Posted by admin at 30 June 2015

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DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Nine dalits injured in attack in Sikar (2)

JAIPUR: Heavy police force was deployed in Gandakya ki Dhani in Sikar’s Dantaramgarh, a day after nine Dalit people were injured after members of an OBC community attacked them over a land-related old dispute. The assailants also set on fire a thatched house belonging to dalit families. Two injured are undergoing treatment at SMS Hospital in Jaipur. The incident took place over a piece of land over which both the Dalits and Kumawats (an OBC community) claim ownership. Even as Dalit families live on the land, the dispute is pending in a court. One Mularam Kumawat along with 50-60 others attacked the Dalit members and injured them. “Several members of a caste attacked Dalit people following a land related dispute which left nine people injured. Two of them were referred to SMS hospital in Jaipur for treatment,” police said. Both the dalits and Kumawats (an OBC community) stake claim on the land and the matter is sub judice. After the incident, Additional SP Rakesh Kachwal and others rushed to the spot and additional policemen were deployed in the area. (Times of India 11/6/15)

2. Two dalit youths shot dead in dispute over Rs 4 (2)

GHOORPUR (Allahabad): A clash over payment of mere Rs 4 turned deadly when a group of brahmans fired at two dalits, killing them, and injuring three others in Mohddinpur village in Ghoorpur, 25 km from Allahabad on Friday. In the backlash that followed, angry dalit mobs set fire to the flour mill and a portion of the house of the people who had shot and killed the dalits. Four people, including the main accused, Suresh Dubey, were arrested, and heavy police force was deployed in the village. Those killed were identified as Rahul Bhartiya (19) and Shubham Bhartiya (18) of Mohddinpur and Dandi village. Rahul was a BSc student while Ashu had cleared his intermediate. Rajat and Vikas Bhartiya, and another youth injured in the attack, were admitted to a nursing home where their condition was said to be stable. Trouble began when Rajat (22) reached the flour unit of Suresh and Rakesh Dubey and demanded 154kg of flour that he had given them for grinding on Thursday. When Suresh told them the cost of grinding was Rs 154, Rajat paid him Rs 150 and said the remaining Rs 4 would follow. At this, Suresh began arguing with Rajat and allegedly made some coarse remarks. Rajat left and returned to the shop with Rs 20, and allegedly threw it at Suresh’s face, asking him to take his Rs 4 and return the rest. Feeling insulted, Suresh and his brothers attacked Rajat with a sharp edged weapon, leaving him bleeding. Suresh then ran to his cousins Rahul, Ashu, Gulab, Vikas and others, exhorting them for revenge. When the relatives and other villagers saw Rajat bleeding, they moved towards Dubey’s mill and surrounded the house and the shop. Sensing danger, Suresh took out his licensed double barreled gun and fired from the terrace twice, killing Rahul and Shubham instantly. Hearing the gun shots, other villagers came out of their houses and attacked and flour unit and set the house of Dubeys on fire. A case was lodged with Ghoorpur Police under relevant Sections. The licenced weapon used in the crime was seized. Senior police officers including SP Ashutosh Mishra, rushed to the spot with heavy police force and brought the controlled the situation. (Times of India 13/6/15)

3. Ambedkar statue vandalised; Dalits protest (2)

Phagwara: A statue of B. R. Ambedkar was allegedly vandalised at village Palahi near here on Sunday, sparking protests by Dalits who blocked roads at many places in the district. The statue’s raised arm was found twisted and damaged in a park at village Palahi, the police said. Protesting against the incident, members of Dalit community blocked traffic on Phagwara-Chandigarh bypass in front of Palahi village, at Bhullarai crossing of the by-pass and Phagwara-Palahi crossing on Phagwara-Hoshiarpur road, they said. Led by BSP leader Jarnail Nangal and Ambedkar Sena Moolnivasi Punjab President Harbhajan Suman, protesters raised anti-government slogans. The protesters also threatened to call for a bandh on Wednesday if the culprits are not arrested by then. They alleged that it was the second such incident of vandalisation in two-and-half-months. Earlier, a statue of Ambedkar was damaged in local Palahigate mohalla in the intervening night of April 4-5 and police failed to trace the miscreants, they alleged. They also alleged that miscreants had intentionally vandalised the statues in the localities with Dalit population in order to create tension.They demanded immediate arrest of culprits and security for all statues of Ambedkar. – PTI (The Hindu 15/6/15)

4. Dalit girl severly beaten up after her shadow falls on high caste muscleman (2)

Chattarpur: In a shocking incident, a minor Dalit girl was allegedly thrashed by higher caste women in Ganeshpura village here after the victim’s shadow fell on a muscleman belonging to their family, police said today. The incident took place on June 13 and the complaint was also filed on the same day at Gadi Malhera police station, Additional Superintendent of Police (ASP), Neeraj Pandey said.According to the complaint lodged by the girl’s father, the problem began when his daughter was fetching water from a village hand pump and her shadow fell on muscle-man Puran Yadav (belonging to a higher caste) when he happened to pass from there, the ASP said. The episode enraged the family of the muscle-man to such an extent that the women of the family severely beat the girl and threatened that if she was spotted again at the hand pump, they would kill her, he said. Yadav’s family also prevented the victim from going to police station, but they somehow managed to reach there. A case under sections 323, 341, 506 of the IPC has been registered against the accused and further investigation is underway. In several remote pockets of India, where untouchability is still prevalent, people from the lower caste are forbidden to come in contact with those belonging to the higher rung so much so that they can’t share their food, cook for them or even look them in the eye. It is even forbidden for their shadow to fall on higher caste people, who consider it as defiling or polluting. (Indian Express 17/6/15)

5. NHRC orders action against headmistress for illtreating dalit girls (2)

MADURAI: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has asked Tamil Nadu government to explain why 25,000 each should not be paid as relief to two girls of a panchayat union middle school in Tirunelveli, who were forced to clean the toilets by the headmistress of the school. According to the state organiser of the Arundhadhiar Pengal Ezhuchi Iyakkam (APEI), K Maria Selvi, their organisation held regular Sunday classes called Arundhadhiar Ilan Kanal Sirar Mandram. There the school students were asked to give an account of their week’s study and also if they had any problems related to it. “It was there that the two students, Petchiamma, 11, and Sermakani, 12, came forward to tell us about the harassment they faced at the hands of the headmistress of Ettankulam Panchayat Middle School,” she said. The girls were allegedly forced to scrub and wash the toilet used by the headmistress, Sathya Bama, who was allegedly biased against dalit students. They said the toilet had squirming worms and they refused to clean it, earning the ire of the headmistress. The APEI staged demonstrations on April 8, 2013 and also sent petitions to the collector, chief educational officer, elementary educational officer and superintendent of police. The CEO conducted enquiries with the students and the teachers and the allegations were confirmed and the headmistress was transferred. Member of the commission, Justice D Murugesan, has recommended that the state government initiate action against the headmistress for her misconduct. Social justice department, which has to take action, should submit a report within six weeks. (Times of India 18/6/15)

TRIBALS

6. Prevention of Witch Hunt Cannot Remain on Paper (6)

The rising social and development index in Odisha appears to be a misnomer as large parts literally continue to writhe in the dark ages, strangled by superstition and blind belief that have propagated sorcery and witch-hunting. In a most recent incident two persons were beaten to death by a lynch mob on suspicion of practising sorcery in a village in the southern district of Gajapati. Ironically, the villagers employed another purported sorcerer to identify the two victims. The police may have arrested more than a score of people including a sarpanch but the incident epitomises a malaise that runs deep. Only last month in another incident villagers fed excreta to a man, accusing him of practising witchcraft, in Ganjam. Social ostracism, torture, parading naked, feeding excreta and even lynching people on suspicion of being sorcerers or witches is common despite the existence of the Odisha Prevention of Witch Hunting Act, 2013. As many as 17 of the 30 districts are beset with the problem. The crime branch records show at least 154 witch hunt killings between 2010 and 2013, but the figures only reveal a fraction of the incidence as most cases are not reported. The issue is complex and problems manifold. Tradition and customs, lack of education, infrastructure, access to healthcare and justice for the marginalised tribal communities coupled with a serious neglect of the social evil by the government and law agencies has rather sustained and nurtured the practice even to this day. For many tribal communities, sorcery continues to be the first recourse in illness and diseases, theft or justice. In case of wrongs, the blame is on persons suspected to be practising sorcery or witchcraft. Women are the worst victims. Though Odisha is among the few states in India to enact the law against witch hunting with stringent punishment, enforcement is lacking due to ignorance of policemen. A concerted effort alone can get rid of the evil. Strict enforcement of law should accompany a sincere effort to educate the tribals against the practice with the involvement of all sections. Strengthening of infrastructure is also a must. (New Indian Express 11/6/15)

7. Mastermind of Assam’s tribal massacre arrested (6)

Guwahati: A top Bodo militant, allegedly one of the masterminds behind the massacre of at least 80 people in Assam in December last year, was arrested by the army and Assam Police on Monday, officials said. Based on intelligence inputs, Sumanta Basumatary, a top member of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland-Songbijit (NDFB-S) faction’s central council, was apprehended from Tukrajhar in Chirang district. Sumanta Basumatary alias B. Sinaihang, is the self-styled joint secretary of the newly formed central council, and a trained terrorist of the outfit’s 42nd Batch Bhutan, an official statement said. His responsibility was coordination of terrorist activities, internal discipline, media interaction and propaganda. “Sinaihang was very close to the outfit’s new vice president G. Bidai and is believed to be the brain behind the killing of tribals in December 23, 2014, in Kokrajhar district. Thereafter, he fled to Bengaluru and recently returned to Chirang,” the statement said. Calling Sinaihang’s apprehension a “major blow to NDFB-S”, the statement said the apprehension and earlier operations have “substantially degraded” the outfit’s capabilities in Kokrajhar and Chirang districts. “The army’s relentless operations in difficult and inaccessible jungle areas of Chirang district have forced the NDFB-S terrorists to flee from their hideouts and move to vulnerable areas, where they are being apprehended or neutralised by the security forces,” the army said in the statement. Facing the brunt, the NDFB-S has aligned itself with the UNLFW, an umbrella organisation of northeast terrorist groups. A series of attacks by militants in December 2014 resulted in deaths of around 80 people, mostly tribals. The attacks took place in Chirang, Sonitpur and Kokrajhar districts, and were carried out by the NDFB-S. (Deccan Herald 15/6/15)

8. Campaign demanding protection of tribal rights launched (6)

KHAMMAM: The CPI (ML-New Democracy) district committee launched a campaign titled Podu Bhoomula Parirakshana Porata Yatra in the predominantly tribal-populated Gundala mandal on Monday demanding protection of the rights of tribal people over ‘Podu’ lands. The party district secretary, P. Ranga Rao, participated in a rally held in Gundala, marking the beginning of the two-week-long yatra slated to be organised in several mandals in the district. Tribal people from various parts of the mandal and its adjoining tribal sub-plan mandals in Kothagudem division took part in the rally. Addressing the participants, Mr. Ranga Rao alleged that tribal people were being denied rights over ‘podu lands’ in their possession for many years. Efforts are on to drive Adivasis away from their natural habitat, he charged, alleging that the coercive measures against the hapless Adivasis amounted to depriving them of their traditional source of livelihood (podu cultivation). Ineffective implementation of the Forest Rights Act has compounded the woes of tribal people, he deplored, asserting that the yatra will be spearheaded in several mandals across the district to safeguard their rights at any cost. Meanwhile, the activists owing allegiance to the CPI (M) Wyra division committee took out a huge rally in Khammam demanding grant of rights to tribal people over ‘podu’ lands. They staged a dharna near Collectorate to press for their demand. CPI (M) State leader Nunna Nageswara Rao and others led the demonstration. (The Hindu 16/6/15)

9. Odisha to empower tribal women through diary cooperatives (6)

Bhubaneswar: Odisha will empower tribal women through diary cooperatives so that they get opportunities to earn more, an official said on Wednesday. State-run dairy cooperative Orissa State Cooperative Milk Producers’ Federation Limited (OMFED) has received Rs.46.45 crore from the union tribal affairs ministry to implement this, OMFED chairman Bishnupada Sethi told IANS. Tribal women play a significant role in animal husbandry. Women constitute 70 percent of the labour force in livestock farming, while dairying provides women with a regular daily income, vital to household food security and family well-being, he said. Women are not only centrally involved in milk production, but also in collection, processing and marketing of diary products, he added. OMFED aims to educate and empower tribal women by providing better training and facility so that they earn more through diary activities, he said. It also has plans to establish 300 new women tribal cooperative societies by enrolling 9,000 members within three years beginning 2015-16, he said. The fund sanctioned by the ministry will be utilised for providing training to the tribal women, setting up exclusive women milk cooperative society, and creation of necessary infrastructure, Sethi said. Odisha has a population of 41 million and nearly 23 percent of them are tribals. (Business Standard 17/6/15)

