim that proscription of organisations such as GTF and BTF are particularly aimed at educating the Western nations on the presence of the LTTE members among the front organisations that operate in various Western capitals, Wanigasooriya said. The government will urge for an investigation into these organisations and their funding of terrorism, he said. Sri Lanka will also request the governments to classify LTTE front members as offenders and name them as wanted by the Interpol for terrorist activity. Sri Lankan nationals and political parties will be forbidden from making contact with such organisations. The individuals belonging to these organisations would face arrest under anti—terrorism laws when travelling to Sri Lanka, Wanigasooriya said. (The Hindu 2/4/14)

 

33. Delhi Police wins custody battle of two top IM operatives (12)

New Delhi: After a tug of war, Delhi Police today had its way when a special court granted it 13-day custody of Indian Mujahideen (IM) operatives Tehseen Akhtar, Zia-ur-Rehman alias Waqas and three others by brushing aside claims of NIA to quiz them first. Additional Sessions Judge Daya Prakash passed the order after Special Cell of Delhi Police and National Investigation Agency (NIA) exchanged heated arguments to take the custody of Tehseen and Waqas, who were wanted for their alleged roles in the February last year Dilsukhnagar blasts in Hyderabad. Tehseen and Waqas, along with other alleged IM operatives, Mohd Maroof, Wakar Azhar and Mohd Saqib Ansari, who all were arrested by the special cell last month, were produced before the court in muffled faces after expiry of police custody. The special cell sought extension of their custody for 15 days on the ground that they have to be interrogated to know about the whereabouts of others members of the terror outfit. However, NIA opposed the police’s plea saying that being a federal investigating agency, they should be permitted to formally arrest Tehseen and Waqas, a Pakistani national, in Dilsukhnagar blasts case. Special Cell’s prosecutor Rajiv Mohan countered the claims of NIA saying they have arrested these accused first and they need to interrogate them to unearth the conspiracy. “You cannot curtail the rights of local police in the name of NIA Act… They (NIA) have not arrested the accused. We (special cell) had not stopped them (NIA) from arresting these accused,” Mohan argued. He said that some more wanted IM operatives, including its co-founder Riyaz Bhatkal, was to be arrested on the basis of the interrogation of these accused persons. NIA prosecutor Ahmed Khan, however, submitted that the NIA Act has overriding effect and being a central agency, they have the right to interrogate these two accused. “What you (police) have done in last 10 days?,” he asked the special cell and argued in the court that police was duty bound to inform them after arresting these accused. (Zee News 3/4/14)

 

JUDICIARY/ LAW

34. Supreme Court does away with disparity in pensions of high court judges (19)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday removed a 60-year-old disparity in computation of pension for two categories of high court judges – those appointed from judicial service from lower courts and others from among advocates. Judges appointed from subordinate courts on retirement get pension for the entire period of service, including the time they worked as judicial officers, even if their tenure as a high court Judge was for three years. Advocates appointed as HC judges, say a decade before reaching the retirement age of 62 years, had their pension computed taking into account their period of service as only 10 years. A bench of Chief Justice P Sathasivam and Justices Ranjan Gogoi and N V Ramana erased this disparity between those who get elevated from trial courts and those from among advocates. “The experience and knowledge gained by a successful lawyer at the Bar can never be considered to be less important from any point of view in comparison to the experience gained by a judicial officer. If the service of a judicial officer is counted for fixation of pension, there is no valid reason as to why the experience at the Bar cannot be treated as equivalent for the same purpose,” said Justice Sathasivam, who authored the verdict. He added, “The fixation of higher pension to the judges drawn from subordinate judiciary who have served for shorter period in contradistinction to judges drawn from the Bar who have served for longer period with less pension is highly discriminatory and breach of Article 14 (right to equality) of the Constitution.” Such disparity in pension affected the image of judiciary, the apex court admitted and cited this as a prime reason why many successful lawyers were shunning the offer of judgeship. “When pensions are meager because of the shorter service, lawyers who attain distinction in the profession may not, because of this anomaly, accept the office of judgeship. When capable lawyers do not show inclination towards judgeship, the quality of justice declines,” the bench said. The court said “one rank one pension must be the norm in respect of a constitutional office”. It said, “When a civil servant retires from service, the family pension is fixed at a higher rate whereas in the case of the high court, it is fixed at a lower rate. No discrimination can be made in the matter of payment of family pension.” Allowing petitions seeking parity in pension for HC judges, the bench said, “We accept the petitioners’ claim and declare that for pensionary benefits, 10 years practice as an advocate be added as a qualifying service for judges elevated from the Bar.” The court added 10 years service to this category of judges because the Constitution provides that a lawyer becomes eligible to be appointed as an HC judge if he has 10 years experience. (Times of India 1/4/14)

 

35. Supreme Court reserves verdict on government ads ahead of polls (19)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved on a petition seeking guidelines for Central and State governments on issuing advertisements in the media, highlighting the programmes, policies and achievements on the eve of elections or on the birthdays of leaders. A three-judge Bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam and Justices Ranjan Gogoi and N.V. Ramana on a writ petition filed by Common Cause in 2003 and Centre for Public Interest Litigation in 2004 for a mandamus to the Centre and the States to desist from issuing large-sized advertisements in newspapers for commemorating any political personality or event, or for making the inauguration of a project to avoid enormous and unwarranted expenditure to the exchequer. The Bench asked counsel for the parties to give their suggestions within one week to enable the court to frame necessary guidelines in this regard. The petition was filed in the wake of ‘India shining’ advertisements issued by the NDA government trumpeting its achievements. Subsequently the petitioner filed an application drawing court’s attention to media campaign launched by the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on completion of one year in office in 2012. It said many of these advertisements contained photographs of government functionaries and important political personalities and sought to glorify them to create an impression that they were responsible for providing benefits to the people. During the course of arguments on Wednesday, the CJI Sathasivam asked counsel Prashant Bhushan, appearing for CPIL whether there could be any objection for a government issuing advertisements to inform the public about its policies and programmes without the photographs of leaders. Mr. Bhushan said, “I have no objection but even this is wrong as this could be misused for issuing advertisements with an eye on political mileage.” When the CJI wanted to know whether advertisements of government with photograph of the Prime Minister or the Chief Minister to convey something to the people was also not permissible, counsel said this could also be misused. Senior counsel K. Radhakrishnan appearing for the Centre submitted that there were enough guidelines for issuance of advertisements by various ministries and departments, the CJI said “these guidelines had nothing to do with the issue before the court.” The Bench then reserved verdict on the petitions. (The Hindu 2/4/14)

 

36. SC agrees to consider open court hearing of curative petitions (19)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to consider an open court hearing of curative petitions, filed by gay rights activists against its verdict on criminalising homosexuality. “We will go through the papers and consider… we will definitely consider,” said a Bench led by Chief Justice P Sathasivam as a group of senior lawyers appearing for the LGBT rights activists pleaded for an open court hearing. Curative petition is the last legal resort to get a verdict overturned. It is usually considered by judges in-chamber unless an application for an open court hearing is overtly allowed. The petitioners, including NGO Naz Foundation and Voices Against 377, which have been spearheading the legal battle on behalf of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community, claimed that the SC judgment of December 11 last required a re-look since the court had ignored various developments in law. “The judgment was reserved on March 27, 2012 but it was delivered after around 21 months. During this long period, lots of changes took place, including amendment in laws. But these changes were failed to be considered by the Bench which delivered the judgment,” senior advocate Ashok Desai told the Bench. He said the curative petition should be heard in open court so to accord them adequate opportunity to argue on the legal points. He also said the case should have been heard by a Constitution Bench instead of a two-judge Bench, which delivered the verdict. The court has already dismissed a batch of review petitions filed by the Centre and gay rights activists against its December 2013 verdict, declaring gay sex an offence punishable up to life imprisonment. Withdrawing the legal protection to what it called “so-called rights” from a “minuscule fraction of the country’s population” comprising LGBT, the SC had ruled that Section 377 in the IPC will continue making gay sex — “irrespective of age and consent” — an offence. (Indian Express  4/4/14)

 

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

37. 17 suicides in 18 days in Tripura’s Dhalai district (20)

Agartala: Kamalpur in Tripura’s Dhalai district has become increasingly suicide-prone with as many as 17 persons of different ages having ended their lives over the last 18 days in the town. The issue has been discussed in the State Assembly and other forums, but no concrete plan has emerged to try to mitigate the problem. Prayas — a social initiative of the Tripura police — organises awareness programmes and counselling every now and then to check suicidal tendencies. The initiative was recently introduced at Jamthum, a remote locality in Kamalpur, in the wake of the rising suicide trend in the subdivision. “This is basically to create awareness against social evils like torture for dowry which often lead to suicide,” Pradip Das, Kuchuchara police officer, told The Hindu on Monday. He said the programme in the area would get more focus after the Lok Sabha election. Among those who committed suicide in Kamalpur were farmers, housewives, youths and students. Tripura has seen a high rate of suicide in the past few years. In an Assembly session, Chief Minister Manik Sarkar expressed his concern after tabling statistics on the social peril. According to Mr. Sarkar, 301 persons committed suicide in five months in the State, which has a population of a little over three million, putting the rate at two persons per day. (The Hindu 1/4/14)

 

38. Rs 994 cr relief package to be given to 17.17 lk Marathwada farmers (20)

Aurangabad, Maharahstra, Apr 2 : The 17.17 lakh farmers from Marathwada region comprising eight districts who were affected by the recent unseasonal hailstorm rain that ruined 8.05 lakh hectors standing crops will get Rs 994 crore relief package. About 50 panic stricken farmers, including women, in the region have committed suicides by different means after losing their standing crops due to the hailstorm rains. According to the Divisional Commissioner official sources, unseasonmal rains which started on February 24 and ended on March 23 last month lashed the region and ruined standing Rabbi crops like jawar, maize, grams, while horticulture was also severely damaged. The process of the Panchanamas to estimate losses were completed recently. After the Panchanamans there were 17.17 lakh farmers eligible for relief package, they said. About 8.05 lakh hectors land was affected. From that Osmanabad was most affected with 1.76 lakh hectors, followed by Jalna 1.39 lakh hectors, Parbhani 1.36 lakh hectors, Latur 1.04, Beed 77,000 hectors, Aurangabad 73,000 hectors, Nanded 66,000 hectors, and Hingoli 29,000 hectors, sources said. Out of the Rs 994 crore package, Osmanabad district will get 191.85 crore, followed by Jalna 185.61 crore, Parbhani 157.36 crore,Latur 125.58 crore, Aurangabad 111.28 crore, Beed 100.42 crore,Nanded 84.46 crore and Hingioli 37.58 crore, sources added. (New Kerala 2/4/14)

 