10. Ensure justice for unwed tribal mothers: DIG (6)

KALPETTA: State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) DIG S. Sreejith has directed the officials concerned to ensure justice for unwed tribal mothers in the district. He was speaking to presspersons here on Thursday after attending a sitting of the panel. Mr. Sreejith said there were more than 350 unwed tribal mothers in the district. But many a time, the officials concerned were not able to help them as the perpetrators exerted pressure on the women to hide their identity and even financially assisted them, Mr. Sreejith said. The police department, tribal activists, and members of the Kerala Mahila Samakhya Society (KMSS) should organise programmes to create awareness among the tribal women against such atrocities and take steps to ensure justice for the unwed tribal mothers, he said. KMSS State project director P.E. Usha, District Police Chief S. Ajitha Begum attended the sitting.(The Hindu 19/6/15)

WOMEN

11. Domestic violence case: Somnath Bharti unleashed dogs on me during pregnancy, alleges wife (8)

New Delhi: In more shocking allegations, the wife of former Delhi Law Minister Somnath Bharti has charged him with unleashing dogs on her when she was pregnant and subjecting her to severe mental and physical torture, which were termed as “baseless” by the AAP MLA. As protests mounted against him, Bharti briefed Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal about the issue. In her complaint filed with the Delhi Commission for Women, Bharti’s wife Lipika also alleged that he had forced her to go for abortion when she became pregnant for the third time and that she once tried to slit her wrist due to unrelenting torture. “In her complaint, she mentioned that her husband used to unleash dogs on her when she was in seventh month into her pregnancy. She said he once forced her to abort and that she tried to slit her wrist,” DCW Chairperson Barkha Singh said. Lipika said in her 26-page complaint to DCW about a “persistent threat to her life” from Bharti. The couple has two children and Lipika lives separately in Dwarka along with the kids. A lawyer by profession, Bharti, who was Law Minister during AAP’s first stint of 49-day government, denied the allegations as “totally baseless”.Bharti was yesterday slapped with notices by DCW after Lipika levelled charges of domestic violence, mental torture, dowry and forgery against him. The DCW has asked him to appear before it by June 26. The DCW chief said, “The couple had met on shaadi.Com and Bharti had told her lies about he owning an international law firm.” Meanwhile, women’s wing of Delhi BJP held protests against Bharti condemning his alleged torture of his wife. Scores of protesters marched towards his residence in Malviya Nagar, demanding a thorough probe into the matter. In his reaction, Bharti said “I love my wife and my little children. The allegations are totally false.” Surprisingly, the DCW chief, a former Congress MLA whose tenure as chief of the women panel ends next month, attacked Chief Minister Kejriwal wondering whether he will take a position in support of Bharti like he did in a case involving AAP leader Kumar Vishwas. “I want to know whether Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal who had taken a proactive stance to protect Kumar Vishwas, will do the same for Somnath Bharti,” Singh said. Last month, DCW had summoned Vishwas after a woman AAP volunteer accused him of not dispelling “false rumours” of his having an illicit relationship with her. (Zee News 12/6/15)

12. CCTV in 5,000 Delhi buses in I phase, Rs 100 cr to be spent (8)

New Delhi: In an effort to enhance security in city buses, particularly for women commuters, Aam Aadmi Party government has decided to install close circuit television (CCTV) cameras in 5,000 buses in the first phase, besides deploying trained marshals. The government will make a provision of around Rs 100 crore in the upcoming Budget to execute the flagship project for CCTV installation that will cover DTC and Orange-colour Cluster buses At present, there are around 4,700 DTC buses out of which 924 standard-floor buses (yellow) are all set to be scrapped as they have completed their age. Apart from that, 1,300 cluster?buses, run by Delhi Integrated Multi-Model Transit System (DIMTS), are also plying in the capital. “Government has decided to install CCTV cameras in 5,000 DTC and cluster buses. As per plan, three CCTV camears will be installed in each bus to keep a close vigil on every passenger,” Transport Minister Gopal Rai told PTI. According to the government, installation of CCTVs will help to check any attempt of violence against women or eve-teasing in buses. “CCTVs will be installed in all DTC low-floor buses, including air conditioned buses. All the 1300 cluster buses (orange) will also come under this project,” the minister said. A senior official said that government will make a provision of Rs 100 crore in the upcoming Budget to execute the project. Apart from CCTV project, around five thousand trained marshals will also soon be deployed in all buses to put a check on incidents of eve-teasing and violence against women. “At present, the government is currently providing training to personnel of Home Guard and Civil Defence as marshals to prevent and deter crime, especially against women. “Government will also make a provision of some funds for them separately in the Budget. “These marshals will soon be deployed in the city’s buses plying in the national capital,” the official also said. (Zee news 14/6/15)

13. Property: Daughter has share but father has will (8)

Despite a historic amendment in 2005, the Hindu inheritance law still suffers from gender bias. It is 10 years since the daughter has been brought on a par with the son under the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 (HSA). This historic amendment of 2005 never made much of a splash though, unlike other farreaching enactments of the same year such as RTI, NREGA and even the domestic violence law. The lack of buzz about giving the daughter as much share as the son in the joint family property may seem ironic considering that this very proposal was one of the main reasons why the consolidated Hindu Code Bill championed by India’s first law minister B R Ambedkar had been scuttled in the nascent republic to appease conservative forces. Does this mean that the notoriously patriarchal Hindu society has since become more accommodating of gender equality? Not necessarily, for there is little data available on the extent to which the amended Section 6 of the HSA conferring the same rights and liabilities on the daughter and the son in the ancestral property has been implemented across the country. Unlike in the case of RTI and NREGA, there has been no noticeable attempt on the part of the government to spread awareness about the change in property rights. Nor have civil society groups been anywhere as vigilant in monitoring the enforcement of HSA 2005 as they have been about the accrual of benefits from the more high-profile laws of that year.Anecdotal evidence suggests that the import of the 2005 amendment is yet to sink in among the intended beneficiaries. Whether the women concerned are still ignorant about their new succession rights or have chosen to ignore them, Hindu ancestral properties have largely remained the preserve of their male counterparts. As a study conducted by a feminist group, Partners for Law in Development, put it, “The de facto situation continues to be one where women forfeit these rights to avoid strained family ties.” What is particularly difficult for the daughter is to invoke her entitlement, under the 2005 amendment, to claim par tition of an ancestral home even when male heirs from her family are residing there. Apart from the lag in the implementation of the 2005 amendment, the Hindu inheritance law is in need of further changes for it to be rid of the remnants of gender discrimination. One such remnant flagged by the Law Commission in 2008 relates to the implications of a Hindu woman dying without leaving behind a will. If she dies as a childless widow, the husband’s heirs alone inherit her estate. But then, since she is entitled post-2005 to inherit property from her parents’ side as well as her husband’s side, would it not be logical to give equal rights of succession to her heirs from both sides? The Law Commission suggested that Section 15 of the HSA 1956 be amended so that “in case a female Hindu dies intestate leaving her self-acquired property with no heirs, the property should devolve on her husband’s heirs and also on the heirs of her parental side”. This would surely be an apt sequel to the 2005 amendment, which too had been effected at the instance of the Law Commission. Another retrograde provision waiting to be discarded is a gratuitous concession made to the Hindu right in 1954 while enacting a secular law for solemnising nondenominational “civil marriage”. Section 19 of the Special Marriage Act says that any marriage performed under that law of a Hindu belonging to an undivided joint family shall be deemed to result in his “severance from such family”.Thus, there is a statutory sanction to disinheriting from the ancestral wealth any Hindu who resorts to civil marriage, which is an option available to those who wish to avoid religious rituals or marry outside the community (without converting the spouse). Such a disincentive to civil marriage is out of sync with the spirit of the 2005 amendment and the social trend towards inter-caste and inter-community marriages. It also serves as an obstacle to India moving towards its constitutional goal of uniform civil code… (Times of India 16/6/15)

14. Modi wants ‘Girl Rising’ campaign to focus on female foeticide (8)

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday asked representatives of ‘Girl Rising’, a global campaign to educate and empower girls, to focus on the issue of female foeticide in India. Representatives of “Girl Rising” including its India Ambassador and actress Freida Pinto and vice president of its global programmes Samantha Wright met the Prime Minister in Delhi. “The Prime Minister said the “Girl Rising” campaign in India should focus especially on the problem of female foeticide,” an official statement said. The Girl Rising campaign is anchored by a feature film that is being remade into several Indian languages. The representatives also appreciated the Prime Minister’s “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” initiative. In February this year, Ms Pinto and Priyanka Chopra had launched a new campaign ‘Girl Rising India’ campaign aimed at changing the lives of girls across the country. Through powerful storytelling and visible advocacy, Girl Rising’s India campaign is designed to spark grassroots, community-led change for girls. (Asian Age 17/6/15)

15. Gang-rape: three youths arrested (8)

Bengaluru: A 15-year-old girl was allegedly raped by three youths from her neighbourhood on Wednesday afternoon. J.P. Nagar police rounded up the three youth hours after the incident was reported to them on Wednesday night. Police confirmed that the preliminary report of the medical examination conducted on the girl at Victoria Hospital confirmed rape. Police sources said that the girl is being taken care of by the Child Welfare Committee (CWC). The girl is a school dropout. She was living with her grandmother in a slum in J.P. Nagar police limits. The incident occurred on Wednesday around 2 p.m. when she was alone at house as her grandmother had been out on work. The three youth — Asai (20), a vegetable vendor; Santosh (19), a water can delivery boy; and Ajay (20), an auto driver — lured her out. Asai had befriended her earlier. They took her to an under-construction building in a deserted spot where they allegedly raped her. The alleged sexual assault lasted for more than an hour, investigations have now revealed. The youth let the girl go only after she promised not to reveal the incident to anybody. She reported the incident to her grandmother, who approached the police and lodged a complaint. Police Commissioner M.N. Reddi said that the three have been arrested and booked under POCSO Act, 2012 and under Section 376D of Indian Penal Code for gang rape. (The Hindu 19/6/15)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

16. Over 50 percent rise in child labour in Indian urban areas: CRY (14)

Kolkata: Child labour in urban India increased by over 50 percent between 2001 and 2011, a report by NGO CRY said on Thursday, highlighting the links to the rise in migration. An analysis of the census data by CRY (Child Rights and You) said child labour in urban areas in the country increased by 53 percent over 2001-2011. The report was released Thursday ahead of the World Day Against Child Labour on Friday. “Working children between 5-9 years increased by 37 percent. Of particular concern is the whopping rise in child labour in the age group of 5-9 years in urban areas – the number of working boys grew by 154 percent whereas the number of working girls grew by 240 percent,” the analysis said. Five Indian states – Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra – harbour the majority of working children. These states account for more than 55 lakh child workers. The observations of the heightened numbers in urban spaces is of “utmost concern”, according to Komal Ganotra, director, Policy and Research, CRY. “This is of utmost concern especially since enforcement machinery is primarily based in urban regions and the implementation of child protection structures is stronger in urban India. “This increase in urban child labour could be attributed to increased migration including seasonal migration for employment as well as trafficking of unaccompanied minors,” Ganotra said. (Business Standard 11/6/15)

17. Every 11th kid in India a part of the labour force: Study (14)

NAGPUR: More than 120 million children between ages 5 and 14 across the world are involved in child labour, according to some estimates. Of them, 10.13 million are in India. Despite the United Nations and the constitutions of several countries constituting laws against it, child labour is prevalent all through the globe even today. The situation in India is so bad that every eleventh child in the country is part of the labour force. Child labour in the country is mainly concentrated in five states including Maharashtra. In the state, 5-6% of the working population consists of children. This information was released by NGO Child Rights and You (CRY) on the occasion of World Day against Child Labour on Friday, based on the analysis of 2011 census figures. A study to determine the attitude of young India on the issue was also released on the occasion. Friday was World Day against Child Labour. “Our Constitution guarantees the rights for children against child labour and gives them the right to education to children up to the age of 14. Yet, today we stand as a nation that has been incapable of making any significant progress when it comes to child labour and the ever-increasing numbers prove this. Isn’t it time for a conversation around the incontestable rights of a child to a safe, secure and healthy childhood; free from abuse, labour and other discriminatory practices?,” said Kreeannne Rabadi, regional director of CRY (West). This persistence of child labour is rooted in poverty, lack of decent work for adults, lack of social protection and a failure to ensure that all children are attending school through to the legal minimum age, she added. With insufficient education and skills, child labourers often grow up to get poorly paid jobs or be unemployed, forcing them to push their own children into the workforce. “The government has made several good laws but their implementation is lacking. Citizens can help in this by being our informants and sources. However, most of the times when a person calls us to complaint, they are not ready to get involved by accompanying us to the place or staying at the place they are complaining about. When we go there later, the children are nowhere to be found,” said Vasanti Deshpande, executive director of city-based NGO Vardaan that is also a part of government’s Childline project. What is most important is to work towards preventing the causes like poverty, widespread unemployment and not understanding the importance of education among the economically backward classes, she added. Rehabilitation of these laboureres can be done through vocational training, she said. “Mostly, as a society, we need to be more sensitive towards the needs of our children,” said Deshpande….  (Times of India 14/6/15)