39. Farmers urge political parties to promise a say in policy matters (20)

CUDDALORE: As the Lok Sabha elections are round the corner, the Consortium of Indian Farmers’ Associations (CIFA) has urged the political parties to give a promise to the farming community to the effect that they would get a say in policy formulation, and planning and implementation of the farm-related programmes. To start with farmers should get representation in the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, said R. Vriddhagiri, State general secretary of the CIFA. The CIFA at its general body meeting held recently here passed a resolution in this regard. It alleged that owing to the apathy of the rulers and the political class the plight of the farmers remained unmitigated. Unlike any other sector the farming sector was devoid of any power to fix prices for their produce. The farming community was at the mercy of the vicissitudes of nature such as floods, drought and other natural disasters which used to have heavy toll on farm yield and their livelihood. Unremunerative prices and wrong import and export policies of the government too had driven the farmers to commit suicides. It was estimated that on an average about 30,000 farmers commit suicide, thousands migrate to other places in search of livelihood. The CIFA expressed the view that if such sordid affairs were to be reversed the Centre should bring out a separate budget for agriculture as in the case of the railways. It should also remove agriculture from the State List and incorporate it in the Concurrent List. It suggested using of manpower deployed under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme for increasing farm production. It felt that formation of a national water way and giving priority to linking of the rivers and putting up a mechanism for amicable resolution of disputes relating to sharing of river waters would give a fillip to agriculture. The CIFA called for revision of the Minimum Support Prices on the lines of the formula advocated by the National Commission on Farmers. The panel suggested a profit margin of 50% over and above the production cost. Expressing abhorrence about the introduction of the genetically modified seeds the CIFA called for 40 per cent grant to promote nature farming. Ethanol mixing in fuel should be raised to 25 per cent and permission must be granted to produce ethanol from sugar syrup as was being done in Brazil, besides extracting ethanol from other sources such as tapioca, maize and molasses. The CIFA sought bank loans for farm sector at 4 per cent interest rate and writing off the loans of the farmers affected by cyclones “Thane” and “Neelam” and sanctioning of fresh loans to them. It urged the government to abandon the coal bed methane production project to safeguard the livelihood of the Cauvery delta farmers. The GAIL pipeline should not cut across the farm land but instead it should run along the roadside. The CIFA also sought pension for the farming community, including women who have completed 55 years and men who crossed 60 years. (The Hindu 3/4/14)

 

40. CM’s statement on farmer’s suicide sparks controversy (20)

Belgaum: The suicide of farmer Vithal Arabhavi in November last year has come back to haunt the Congress government. It is now snowballing into a political controversy. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah reportedly said on Wednesday that the farmer had died due to excessive consumption of liquor and that his government was not responsible for the farmer’s death. The Opposition parties have turned it into an election issue. On Thursday, Siddavva, Arabhavi’s widow, said, “Siddaramaiah is responsible for the death of my husband. Farmers, including my husband, had been protesting for three days for better sugar cane prices. But the government did not relent. This drove my husband to take the extreme step.” The chief minister’s statement that the government was not responsible for the farmer’s suicide has hurt the family, she said at her house at Kankanwadi in Raibag taluk. The farmer’s family claims that he had consumed poison as the government did respond to the protests. Siddavva said that her husband used to consume liquor occasionally, but was not addicted to it and also did not have debts. “If he had any problem, he would have committed suicide in the village itself.” She demanded that the government provide employment to her son. Making statements against her husband does not behove the chief minister’s dignity, she said. Farmers’ leader Basayya Pujari demanded that the chief minister should apologise for his statement and resign. He cautioned that farmers would intensify their protests against Siddaramaiah. (Deccan Herald 4/4/14)

 

HINDUTVA

41. Nepal Will Be ‘Hindu State’ If Modi Takes Power: VHP (26)

KATHMANDU: Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Ashok Singhal Tuesday said that Nepal will turn into a Hindu state if Narendra Modi becomes India’s prime minister. “He (Modi) is set to come (to) power in India,” Singhal told a gathering of Hindus in the eastern Nepali city of Biratnagar. Once Modi assumes office, it will not take much time to see Nepal as a Hindu state, he said. Nepal was the world’s only Hindu state until 2008 but was declared secular once the Maoists ousted the monarchy. Since then, a section of Hindu leaders in Nepal and India have campaigned to reinstate Nepal’s identity as a Hindu state. “The day Modi comes in power in India, I declare that Nepal will turn into a Hindu state,” said Singhal. “Under pressure from China, the US, Europe and some Muslim countries, the Hindu identity was finished here,” he said. Singhal was given a rousing welcome in Biratnagar with thousands of Hindu activists gathering to listen to him. (New Indian Express 1/4/14)

 

42. Constant threat of communal riots if Modi becomes PM: Mayawati (26)

Kolkata: Raking up the 2002 Gujarat riots issue, BSP chief Mayawati on Monday claimed the country would be under a constant threat of communal violence if Narendra Modi became the prime minister and spoke of forming her party government at the Centre. Addressing a meet of West Bengal party workers, the former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister also criticised the Mamata Banerjee government, saying it had failed to live up to people’s expectations in the state. “The BJP has anointed Narendra Modi as their prime ministerial candidate. Who is Narendra Modi? Modi is the same man against whom there are allegations of staying mum during Godhra riots in 2002. The country will always remain under the threat of communal riots if he becomes PM,” Ms. Mayawati said. Hinting at her prime ministerial ambition, she said that a BSP government at the Centre would remove corruption and bring the country back to the growth path. Without taking any name, the BSP chief also took a potshot at the Trinamool Congress regime in West Bengal for not doing much for the development of the state. “There was communist rule in the state for a long time and it failed to remove corruption and unemployment. But the new regime too has failed to live up to the people’s expectation of removal of poverty and ushering in of development for the state,” she said. She said that Mr. Modi in his various speeches had made false promises that he would bring the country to the growth path again. “My question is what were they doing during the NDA tenure from 1998-2004?” Ms. Mayawati also took a swipe at the UPA regime for “pro-capitalist” economic policies and rampant corruption. “The country is reeling under crises because of the policies of the Congress, which have helped a handful of rich people and increased corruption. The Congress is trying to project their ‘prince’ as their PM candidate, but this will not help,” she said, in an apparent reference to Rahul Gandhi. She pointed out that the Congress can’t run away from the responsibility as it has been ruling the nation for the most part after Independence and promised to take up policies which would ensure economic growth and increase employment. (The Hindu 1/4/14)

 

43. General elections 2014: 2,000 RSS men to run BJP after polls (26)

NEW DELHI: The RSS has plans to loan some 2,000 of its committed cadre to BJP to ensure that the Sangh ideology does not get diluted if the party forms the next government. The move is aimed at addressing the concern of power corrupting and weakening the party’s ideological core, RSS sources said. Senior party leaders usually take over the reins of the government when a party comes to power, creating an organisational vacuum. The RSS strategy is to move in hardcore cadres into the party at various levels who will strengthen the party without getting into electoral politics. The effort is seen as a move to prevent a possible tilt of balance of organisational power in favour of the heavy weights in the government. Sources in the RSS say that it is a long-term plan, envisaging induction of these members in the party over the next two to three years. They are expected to work their way up and to wrest control of the party in about five years, the sources said. The plan has already been put in place and the inflow of RSS functionaries in the party has started. In Uttar Pradesh, for instance, three members of the RSS have been posted in sensitive positions in the past two weeks alone – Ratnakar Pandey in Lucknow, Chandra Shekhar Pandey in Varanasi and Bhawani Singh in Rae Bareilly.BJP president Rajnath Singh didn’t respond to an email seeking comment. RSS spokesperson Manmohan Vaidya told ET that the movement of Sangh cadres into the BJP “is a natural process.” He said that currently all of them were focused on 2014 general elections in national interest. “The rest of the things will be taken up after the elections. Induction of our workers may be need based.” Incidentally, this is not the first time the RSS has undertaken such an exercise. It last happened in a systematic manner in 1988-89 when Madhukar Dattatreya ‘Balasaheb’ Deoras was the RSS chief. He had sent Narendra Modi along with KN Govindacharya, Seshadri Chari and L Ganeshan among others to strengthen the BJP. Other RSS members followed. “The party was at a low and there was an urgent need to breathe life into it. That was the time we all were sent to BJP,” said Chari. “RSS believes that not everybody in the party should be in the government. The party can’t be neglected at any time. The RSS members will ensure it doesn’t happen and the BJP does not become weak organisationally,” Chari told ET. (The Economic Times 3/4/14)

 

44. Babri demolition planned; Advani, P V Narasimha Rao knew of plot: Cobrapost sting (26)

NEW DELHI: An elaborate sting operation, conducted on 23 key people of the Ram Janambhoomi movement, claims that the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, was elaborately planned by the various wings of the Sangh parivar and executed with precision by trained volunteers. It wasn’t, as it is claimed, a case of mob frenzy going out of control, leading to the fall of the disputed 16th century structure. The investigation, carried out by Cobrapost, claims that by piecing together the versions given by the top Ram Janambhhomi players, among them Sakshi Maharaj, Acharya Dharmendra, Uma Bharti, Mahant Vedanti and Vinay Katiyar, it is apparent that top BJP leaders like L K Advani and the then UP chief minister Kalyan Singh, as well the former Congress PM, P V Narasimha Rao, were aware of the planned demolition of Babri Masjid. TOI has no independent confirmation of these claims, or whether the purported confessions are accurate or not. Posing as a would-be-author researching his book on the Ayodhya movement, Cobrapost associate editor K Ashish travelled to Ayodhya, Faizabad, Tanda, Lucknow, Gorakhpur, Mathura, Moradabad in UP, Jaipur, Aurangabad, Mumbai and Gwalior interviewing 23 of those who participated in the operation. He clandestinely recorded conversations with them. If what they claim is true, the Ram Janambhoomi leaders and activists toiled secretly for months on a plan codenamed ‘Operation Janmabhoomi’ and executed it with military precision. Volunteers were trained, logistics painstakingly put in place and the assault on the disputed shrine launched using large surging crowds with volunteers skilled in demolishing structures embedded in it. Not only do those interviewed spell out details of the planning, they also allegedly reveal how enthusiastic young participants were deliberately used as cannon fodder by provoking a police firing on kar sevaks in 1990 because of the belief of some leaders that the movement would not gather steam unless ‘some Hindus die’. Many of those interviewed by the make-believe author are accused in CBI cases pertaining to the demolition. Yet, they seemed to have no qualms in “confessing” (or boasting) about their role in the episode that left a deep communal schism in India… (Times of India 4/4/14)

 

Posted by admin at 1 April 2014

Category: Uncategorized

HUMAN RIGHTS/ RIGHTS GROUP/ NHRC

1. Executions rising the world over: Amnesty International (1)

NEW DELHI: According to Amnesty International, executions across the globe have risen to 778 in 2013, up from 682 the year before. DH graphic A “new secretive trend” in some countries, including India, where some prisoners on death row are being put to death without their families and lawyers knowing has seen the global rate of executions go up by 14 per cent, according to a new report. According to Amnesty International, executions across the globe have risen to 778 in 2013, up from 682 the year before. The international human rights watchdog also said at least 23,392 people were on death row at the end of 2013 while 1,925 death sentences were recorded in 57 countries in 2013, an increase from the 2012 figure of 1,722 death sentences in 58 countries. Indian courts sentenced 72 people to death last year. Amnesty said the year 2013 was marked by “some challenging setbacks” on the journey to abolition of the death penalty as four countries – Indonesia, Kuwait, Nigeria and Vietnam – resumed executions and there was a significant rise in the number of people executed, driven primarily by increases in Iraq and Iran. The lone execution in India was that of Parliament attack case convict Afzal Guru, who was hanged in secret in Tihar jail in Delhi. The report noted that there were “serious concerns about the fairness” of the execution, including the fact that Afzal did not receive legal representation of his choice or a lawyer with adequate experience at the trial stage. “His family was not informed in time of his imminent execution and his body was not returned to the family for last rites and burial, in violation of international standards. Afzal Guru was also denied the opportunity to seek a judicial review of the decision to reject his mercy petition,” the report said. Talking to a news channel, Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde admitted that the controversial hanging could have been handled better. He claimed that he had given instructions but it didn’t work. “In such cases I am of the view that the family must be informed properly as per jail rules,” Shinde told the channel. The number of executions in Iran was at least 369 and Iraq 169. “While the number of executions in China is kept secret, Amnesty International believes thousands are put to death every year,” said the report. Saudi Arabia (79), the US (39) and Somalia (34) follow Iran and Iraq in executions. “The virtual killing sprees we saw in countries like Iran and Iraq were shameful. But those states who cling to the death penalty are on the wrong side of history and are, in fact, growing more and more isolated,” said Salil Shetty,  secretary general of Amnesty International. (Deccan Herald 26/3/14)

 

2. India abstains from anti-Lanka resolution at UN (1)

NEW DELHI: In a brave decision marking reclamation of foreign policy from narrow political interests, India abstained from voting on a US-sponsored resolution on human rights situation in Sri Lanka. While India had supported it in 2012 and 2013, the latest resolution was much tougher, calling for an independent investigation into alleged human rights violations in the island nation. The resolution passed with 23 votes in favour, 12 against and 12 abstentions. India’s abstention comes after MEA raised the red flag on the resolution, saying it would be create precedents that would be difficult to withstand. Colombo, too, had mounted a strong diplomatic offensive with the Indian leadership, including long meetings with the national security adviser Shivshankar Menon. Pakistan did its best to help Sri Lanka by proposing a separate vote on the operative paragraph 10 (deemed most offensive) hoping to remove it totally from the resolution, but it failed 16 votes to 25. BJP leader Subramanian Swamy on Thursday congratulated Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for India’s abstention. “I congratulate Manmohan Singh for ordering the Indian delegation in UNHCR not to support the dangerous US resolution seeking international probe into the so-called human rights violations during 2009 anti-LTTE war by Sri lanka,” Swamy said in a statement. In 2013, Menon and MEA failed to prevail upon a determined Congress offensive, led by finance minister P Chidambaram, to punish Sri Lanka. Sources said this had a lot to do with the ruling UPA government’s sensitivity to Tamil parties. This time, Chidambaram is not fighting the polls and the government has been free to take a decision based on India’s foreign policy interests. If India had voted against Sri Lanka, the government could have opened itself to the charge that it was influencing the Tamil vote. Besides, it would have dealt a body blow to relations with a neighbour that is arguably India’s closest economic and security ally in South Asia. The abstention gives India greater flexibility with Sri Lanka, greater ability to push for changes that Mahinda Rajapakse needs to undertake. Rajapakse has taken several steps in the last one year like holding provincial council elections in the north which was seen as the result of intensive Indian diplomacy. “Things will go in the right direction now,” said diplomatic sources. If India had failed to stand with Sri Lanka at this time, it would not have been able to stop the Chinese influence from spreading in the country. Moreover, the government has concluded that many countries pushing the resolution are being pressured by their Tamil-Lankan diaspora. India is wary of allowing its policies to be dictated by such interests, though in the past couple of years the UPA government has caved in even at the cost of foreign policy. This year marks a correction in what most foreign policy analysts had seen a downward trajectory. Explaining why it abstained from the vote, MEA statement said, “It has been India’s firm belief that adopting an intrusive approach that undermines national sovereignty and institutions is counterproductive…. any external investigative mechanism with an open-ended mandate to monitor national processes for protection of human rights in a country, is not reflective of the constructive approach of dialogue and cooperation envisaged by UN General Assembly resolution 60/251 that created the HRC in 2006 as well as the UNGA resolution 65/281 that reviewed the HRC in 2011.” But the passage of the resolution was welcomed by human rights groups. Meenakshi Ganguly of Human Rights Watch said, “”This is a welcome decision, and one that will encourage victims and activists in Sri Lanka who have strived so courageously for accountability and justice.” The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) as well as activist filmmaker Callum McCrae have both welcomed it. (Times of India 28/3/14)

 

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

3. RTI activists begin three-day hunger strike today (1)

AHMEDABAD: RTI activists from across the state will stage a three-day hunger strike against the RTI commissioner at Sector 6 in Gandhinagar from Monday. The activists alleged that they were not given information by the commissioner and several of their appeals are pending till date. Around 1,000 RTI activists are likely to gather at Satyagrah Chhavni in Gandhinagar. Bharatsinh Zala, an activist, said, “Today, there are around 50,000 RTI appeals pending with the information commission and in most of the cases, neither information has been given nor fine levied on the public information officers concerned for the delay. To protest this, we will go on hunger strike, which will start from 10 am on Monday and continue till 6 pm on March 26.” Zala alleged that apart from the 50,000 appeals that are pending with the panel, around one lakh RTI applications are still awaiting answers in various departments of the state government. He said that the applicants who have been waiting for their reply, will come together to oppose this. (Times of India 24/3/14)

 

4. RTI activist kills self, names 52 (1)

Pune: Right to information (RTI) activist Vilas Baravkar committed suicide at his Chakan residence by hanging himself in the Pune district on Tuesday early morning. The Chakan police has recovered a suicide note from the spot, in which he has allegedly mentioned names of approximately 52 people, including some politicians and senior police officials. This includes the name of one of the top politicians in the state and an IPS officer currently posted in Mumbai. However, the police informed that they had registered an accidental death report and will take appropriate action only after investigation is complete.

Baravkar was working as an RTI activist who had exposed certain illegal constructions by co-operative societies in the Chakan area. The incident came to light at around 7.30 am on Tuesday, when Baravkar’s family members got suspicious when he did not open his room’s door in the morning and did not respond despite repeated knocking, according to the police. When they broke open the door, they discovered his body. They then informed the Chakan police about the incident. “We rushed to the spot after being informed by the family members and recovered his body and the suicide note from the spot. We sent his body to Chakan Rural Hospital for further medical process,” Kishor Patil, assistant police inspector of Chakan police station said “As of now we have registered a case of accidental death. We have recovered a suicide note, but we are investigating the facts. We will take action after investigation is complete,” the API added. The family members of the deceased demanded action against the people named in the suicide note. Baravkar expressed his desire to donate his body in the suicide note. (Asian Age 26/3/14)

 

5. Ropar RTI activist booked after mining expose on Akalis (1)

CHANDIGARH: Ropar-based advocate and RTI activist, who had recently exposed three Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leaders for allegedly conducting illegal mining of sand and gravel in Punjab, was charged with attempt to murder on Thursday. The FIR accused him of engineering assault on a tax collection agent. The Ropar Police booked well-known crusader Dinesh Chadha, also a district lawyer for attempt to murder and criminal conspiracy following a complaint made by one Amarjit Singh on Wednesday. In his FIR, Amarjit alleged that a group of men, under instructions from Chadha, battered him at night when he demanded the mandatory royalty tax from them for carrying mined sand at Nurpur Bedi area of Ropar. Chadha, however, hit back at the police for fabricating the charges against him as none of the attackers knew him personally. The activist also said that neither the area Nurpur Bedi fell under the tax zone nor the complainant was authorized to collect tax in that area in the absence of a government employee at night. The Ropar Police later relented and said Chadha would not be arrested. “We have set up an inquiry. If charges are proved untrue, we will instead file an FIR against the complainant for misleading us,” said Gurpreet Singh Toor, SSP Ropar. “I am shocked that the police did not act on my complaints on March 4 when we exposed the illegitimate tax being collected at Nurpur Bedi and booked me instead. Even the timing of the FIR, which is 12:05 am, raises a stink. Which agent collects tax at night when the hours prescribed are between 9 am and 6 pm,” said Chadha. There are only five certified quarries in Ropar – Surewal, Bhalan, Kiratpur Sahib, Palasi and Dayapur. The FIR triggered a series of reactions from opposition Congress, which charged Akali Dal of trying to scuttle the whistleblower’s expose on its leaders. Chadha, who has been spearheading campaigns against mining mafia in Ropar, had only two weeks ago launched a series of protests with the support of more than 1,000 local villagers against illegal collection of tax by mining site owners. While the government rate is fixed at Rs 30 per tonne, Chadha has alleged that agents on behest of SAD leaders had been collecting arbitrary tax at Rs 5 per square foot for gravel and Rs 12 per square foot for sand. The excavation at Ropar quarries had been banned for three years by Punjab and Haryana high court in 2010 until it was revoked last July. (Times of India 28/3/14)

 

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF PRESS

6. ‘Journalists Should Be Active, Not Activists’ (1)

New Delhi: A panel of eminent mediapersons today discussed issues related to activism and responsibility in journalism with many expressing the view that the role of a journalist is to bring facts to light rather than resort to activism. The media’s job is not activism but to be active, said Indian Express Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta who added journalism is a profession of patience, of scrutiny to arrive at the truth, not activism. He said the training of a journalist was to avoid activism and engage in scrutiny. “Somebody brings you a fact, it looks fantastic, you have to check,” he said while speaking at the discussion which was a part of the CII National Conference here. Editor-in-Chief of the India Today Group Aroon Purie said the mainstream media had been by and large responsible. He said mediapersons should not have agendas. “As far as activism is concerned, I have a very simple view. There is good journalism and bad journalism, there is no such thing as activism or non-activism. I think if a consequence happens because of good journalism, it is a good consequence, it is a byproduct,” he said. Poorie said he did not think that journalists should think of the consequences of their stories except in very rare cases as it could lead to stories getting corrupted. “I think the biggest poison in journalism is journalists, editors, proprietors having agendas,” he said. “I think activism should be nowhere near it, if it happens as a byproduct, I am okay with it,” Poorie said. Senior TV journalist Rajdeep Sardesai, Editor-in-Chief of the IBN News Network, said there is a difference between ‘activist’ journalism and what he termed as ‘supari’ journalism. He said ‘supari journalism’ is the unnacceptable tendency to target a particular entity and through this tendency agendas come in. Sardesai said the presence of a large number of channels competing for the same viewership had affected the standards in TV journalism. Prasar Bharati CEO Jawhar Sircar said an activist media can be responsible only when it chooses to be responsible and is capable of being responsible. He also said while there had been a debate abroad about the Leveson report, the Indian media had not written much about it. Star India CEO Uday Shankar, who moderated the discussion, said he felt there was way too much reverence in Indian media and what was need is a lot more irreverence. (Outlook 27/3/14)