18. Total prohibition of child labour stressed (14)

MADURAI: The government should totally prohibit child labour and stop all attempts to regulate it, the Tamil Nadu Domestic Workers’ Union said here on Saturday. Addressing a press conference, P. Clara, its State coordinator, said that the move to include a provision in Section 3 of Child Labour Act 1986 to allow children below 14 years of age to work in home-based business would create a loophole to promote child labour. It would open the door to exploitation of children and also create cheap labour. She pointed out that sustained efforts by various organisations over the years had resulted in an increase in the number of children going to school. But relaxing the existing law to allow children to work after school hours would increase the number of child workers, harm their health and deprive them of their right to recreation. Child labour could be eradicated by sending all children to school and providing adequate jobs for their parents. She said that the differentiation of work as hazardous and non-hazardous was meaningless as any work was hazardous to a child. While the government should empower and sufficiently fund local bodies to deal with child labour it should withdraw the move to amend the Child Labour Act as it would go against the spirit of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child. All children below 18 years of age should be brought under the ambit of right to education, Ms. Clara said. (The Hindu 15/6/15)

19.  ‘Gift of education’ for poor children (14)

Virudhunagar: Scholarships and learning materials to pursue education were handed over to poor children and former child workers at a function organised by Udhavum Ullangal, a Chennai-based service organisation, at Kalaimagal Higher Secondary School, Tiruthangal, on Sunday. The ‘gift of education’ was presented to former child workers recovered by the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) by C. Ramasubramanian, State Nodal Officer, District Mental Health Programme, and B. Ramachandran, District Educational Officer. T. Narayanasamy, Project Officer, NCLP, addressed the gathering. The children, who received the scholarship, included those who had scored high marks in this year’s public examinations. B. Shankar Mahadevan, founder, Udhavum Ullangal, said that the organisation had been providing assistance to children from underprivileged background to pursue education for the last 15 years. In Sivakasi, the focus had been on former child workers. Mentorship sessions were being held in Sivakasi once in two months to guide the children. Sessions at these classes were handled by those pursuing higher education with assistance from Udhavum Ullangal. Mr. Shankar Mahadevan pointed out that two women, who were rescued from child labour by the NCLP, were now working as nurses in Tirunelveli, after qualifying themselves in nursing with Udhavum Ullangal assistance. The award of scholarship could be extended further with assistance from philanthropists of Virudhunagar and Sivakasi, he said. (The Hindu 18/6/15)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

20. India objects to US Congress panel’s stand on minorities (7)

NEW DELHI (TIP): The government on June 4 strongly objected to the latest move by a panel of the United States Congress to highlight allegations of violence against religious minorities in India. New Delhi said that the briefing held by Tam Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC) of the United States Congress in Washington DC on Wednesday was an effort based on “lack of understanding of India, its Constitution and society”. The TLHRC – a panel of the US House Committee of Foreign Affairs –held the briefing, which highlighted violence against Muslims, Christians and other religious minorities in India. “We have seen media reports about a briefing by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Committee on ‘Violence against Religious Minorities in India.’ We regard such efforts as based on lack of understanding of India, its Constitution and society,” said Vikas Swarup, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, in a statement. “It is well known that the Constitution of India guarantees equal religious, social and political rights to all its citizens, including minorities,” he added. Representatives Joseph Pitts and Jim McGovern of the US Congress co-chair the TLHRC. Both of them joined co-chair of the American Sikh Caucus, Representative Patrick Meehan. The briefing, according to the TLHRC website, outlined the “important legal, social and cultural issues” related to the “persecution of minorities” in India. (Indian Panorama 12/6/15)

21. Notice issued to 10 minority schools in Mumbai (7)

MUMBAI: The Maharashtra government has sent show-cause notices to 10 high-profile schools in Mumbai for not admitting minority students despite enjoying minority status. “These schools enjoy various facilities and concessions from the government on the pretext of being a minority school. However, we have reports that none of these schools enrolled a single minority student in the last three years,” said State’s Minority Affairs Minister Eknath Khadse. All 10 schools are situated in South Mumbai. Of the 10, four belong to Christian and Parsi communities respectively, while the rest are of the Jain community. The trusts or associations who run these educational institutes have been asked to present their case before the State government in the coming week. If the schools fail to respond, the government may suspend their minority status. In all, the State has 2,490 educational institutions with minority status. In addition, there are 414 engineering and 306 medical institutes which enjoy this status. The government has also decided to initiate action against those institutes of higher education which fail to admit the prescribed minimum of 51 per cent minority students. “Many a time it has been observed that seats are sold to students for a price and minority students are neglected. We will take steps to withdraw their minority status if such practice is observed for three years continuously,” said Mr. Khadse. (The Hindu 12/6/15)

22. Commission comes to the aid of undertrials (7)

Vijayapura: The Karnataka State Minorities Commission is planning to set up a committee of judicial experts to look into cases of financially weak undertrials from minority communities. Chairperson of the commission Balkhees Banu said she had come up with the initiative after visiting Parappana Agrahara jail in Bengaluru, where many were languishing as they were unable to get legal help or raise resources for the bail amount. “Nearly 2,017 undertrials of over 4,000 were from minority communities and in penury, with none to pay their bail amount,” she said. The committee would particularly look into cases where an undertrial has served more than the prescribed term for an offence, she said. The commission also plans to help children of undertrials by admitting them into minority schools/hostels where free education would be given along with scholarship. “I have decided to constitute a four-member committee to study the socio-economic condition of the inmates,” Ms. Banu said. (The Hindu 15/6/15)

23. Civil Society slams NDA govt, says attacks on minorities up (7)

New Delhi: A report compiled by Civil Society, “365 days — democracy and secularism under the Modi regime” has hit out at the Central government over attacks on minorities and hate speeches. It said such incidents have become more common in the past year. Highlighting the number of attacks on minorities, deaths, and vandalism of churches and mosques, the report also said that some communities were feeling threatened. “We could document only a fraction of what has happened during the past year,” said Harsh Mander, one of the assessors of the report. Activist Shabnam Hashmi said the NDA government has, at times, refused to accept that there has been communal violence. “The report clearly breaks that myth. The Sangh has realised that large-scale violence attracts international media attention and therefore now, meticulously planned high-intensity localised violence coupled with high-pitched hate campaigns is used across India to polarise people and further marginalise the minorities,” Ms. Hashmi added. According to the report, the first few weeks of the government saw 113 communal incidents and the subsequent months (May-June 2014) witnessed 15 killings and 318 people getting injured in such incidents. The report added that the new government was providing credibility to myths and superstitions, with the field of science taking a hit. “During the past one year, we have also witnessed an unprecedented four-pronged attack on scientific temper, rational thinking and scientific establishment of the country,” said P.V.S. Kumar of Civil Society. Efforts like reviving the Saraswati, claims that aircrafts were invented in ancient India and yogis had pioneered the concept of TV were attempts in this direction, he added. The activists said while compiling the report they also learnt that some villages in Chhattisgarh were passing orders banning the entry of non-Hindu priests. However, Ms. Hashmi said, there was strong resistance to such “nefarious designs” by the Sangh. (The Hindu 19/6/15)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

24. Muslims can take Allah’s name in place of shlokas: Minister (7)

NEW DELHI: After dropping ‘Surya Namaskar’ from the official yoga programme to “avoid controversy”, the government on Thursday said chanting ‘shlokas’ during ‘International Yoga Day’ was not “compulsory” and appealed to Muslims to participate in the event.Shripad Naik, minister for Ayush, the coordinating ministry for the event at Rajpath on June 21, said Muslims can “take the name of Allah instead of reciting ‘shlokas’” during the event. While some minority groups have objected to the holding of the event by government, especially inclusion of Surya Namskar, representatives of some Muslim organizations who met Naik today said those opposing yoga were “enemies of humanity” and yoga has nothing to do with religion. External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj had said a committee which decided the common yoga protocol had not included Surya Namaskar “because they wanted easy asanas (exercise) in it, which can be performed by anyone.”Naik on Thursday said, “We did not include Surya namaskar to avoid controversy. And, moreover, it’s difficult to do it. But Surya Namaskar is not religious. We want the whole event to go smoothly.” “Shlokas are not compulsory. Shlokas are merely prayers but it is not compulsory. They can even take the name of Allah instead of chanting shlokas. I request the Muslims to participate and unite the country,” Naik told reporters after meeting a delegation of Muslim organizations. In the wake of International Yoga Day on June 21st, prominent city socialites and Yoga practitioners performing Yoga postures as a flash mob in Bengaluru on may 31, 2015. (TOI photo by K Sunil Prasad) Opposition has been voiced by some organizations, including the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, against performance of Surya Namaskar, saying it is against their faith. “We did not make anything compulsory. Even the HRD ministry has merely appealed to the educational institutions.Noting that yoga is a matter of pride and has “nothing” to do with religion, the minister said that yoga unites people and is done for fitness. “If people aren’t fit there won’t be any development. The protests are misleading. Muslims would be co-partners not just participants,” he said. Meanwhile, Daudi Bohra community members who met the minister welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s initiative and said the event does not have any religious connotations. “There’s yoga in namaaz but namaaz isn’t yoga. Those who oppose it are enemies of humanity because yoga is for the well being of humans,” Maulana Syed Kaukab Mujtaba Abidi, president of Majlis Ulema e Hind (Uttar Pradesh), told reporters. (Times of India 11/6/15)

25. Study shows NCR homeowners turn away Dalits and Muslims (7)

A study on discrimination in urban housing rental preferences, to be published in a forthcoming issue of Economic and Political Weekly, shows high levels of exclusion of Dalits and Muslims in the five metropolitan areas of NCR. The team of researchers, led by Prof S K Thorat, chairman of the Indian Council of Social Science Research, and comprising scholars such as Anuradha Banerjee, Vinod K Mishra and Firdaus Rizvi, covered attempts to get houses on rent in Delhi, Faridabad, Ghaziabad, Gurgaon and Noida between January and March 2012. The methodologies included contacting the “home-providers” via telephone or meeting them face to face. In both the methodologies, the home-seekers had the same credentials but for their names that indicated their caste and religion.The telephonic audit had a total of 1,469 home-seekers, 493 each bearing upper-caste Hindu, Dalits and Muslim names. While not one of the 493 high-caste home-seekers received a negative response, about 18 per cent of Dalits and 31 per cent of Muslims faced outright rejection, found the study. Together those receiving either a negative response or a positive one with conditions attached worked out to 41 per cent in the case of Dalits, and around 66 per cent for Muslims. tenantsThe face-to-face audit covered 198 home-seekers, with 66 high-caste Hindus, Dalits and Muslims each. While 97 per cent of upper-caste Hindus got a positive response, 44 per cent of Dalits and 61 per cent of Muslims faced rejection. Together those receiving either a negative response or a positive one with conditions attached worked out to 51 per cent in the case of Dalits, and 71 per cent for Muslims. In other words, the chances of Dalits and Muslims finding a house fell in the case of face-to-face contact. It also means that a significant number of Dalits and Muslims have to spend much more to stay in accommodations in NCR than their upper-caste counterparts. “This indicates a clear case of market failure,” says Thorat, “where even prosperity does not allow you to buy your way out of discrimination… The studies do reveal that Muslims are even worse off than Dalits as far as the rental housing market goes.” “Non-monetary motive often prevails among landlords renting out houses,” says the study, which chose Delhi for the research as it is often considered amongst the most migrant-friendly and cosmopolitan cities in India…. (Indian Express 16/6/15)

26. Muslims to participate in SoBo event (7)

MUMBAI: Several Muslim activists have pledged support to the celebrations of International Yoga Day on June 21 and they will participate in the event “Yoga by the Bay’, organized by TOI-backed Equal Streets Initiative. “Yoga has many health benefits and it should not be linked to any religion. We will take part in the event on June 21 on Marine Drive to celebrate International Yoga Day,” said M A Khalid, general secretary of the All India Milli Council. Activist Firoz Mithiborewala said that 117 countries, including several Muslim nations, would be celebrating it and it would send a wrong message if Muslims opposed it. “This is a proud moment for India that the world has acknowledged yoga’s importance. Even if it originated in Hinduism, there is no harm in adopting something from other cultures as long as it doesn’t impinge on somebody else’s religious rights,” said Mithiborewala. Salim Alware of Indian Muslim Intellectual Forum said that Muslims would do yoga minus surya namaskar and without uttering Om. (Times of India 19/6/15)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

27. CBCI unhappy over decision to organise Yoga day on June 21 (7)

Kochi: Catholic Bishops Conference of India, apex body of the Catholic priests in the country, on Thursday expressed displeasure over government’s decision to organise Yoga day on June 21, saying Sundays are “sacred day” for Christians in the country. CBCI President and Syro-Malankara Major Archbishop Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, however, said the Church was not against Yoga, which was described as “anti-Islam” by certain Muslim bodies including All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB). Lamenting that “important events are being observed on Sundays these days”, the Cardinal said the Church will raise its concern before the authorities concerned. “We are not against Yoga. But it is sad that such important events are being observed on Sundays these days. Sundays are holy day for Christians. Organising such programmes on Sundays will clash with our belief,” Cleemis, also the leader of the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC), told reporters here. The Catholic church’s reservations against Yoga came amid opposition from some minority groups, including AIMPLB, against compulsory yoga classes in schools. Government has said participation in June 21 events to mark International Yoga Day was not “compulsory”.KCBC had rallied behind the Supreme Court judge Justice Kurian Joseph who had opposed the decision of Chief Justice of India H L Dattu to convene a conference of judges on Good Friday in April this year. (Zee News 11/6/15)