 

7. Change in certification of political parties’ ads (1)

Bhopal: The Election Commission has effected changes in the process of certification of political parties’ advertisements on electronic media. According to it, now political parties and candidates can submit transcript of advertisement with application. Its electronic form can be presented at the time of final certification. Earlier, copy of electronic advertisement and transcript had to be submitted 3 days before telecast. The commission has constituted State and district level media certification and monitoring committees to certify political advertisements to be aired on television channels, cable networks, FM radio, cinema halls and public places. Meanwhile, the C-Dac has set up a 24X7 social media monitoring cell in the office of the Chief Electoral Officer, Bhopal. The cell is being run by Applied AI Group of Pune. So far, the cell has scanned 35 Hindi and 30 English web portals, 5 web pages of political leaders and parties and social media (twitter) pages of 27 political parties and other public representatives. The cell has scanned 25,661 web pages so far. The social media monitoring cell has evolved a strategy that necessary action can be taken after registering a case against concerning person in case of violation of model code of conduct. The cell converts high-level information, classification, analysis and information based on necessary electoral processes into special input. During scanning of web portals, the cell has found 6 news regarding model code of conduct and 51 general news in English and 26 news regarding model code and 25 general news in Hindi. Number of tweets made by political parties is 75.  (Pioneer 28/3/14)

 

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

8. Four dalit girls kidnapped, one gang-raped (2)

HISAR: Tension prevailed in village Bhagana near here when four dalit girls, including two sisters, were kidnapped by five youths and one of them was allegedly gang-raped. These girls were later found at Bathinda railway station on Tuesday and were taken back to Hisar by police, police said on Wednesday. One of the victims, an 18-year-old girl, in a complaint alleged that five youths Sumit and Lalit, both brothers and Sandeep – all residents of Bhagana village – and two unknown youth kidnapped her and her three friends aged between 15 to 18 years on March 23 and gang-raped her after giving some drugs, they added. (Time of India 26/3/14)

 

9. Railway Cop ‘Kidnaps’ Dalit Youth (2)

CHENNAI: In a curious case of police stepping into the shoes of criminals, a Dalit youth was allegedly abducted by Special Sub-Inspector, who demanded a ransom of 300 sovereigns gold. According to a Habeas Corpus Petition filed by 51-year-old Ramalakshmi on March 13, her son Vijayan, an unemployed graduate, was picked up by SSI R Subramanian, Special Team, Railways, Tiruchy on the pretext of an enquiry while he was travelling to Chennai by train. According to the petition, Vijayan was forcibly made to get down from Podhigai Express at Tiruchy on March 9 and was kept in illegal detention at Railway Police Station. On March 14, a day after the HCP was filed, Vijayan’s arrest was recorded, he was remanded in judicial custody and subsequently lodged in Palayamkottai Central prison. Her son was beaten up and tied to the furniture and was not provided proper food, Ramalakshmi contended. A day before the youth was taken into illegal custody, Subramanian and another policeman had visited Vijayan and his father Palanisamy, a retired BSNL employee, at their house in Sivakasi, initially introducing themselves as marriage brokers. In the course of the conversation, Subramanian revealed that he was a policeman and suspected the youth’s involvement in a laptop theft case. He also allegedly abused the father and son in the name of caste and searched the house, the petition said. The policemen even forced the duo to drop them at nearest railway station and rode pillion on their two-wheelers before collecting `200 as “transport charges”, the complaint said. After detaining Vijayan the next day, Subramanian contacted family members and told them that the youth was involved in a series thefts of laptops and jewelry weighing around 300 sovereigns. The SSI demanded the family cough up 300 sovereigns of gold so that the issue could be “settled” without a case being registered. In course of the negotiations, the SSI allowed a family member to speak to Vijayan. Four conversations with the SSI had been secretly recorded by the relative and was submitted before the High Court to substantiate that the youth was kidnapped for ransom. The youth told his mother Ramalakshmi when she met him at the central prison that Subramanian was the only officer who handled his case. “The cop forced me to give a written confession statement after thrashing me since the family was not relenting to his demands… I was abused by my caste name. My legs were tied during the nights,” Vijayan was quoted as saying in the petition. Vijayan was produced before the Bench comprising of Justice V Dhanapalan and Justice G Chockalingam in connection with the HCP on March 21, when he categorically told the court that he was kept in unlawful custody since March 9. After hearing the case, the court issued a notice to the policeman and asked to file a counter. In reply to the notice, the SSI admitted of having arrested Vijayan but denied keeping him in illegal custody. He claimed that the youth was summoned everyday for interrogation in the said period of illegal detention and he had voluntarily confessed to various crimes that fell in various jurisdiction of the Railway Police. Express has a copy of the voice recordings submitted in the court, which proves the SSI indeed had Vijayan in his custody and bargained for ransom (New Indian Express 28/3/14)

 

10. Website to track atrocities on dalits launched (2)

CHENNAI: A new website to track atrocities on dalits has been launched. Any aggrieved person can send an SMS to the cellphone number 9898915455 or log in to the website www.annihilatecaste.in to seek help for incidents of caste atrocities across the country. The person has to send his name and the type of offence to the number. The ‘atrocity tracking and monitoring’ (ATM) website will also help send alert messages to the collector and other officials to take actions within a stipulated time under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act. The interactive website, launched by the National Coalition for Strengthening SC/ST Act 1989 and Social Awareness Society for Youths (SASY), attains prominence after the SC/ ST Act amendment ordinance 2014 was signed by the President on March 4. “Establishment of exclusive courts and final judgments in two months from the date of filing the chargesheet are included in the ordinance,” said I Pandiyan, director of SASY. “Cases of attack on dalits are on the rise. We hope the state government will enforce this ordinance by issuing an order to the concerned department,” he said.  (Times of India 28/3/14)

 

HEALTH/ EPIDEMICS/NRHM

11. Health Organisations Call for Alcohol Ban (3)

CHENNAI: The immediate ban of alcohol in Tamil Nadu was the top demand by various health organisations in the Tamil Nadu People’s Health Manifesto released by Makkal Nalvaazhvu Iyakkam (People Health Movement). The manifesto also reiterated that alcoholism needed to be considered as a Public Health Emergency. Members of the health organisations say that alcoholism, which makes up 25 per cent of the State Government’s income in Tamil Nadu, has disrupted many families and has substantially increased the number of school and college dropouts. It has also affected the mental health of most families, according to a survey conducted by them across 446 panchayats in 10 districts in Tamil Nadu. The manifesto also talks about abolishing privatisation in the health sector, which deterred the quality of healthcare. “This includes both active and passive privatization. In one form, the government money is re-routed to private hospitals in the name of insurance schemes that do not effectively benefit the lower income group. This is because the lower income groups end up spending more money in availing the benefit and hence they do not prefer it. The other form is privatization of facilities, which is on an upswing in Tamil Nadu. About 80 per cent of facilities in the State, like ambulances, X Rays and health data management among others are private,” said Shanmugavelayutham, managing trustee of Foundation for the Rights of Young Child. “This calls for an immediate regulation of the private health sector,” he added. Those present also expressed their dissatisfaction at the violation of reservation policies, a trend they said was on an upsurge in the State. Various other issues like unavailability of doctors in Public Health Centres (PHCs), inefficient Out Patient Departments (OPD) in PHCs, demand for proper functioning of sub-centres in rural areas and corruption at government hospitals were also discussed. “Any policy is not complete without community participation but in Tamil Nadu, there is no policy that supports it. In order to efficiently utilise funds, it is necessary that community participation is initiated and monitored,” said Ameer Khan, Member of National Coordination Committee, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (JSA). The members also urged the State Government to take notice of healthcare issues to ensure quality. (New Indian Express 27/3/14)

 

12. Disease dwells with humans in Lucknow slums (3)

LUCKNOW: Oblivious to the infections around her, Guddi runs like a free bird after a goat kid in the slum near Mankameshwar Temple. Her smile is perfect, but teeth expose the dental decay. A visit to Guddi’s home shows how disease and related problems run in the family of six. A study conducted by the faculty of the community medicine and public heath department of King George’s Medical University and community medicine department of Lucknow’s Era Medical College shows that children are the worst victims of the deprived life in slums. The study points out that that three out of five slum kids are diseased while 57% of them suffer from behavioural problems like aggression. This means risk of complex ailments looms large over these children. About 12.2% children had only one illness whereas in 34.1% children the incidence of illness was higher. Of all the diseases, infections of tonsils and lymph nodes were most common. Every fourth kid in the sample had such problems. All these children were at the risk of developing rheumatic fever caused by a bacterial infection that breeds in unhygienic and impoverished environs. “Rheumatic fever often translates into rheumatic heart disease which forms a major portion of cardiac disease burden in India,” informed Nirmal Gupta, head of cardio thoracic and vascular diseases department, Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences. The diseases and problems eventually affect mental growth of the children. They grow up with below average health and qualify only for physical labour. “Poor nutrition and diseases adversely affect brain development,” explained Gupta. Aggression, the behavioral problem which was found in 12.2% of children, is another example. “Unresolved aggression may lead to poor intellectual development of the child because a part of the brain may be involved due to poor nutrition. It may also lead to social, occupational and relationship maladjustment which tends to manifest into a revengeful attitude. In extreme cases, the anger may take a criminal bend,” explained Harjeet Singh, city based child psychiatrist. Social activists say one reason for disease is that ‘kids are the victims of circumstances’. “Born to unhealthy and unprepared parents with poor or low education is their destiny. The factors contribute to form a vicious circle of poor health and development and breaking this trap is almost impossible,” said Tariq Khan, who works with slum dwellers of old city. They bank on the National Urban Health Mission for change. The second reason is of course the kind of life they lead. “Everyone knows how the slums lag,” said principal researcher, Dr Aneesh Khanna. “Problem may be solved by addressing sanitation and drinking water needs.” He added that community’s participation in meeting the challenges of urbanisation was also needed. “We cannot be ignorant to what’s happening in the nearby slum. Their quality of life has an impact on our environment too. How can we aspire for a disease-free life if the slum dwellers continue to be a reservoir of disease,” questioned Dr Khanna. (Times of India 28/3/14)

 

TRIBALS

13. HC Orders Inquiry into Rs 6000 Crore Tribal Schemes (6)

MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court today ordered an inquiry by a retired High Court Judge M G Gaikwad into the alleged financial irregularities in tribal welfare schemes in Maharashtra during the period 2004-05 to 2008-09. The order was passed on a PIL filed by a tribal, Bahiram Motiram, from Nashik district demanding probe into the alleged Rs 6,000 crore scam with regard to tribal schemes. A bench headed by Justice V M Kanade asked the State Government to come out with a G R on April 1, appointing Gaikwad as the Chairman of the five-member committee to probe the allegations. The Court also ordered that the enquiry shall commence immediately after the G.R is notified. On a plea made by petitioner’s lawyers, Rajendra Raghuvanshi and Rutuja Ambekar, the bench further directed that Justice (Retd) Gaikwad heading the inquiry would recommend action to be taken against the concerned persons responsible for the scam. All the recommendations would be submitted to the High Court, the judges ruled and kept the PIL pending until then. The Court noted that the Chairman of the committee would decide on the procedure for holding the inquiry. The Court order is considered in legal circles as a heavy blow to Vijaykumar Gavit, the then Minister for Tribal Welfare. The Government today submitted a draft of G.R which it proposed to notify to appoint the inquiry committee. The bench went through the proposed G.R and approved it. The other members of the inquiry committee are Bipin Shrimali, Managing Director, Maharashtra State Electricity Commission Co Ltd, Dhananjay Kamlakar, Special Inspector General of Police, Nashik, Sunil Bhosale, Joint Director (Finance), Maharashtra State Aids Control Society, and Sanjeev Kumar, Tribal Development Commissioner. (New Indian Express 27/3/14)

 

14. Birbhum gang-rape: SC raps Bengal govt, directs Rs 5 lakh compensation to victim (6)

Kolkata: The Supreme Court on Friday rapped the West Bengal government saying that it failed to protect the fundamental right of the 20-year-old Birbhum gang-rape survivor. In addition to already sanctioned Rs 50,000, the SC today directed the Bengal government to give Rs 5 lakh as compensation to the tribal girl who was gang-raped by 13 men on the orders of a kangaroo court after she expressed her inability to pay a fine for being in love with a man from a different community. The apex court said that all states are duty-bound to protect the right of women, adding that women have the freedom of choice in marriage. The 13 people, including the ‘morol’ (community head) Balai Murdy accused of the gang-rape are in police custody. (Times of India 28/3/14)

 

MINORITIES, MUSLIMS, CHRSITIANS, COMMUNAL RIOTS

15. Christians Seek Kejriwal to Bear the Cross in Delhi (7)

NEW DELHI: Their population may be just one per cent in Delhi, but the Christian community wants their voice to be heard loud and clear this Lok Sabha elections. Christians who were traditionally supporters of the Congress party are now looking at the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) as an alternative in Delhi. Members of the community have approached AAP for a meeting with senior party leaders and national convener Arvind Kejriwal to discuss issues and understand the party’s view on the minority community. Pastor M M Singh of the New Cavalry Church in South Extension met party volunteers at Kejriwal’s Tilak Lane residence last Tuesday. Pastor Singh believes the former Delhi chief minister is a “good human being” and “wants to change the society” by removing “corruption” and “fighting against corrupt people”. “I have spoken to other pastors in Delhi and all of us want to hold prayers for Kejriwal so that he has power of God to fight and succeed in the polls,” he said. Does it mean that Protestants in Delhi would vote for AAP? Pastor Singh says they are open to supporting Kejriwal in all his endeavours. People from the community say they would vote for a party that is secular, non-corrupt and interested in the welfare of Christians. Most believe they’ve been taken for a ride by the ruling Congress-led UPA government as their long pending demand for providing Scheduled Caste status to Dalit Christians has not been met. And they see the BJP as a non-secular party. Father Dominic Emmanuel, the spokesperson of the Delhi Catholic Archdiocese, says the community is now more conscious about politics and ready to explore other alternatives like newer regional parties. “In churches we never tell followers to vote for a specific community or candidate but what kind of candidate and party they should vote for, including that they must exercise their right to vote. We tell them they should vote for someone who is secular, not corrupt, recognises rights of all communities, believes in freedom of religion, is open to social change and does not impose forced conversion,” said Father Emmanuel, hinting that AAP could be such an option. AAP leaders are individually reaching out to all communities to garner support ahead of polls. The party has given Lok Sabha tickets to a sizeable number of Muslims but not many Christians have applied for the same. “We are a secular party and many religious communities have approached us and pledged to support AAP in the polls for they want change and we are giving them an alternative,” said an AAP leader. (Indian Express 23/3/14)

 

16. Minorities should develop their own potentialities’ (7)

CHENNAI:  The Prince of Arcot Nawab Mohammed Abdul Ali urged the Muslim community, in particular, to develop their own potentialities, instead depending on the Government’s help at all times. He was speaking at the inaugural function of Indian Minorities Welfare Trust, on the topic ‘Challenges Ahead of Minorities and Sources of Scholarships.’ “While poverty prevails among people of all communities, it prevails to a greater extent among the mass of Muslims than among the mass of Hindus, according to the data compiled by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO),” said the Prince, who was also the chief guest of the occasion. He also said that the defense of minorities guaranteed under our Constitution was a matter, not of ‘appeasement’ (as the votaries of pseudo-nationalism allege) but of basic fair play. No society could call itself democratic and modern unless it defended and protected its minorities — religious, linguistic or any other, he added. When it came to education, Indian Muslims had adequate opportunities to advance, he said, and also pointed out that India’s religious minorities, Muslims in particular, were under-represented in their professions, government as well as private sector employment and educational institutions, according to official statistics. He also called upon the minority communities to ensure that the Minorities Welfare Fund from the government reached them periodically. Justice Akbar Ali, Judge, Madras High Court, Mohammed Ashraf, secretary and correspondent, New College, Shafee Ahmed, president, Indian Minorities Welfare Trust and I S Khan witnessed the event. (New Indian Express 24/3/14)

 

17. AAP rules out reservation for Muslims, special inquiry on Batla House case (7)

New Delhi: Members of Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) manifesto drafting committee on Monday made it clear that the party was not in favour of reservation for Muslims, as it is something that has fallen afoul of courts. The view was aired despite the party’s vision document acknowledging the role of reservation in development of backward classes and weaker sections of society, including minorities. “The mechanism for development of backward communities is work in progress. There are some options which are not according to the tenets of the Constitution. When a (AAP) government is formed, it is for the government to explore the avenues of development,” Irfanullah Khan said. Khan is a member of AAP’s political affairs committee as well as that of one of the draft committees formed by the party to generate inputs for its manifesto. Laying out the “Roadmap For Indian Muslims”, so that the community is looked at beyond the realm of vote bank politics, Khan said the party had accepted that Muslim issues should be addressed by Muslims themselves. “AAP maintains that the Muslim community is the most backward and our strategy is clear, we will devise a mechanism to drive them out of this backwardness. The challenge is to replace their despair with opportunity,” he said. The roadmap is the outcome of a Muslim convention held by the AAP on March 18. It states that Muslim politics has traditionally been dominated by typical religious leaders or by leadership imposed by the political parties. “For this, the parties trusted selected Muslim leaders and rewarded them with crucial political administrative posts. But this leadership never bothered to empower the community,” the roadmap states. AAP leader Fakhruddin Mohammad said, “Reservation is a lollipop that has been handed to the community by successive governments but it has been turned down by the courts. There is a need to evolve new mechanisms.” However, on a question about whether reservation for Muslims is unconstitutional, all draft committee members replied in the negative. The party has formed 31 committees to generate inputs for its manifesto. Apart from Khan who had lost the Assembly elections from Okhla, journalist Adil Mohammed too is a member of the committee that deals with Muslim issues. Khan said a reading of Article 341 of the Constitution shows that “the Constitution does not categorically say that religion-based benefits cannot be given. Muslims are enjoying reservation in many states such as Tamil Nadu and Kerala though the Andhra Pradesh High Court had asked for a report on backwardness from the government.” Khan also ruled out any special inquiry into the Batla House encounter. This had been one of the promises the party had made ahead of the Assembly elections.(Indian Express 25/3/14)

 

18. Minority schools federation sends notice to education department over RTE (7)

BANGALORE: The Karnataka State Minorities Educational Institutions Managements Federation has sent a notice to the commissioner for public instruction, Karnataka seeking clarifications with regards to press note issued by him. The Federation has claimed that as per the Supreme court verdict the RTE act is not applicable to unaided minority schools and the high court of Karnataka has also issued a direction on February 7,2014 asking the authorities not to take any coercive action against the member institutions of the Federation in relation to implementation of RTE. The Federation has said that it will be constrained to to intiate contempt proceedings against the commissioner for public instruction, the DDPIs and BEOs if they continue to harass the member institutions over implementation of RTE. The Federation also wants the commissioner to issue a clarificatory press note over the issue.  (Times of India 27/3/14)

 

19. Pakistani Christian gets death in blasphemy case (7)

LAHORE: A court convicted a Pakistani Christian man and sentenced him to death Thursday in a blasphemy case that sparked a riot last year in the eastern city of Lahore, according to his lawyer. Naeem Shakir, the lawyer for Sawan Masih, said a judge announced the verdict during a hearing at the jail where the trial has been held out of fears that Masih might be attacked on his way to court. Shakir said he would appeal. Although Pakistan has never executed anybody under the law, crowds angered over blasphemy accusations have been known to take the law into their own hands and kill those they suspect of violating it. Once an accusation is made it is extremely difficult to reverse, in part because law enforcement personnel do not want to appear to be going easy on suspects. Such vigilantism has created a climate of fear, forcing frightened judges into holding court sessions inside jails and keeping witnesses from coming to the defense of those on trial. Many human rights activists say the blasphemy law, which allows for punishment of life in prison or death, is misused as a way to target people for personal gain or revenge. The incident that led to Thursday’s conviction began March 7 last year when a young Muslim man accused Masih of maligning the Prophet Muhammad. Police arrested Masih, but the next day a mob ransacked the neighborhood where he and other Christians live, setting fire to homes and destroying household possessions. Fearing for their safety, hundreds of Christian families fled the area overnight ahead of the riots. Many in the neighborhood have since moved back, and their homes have been rebuilt. The police arrested 83 suspects following the rampage, including the man who brought the complaint against Masih, said a Lahore police official, Rana Taseer Riaz. But so far none of the suspects have been convicted and all were released on bail, he said. Pakistan’s blasphemy law has existed since even before the country’s 1947 founding. During the 1980s, the U.S.-backed military dictator, Gen. Mohammed Zia-ul-Haq, amended it to add the death penalty and single out Islam as the religion that may not be insulted, among other changes. (Times of India 27/3/14)

 