28. Kerala Bishop criticized for inter-religious marriage remarks (7)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: An organisation representing OBC Hindu community in Kerala today criticised the Catholic bishop’s views on inter-religious marriages and said a case should be registered against him for his remarks. General secretary Valappally Natesan of the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam organisation said a case should be registered against Idukki Bishop Mar Mathew Anikuzhikattil for his remarks which discouraged inter-religious weddings as it was against the values and beliefs of the Christian community. The youth wing of SNDP took out a march to the Secretariat here protesting against the remarks. Addressing a pastoral convention at nearby Kanjirapally in Kottayam, the Bishop had said Christian girls were being targeted by boys of other religions. “Mixed marriages are against Christian beliefs. It will destroy our values and beliefs,” he said, adding, the faithful should resist such trends and not fall prey to it. (Times of India 14/6/15)

29. 5 Held for Attack on Prayer Hall (7)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Attingal police on Monday identified and arrested five persons in connection with the attack on a Christian prayer hall here on Sunday. The accused are T T Anoop, 38 of Elappuram, Attingal; Anoop, 30 of Kizhuvalam; Abhijith,22 of Attakulam Attingal; Vimal, 30 of Kizhuvalam and Deepu, 20 of Kallambalam. According to the police, the five are suspected to be RSS activists who unleashed an attack on the prayer hall, leaving many devotees injured. The incident occurred on Sunday at 12.30 pm, when 50 of the suspected RSS activists barged into the prayer hall situated at the Attingal Riot Memorial Library hall and attacked the people assembled in the hall, including the pastor, without any provocation. The prayer group named ‘Reaching the world with love ministry’ was conducting the weekly prayer meet. Over 200 people were gathered for the prayer meet. “Despite manhandling the devotees, the activists also allegedly vandalised valuable equipment including televisions and cameras and destroyed the food kept for lunch. The injured people were – including pastor Siju, 24 – Sam, 26, Valsala,48, Binu, 42, Saju, 24 and Baby Girija, 45. All of them are out of danger and recovering well. However, the investigation is on to find more persons involved in the attack and they will be nabbed soon,” a police official said. Rural SP Shefeen Ahamed said that the assailants allegedly broke a finger of a middle aged woman and even beat up a physically challenged man seated on a chair, asking him to get up and clear off. “This is an attack on the freedom of religion”, the SP said. Condemning the incident, Home Minster Ramesh Chennithala said that it was nothing but an attack on belief and everyone had the right to believe and worship. However, the government and the citizens were committed to giving full protection to them. (New Indian Express 16/6/15)

30. West Bengal nun rape case: Mastermind arrested, two more to go (7)

Kolkata, June 18: Nazrul Islam alias Nojul the mastermind in the nun rape case was arrested by the West Bengal CID. His arrest is a major development as he along with Rehman were the two who masterminded this attack which was aimed at robbing the convent. Nazrul was picked up from the Sealdah Railway station. A state intelligence bureau official tipped off the CID about his presence at the Platform Number 5. The CID immediately pressed its officers into action and arrested him. Nun rape case: Mastermind arrested The mastermind behind the attack: Nazrul and Rehman are the two persons who masterminded the attack according to the investigation being conducted by the CID. The entire operation was planned in Bangladesh and they had roped in some locals too for this crime. While it was initially touted by many as a hate crime against the Christians further investigations made it clear that the intention was robbery. Also read: Nun rape case: Mastermind Milan Sarkar arrested As per the interrogation of the accused, they said that they wanted to rob the convent but were caught in the act by the nun. When she tried to stop them, they assaulted her physically, the investigation also suggested. Six down, two to go: The arrest of Nazrul takes the number of persons arrested up to six. Rehman is already in the custody of the CID. He will now be interrogated along with Narul and the CID would look to work out more leads in the case. Apart from being questioned about the incident, they would also be asked about the whereabouts of the rest of the accused. CID officials say that in all there were 8 persons involved in the incident. The other two persons who are still at large are Bombay Salim and Tuhin. The CID believes that these two persons are very much in India and have not slipped into Bangladesh. (One India 18/6/15)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

31. Centre Told to Make Clear Stand on Medical Seats to Sri Lankan Refugees (13)

CHENNAI: Madras High Court has directed the Centre to make clear its stand on whether it is inclined to make any provisions to allot medical seats for Sri Lankan refugees. The First Bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice TS Sivagnanam passed the order on a petition from R Sri Priya, a practising advocate. T Nandini, daughter of a refugee couple who came to Tamil Nadu in 1990 and settled down in the refugee camp at Arachalur, Erode district, had passed the Plus Two examination, scoring 1170 marks out of 1200. She applied for admission to the MBBS course in Government Kilpauk Medical College and was called for counselling. But, her candidature was rejected as she was a Lankan refugee. Based on news reports about her ordeal, the advocate moved the PIL seeking a direction to reserve seats for Sri Lankan refugees. Responding to the PIL, Additional Solicitor General G Rajagopalan submitted that a communication from the Union Home Ministry about the existing scheme to accommodate candidates from friendly foreign countries including Sri Lanka, would not apply to children of refugees. Recording the submission, the Bench directed the Central government to clarify its stand on providing medical seats to Sri Lankan refugees, in the context of the present case where the candidate was born and educated in India. (New Indian Express 12/6/15)

32. Govt grants citizenship to 4,300 refugees from Pakistan, Afghanistan (13)

NEW DELHI: As a first step to grant Indian nationality to nearly two lakh refugees from neighbouring countries, the NDA government has given citizenship to around 4,300 Hindus and Sikhs from Pakistan and Afghanistan in one year. During the entire tenure of UPA-II, the figure stood at 1,023. The citizenship to these refugees have been given at the initiative of Home Minister Rajnath Singh following BJP’s declared policy that India is a “natural home for persecuted Hindus” who will be welcome to seek refuge. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had, during the Lok Sabha election campaign, said that Pakistani and Bangladeshi Hindu refugees will be treated like any other Indian citizen. There are around two lakh Hindu and Sikh refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan currently living in India. Ever since the Modi government assumed charge in May 2014, nearly 19,000 refugees have been given long-term visas in Madhya Pradesh. Around 11,000 long-term visas were given in Rajasthan and 4,000 long-term visas were given in Gujarat, official sources said. In April, the home ministry had rolled out an online system for submission of Long Term Visa application and for its processing by various agencies. The decision has been taken to address the difficulty being faced by Hindu and Sikh minorities of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who come to India with the intention to settle permanently. There are about 400 Pakistani Hindu refugee settlements in cities like Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Bikaner and Jaipur. Hindu refugees from Bangladesh mostly live in West Bengal and northeastern states. Sikh refugees mostly live in Punjab, Delhi and Chandigarh. (Times of India 14/6/15)

33. Myanmar Tamils another victims of human trafficking (13)

Kuala Lumpur: As the plight of Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar hit headlines, minority Tamils are lesser known victims of human trafficking crisis and their situation is worse as they are not recognised as refugees. Tamils, who are predominately Hindus and Christians and are descendants of rice growers in the Thaton and Bhamo districts of Myanmar, are conned by job agents who send them to Malaysia as bonded slaves. They were fleeced by agents of human trafficking rackets who lured them to leave the country with promises of job in Malaysia, the Star paper reported. However, they ended up being packed in the same boats with Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants, sailing for up to two weeks without food and after that being tortured at transit camps along the Thailand and Malaysia border, the daily said. Many of them said they had sold their properties to pay the agents but ended up as bonded slaves for the trafficking syndicates, which sent them to construction sites in Penang, Kedah and Perlis states in Malaysia, the Star said. 21-year-old Tamil migrant S Parimala said many in her group left home before the military junta in Myanmar announced the issuance of identification cards during the middle of last year. “We are in limbo because according to Rohingyas who just arrived, we could be shot if we return without identification papers and we are also living in fear of the authorities in Malaysia. We are stateless but UNHCR office refuses to give us refugee status,” she told the daily. She said about 110 Myanmar Tamils were now spread out in construction sites and living in squalid conditions. Another migrant, James Kanna, said, “I was duped into believing that I could enter the country legally.” He added that he too tried to get refugee status but was rejected. “I have not seen my son for a year and I don’t think I can see him again. He probably thinks I am already dead,” said the widower who left his son with a neighbour. Tens of thousands of minority Rohingya Muslims facing persecution in Myanmar have fled the country in recent years. Joined increasingly by economic migrants from neighbouring Bangladesh, they mainly headed for Malaysia and Indonesia. The exodus was largely ignored until a crackdown on the people-smuggling trade in Thailand last month caused chaos as gangmasters abandoned their human cargos on land and sea. (Deccan Herald 15/6/15)

34. Amnesty condemns ‘shameful’ world response (13)

London: Rights group Amnesty International on Monday slammed world leaders for “condemning millions of refugees to an unbearable existence” and demanded they work closely to resolve the “worst crisis” since WWII. “From the Andaman to the Mediterranean people are losing their lives as they desperately seek safe haven,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty’s secretary general, as the group published a report ahead of World Refugee Day on June 20. “The current refugee crisis will not be solved unless the international community recognises that it is a global problem that requires states to significantly step up international cooperation,” he added. In its report, the London-based group urged the international community to establish a fund for refugees and collectively commit to resettling a million refugees over the next four years. “The refugee crisis is one of the defining challenges of the 21st century, but the response of the international community has been a shameful failure,” said Shetty. “We need a radical overhaul of policy and practice to create a coherent and comprehensive global strategy.” The situation is particularly “desperate” for four million Syrian refugees, 95 percent of whom live in five countries neighbouring Syria (Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt). Amnesty warned that these countries were being overwhelmed by “such huge burdens”. “No country should be left to deal with a massive humanitarian emergency with so little help from others, just because it happens to share a border with a country in conflict,” said Shetty. On the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean, Amnesty welcomed measures taken by European Union members to strengthen the Triton border security operation, but called for further action, notably by creating more legal avenues for resettling refugees.AFP(The Hindu 16/6/15)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

35. AAP upset with Tomar, may expel him over fake degree charges (1)

AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal is disappointed with Tomar as he had convinced him about the authenticity of his degree by showing a fake RTI report, as per media reports. Jitender Singh Tomar was taken into custody by the Delhi Police on Tuesday after an FIR was filed against him for allegedly possessing fake degrees. After arresting Tomar from his house, the Delhi Police took him to Faizabad district in Uttar Pradesh. On Wednesday, Tomar was taken to K S Saket PG College in the Faizabad district, where he claims to have studied, and was asked to show the classrooms and labs. But, the former Delhi Law Minister failed to recognize the classrooms and labs. Even the lectures at the college and Tomar’s alleged batchmates failed to recognize him. Jitender Singh Tomar has been charged with IPC section 467 for forgery, section 468 for forgery with purpose of cheating and section 120 (B)  for criminal conspiracy. (Deccan Herald 12/6/15)

36. UP RTI activist murdered by village head (1)

BAHRAICH: An RTI activist was brutally beaten up by the pradhan of Gaura village under the jurisdiction of Hardi police in Bahraich on Friday night. He died of injuries in the district hospital on Saturday. The accused has been arrested. Reports said Guru Prasad, 48, was kidnapped from his house and beaten by the village pradhan and his henchmen on Friday as he dared to challenge their might by seeking information on the development in the village. Prasad sat on a dharna at the office of the block development officer on Monday. He called off the dharna and returned to his home on the assurance of officials on Friday. Instead of taking action against Trilokinath, the officials allegedly persuaded the activist to call off his dharna, reports added. “Prasad, who was the block convener of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), had sought information on the development of the village from pradhan Trilokinath some time back. The latter had threatened him of dire consequences,” alleged the victim’s family. His wife Brijrani told TOI that Prasad had sought information about several village development projects under Right to Information (RTI) Act. However, she could not provide details. Mahsi block development officer (BDO), who is also the officiating public information officer (PIO), Mohd Nafees said: “Since January, I did not receive any application from Prasad.” Brijrani and other family members of Prasad alleged that a few people, including Trilokinath, came to their house on Friday evening and kidnapped Prasad. They beat him to death near the police station. Superintendent of police (SP) Neha Pandey said that accused Trilokinath had been arrested. “A case of murder has been registered against Trilokinath. Additional force has been deployed in the area.” District convener of AAP Santosh Kumari and general secretary Hamid claimed that Prasad used to regularly seek information about civic issues under RTI. “We condemn the murder. It’s a failure of law and order machinery,” they added. (Times of India 14/6/15)