20. UP govt’s initial negligence led to riots flaring up: SC (7)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday indicted the Akhilesh Yadav government and said the state’s lethargy in reacting to the volatile ground situation led to full-pitched communal rioting in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts in which 59 persons were killed last September. “After the mahapanchayat on September 7, 2013, certain incidents such as eve-teasing of other community girls followed by murders took place. Thousands of people gathered at a particular place in order to take revenge or retaliate, it is expected of the state intelligence agencies to apprise the state government and district administration in particular, to prevent such communal violence,” the court said in its 98-page ruling. A bench of Chief Justice P Sathasivam and Justices Ranjana P Desai and Ranjan Gogoi said neither the Centre nor the UP government placed any authoritative information before the apex court whether there was gross intelligence failure or inaction on the part of district administration with regard to the ground situation. Though it turned down the petitioners’ plea for a special investigation team or CBI probe, the court sought accountability for the incidents with the CJI saying, “It is made clear that the officers responsible for maintaining law and order, if found negligent, should be brought under the ambit of law irrespective of their status.” Justice Sathasivam, who authored the judgment for the bench, said, “Had the central and state intelligence agencies smelt these problems in advance and alerted the district administration, the unfortunate incidents could have been prevented. Thus, we prima facie hold the state government responsible for being negligent at the initial stage in not anticipating the communal violence and for taking necessary steps for its prevention.” However, the court rejected the PIL petitioners’ plea to hand over investigation into riot cases either to a special investigation team or the CBI taking into account steps taken by the state in providing relief and rehabilitation to riot victims, implementing compensation schemes for those preferring relocation and the security measures for rape survivors. But the court did express serious concern over police reporting recovery of AK-47 assault rifles and 9 mm cartridges in Kirthal village in Baghpat district and ordered, “The police have to identify the persons concerned and proceed against them under provisions of Indian Penal Code and Arms Act.” The state had set up a Special Investigation Cell (SIC) to investigate 566 riot-related cases. The bench also termed as “unacceptable and untenable” the police claim that whenever it attempted to arrest riot case accused, the women folk in the villages formed human chains and prevented wanted persons from being taken into custody. It said if the accused persons, irrespective of their party affiliation, were not arrested expeditiously, it would take action against police officers concerned. On riot-related rape survivors, the court ordered the state to pay an additional compensation of Rs 5 lakh to each of them towards rehabilitation. Taking a general view of the prevailing circumstances in the country, the bench said, “The government will have to formulate and implement policies in order to uplift the socio-economic conditions of women, sensitization of police and other concerned parties towards the need for gender equality and it must be done with focus in areas where statistically there is high percentage of crime against women.”  (Times of India 27/3/14)

 

21. Riots likely in India if Modi becomes PM, says Mayawati (7)

Amravati: In a fierce attack on Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi here on Thursday, BSP chief Mayawati said there was every possibility of communal riots in the country if he became the Prime Minister. Blaming Modi for the Gujarat riots in 2002, she claimed there had been no caste or communal riot in Uttar Pradesh during her four terms as the chief minister. Launching the BSP’s election campaign here, Mayawati lashed out at both the Congress and BJP. She said these parties should not be given more chances as they have always worked against the interests of backwards, Dalits and tribals. She said both the parties gained power with the help of big industrialists and framed policies to suit the latter’s needs. “We want to ensure that the interests of the backwards, poor, Dalits and other deprived classes are protected,” she said. Targeting Congress and its vice president Rahul Gandhi, she said the party was pushing its “yuvraj” as the prime ministerial candidate without naming him. “You have to stop the Congress from coming back to power as it has done little for the poor and the downtrodden despite enjoying power for five decades,” she added. The former chief minister alleged that attempts were being made to take away the benefits of job and education reservations to SCs, STs and OBCs by framing new laws. New castes were included in the quota list to deprive the backward people of benefits, Mayawati said without directly mentioning Jats, who were recently added to the OBC list. Hindustan Times 28/3/14)

 

22. Muslims in Varanasi warm up to Kejriwal (7)

VARANASI: Qaish Khan, owner of a sports supplement shop in the Muslim-dominated Beniabagh area of Varanasi, listened attentively as Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal addressed a rally at a nearby park on Tuesday. He was anxious about the response of the leader to the unsavoury protests that he faced in the city earlier in the day. “Just because a few unruly elements engaged in such acts [spraying black ink on Mr. Kejriwal] does not mean that the people of Varanasi protested against Mr. Kejriwal,” said Mr. Khan. “As an Indian, I like Mr. Kejriwal for his honesty. As a Muslim I will support him as we have been cheated by every other party,” he said. Despite his sympathy for Mr. Kejriwal, Mr. Khan was wary of committing full support to the former Delhi Chief Minister as he feared that the leader might not be able to attract mass support to defeat BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. The Muslim belts of Varanasi, which has around three lakh voters, are eagerly awaiting the Congress naming its candidate. Muslims are expected to engage in tactical voting to defeat the BJP candidate. Ajay Rai, the Pindra MLA and former BJP man, is considered the frontrunner for the Congress ticket as he commands a good sway among the minority as well as the Brahmins, the two largest communities in the constituency. The dilemma of Muslims could get bigger if Quami Ekta Dal leader and alleged don-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari decided to contest from the seat. QED chief and Mukhtar’s brother Afzal Ansari said the final decision would be announced on Friday. The AAP is trying to woo weavers to strike a chord with Muslims. Atiq Ansari, who presented a safa (traditional headgear) to Mr. Kejriwal on Tuesday on behalf of the weavers of Varanasi, said both the NDA and the UPA had failed them. Mr. Modi, in his speech in Varanasi last December, had compared the handloom industries in Surat and Varanasi. “I requested Mr. Kejriwal to challenge Mr. Modi to present a blueprint on how he plans to change Varanasi into Surat,” said Mr. Ansari, according to whom the dismal condition of weavers in Varanasi was due to the high power bills and cost of labour, and expensive raw material. Some Muslims dismissed Mr. Kejriwal as a “non-threat” to Mr. Modi. A senior railway official of the Ansari Community said Mr. Kejriwal has “lost his charm” and dismissed his promises to help the weavers as “mere talk”.  (The Hindu 28/3/14)

 

WOMEN

23. Mumbai has most the women candidates among metros (8)

MUMBAI: While political parties in India have for long paid lip service to the cause of women’s representation in governance, an analysis of candidates fielded in India’s metropolitan cities shows a near absence of women. Only four of the 21 candidates fielded by major players in Mumbai are women, and yet, at 19%, this is the highest tally for India’s metros. Two of the four women in Mumbai are from Aam Aadmi Party, the newest entrant on the political scene, while the BJP and Congress fielded one each. The Shiv Sena, MNS and NCP have not fielded any women from Mumbai. Three out of 21 candidates from Delhi (14%) and three out of 17 in Kolkata (17%) are women. Bangalore has only one woman candidate, but if the two the JD(S) intends to field are counted, the ratio works out to 18%. Chennai has only one woman candidate from the CPM. No major party in Chennai has fielded women. Two women are pitted against each other in Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore and Delhi, which means that all women candidates from the metros cannot win. The figures are dismal as they represent India’s mega cities, where one would hope women would find a more equitable representation. The data makes a compelling argument for passing of the women’s reservation bill, which calls for 33% reservation for women in Parliament and state legislatures. “While I don’t believe in reservations, it seems absolutely necessary in the current scenario. It is unlikely that political parties will bridge the gap unless they are obliged to fulfill their commitment to women. When we talk of Members of Parliament, we are referring to representatives of people. So how can 50% of India’s population go unrepresented?” asks Kamini Jaiswal, Supreme Court advocate and trustee of the Association for Democratic Reforms. She feels the figures are dismal as they represent metros, where people are more educated and men and women work shoulder-to-shoulder. “This situation is repeated at every election. It will take another century before we have 33% women in Parliament,” says Brinda Karat (CPM) who has for long advocated greater representation for women. “Across the world, it is only with the help of a legal or constitutional mandate that more women have been represented at the highest levels,” she adds. Karat says many countries have a two-term limit for parliamentarians, but not India. “We do not have a women’s reservation bill or a two-term limit for representatives. So how can change be effected?” she asks. “With or without reservations, every party should make a conscious effort to field more women and create an atmosphere that is conducive to women,” feels Priya Dutta, MP from Mumbai North Central. She feels that women’s issues, from education and empowerment to crimes against women, will be better addressed in Parliament if there are more women MPs. “Many women don’t enter politics because of a perception that it is dirty,” adds Dutt. Politics can be particularly challenging for women. “I have campaigned for five days after delivering a baby. I was lucky to have a lot of support from party workers.” (Times of India 27/3/14)

 

24. ‘Judges are not immune from charges of sexual harassment at workplace’ (8)

NEW DELHI: Allegation, if established, will amount to misbehaviour and will be a ground for removal, says court-appointed panel Judges, howsoever high, are not immune from charges of sexual harassment at workplace if and when such a charge is made and proved, a Supreme Court-appointed panel has said. The panel, comprising senior advocates Fali Nariman and P.P. Rao, was appointed by a Bench headed by Chief Justice P. Sathasivam, hearing a writ petition from a law intern levelling allegations of sexual harassment against Justice Swatanter Kumar, Chairperson of the National Green Tribunal. In its report submitted to the court on Wednesday, the panel said a continuous course of sexual harassment of women at workplace, if established, would amount to “proved misbehaviour” and would be a ground for removal from high office. If a charge of sexual harassment at work place was made against retired judges of the Supreme Court or the High Court manning judicial tribunals, they would not be protected by the shield of irremovability from office. It wanted the Supreme Court to devise measures similar to the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. (The Hindu 27/3/14)

 

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

25. Five Naxals Nabbed from Weekly Market in Chhattisgarh (12)

RAIPUR: Five Naxalites were arrested from a weekly market in the insurgency-hit Narayanpur district of Chhattisgarh, police said Monday. Acting on a tip-off, the cadres were nabbed from Narayanpur police station limits by a team of local police last night, Narayanpur Additional Superintendent of Police O P Sharma told PTI. Based on information about some rebels having arrived at the Narayanpur weekly market, security personnel launched an investigation at the spot during which five suspects were held, he said. Later, during interrogation they admitted being involved in the movement, he said. Those arrested were identified as – Chamru Gota (26), Soma Salaam (50), Antu Korram (36), Soma Pattavi (48) and Jainu Gota (36). They were involved in several incidents of crime in the region, the ASP said, adding that it was yet to be ascertained to which ‘dalam’ or group of Maoist they belong. (New Indian Express 24/3/14)

 

26. Equipment re-tendering to delay telecom towers in Naxal areas (12)

New Delhi: In a development that will further delay plans to beef up communications network in Naxal-affected areas, inter-ministerial body Telecom Commission on Thursday decided to re-tender the purchase of equipment for setting up mobile towers. The project to set up mobile towers in the Naxal-affected areas was originally scheduled for completion by June but it got mired in differing cost estimates as the capex estimated by state-owned BSNL exceeded the budget estimates. “We will re-tender the project in the coming 15 days as its cost is working out to be a bit higher right now,” said a source in the Department of Telecom. State-owned telecom firm BSNL’s estimate for putting up mobile towers exceeded the project’s budget, approved by the Cabinet, by about Rs 789 crore. The Cabinet had approved the proposal at a cost of about Rs 3,046 crore in nine states affected by Naxal violence soon after 27 people, including senior Congress leaders, were killed in a Maoist attack at Bastar in Chhattisgarh last year. BSNL called for equipment tender last year but only two firms bid for the project, and foreign players stayed away as they found the cost estimates for work of that magnitude to be too low. Sources said that even the bid cost was higher than estimates and so now the firm will re-tender for the equipment. BSNL was mandated to set up the towers, the cost of which would be borne by the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF), which is administered by the DoT. The lack of telecom infrastructure in the Left Wing Extremism affected areas of Jharkhand, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh severely compromises the position of the security forces vis-a-vis Maoist ultras. On March 11, Naxals ambushed a security team killing 15 people in Chhattisgarh, in a chilling reminder of the 2010 massacre in which 76 security personnel were killed in the same area in the worst-—hit Sukma district. (The Hindu 27/3/14)