37. RTI Act is perfect, no need to amend it, says CIC (1)

New Delhi: There is no need to amend the Right to Information Act as the law is perfect, says new Chief Information Commissioner Vijai Sharma as he appealed to public authorities to set their internal machineries right so that more information is in public domain and there is no need for RTI pleas. Citing the case of six political parties which did not follow orders of the Commission bringing them under the RTI Act, Sharma was asked whether there are lacunae in the Act which let the erring public authorities go unpunished and more powers could be given to the panel. A full bench of the Commission of which Sharma was a member had conceded that since the political parties did not appoint an information officer, the panel cannot impose a penalty as such proceedings can only be initiated against a Central Public Information Officer as per law. “We are here to implement the Act as it is. My experience has been I don’t think so (need for amendment). The act as it is OK. In so far as the objective of the RTI is concerned and the objective of the RTI Act is to ensure easing access to Information, the Act that we have today that is alright and serves its purpose,” he said in an exclusive interview to PTI. When asked whether the political parties not following orders of CIC may set a wrong precedent as other public authorities may ignore its orders in future, Sharma said several High Courts have termed the Commission as a tribunal where it hears both sides and give its opinion on the basis of what is given in the law. The Chief said while “precedence” is important the situations can be different in different cases. After assuming charge as as seventh Chief of the CIC, Sharma, who is a former bureaucrat like all his predecessors, told PTI that public authorities have to set their own internal machineries right so that more and more information is put in public domain thus avoiding need for RTI pleas. Asked about public authorities not following orders of the Commission on putting travel expenses of the Ministers in public domain, Sharma said any public authority which does not follow the orders needs to be “penalised”.”There can be no doubt that order which has been passed by this Commission have to be complied with and if there is a complaint that has to be attended to in accordance with law,” he said. Despite orders of the Commission and orders of the DoPT, travel expenses of the ministers are not being put in public domain by the NDA Government, a practice which was followed by erstwhile UPA Government. Sharma said that when an information seeker approaches a public authority, it should be able to provide information in accordance with the time period provided and that information should be relevant. “It should not be evasive information,” he said. He said public authorities should identify flippant, frivolous and vexatious applications through “some objective criteria, some determinant criteria” and attended to in a way which ensures that the genuine RTI applicants do not get handicapped. (DNA 15/6/15)

38. Sharad Pawar, nephew grabbed land in Baramati: RTI activist (1)

Mumbai: An RTI activist from Pune has alleged that NCP chief Sharad Pawar and his nephew former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar have been involved in a land grabbing case in Baramati, which is also the hometown of the Pawar family. Activist Ravindra Barhate said that the Pawars transferred forest land to their family trust violating rules and regulations in connivance with Pune collector Saurabh Rao. The disputed land, admeasuring 73-acres situated in the Karhati village of Baramati, was originally allotted to an education trust called Krishi Udyog Mool Shikshan Sanstha that runs an agricultural school with the same name since 1980. But ignoring the Bombay Public Trusts Act (BPTA), the land was transferred to another trust Vidya Pratisthan, held by Sharad Pawar and his family members, Mr Barhate alleged. The activist has been following the issue for the last six months and has decided to file a criminal writ petition against senior NCP leaders and government officials including chief minister Devendra Fadnavis for inaction. He claimed that Mr Fadnavis had been assuring him that he would take action, but has done nothing so far. According to the RTI activist, it is a clear case of blatant misuse of power as the land transfer deal has violated the Bombay Public Trusts Act (BPTA). Section 36 of the said Act states: No sale, exchange or gift on any immovable property and no lease for a period of exceeding ten years in the case of agricultural land or for a period of three years for non-agricultural land of building; belonging to a public trust shall be valid without previous sanction of the charity commissioner. “Despite this, in August 2008, a lease agreement was signed by agricultural school trust to hand over the land to Vidya Pratisthan trust headed by Sharad Pawar. This transfer of land becomes illegal as no prior permission was taken from the charity commissioner. Moreover, the land was registered and it was transferred to Vidya Pratisthan’s name on October 17, 2014 by paying Rs 1.94 crore. This includes occupancy price of land, stamp duty and registration fees,” Mr Barhate alleged. The RTI activist has acquired all the related documents through RTI, copies of which are with this newspaper. “For transferring the land to their own trust, Ajit Pawar was first made chairman of Krushi Udyog Mool Shikshan Sansthan after the then chairman of trust Padmatai Siddhya abruptly resigned from the post in 2005. But the ‘change report’ was rejected by the assistant charity commissioner K.R.P. Mukkawar for not following due procedures on November 20, 2014,” said Mr Barhate. The activist further said that he has filed a complaint with various government agencies including charity commission, Bund Garden police station, revenue minister Eknath Khadse and CM, but is still waiting for action to be taken in the case. Mr Barhate has also said that if proved wrong, he is ready to face criminal action. NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said that the party has no connection with the matter and that it is only related to Vidya Pratishthan. While a clarification released by Vidya Pratishthan said the transfer was done following all the rules and regulations. (Asian Age 16/6/15)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

39. Inmates reform lives with education (11)

JAIPUR: Where there is a will, there is a way. This saying aptly fits around 45 prisoners of Bikaner Central Jail who have decided to reform their lives through education. And in their endeavour, the Indira Gandhi National Open University’s (IGNOU) is playing a crucial role. The open varsity recently opened its centre at the jail. These inmates are pursuing courses in nutrition, healthcare, agriculture, tourism, human rights, social work and business management. Among these prisoners is Prabhu Singh who is serving life imprisonment. He is handicapped by both hands, and is dependent on other inmates for his routine activities. However, his limitation didn’t deter him from becoming one of the first inmates to enroll for the bachelor preparatory programme launched by IGNOU. “His positive attitude and determination are quite inspiring. As he can’t hold books, he asks other inmates to read out the chapters to him, so that he can memorise them,” said jail superintendent Kailash Trivedi. He said the inmates are being given free education, as it is sponsored by the government. “There are plans to increase the number of courses offered to jail inmates. Currently, the focus is on introducing vocational and skill-oriented programmes. These prisoners will be qualified to take up various jobs after they walk out of the jail,” said IGNOU centre coordinator Parasmal Jangir. (Times of India 12/6/15)

40. 99.4% of all candidates fail AIPMT every year (11)

Only 0.6% of those who take the All India Pre-Medical Entrance Test crack it. That’s an unbelievably high-stakes game, for a mindboggling 99.4% fail to crack the exam. Over 6.3 lakh students took this year’s test. The total number of MBBS seats in the country is around 52,300. Government colleges have a little under 25,000 seats. The all-India quota is 15% of these, excluding institutions like AIIMS and JIPMER. Therefore, lakhs vie for around 3,700 seats. That’s where the 0.6% success rate comes in. Even if all 52,000 seats were up for grabs, only 8% aspirants would make it. With such a huge demand-supply skew, many parents and students are often desperate to adopt fair and foul means to grab a seat and rackets have sprung up over the years tapping this desperation. In the government sector, 183 colleges have less than 25,000 seats. Government medical college seats are coveted for offering education at highly subsidised rates, costing between Rs 25,000 and Rs 75,000 for the four-and-a-half year course, and most of these colleges offer better education. The private sector offers just 19,000 seats, if we leave out management quota (approximately 30% of seats), which are sold for Rs 55 lakh and Rs 80 lakh. Even from these 19,000, thousands are diverted to the management quota to be sold every year for hefty sums. Not only do most private colleges charge between Rs 15 lakh and Rs 40 lakh for the MBBS course, most aren’t known for quality of education. With the government for decades not investing enough in starting more medical colleges and increasing number of seats, the private sector is making a killing. “The astronomical cost of medical education in the private sector is going up, increasing the demand for government medical colleges seats, where entrance exam is the only way to get in. Entrance exams for medical colleges are conducted by most countries, including the US, without regular leaks, as it happens in almost all entrance examinations in India. There’s a need to upgrade tech used in conducting such examinations. Law enforcement is so lax that hardly anyone gets convicted for involvement in leaks,” said executive director of the National Board of Examinations, Dr Bipin Batra. He welcomed the SC judgement which is expected to frame guidelines for every university or board that sets exams. (Times of India 16/6/15)

41. Statewide Congress stir against education business (11)

GANDHINAGAR: Congress party has threatened to stage a state-wide protest against commercialization of education in Gujarat. President of Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee, Bharatsinh Solanki, said on Monday, “Report of the National University Of Educational Planning And Administration very specifically states that in the area of primary education Gujarat ranks 16th in the country. So far as secondary education is concerned Gujarat is down to the 23rd position. This speaks volumes about the level of education in Gujarat and the lack of commitment of the state government towards this issue.” “Recently the chief minister herself admitted that education prevails on pamphlets. This admission proves the pessimistic attitude of the Gujarat government towards primary, secondary, higher secondary, higher and technical education. Gujarat is lagging behind on this rather critical frontier in comparison to other states of India,” he said. (Times of India 16/6/15)

42. CBSE Schools Asked to Form ‘Inclusion Committees’ to Help Special Children (11)

COIMBATORE:  The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has asked all schools affiliated to it to form ‘School Inclusion Committees’ to address the needs of children with special needs. Each committee should include four members: school counsellor, special educator, teachers’ representative and the principal, who will be its chairperson. The committee should act as the facilitator to promote inclusive education at the school level and in the neighbourhood. The committees should also be a referral agency for children from disadvantaged groups and weaker sections of society. “In pursuance of the Right to Education Act and Persons with Disability Act, the Central Board of Secondary Education is providing various exemptions for children with special needs to ensure their active and successful participation in the school system. It is often observed that these provisions are not reaching the targeted population and are often misinterpreted by students and stakeholders in inclusion education,” D T Sudharsan Rao, Joint Secretary, CBSE, said in a circular. “All the issues with regard to admission, classroom placements, curriculum transaction, exemptions in examination and any other issued to safeguard the interest of children with special needs shall be addressed by this committee at school level,” Rao said. The committee should also take steps to raise public awareness on the importance of equality and overcoming discrimination and prohibit any kind of harassment and victimisation of any child with special needs in school. “Children with special needs require extra care and special attention. Teachers need to spend more time with them if they are slow learners and have regular interaction with their parents,” said  is very less, said K Navamani, Principal, Angappa Senior Secondary CBSE School, Coimbatore. However, the number of students with special needs is low in CBSE schools, she added. (New Indian Express 17/6/15)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

43. PM assesses preparations of ‘Housing For All’ project (21)

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday called for a holistic approach towards meeting the target of “Housing for All”, a priority project of his government. Chairing a meeting to assess the work done so far in rural and urban areas, Modi stressed on the need for official agencies to adopt a flexible approach, taking into account local conditions such as building material, habits and lifestyles. “A tribal may prefer a house made from traditional local materials rather than bricks and mortar, and therefore should be facilitated accordingly,” the prime minister said. The meeting was attended by Urban Development Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu, Rural Development Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh and senior officers from the ministries of HUPA (housing and urban poverty alleviation) and rural development, NITI Aayog and the PMO. Modi was quoted as saying in a statement that in rural areas, the goal should be achieved “village-by-village”, so that the progress was tangible and can be monitored effectively. “All common facilities and required connectivity should also be conceived and delivered along with housing – so that we move towards the concept of ‘samasya-mukt gram’ (problem-free village),” Modi said. For urban areas, Modi suggested that urban solid waste can be used to make bricks, which would be useful as building material. He said all newly-constructed houses should take into account the required norms in disaster-prone areas. (Business Standard 11/6/15)

44. One Million Nepalis Slip Below Poverty Line Due to Earthquakes (21)

KATHMANDU:  Nearly one million people have slipped below poverty line in Nepal due to two powerful earthquakes that left about 9,000 people dead and a trail of destruction across the country.”The earthquakes have pushed 982,000 more people back into poverty due to the loss of assets and income generating opportunities,” according to a report by Nepal’s National Planning Commission. The draft report on Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA), which will be given final shape soon, has put the needs estimate of the country at USD 6.66 billion or nearly one-third of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. The draft PDNA, prepared by the NPC working with some 250 Nepali and international experts, divides the damage assessment into 21 sectors. It has calculated the damage extent in housing and human settlements, the sector suffering the most damage, at Rs 330 billion. Damage to education and tourism is estimated at Rs 28 billion and Rs 18 billion respectively. NPC handed over the PDNA draft report to Prime Minister Sushil Koirala on Friday. Vice-Chairman of NPC Govind Raj Pokharel claimed that the report will be finalised by June 18 and will include inputs from broader consultations to be organised in Kathmandu on Saturday, as well as donors’ comments thereafter. The report will be tabled before the donor community at an international donors conference here on June 25 to collect resources for the post-quake rebuilding and reconstruction. The government is also mulling to form a high-level implementation agency for the reconstruction tasks and a law for this purpose is in the making. In order to convince the donor community, the government is also expected to establish an agency for implementation and reconstruction in a fast-track mode. Altogether 36 out of the total 75 districts in Nepal are affected by the 7.9 magnitude earthquake on April 25 which was followed by another 7.3-magnitude earthquake on May 12. However, 14 districts including three districts in the Kathmandu valley fall under most-hit regions (New Indian Express 14/6/15)

45. Drought may hit rural India, aggravating poverty (21)

NEW DELHI: India’s farm economy could contract this fiscal year for the first time in over a decade because of drought, threatening Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s drive to lift millions in the countryside out of poverty and bolster his party’s support. Roughly half of India’s farmland lacks irrigation and relies on monsoon rain, but this year’s rainfall is officially forecast to be only 88 per cent of the long-term average and, for the first time in nearly three decades, farmers face a second straight year of drought or drought-like conditions. That comes on top of a crash in commodity prices, unseasonable rain earlier this year and delayed sowing late last year because of scanty monsoon rain. “Farmers are already reeling under heavy losses … and now they don’t have money to irrigate their fields or use an optimum level of inputs like fertiliser,” said Ashok Gulati, an agricultural economist who formerly advised the government on crop support prices. In the last official drought in 2009-10, the agricultural economy expanded about 1 per cent. But several private economists, including DH Pai Panandiker of think tank RPG Foundation, said the challenges in this fiscal year from April could shrink output by as much as 4 per cent, which would be the first contraction since 2002/03. Panandiker estimated that a 4 per cent decline in farm output, which accounts for about 16 per cent of Asia’s third-biggest economy, could shave 0.6 to 0.7 per centage point off the overall growth rate, all other things being equal. Such a decline could bring the overall growth rate down below the 7.3 per cent seen in fiscal 2014/15 and push more people in the countryside closer to penury. The central bank is looking for 7.6 per cent growth this fiscal year, having just cut its forecast from 7.8 per cent. Monsoon rain has picked up after a delayed start but small-scale farmers are struggling. “My two children go to a private school, where I have to deposit 25,000 rupees ($391) every six months,” said Uday Vir Singh, a farmer in Mathura, a semi-arid city in Uttar Pradesh. “God forbid I may soon have to pull them out of school,” he said, sitting under a tree where farmers had gathered to protest at delays in getting compensation for recent crop damage…. (Times of India 15/6/15)

46. Food Security Act to be Implemented by September in Bengal (21)

KOLKATA: The National Food Security Act would be implemented in West Bengal by September this year, its Food and Supplies minister Jyotipriya Mallick assured the state assembly today. Already three districts are under the purview of the act and more districts are being included in phases as digital cards are being delivered by the agencies handling them. By September the entire state would be brought under the scheme and a total 6.1 crore people would be benefited, he said. The government was constructing godowns to handle the increased quantity of food grains required to implement the scheme, he added. (New Indian Express 16/6/15)

47. Almost 2,50,000 children facing starvation in South Sudan, says UN (21)

Beijing: Almost 2,50,000 children are facing starvation in South Sudan due to the military battles witnessed by the nation since 2013, the United Nations has warned. Toby Lanzer, the UN humanitarian coordinator who was recently expelled from South Sudan, said that in half of the country, one in three children were acutely malnourished, reported Xinhua. He also noted that about two-thirds of the country’s 12 million people were in dire need of aid as around 4.5 million faced severe food vulnerability. Lanzer added that a continuing war in South Sudan will lead to ‘economic collapse.’The country attained independence from Sudan in 2011 but plunged into crisis in December 2013 as troops loyal to President Salva Kiir clashed with defectors led by his former deputy Riek Machar. The conflict soon became a full-blown war, with violence taking an ethnic flavour. It left thousands of South Sudanese dead and compelled around 1.9 million people to flee. (New Kerala 17/6/15)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

48. ‘Highest average man days under MNREGA only 49 days’ (14)

Man days under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), supposed to offer a minimum of 100 days’ employment per rural household per year, have been between 23 and 40 in the past eight years. And, the highest annual average recorded in the past few years has been 49 days, Birender Singh, Union minister for of rural development, panchayati raj, drinking water and sanitation, told Business Standard. States are finding it tough to engage local labour as they refuse to work at a wage rate lower than that prevailing in the market. “In some states, the wage rate offered in the market is higher than the MNREGS wages. So, the local labour does not accept employment under MNREGS.” (Business Standard 13/6/15)

49. Will protect workers’ interest, says India at ILO (14)

New Delhi: In the wake of growing protests by trade unions, India assured the International Labour Organization (ILO) of protecting workers’ interest. Addressing the United Nations body, Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya said that the Government of India is committed to protect and safeguard the interests of workers and upholding the dignity of labour. He also highlighted the measures taken to improve social security cover to workers of unorganised sector while addressing the International Labour conference held at Geneva last week. The trade unions are opposed to proposed changes in labour laws. The trade unions are up in arms over these proposals which would make it difficult for the workers to register and run trade unions. They have also announced national strike on September 2. “The government is committed to protect and safeguard the interests of workers and upholding the dignity of labour. Financial inclusion and social security cover for everyone is the top priority for the government especially for the vulnerable class of workers, “he said. He highlighted government’s effort towards providing social security covers to the unorganised workers. He said also that the government has initiated the process of providing an umbrella card to the unorganised sector workers. “This move will bring social security coverage for 1 billion people. For the organised sector, portability of provident fund benefits in a hassle free manner has been assured for more than 50 million workers,” he said. However, he iterated that poverty eradication and job creation are the top priorities of the Narendra Modi government. “India believes that poverty eradication and job creation are primary objectives to achieve inclusive growth under the ambit of Sustainable Development Goals in United Nations Framework,” he said. He referred to Make in India, Skill India, Digital India and Smart Cities Project in this context. (Deccan Herald 15/6/15)

50. Protest against denying jobs under MGNREGS (14)

NAMAKKAL: Stating that they were denied jobs under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) because they did not construct individual toilets at their homes, workers staged a protest outside Collectorate here on Monday. Villagers of Prandagam in Paramathi Velur said that over 50 people were denied jobs for many months as they did not construct toilets at their residences. Hence, a meeting was held in which employment was assured for all. On Monday, a protest was organised by agricultural workers of the Communist Party of India that condemned the panchayat president’s act. The protestors said that their livelihood was affected for no reasons and vowed to intensify their protest if jobs were not provided to them at the earliest. (The Hindu 16/6/15)

51. Enact a bill to protect interests of maids: DWF (14)

VIJAYAWADA: The Centre should enact a bill to provide safeguards for the domestic help engaged in households across the country, urged the Domestic Workers Federation (DWF) here on Tuesday. SK Alisha, city coordinator of the Montfort Social Institute (MSI) of which the DWF is an affiliate, said that the act should ensure minimum wages, weekly offs and extra pay for additional work. He appealed to the government to carry out a national-level survey on the economic conditions of the domestic helps. Addressing a function on the occasion of the International Domestic Workers Day, Alisha pointed out that most of the maids were denied minimum wages and were subjected to sexual abuse and harassment. But there was no legal mechanism that would come to their rescue, he rued. Alisha said that MSI would take the initiative to apprise the public representatives on the importance of passing a bill which will protect the interests of domestic help. T Shankar, MSI leader, underlined the need to organize a large number of maids working in the informal sector under horrible working conditions. Officials of the labour department should visit the houses where the maids are engaged and see whether the labour act is implemented at the workplaces. It is quite unfortunate that the government lacks tools to quantify the volume of work done by the maids and fix wages accordingly,” he said. Krishna Babu, another MSI activist, informed that efforts were underway to promote vocational skills in the maids like tailoring to augment their incomes. Most of the other speakers at the function complained that there were no fixed working hours for them unlike their counterparts engaged in the organised sector. They sought wage fixation based on the size of families for which they are working. (Times of India 18/6/15)

52. HMDA Employees Sacked Outsourcing Staff’s Plea for Reinstatement (14)

HYDERABAD: The outsourcing employees of the Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority (HMDA) urged Metropolitan Commissioner, Shalini Mishra to reinstate the 199 outsourcing employees whose services were terminated abruptly. These 199 outsourcing employees who were working in different categories were removed from service on April 23, 24 and 29 respectively without any prior intimation, the workers said. After submitting various representations to the labour Commissioner, senior officials and elected representatives of various parties, the issue was put before the Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao. He was said to have instructed Principal Secretary to CM, S Narsing Rao to begin the process of reinstating the said HMDA outsourcing employees. Accordingly, a note was issued by the Principal Secretary on June 8 to examine and take immediate action on the matter. But, no action has been taken so far, complained the employees. Meanwhile, it is learnt that, instructions from the Metropolitan Commissioner have been given to 17 of the 199 outsourcing employees, ordering them to rejoin their duties with immediate effect. The other employees claim that majority of the 17 members are not qualified for the job and are also non-local (natives of Andhra Pradesh). The terminated employees feel that this move is reportedly meant to humiliate them and requested the chief minister and senior officials to reinstate their jobs as soon as possible. (New Indian Express 19/6/15)

RESERVATION

53. SC/ST Staff Demand Scrapping of DPC List (25)

BHUBANESWAR: A piquant situation arose in the State Secretariat on Thursday when Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe employees shouted slogans alleging discrimination against them in promotion and demanding scrapping of the list prepared by the Departmental Promotion Committee (DPC). The employees gathered on the corridor near the main entrance of the ground floor and shouted slogans when Ministers were on their way to the Cabinet Meeting. They wanted to meet Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik who takes the corridor route to his chamber. However, police did not allow the agitating employees to meet the Chief Minister. The agitators were dispersed forcibly before the arrival of the Chief Minister. “This is harassment of SC/ST workers. This is a discrimination,” said Vivekananda Samal, secretary of Odisha SC/ST Workers’ Association. Later, the SC and ST employees sat on a dharna till 5 pm, Samal said. The SC and ST employees alleged that while employees belonging to the general quota get promotion to the posts of desk officer and under secretary, they cannot reach these posts. Describing the DPC list as faulty, general secretary of Odisha SC/ST Workers’ Association Ananta Kumar Majhi demanded that it should be scrapped. The association members had met Chief Secretary Gokul Chandra Pati to draw his attention to the demand. On the other hand, members of Odisha Sachivalaya Seva Sangha had protested in front of the office of the Chief Secretary on Wednesday demanding immediate publication of the Departmental Promotion Committee (DPC) list. (New Indian Express 12/6/15)

54. Subdivision of OBCs not on our agenda, Centre says (25)

NEW DELHI: Union social justice minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot has said the Centre is not considering any proposal to subdivide the OBCs as proposed by the National Commission for Backward Classes. “There is no such view within the government. There is no discussion at any serious forum. This issue is not under examination,” Gehlot told TOI about a recent proposal of the panel. In an April missive, the NCBC asked the Centre for a direction on whether it should go ahead with “subcategorization of OBCs” for which the preliminary process had been initiated after a nod from the UPA regime. The panel argued that subdivision would ensure equitable distribution of Mandal reservations. “Subcategorization” is seen as the solution to the grievance that stronger backwards have cornered the reservation benefits to the detriment of weaker sections within the category. The socially feeble groups are unable to compete with the empowered castes with whom they vie for OBC quota benefits. It is proposed that OBCs be divided into subgroups as per their social profile, with 27 per cent quota apportioned among them in proportion to their population. If the social justice minister’s response betrays a reluctance to bite the bullet, the stance could be owing to its possible implications for Bihar elections due later this year. There may be a fear that subdivision would anger the stronger backwards like yadavas and kurmis. The leaders of the two communities — Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar — have joined hands in an alliance against BJP. There is a conflict between weaker and stronger OBCs over the issue. While the former feel it would boost their chances of tapping the Mandal quotas, the latter are apprehensive that it would limit their playing field to just a fraction of the 27 per cent quota available to them. Consequently, the resentful stronger backwards could consolidate aggressively in favour of the RJD-JD(U) combine. On balance, BJP believes it can dent the vote base of Lalu-Nitish alliance and may want to avoid a provocation like subdivision. Observers, however, argue that it may not be as big a political risk since subdivision would be lapped up by the weaker OBCs who see it as panacea to their sidelining by their empowered brethren since the onset of Mandal benefits. The weaker OBCs far outnumber their empowered counterparts, forming a stronger vote bank. A decision based on political grounds, experts lament, would sound the end of what is a progressive step to refine the affirmative action regime, skewed as it is in favour of a small section of the backwards. (Times of India 13/6/15)

55. Jat quota issue: Community members to gherao PM’s residence (25)

Merut: In a bid to seek reintroduction of reservation for Jats, which was cancelled by Supreme Court in March, the community has decided to gherao the residences of Prime Mintiser Narendra Modi and other cabinet ministers in July. Annoucning this here yesterday, Akhil Bhartiya Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti National President Yashpal Malik told PTI today that the court’s order has “jeopardised the future of thousands of youths”.He further stated that the prime minister and BJP National President Amit Shah on March 27 had assured Jat leaders that the Centre will take appropriate steps in this regard and will try to find out a solution.”But nothing has been done so for. Thus we doubt the intention of the government,” he added.During the meeting, the samiti also demanded jobs and admissions under OBC reservartion catergory for jat youths, who had cleared exams, interviews and other formalities before the court’s decision. The apex court, in its verdict on March 17 this year, had set aside the 2014 notification of the then UPA government to include Jats in the central list of Other Backward Classes (OBC) in nine states for quota benefits. (Business Standard 15/6/15)