 

27. Centre warns of Maoist attacks in Kerala (12)

Kozhikode: The Union Home Ministry has alerted the State police about the possibility of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) trying to create trouble during the Lok Sabha polls on April 10. Official sources told The Hindu here on Thursday that the Ministry had sounded the warning in view of the campaigning hotting up in the State. Armed cadres belonging to the CPI (Maoist) had earlier visited various Adivasi colonies in Kannur, Kozhikode, Wayanad, Malappuram and Palakkad at least 50 times after they were first sighted in Kanjirakolly in Kannur district early last year. Inspector General of Police (Kannur Range) Suresh Raj Purohit, who is overseeing the anti-Maoist operations in the State, said that Thunderbolt commandos, along with the local police, were keeping vigil over suspected tribal regions. No sighting has been reported in north Kerala during the last one month, he said. He said that the police had no idea whether the Naxalites had receded into the forest in the wake of combing operations or whether they were waiting for an opportunity to strike. In any case, the police were on alert and forces were coordinating with their counterparts in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, Mr. Purohit said. Several booths in north Kerala have been classified either as hyper-sensitive or critical in the Maoist-sighted regions. Battalions attached to the Central Industrial Security Force would be deployed in these polling stations. All these polling booths would also have video-surveillance. The security in the tri-junction bordering Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu has also been stepped up following intelligence inputs. Activities of the banned outfit at the tri-junction were reported as early as 2011. It is believed that the outfit had plans to create a red corridor from Jharkhand to Wayanad. Incidents such as setting ablaze an earth-mover at Kavilumpara panchayat in Kozhikode and attack on local people in Nilambur colonies in Malappuram district had made the police to step up vigil during the polls. Members of the Western Ghats Special Zonal Committee of CPI (Maoist) had distributed copies of Maoist bulletins. Intelligence agencies said that the recent attack on the security forces in South Chhattisgarh was part of the annual tactical counter offensive campaign of the Maoists. By and large, such operations were to demonstrate their strength during the summer. The attack, however, coincided with the Lok Sabha elections. These counter-attacks are generally carried out in the affected areas, including Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. Such types of attacks are not expected in the State. But it is the 10th year of the formation of the CPI (Maoist). So the extremists disrupting Lok Sabha polls or creating mischief could not be ruled out, officials said. (The Hindu 28/3/14)

 

TERRORISM

28. Kerala resort for terror (12)

Thiruvananthapuram, March 27: If Kerala’s hill resorts have provided shelters for many terrorists targeting India, some of this week’s developments may partially explain why. When it emerged after the arrests of the Indian Mujahideen’s officiating head and an associate that they had stayed in Munnar, central Kerala, towards end-2013 and early 2014, state police seemed to be clueless. Now the embarrassed cops have launched a “massive combing operation” to identify the hideouts — months after the duo left the state before being arrested by Delhi police this week — but with little success. Tehsin Akhtar alias Monu, who headed the Indian Mujahideen since its chief Yasin Bhatkal was nabbed in Bihar last August, was apparently arrested in Darjeeling on Tuesday. His associate Zia-ur-Rehman alias Waqas was held in Ajmer on Sunday. Their interrogation has revealed that they had moved to Kerala after Bhatkal’s arrest, Delhi police sources have said. Reports say Waqas was in Munnar for about three months, and Akhtar joined him for a month. The hundreds of homestays and lodges in Munnar would have provided easy cover for the duo, who are believed to have shifted their location a couple of times. Going by a statement from Kerala home minister Ramesh Chennithala, the state police knew about Waqas’s movements in the state — so it remains unclear why they didn’t hunt him down. Quizzed by reporters, Chennithala said the police had tipped the central agencies off about Waqas. He refused to speak further on the subject. Earlier, Lashkar-e-Toiba operative David Coleman Headley had stayed in Munnar before the 26/11 attacks, in which he was involved. The Indian Mujahideen had itself been born at a terror camp organised by the outlawed Students Islamic Movement of India (Simi) in Vagamon, a hill town less than 50km from Munnar, in December 2007. Ernakulam police had picked up the two camp organisers, Ansar Moulavi and Shaduli, along with 16 others from a secret meeting in August 2006. Yet they booked only five of the 18 under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and let the others off. Reports had accused the investigating officer of fudging the evidence and showing one of the Simi men as the complainant, but political pressure saved the cop’s skin. Shaduli and Moulavi were released on bail and allegedly went on to mastermind the Jaipur blasts of May 2008, which killed 68 people. Rajasthan police later arrested them and Shaduli’s brother Shibly, a computer engineer and key Simi operative. According to the central intelligence agencies, Kerala’s links with the Gulf — a grazing ground for Pakistan-backed terrorists aiming to target India — make it a potential refuge for militants. The state, especially its capital, has a considerable presence of Maldivians too. With the island nation increasingly turning hard-line and moving closer to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, experts have stressed the need for more vigilance in Kerala. (Telegraph 27/23/14)

 

29. Terrorists attack civilians, Army camp in J&K; 4 killed (12)

Jammu: In a daring attack, unidentified gunmen wearing Army uniforms fired at a private vehicle in Kathua district of the Jammu region on Friday. Four people, including two terrorists, one Army jawan and one civilian, were killed in the attack and the ensuing encounter. The gunmen, who are suspected to be Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorists, were intercepted after a two-hour chase near an Army camp and a private college in Kalibari-Janglote belt of Kathua district, triggering a heavy exchange of fire between the two sides. Two terrorists have been killed in the encounter. Meanwhile, an Army jawan, injured in the firing, has succumbed to his injuries. “Three persons wearing Army uniform intercepted a SUV, forced out the occupants and opened fire on them at Tarnah Nallah bridge in Dayala Chak belt of Kathua district (on the Jammu-Pathankote national highway)”, a police officer said. One of the injured told police that the only word uttered by terrorist was “utro” (get down) and after which the driver was separated from the passengers. The terrorists opened fire at the occupants, who were on their way to Gurdaspur, and hijacked the vehicle along with driver Taraseem Singh. Director General of Jammu and Kashmir Police Ashok Prasad told a news agency that immediately after the police control room was informed at 4:47 AM, all check posts and security establishments were alerted. Despite bad weather, helicopters were pressed into service to locate the vehicle which was finally spotted in a nallah (seasonal canal) outside 111 Rocket division in Kathua, he said. Meanwhile, Army Chief General Bikram Singh has briefed Defence Minister AK Antony about the encounter, a Defence Ministry official said. (Zee News 28/3/14)

 

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

30. Cobrapost sting reveals Aadhaar card fraud (13)

New Delhi: Whistleblower website Cobrapost has claimed after a “sting operation” that the unique identity system Aadhaar is prone to fudging and immigrants with doubtful citizenship can potentially enrol themselves in the programme. The sting claimed enrolment officers had said there was no problem of getting an Aadhaar card made without a proper address proof. Cobrapost correspondent posed as a benefactor for refugees from Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan and approached Aadhaar offices, the website said. He told the officers that these immigrants have no identity or address proof but need help in getting an Aadhaar card. Aadhaar officers wanted a photograph and address for making an affidavit to be countersigned by the local MLA or a gazetted. The fees varied from Rs. 2,500 to Rs. 5,000. A recent RTI query revealed that UIDAI had not checked the antecedents of the companies that have been enlisted to collect biometric data. (Hindustan Times 25/3/14)

 

31. Wages, food, only agenda of migrant labourers (13)

Mangalore:  “What election you people are asking about? We are waiting for the contractor to get two week’s pending wages. Then only we can send money to village,” frowned Abdusalam, a native of Karandighi in West Bengal who has been into construction labour at MRPL since two years. Salam along with 20 others, all from Bengal are living in a three-room asbestos roofed building at Meenakaliya on the fringes of MRPL in absolute abysmal conditions. His response was to the query this correspondent posed whether they are going to native place to cast vote, a question which seems out-of-pace in such a deprived situation. It is far off imagination how these 20 men were put up in these three congested rooms with each room can boast of  tiny ventilation only. S K Tajamulla, another Bengali told that wife of Congress leader Priyaranjandas Munshi, Deepa Dasmunshi is the Congress candidate in Raigunj constituency under which his name is in electoral rolls. Neither the election date nor the names of other candidates are known to any of them. “We are not going. It will make a huge hole of Rs 1000 in our pocket for a to-and-fro journey,” Tajamulla clarified.  Adjacent to them, is a group from Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh with children and women among them. The ‘home’ of Andhrites is a small cover-up made of tarpaulin sheet which cannot withstand even a breeze. If one has to enter, it will need an aerobatic expertise to sneak in. The open cooking on the land and the logging of waste water has made the place filthy, fit enough to invite epidemics. Of the seven children in the group, three school going children are now out of the school to eke out a living. “We have to reach home on Monday for Ugadi. Hence, we are eagerly waiting for the contractor to clear the dues,” said Marappa, aged 36 in his brazen voice. They have been in Mangalore since 2011 at regular intervals for doing odd jobs at MRPL or Kudremukh Iron Ore Company. Ask about whether they have heard about ‘minimum wages,’ ‘medical insurance’ or ‘child labour,’ a firm ‘no’ will be the reply. They have been getting Rs 300 on working days, with which they are a happy lot and don’t desire for more ‘luxury’ is the one lesson they have learnt in life. As election comes along with Ugadi, they have planned to vote. When asked about Andhra bifurcation, Marappa responded that they are against it as Rayalaseema, the region which he belongs to will lost hold of Hyderabad. Santhosh Kumar Sahu, a 26-year-old welder from Nayagarh district of Odisha whom Deccan Herald met at Koorikatta in Panabur said election has nothing to do with his plans and he was not going home either. Isthkar Khan, from Jharkhand who is an excavator operator at Mangalore harbour too echoed similar opinion. He and his family are least bothered about the electoral process in the world’s largest democracy. But the case with a number of Tamilians at Bunder is entirely different. “We are eagerly counting days to go home to caste vote for ‘Amma’, beams Lakshmi, a native of Kallakurichi near Salem. Amma refers to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalitha. “Amma had provided us bicycle, laptops, plenty of rice, goats…all free,” explained Hemavalli. Then why you are slogging it out here? “We have neither industry nor sea related jobs there. Agriculture is the only sustenance,” she replied. The entire female group are into cleaning fish and they charge Rs 40 for cleaning a box of fish. But several women have the headache of their better halves contributing nothing to support the family and a few indulging in trivial issues also. Still, after a hard toiled day, smiles keep their faces alive with that indomitable spirit. (Deccan Herald 26/3/14)

 