56. SC scraps pre-medical entrance test, orders new one in four weeks (25)

New Delhi: In a major verdict, the Supreme Court on Monday scrapped the All India Pre-Medical Entrance Test (AIPMT) for 2015-16 following the leak of its question paper and circulation of the answer keys through electronic devices at different examination centres in 10 states. The AIPMT was conducted for 15 percent all-India quota seats. A vacation bench of Justice R.K. Agrawal and Justice Amitava Roy, while cancelling the examination and directing its re-conduct within four weeks, said: “We are aware that the abrogation of the examination would result in some inconvenience to all concerned and that same extra time would be consumed for holding a fresh examination with renewed efforts.” Holding that the entire conduct of the AIPMT has been rendered “futile by a handful of elements seeking to reap undue financial gain by subjecting the process to their evil manoeuvres”, the court said: “We have thus no hesitation to order that the All India Pre-Medical and Pre-Dental Test stands cancelled.” “This, according to us, is the price the stakeholders would have to suffer in order to maintain the impeccable and irrefutable sanctity and credibility of a process of examination, to assess the innate worth and capability of the participating candidates for being assigned inter se merit positions commensurate to their performance based on genuine and sincere endeavours,” said Justice Roy, while pronouncing the judgment. While directing the re-conduct of the entire test, the court rejected the Central Board of Secondary Education’s (CBSE) plea not to scrap the test as it would affect 6.30 lakh students and also the re-conduct of the examination could not be completed before four months. Taking note of the plea of “enormity” of the task and the time frame of “four months” flagged by the CBSE, the court said: “We would emphasize that this is an occasion where it (CBSE) ought to gear up in full all its resources in the right spirit, in coordination with all other institutions that may be involved so as to act in tandem and hold the examination afresh at the earliest”.It was a “collective challenge” that all the role-players would have to meet, by rising to the occasion and fulfil the task ahead at the earliest, “so as to thwart and abort the deplorable design of a mindless few seeking to highjack the process for selfish gain along with the unscrupulous beneficiaries thereof”, the court said. While ordering that the exam be re-conducted, the court noted that on previous occasions “such type of examination had been held anew within a period of one month”.Observing that all other institutions would not “lag behind to extend all possible assistance to the Board in its renewed endeavour” involving “tireless efforts”, the court said: “The CBSE would now have to hold a fresh examination at the earliest, by complying with all necessary and prescribed norms, being mindful of the exigency amongst others of the commencement of the academic session which presently stands scheduled to be on and from August 1, 2015.” The court’s order came on a PIL and other petitions seeking the re-conduct of the examination in the wake of the leak of the question paper, contending that it has compromised the integrity of the entrance test. (New Kerala 16/6/15)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

57. NHRC sends notices to Tihar authorities (1)

New Delhi: Taking suo motu cognisance of media reports on illegal activities inside Tihar jail premises, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued notices to the prison authorities, asking them to submit a report in this regard within two weeks. “The Commission has taken suo motu cognisance of media reports that there are about 20 gangs of inmates operating inside the Tihar jail who facilitate mobile phones, coolers, porn magazines and protection from sexual abuse to prisoners who can pay them,” the NHRC said in a statement. They even plot crimes, including murder, both inside and outside the prison, it said.”The contents of the press reports, if true, raise serious questions about human rights of the prisoners as well as people outside the prison,” the statement said. Notices have been issued to Principal Secretary (Home) and Director General (Prisons) and a report has been sought in this regard within two weeks, it said. The Commission has also authorized one of the SSPs in the Investigation Division to conduct an inspection of Tihar jail and verify the allegations. According to media reports, 17 deaths have taken place inside the jail in the last four months, raising serious questions about the much needed security infrastructure. It was also reported that the prison is vastly over populated with 14,000 prisoners squeezing into the capacity of 6,250. (Deccan Herald 11/6/15)

58. 150 dead, now Madras HC to monitor ban on manual scavenging (1)

CHENNAI: Pointing out that more than 150 people had died since 1993 while manually clearing sewerage blocks in Tamil Nadu, the Madras high court said it would henceforth monitor implementation of manual scavenging laws in the state.The first bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice T S Sivagnanam, passing orders on a PIL filed by ChangeIndia director A Narayanan last week, said, “In our view, it is necessary to take expeditious steps to implement the provisions of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers & Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, coupled with the directions of the Supreme Court in letter and spirit promptly.” The bench also made it clear that the authorities must take note of all materials provided by Narayanan in his PIL. The PIL listed more than 150 people, with names and addresses, who had been killed during manual scavenging work in the state since 1993. The PIL wanted the court to direct the government to implement all the provisions of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers & Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013. Although officially banned, workers continue to be sent down manholes and sewage pits to cut cost or make up for lack of necessary equipment. Often old pipelines clog up too frequently. The state must also be asked to complete identification of families of all people who have died in sewerage work involving manholes and septic tanks since 1993 and award compensation of 10 lakh for each such death within a timeframe, Narayanan said. In response to his list of 150 victims, government said only about 60 had been killed in such incidents. It said a little over 50 cases had been verified, and compensation paid to 29. Underscoring the Act as well as the apex court rulings governing the issue, the judges said no further directions were necessary. The judges then asked the government to file progress/compliance reports every three months till full compliance is ensured. The matter was adjourned to September 10 for further hearing. (Times of India 15/6/15)

59. Foreign Contribution Regulation Act: New crackdown on NGO foreign funds (1)

New Delhi: The NDA government has proposed a series of amendments to the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) to strengthen its scrutiny of financial transactions involving NGOs. In the most important change, the government plans to equate “economic security” for NGOs under the FCRA with the definition provided in Section 2 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). Section 2 of the UAPA, amended in 2013, reads: “Economic security includes financial, monetary and fiscal stability, security of means of production and distribution, food security, livelihood security, energy security, ecological and environmental security.” According to the proposed changes, NGOs and organisations that receive foreign donations will now have to share personal details, bank account details and bio-data of their trustees with the government. Also, banks will have to provide online access to the Home Ministry and Intelligence Bureau (IB) for monitoring the utilisation of accounts of all FCRA-registered associations. In April, the Home Ministry had cancelled the registration of Greenpeace India for “adversely impacting the economic security” of the country. The government also plans to “clearly define” provisions under the law that require “prior approval” for associations to receive foreign funding — 16 organisations are currently under this category, the latest being the Ford Foundation. When contacted, a senior government official denied that these amendments were part of a clampdown on NGOs. “There is no attempt to clamp down on NGOs, we are making arrangements to make the entire procedure transparent. On many occasions, the NGOs are not aware about the rules and procedures to be followed, the idea is to educate them too,” the official said. “We propose to clearly define prior-approval category… The procedures for placing NGOs and associations under this category also need to be laid down threadbare. Apart from this, the government will periodically issue advisories and cautionary notices to foreign donors as well so that the rules are reiterated to them,” the official added. According to the amended rules, any foreigner associated with an NGO, who is visiting India, will have to furnish his/her details with the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO), spelling out the purpose as well as the dates of the visits. The NGOs will have to list all their activities and declarations on a website, and register themselves under one of the nine Indian Acts: Societies Registration Act, 1860, Indian Trust Act, 1882, Section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956, Religion Endowments Act, 1863, Charitable and Religious Trust Act, 1920, Mussalman Wakf Act, 1973, Wakf Act, 1954, Public Wakfs Act, 1959 and Section 12 A of IT Act. (Indian Express 15/6/15)

60. Condition of schools: NHRC issues notice to Delhi govt (1)

New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued a notice to Delhi government over the “pathetic state of affairs” at the schools run by it and sought a detailed report in the matter within four weeks. “The commission has taken suo motu cognisance of a media report highlighting a survey exposing the pathetic state of affairs in the 720 schools of Delhi government,” it said in a statement here. According to the report, a survey conducted by Delhi government’s Education Department has found that government schools faced shortage of teachers and lacked clean drinking water and toilet facilities. Also, in some cases, teachers were found to have consumed alcohol during duty hours. Instances also came to light of teachers and principals verbally abusing students and their parents as well. Facilities for computer education were almost non- existent with schools having no computers or just one for all the students. There were also major security lapses within the schools, said the survey, which was held pursuant to an initiative by the Deputy Chief Minister to obtain students’ suggestions for improvements at government schools. (Business Standard 16/6/15)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

61. Civil society must have a say in judges’ appointment, Centre tells Supreme Court (19)

NEW DELHI: Appointment of judges shouldn’t be the exclusive preserve of the judiciary and civil society must be allowed to participate in the selection process as the “largest consumer of justice”, the Centre told the Supreme Court on Thursday while justifying the role of two eminent persons in the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC). Appearing before a 5-judge Constitution bench, headed by Justice JS Khehar, attorney general Mukul Rohatgi said the times have changed and legal acumen cannot be considered the sole criteria for appointment of judges. Describing NJAC as a broad-based system than the collegium, he said the two eminent persons would bring in “diversified views” in the appointment process. “People outside the judiciary must also have a say in judicial appointments. They are the largest consumer of justice delivery system and must have a say. Appointment of two eminent persons in NJAC is a decision to bring such people on table. What is wrong if a person of the stature of Satyajit Ray, MS Swaminathan, Verghese Kurien, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or a cricketer or film star are appointed in the panel. They have deeper understanding of society and culture than judges,” the AG said. Pointing out that the NJAC Act fails to define “eminent person”, the bench, also comprising Justices J Chelameswar, Madan B Lokur, Kurian Joseph and Adarsh Kumar Goel, said it is very subjective term and asked what would happen if a ‘B-grade’ film star is appointed as an eminent person. “How can an eminent person decide the suitability of a candidate for judgeship. From whom they would get information and data on the basis of which decision should be taken. How would they help in the selection process?” asked the bench. The court also raised questions over the lack of provisions for removal of the two eminent persons from the six-member NJAC panel and asked whether there was any scope for judicial review of their selection. “There are no eligibility criteria for being an eminent person and there is also no provision for their removal from NJAC. Tomorrow if he goes berserk, what will you do. There is a procedure for removal of all persons from Constitutional posts but no such procedure is there (in NJAC) for the eminent person. There must be some checks and balances so that action can be taken if something goes wrong,” the bench observed. A combative Attorney General replied that the collegium system was too stereotyped and time has come to replace it. “The proposition that only judges know the best is fraught with danger. The court cannot ignore or be oblivious to the changing times. The mindset must change and the court must live up to the requirements of changing times. Our society is very mature. What paths the society should undertake should not be left only to judges,” he said. Advancing arguments on the role of the two eminent persons in the panel, Rohatgi said, “Many traits of a person must be considered before appointing him as a judge and those traits can be analysed by a person from outside the legal field. It’s a procedure followed in many countries. Judges are not aware about life beyond law. Why should you feel that only you could do the job,” he argued. The AG said the questions raised by bench are in vacuum as the NJAC has not started functioning and rules and regulations can be put in place to sort out any problem. He said an eminent person can be removed by the commission itself. “Are you saying that hire and fire policy will be applied for the eminent person. It looks odd that commission would form rules for removal of its own member,” the bench countered. The AG said NJAC cannot be quashed just because of few deficiencies. (Times of India 12/6/15)

62. Five major high courts without regular chief justices (19)

While the stalemate over the creation of the National Judicial Appointments Commission drags on, as many as five major high courts are forced to make do without a regular chief justice. And out of the sanctioned strength of 1,017 high court judges across the country, vacancies have grown to the extent of 37%. In percentage terms, the worst affected high courts as of June 1 are Chhattisgarh (55%), Allahabad (51%) and Karnataka (47%). In absolute terms, the high courts with the most number of vacancies are Allahabad (81/160), Punjab and Haryana (30/85), Bombay (29/94), Karnataka (29/62) and Gujarat (23/52). The high courts being administered by acting chief justices are Punjab and Haryana, Gujarat, Gauhati, Hyderabad and Karnataka. Gujarat has had an acting chief justice for the longest period: Justice VM Sahai has been officiating in Ahmedabad since September. The Karnataka high court is the latest to join the list of those without a regular chief justice: Subhro Kamal Mukherjee assumed the office of acting chief justice only on June 1. Thus, Karnataka and Gujarat have the dubious distinction of figuring among the high courts with a high proportion of vacancies and those without a regular chief justice. Incidentally, the vacancies in the Karnataka high court may soon touch the half-way mark (31/62) as Justices A S Pachhapure and C R Kumaraswamy, who successively dealt with the Jayalalithaa disproportionate assets case, are due to retire over the next two months. The freeze on judicial appointments due to the ongoing battle over NJAC in the Supreme Court has so far not affected the Kerala high court, where there is no vacancy (0/38). The only other high courts that have not contributed to the overall tally of 372 vacancies out of 1,017 sanctioned posts are smaller ones: Tripura (0/4), Sikkim (0/3) and Meghalaya (0/3). Though there is no stay on the constitutional amendment and law passed last year bringing the NJAC into existence, judicial appointments to the Supreme Court and high courts have been on hold despite the formal notification of the new system on April 13. This is mainly because of the stated reluctance of Chief Justice of India HL Dattu to serve as the chairman of the NJAC while its validity is under challenge before the Supreme Court. Another sticking point is the appointment to the NJAC of two eminent persons, who are to be selected by a committee consisting of the CJI, PM and the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha. In view of the urgency of the matter, an apex court bench is specially holding hearings even during the ongoing summer vacation. The Supreme Court itself has three vacancies against the sanctioned strength of 31 judges. The Delhi high court in its neighbourhood should serve as a reminder of the gravity of the situation: against its sanctioned strength of 60, it has 19 vacancies. (Times of India 15/6/15)