32. Buddhist mobs in Myanmar attack aid workers (13)

Yangon: Buddhist-led mobs tore through streets hurling stones at the offices and residences of international aid workers in Myanmar’s western Rakhine State on Thursday, prompting the evacuation of some staff members, residents and officials said. There were no immediate indications anyone was hurt in the violence, which started in the State capital, Sittwe, late Wednesday and picked up again early Thursday, with angry crowds swelling in size from several hundred to more than 1,000. At least one building was looted and three cars damaged, officials said on condition of anonymity because they feared retaliation. Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist nation of 60 million, emerged from a half-century of military rule in 2011. But newfound freedoms of expression that accompanied its transition to democracy have given voice to religious hatred, causing violence that has left up to 280 people dead and sent another 140,000 fleeing their homes. Most of the victims have been members of the Rohingya Muslim minority, many of whom have lived in the country for generations but are denied citizenship by national law. Aid groups that have been providing care for the displaced have faced threats and intimidation. Last month, Doctors Without Borders, one of the biggest lifelines for the displaced, was expelled from Rakhine State in part because its staff included Rohingya. Tensions in Rakhine have been soaring ahead of a national census the first in 30 years with many Buddhist ethnic Rakhine saying members of the religious minority should not be allowed to identify themselves as Rohingya on the survey. Religious flags have been place in front of almost every house and office in Sittwe as a sign of protest. Up to 300 people surrounded Malteser International late Wednesday following reports that a woman had removed a Buddhist flag flying in front of the group’s office, State spokesman Win Myaing said. The organisation could not immediately be reached for comment. Police fired 40 to 50 warning shots to disperse the crowd, Mr. Win Myaing said. The violence continued on Thursday, with more than 1,000 people running through a street that houses international aid workers, throwing rocks at homes and damaging several of the residences. “If police stopped them at one place, the mob moved to a different location and threw stones at (nongovernmental organization) houses,” Sittwe resident Aung Than said by phone. “The mob is angry because the NGO staff treated our religious flag with disrespect.” Police escorted aid workers from their homes for safety reasons, Mr. Aung Than said. Other aid groups said they were evacuating non-essential staff from Sittwe. At least two charter flights, one flying out Thursday and another Friday, have been arranged. Local Rakhine residents have been angry with international non-governmental staff since sectarian violence first erupted in mid-2012, accusing them of being biased in favour of the Muslim community. There have been several peaceful protests in the past, but this is the first time property of the international aid organizations has been so directly targeted. Sittwe resident Tun Tha said a 6 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew had been imposed. Authorities were driving around the city announcing the curfew through loudspeakers, he said, adding that soldiers and police were being stationed near the offices of the United Nations and international aid groups. (The Hindu 27/3/14)

 

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

33. For a child-friendly manifesto (14)

Tamil Nadu Child Rights Observatory, a network organisation working for child rights with the support of UNICEF, released a manifesto keeping the rights of children. It speaks about areas where the State is lagging behind. For instance, according to a survey, 800 schools (21.13%) out of 3,785 schools in Tamil Nadu are not following the provisions of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act. Another statistics says that the State has the highest number (115 registered) of child sexual abuse cases in the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights. TNCRO has urged all political parties to put the demands of children. Health care, education for all, strengthening Integrated Child Development Scheme, abolish all forms of child labour and allocate sufficient budget for children are some of the suggestions. It has also highlighted the demand in a huge poster at its office in Ayyavu Colony, Aminjikarai. (The Hindu 23/3/14)

 

34. Child rights panel to ban participation of kids in dahi handi pyramids (14)

Mumbai: Observing that the involvement of children during dahi handi celebrations, in which they formed human pyramids, was risky and could also be fatal, the Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (MSCPCR) on Tuesday decided to ban the participation of children below 14 years in such pyramids. An order on the same will be passed soon by the MSCPCR. The commission took cognisance of a complaint filed by Pawan Kumar Pathak, a resident of Sakinaka, that stated that children were being used for commercial purposes to earn prize money and goodwill. “We will ban the participation of children, up to the age of 14, in human pyramids during dahi handi celebrations. We will soon pass an order to this effect,” said the commission on Tuesday. Pathak said several political parties participated, and a huge sum was attached to it. “This lures mandals, which play with the life of children. There have been several occasions where the celebrations have turned fatal. The mandals that employ children pay a meagre amount to the family of the children, who meet with accidents. There is an urgent need to stop such injustice,” he said. A report submitted by the Mumbai Police Crime Branch to the MSCPCR stated that concerns raised by the complainant were valid, as there were no safety measures for children and it was risky to use children to form dahi handi pyramids. Stating that stringent action must be taken against mandals that employ children, and parents who allow such participation, the report says that use of children in such pyramids must be banned and the government must formulate rules and guidelines for it.  “In the last eight to 10 years, Dahi Handi celebrations have been commercialised and it has become a means of gimmick for political parties that puts up hoardings and advertisements across the city. The true spirit of the festival is lost and it’s primary objective has been replaced by competition. Using a child at the top of a human pyramid is in demand due to competition. Children are purposely chosen as they weigh less, are easy to place at the top and thus beneficial for teams. There are no safety measures for children. Some mandals use helmets and guards, but it’s an eyewash and not sufficient,” it says. The Crime Branch report further says that till date, mandals have failed to take appropriate steps to help those injured. “While the Govindas, who are injured, may be paid an insurance of Rs 2-3 lakh, they don’t get back their normal life. Hence, it is important to stop using children,” the report further states. The state’s child policy, which was approved by the Cabinet last month, states that children used for entertainment, sports, cultural programmes, religious activities and social customs, among others, should be told about their rights. The policy further said that during various festivals, the state should conduct campaigns to create awareness on the misuse of children. (Indin Express 26/3/14)

 

35. Election Commission orders parties to not hire minors (14)

NEW DELHI: In keeping with the directions of the Election Commission, the chief electoral officer of Delhi has issued directions to all political parties and election officers to ensure that children under 18 years of age are not engaged as laborers during preparations for the Lok Sabha polls. Issuing the orders on March 21, CEO Vijay Dev cited the provisions of the Plan of Action for Abolition of Child Labour in Delhi and the high court judgment on child labour. The circular states EC had issued instructions in May 2009, making it clear that children must be kept away from various hazardous and non-hazardous activities during election process. “Employment of children below 14 years of age in specific occupations such as transport of goods is considered unsafe and harmful as per the Child Labour (Prohibition and regulation) Act, 1986,” the circular states. The Delhi Commission of Protection of Child Rights, too, had brought to the notice of the CEO office in the run-up to the December assembly polls the legal provisions to ensure that children are not forced to work as cheap labour by candidates.  (Times of India 28/3/14)

 

HINDUTVA

36. In 2014, Hindutva versus caste (26)

Of the numerous public appearances by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi over the last year or so, two have been strikingly inconceivable. Both happened in Kerala, often projected as a politically progressive State. In February 2014, Mr. Modi addressed a meeting of Pulayas, a Dalit community that has been for years a bedrock of support for the Communist parties. In April 2013, Mr. Modi was chief guest at the Sivagiri Mutt, founded by Kerala’s legendary social reformer, Sree Narayana Guru who led the backward Ezhava community to social awakening. The Ezhavas too have been largely supporters of the Left. At both the platforms — events separated by more than a year — Mr. Modi made a similar pitch. “Social untouchability may have ended, but political untouchability continues,” he said, referring to the continuing isolation that he faces from various quarters. “The next decade will belong to the Dalits and the backwards,” he said, emphasising his own lower caste origins, at a rally in Muzaffarpur in Bihar on March 3. That event too was significant as he was sharing the stage with Lok Jansakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan, who returned to the saffron fold 12 years after he quit it over the Gujarat riots. And there is more to it. Dalit leader Udit Raj, who has been fashioning himself as the new age Ambedkar, joined the BJP. So did Mr. Ramkripal Yadav, who has for years been a shadow of Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, a champion of backward class politics in Bihar. The BJP’s efforts to overcome caste barriers in its project to create an overarching Hindu identity are showing signs of success, though it is still far from being a pan-Indian phenomenon. “Mr. Modi has broken the stranglehold of caste. The affinity of these Dalits and backward leaders for the BJP is a clear indication of his acceptance among them,” says Mr. Dharmendra Pradhan, BJP general secretary… (The Hindu 26/3/14)

 

37. Goa Congress to ask Karnataka to ban Sri Ram Sene (26)

Panaji, March 27 : The Congress in Goa Thursday said it will ask its party’s government in neighbouring Karnataka to ban the Sri Ram Sene for its opposition to “secular” culture. Addressing a press conference here, Congress spokesperson Durgadas Kamat said the threat by Sene promoter Pramod Muthalik to close down pubs and night spots in Goa would affect tourism and that banning the group once and for all would stop it from spreading. “We are asking our Congress government in Karnataka to ban the Sri Ram Sene. They have openly claimed that they would close down pubs and restaurants in coastal Goa. This would cripple our tourism. It’s best to shut down the Sene in Karnataka itself, where it started under the BJP rule,” Kamat said. Goa is known for beach tourism and late night party hotspots. The Sri Ram Sene is best known for its moral police styled attack on a pub in Mangalore, where they beat up young men and women for following Western culture. Muthalik recently hit the news after he joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), but his entry was thwarted by the party after some senior leaders including Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar allegedly protested. Muthalik has now threatened the Goa government that he would start units of the Sri Ram Sene in Goa after the Lok Sabha polls. (New Kerala 27/3/14)

 

38. VHP demands apology from Maneka Gandhi (26)

Vishwa Hindu Parishad office bearers in the city today alleged that BJP Lok Sabha candidate from Pilibhit Maneka Gandhi has misbehaved with a priest of a local temple and demanded an apology from her. “Gandhi has hurt the religious feeling by insulting priest of Jara temple at Pooranpur road and threatening him of demolishing the temple,” VHP district president Deepak Agarwal told reporters here. “She will have to apologies otherwise we will meet Superintendent of Police and demand action against him,” he said adding that VHP will resort to agitation against the act. (DNA 27/3/14)

 

39. RSS to start door-to-door campaign (26)

New Delhi: The RSS is clearly not leaving the Lok Sabha campaigning in the national capital to the BJP alone. Armed with inputs on each booth, the RSS has decided to start full-fledged campaigning in the city, including door-to-door canvassing. In a closed-door meeting, 70 coordinators, mostly RSS workers, were appointed to carry out the campaign. They have been given data collected through a survey carried out by the saffron party’s ideological parent. According to party sources, the detailed survey report includes voter segregation on the basis of gender, age and caste. They also have details on candidates who contested from a particular booth, who won or lost and the reasons for it. Senior party leaders believe that this kind of data will be useful in tapping voters who have not been voting for the BJP or have started supporting the AAP. Only the 70 coordinators have been given passwords to access this data. “If any BJP leader wants to access the data, he/she will have to seek permission from the coordinator concerned. The coordinator will inform the office that the leader be allowed to study the data. Printouts or copying of data has been strictly restricted by the RSS,” the senior leader said.]The RSS, along with BJP workers, will keep a strict vigil on campaigning activities and accompany workers when they go on door-to-door campaigning. Before the Assembly elections last December, despite the BJP’s claims that door-to-door campaigning was done, senior leaders had later accepted that little effort was put into campaigning activities and that the workers had failed to carry out door-to-door campaigning. This cost the party the chance to form a government in Delhi, despite emerging the single-largest party. “The RSS workers will accompany us while we start our door-to-door campaigning on April 1,” a senior BJP leader said. (Indian Express 28/3/14)