63. Cabinet set to okay BIS law amendments (19)

NEW DELHI: Paving way for a robust regime of standardization of most of the good, services and processes, the Cabinet is likely to approve the proposed amendments in the Bureau of India Standards (BIS) Act. The amendments envisages widening the list of products that need to get standard certification and stricter regulatory mechanism including ban on sale of faulty products, their recall and delegating more authority to the regulator to order compensation to consumers. While the amendments propose to bring more products and services under the ambit of BIS to push the agenda of “zero defect zero effect” call of Prime Minister, it significantly proposes that the certified jwellery shops across the country would be held liable if they are found selling any non-Hallmark items. At present, there are mandatory standards for only 122 category of items as per the Industrial Development Regulation Act. Some of the other major changes proposed include for recall of products including from the gowdowns that carry tags such as ISI mark but don’t conform to prescribed norms. Moreover, if the sample tests carried out by the agency show non-conformity with the prescribed standards, then it will publicize such test results. “This is a move to discipline the manufacturers. This naming and shaming will have greater impact rather than just fining them as it hits their brand,” said a government source. TOI has learnt that the bureau will also have the power to order repair, replacement of articles, process and services that are found faulty or deficient. The consumers have to be compensated in case of damage caused by such products or services. “There are also new provisions in the Bill to take stricter action against the violators to ensure that they follow the norms after obtaining a certification to use the IS mark,” said an official. The BIS Act was enacted in 1986 and has not been amended since then. (Times of India 17/6/15)

64. NGOs to face tighter forex scrutiny soon (19)

CHENNAI: The Union home ministry is preparing to tighten its grip on non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that receive funds in foreign exchange with a proposed draft amendment to the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) making it mandatory for banks to report to the ministry within 48 hours of forex remitted to accounts of such entities that lack FCRA registration. The amendment stipulates that NGOs or individuals receiving foreign contributions submit details of funds within seven days of receiving them on their officially declared websites or the site prescribed by the Centre. The amendment makes it mandatory for NGOs to submit their annual accounts to the ministry. The ministry’s move to amend the act follows its recent cancellation of the registration of more than 1,000 NGOs. Its main aim remains to make changes to the FCRA – a worry for many organisations – for more transparency in donations that NGOs receive in foreign exchange. “The amendments are meant to promote transparency in the receipt and utilisation of foreign contributions by these organisations as well as the reporting mechanism of banks by using available information technology,” a ministry official said. The amendments will also improve the existing system of receipt of requests for registration, prior permission and renewal of registration under FCRA, he said. If the government approves the amendments and has them notified in the gazette, new NGOs seeking FCRA registration will only be able to do so online after obtaining a digital signature. “The applicant should upload the digitally signed application with scanned documents within the timeframe as prescribed by the Centre [within the timeframe applicable],” the draft amendment says. Banks must intimate the ministry about forex remittances to FCRA-registered NGOs within 48 hours. All NGOs that receive foreign exchange will have to re-register or renew registration by March 2016. If the Centre amends the FCRA before next March, not many NGOs will have permission to receive foreign exchange. “The proposed move to amend the act is welcome for the sake of transparency,” said K Shivakumar, treasurer of Voluntary Action Network India (an association that represents NGOs). Making it compulsory for NGOs to report details on foreign exchange received and spent on a daily basis, however, will only interfere in their functioning, including those with bona fide intentions, he said. The ministry aims to stifle NGOs and reduce their numbers through the amendments, Development Promotion Group head R Bhakther Solomon said. “To demand the furnishing of details of foreign exchange receipts and spending is asking for too much,” he said. “Banks are likely to find it tedious to dispatch such details to the ministry on a daily basis.” It may be viable for banks to send quarterly details instead, Solomon said. The ministry has sought comments from stakeholders before July 1, after which the Centre could make amendments to the FCRA. (Times of India 19/6/15)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

65. Nawaz Sharif: Pakistan will protect its interests (1)

Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday attacked the “irresponsible and imprudent” statements emanating from India, following the counter-terror action in Myanmar and vowed to protect his country’s “vital interests at all costs.” Addressing a conference of Pakistan’s envoys here, he said such statements vitiate the atmosphere and take the two countries away from the goals of regional peace and stability. “At the same time we will not abandon our moral high ground because of provocations.” He said the issue of Jammu and Kashmir cannot be relegated to the back-burner. Mr. Sharif pointed out that last Tuesday during his meeting with the U.N. Secretary General in Dushanbe, he urged him to play a proactive role in promoting peace in the region. He had also reminded him that it was incumbent on the Security Council to ensure early implementation of its resolutions on J&K. Meanwhile, the Senate in its resolution said Pakistan would never allow its territory to be violated by India under any pretext. It stated that the Pakistan armed forces were fully capable of giving a fitting response to any incursion and the Pakistani people stand shoulder to shoulder with their armed forces, Radio Pakistan reported. Condemning the Indian leaders’ comments, the resolution said such statements confirm apprehensions about India’s intention to destabilise Pakistan. The House urged the international community to take note of such “provocative statements” which it said negatively affected the prospects for regional peace, sovereignty and stability. The resolution said at a time when the entire Pakistani nation, particularly the armed forces were engaged in a battle against terrorism, Indian provocations were not only undermining Pakistan’s anti-terror campaign but actually aiding and abetting terrorists fighting against Pakistan. Concluding the discussion, Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq said that being a nuclear power Pakistan’s defence had been made invincible. He alleged that India, while making a “useless effort” to become a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, was “violating the U.N. Charter by carrying out human rights violations in Kashmir.” (The Hindu 12/6/15)

66. Rights body looks into torture of activists (1)

CUTTACK:  The Odisha Human Rights Commission (OHRC) has directed the Railway IG to enquire and submit a report within a month about the allegation against the Inspector in charge (IIC) of Cuttack GRP for illegally arresting six SUCI activists, including a woman and allegedly torturing them in custody. “While the party activists were engaged in public subscription collection in specified party boxes, the IIC booked them on charges of extortion,” said Khageswar Sethy, a local office-bearer of the SUCI. Not only were party workers wrongfully arrested, they were also illegally detained in the lockup and subjected to inhuman treatment, Sethy said. (The Hindu 14/6/15)

67. Detailed probe sought into ‘fake’ encounter (1)

NALGONDA: Members of the association of Maoist martyrs’ parents termed the encounter killing of 19-year-old Vivek Kodamagundla and two other women Maoists on the Telangana-Chhattisgarh border ‘fake’. The body of Vivek was brought to his residence at Suryapet on Sunday for the last rites. Vivek’s father, Yogananda Chary, said his son was caught by the police before the encounter and killed in cold blood. A woman from the association said all three youth were killed in the joint operation of Telangana and Chhattisgarh police in a fake encounter. “They were tortured, their arms twisted before they were shot dead and they suffered fractures,” she said. “What was the need to torture the boy even if he was a Maoist?” she questioned. Vivek’s mother, Madhavi, and his father said that their son always used to talk about socio-economic inequalities in society. He always used to express his willingness to work for the poor. They expressed regret that his life had ended at a tender age. “Who gave the police the right to kill him?” she questioned. They all sought a detailed probe into the encounter of the three youth. (The Hindu 15/6/15)

68. Report sought on Palamau killings (1)

Ranchi, June 16: National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has taken suo motu cognisance of last week’s killings of suspected Maoists in an encounter in Palamau, dubbed as fake by the victims’ relatives and also the banned rebel outfit, sending notices to chief secretary Rajiv Gauba and DGP D.K. Pandey. In its notice sent by email today, the rights panel has sought a detailed report on the encounter within four weeks. A joint team of the CRPF’s elite CoBRA Battalion and district police carried out the operation on June 9, killing 12 suspected Maoists, including “Dr Bomb” or “doctor wa” who had planted a 2kg bomb inside a dead jawan’s stomach in 2013. Of the 12 male bodies, one was a para-teacher and four looked like minors, raising doubts on whether the four were innocent casualties. Palamau IG A. Natarajan and SP M.K. Patel led the team, but Maoists claimed that it was the handiwork of Jharkhand Jan Mukti Parishad, a pro-police outfit. The NHRC mail says that the incident took place at Bakoria village in Satbarwa after the alleged encounter”Observing that Right to Life is a Constitutionally guaranteed Fundamental Right and no person should be deprived of his life except according to procedure established by law, Mr. Justice D. Murugesan, Member of the Commission has issued notices to the Chief Secretary and Director General of Police, Government of Jharkhand calling for a detailed report on the alleged encounter, narrating the full sequence of events, within four weeks,” the notice further says. Yesterday, Jharkhand government transferred additional director-general of police Rezi Dungdung from the CID and handed him charges of JAP. Dungdung, considered to be an effective and honest officer, was shown the door only after two months of his posting in the CID, the police wing that is supposed to carry out independent inquiries into cases of encounters between police and suspected Naxalites. Former deputy inspector-general of Palamau range Hemant Toppo was also transferred to Jungle Warfare School in Netarhat. (The Telegraph 17/6/15)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

69. Journalist burnt alive: PCI Chairman calls it attack on freedom of press, demands SIT probe (1)

Dehradun: His son and other family members have alleged that he was set afire by the henchmen of UP Cabinet Minister Ram Murty Varma and some police personnel for writing on his alleged involvement in illegal mining and land grabbing. An FIR has been filed aginst Verma and five others for allegedly killing the journalist. Strongly condemning the murder of a journalist who was allegedly burnt alive at Shahjehanpur in Uttar Pradesh, Press Council of India Chairman C K Prasad on Wednesday said it was an attack on freedom of press and demanded an SIT probe into the incident. “The murder of a journalist at Shahjehanpur in UP is certainly an attack on the freedom of the press and as such it should be treated seriously. The state government should appoint a Special Investigative Team consisting of officers of impeccable character and track record to get to the truth of the matter as it allegedly involves a minister of the state Cabinet,” the PCI Chairman said at a press conference here. The journalist, Jagendra Singh, succumbed to burn injures at a government hospital in Lucknow late on Monday evening. His son and other family members have alleged that he was set afire by the henchmen of UP Cabinet Minister Ram Murty Varma and some police personnel for writing on his alleged involvement in illegal mining and land grabbing. An FIR has been filed aginst Verma and five others for allegedly killing the journalist. Prasad also announced that the Press Council of India (PCI) would appoint a fact-finding committee which would visit the place of the incident and submit its report on the basis of which the Council would take appropriate action. Replying to a question, Prasad said the Press Council had already appointed a sub-committee to look into attacks and killings of journalists across the country and its report was expected shortly. PCI member K Amarnath, who is also convener of the PCI Sub-committee on Safety of Journalists, informed that the panel which visited 11 states to inquire into attacks on journalists had almost finalised its report. “During its inquiry, the Committee found that 79 journalists were killed in the country in the last two and a half decades. “There has been conviction in very few cases and other cases are either still pending trial or the culprits have been let off by the courts for lack of evidence,” he said.  He said the Committee was thinking of recommending enactment of a special law for the safety of journalists by Parliament and separate statistics should be collected by the National Crimes Statics Bureau on attacks and murder of journalists in the country. (DNA 10/6/15

70. UP scribe killing: 5 policemen suspended; family seeks CBI probe (1)

Lucknow: The Uttar Pradesh government today suspended five policemen, suspected to be involved in the murder of a scribe in Shahjahanpur district this week, even as the family of the journalist sought CBI probe into the incident. UP minister Ram Murti Verma, who has been accused of orchestrating the murder and was named in the FIR, is reportedly on the run. The deceased journalist’s elder son sought a CBI probe into the incident. He said that he will write to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in this regard. He also alleged that he was being pressurised to hush up the matter by people “close” to the minister, who were also offering him bribe and a government job. Meanwhile, SP leader Mithilesh Kumar was heckled and confronted by agitated family members of Singh when he went to his house in Shahjahanpur. The action against the policemen came a day after Governor Ram Naik took up the matter with Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav after a massive outcry against the incident in which a minister Ram Murti Singh Verma allegedly conspired. “SP Shahjahanpur has suspended five policemen, including Station House Officer Shri Prakash Rai, with immediate effect,” IG (Law and Order) A Satish Ganesh told reporters here. The other four included Sub-Inspector Krantiveer Singh, Head Constable Subhash Chandra Yadav and constables Udayveer and Mansoor. Journalist Jagendra Singh was allegedly set on fire during a police raid at his house in Awas Vikas Colony of Sadar Bazar area on June 1. His family alleged that the police officials set him on fire. Singh succumbed to the injuries on June 8. An FIR was registered against minister for Backward Classes Welfare Ram Murti Verma, Inspector (Chowk) Sri Prakash Rai, Gufran, Akash Gupta, Amit Pratap Singh and Bhure for killing Jagendra. The journalist invited Verma’s ire by posting reports on Facebook about illegal mining activities and land grabbing against the minister. The FIR lodged against the minister by Singh’s son alleged that the minister sent the team of policemen to his house who doused Singh with kerosene oil and set him on fire. From his death bed, he narrated the incident to IG Amitabh Thakur and in his dying declaration went viral on news channels. (Business Line 13/6/15)

71. Another U.P. journalist attacked (1)

Meerut: Days after a Shahjahanpur-based social media journalist was set on fire for writing against a Minister in the Akhilesh Yadav government, a brutal attack on a TV journalist has come to light from Pilibhit district. Haidar Khan, who was reporting on cases of land grabbing by a local criminal Arvind Prakash, was attacked by him on the night of June 13. An FIR has been registered against Prakash and his associates under various sections of IPC. Prakash’s associates, Sudhir and Pyare Lal, have been arrested. Khan, a stringer for a local TV news channel and a resident of Sherpur Kalam, told the media that on June 13 he received a phone call about an important story in a nearby village but when he reached the spot he was attacked by Prakash and his two friends. “I was attacked by Prakash and his two friends who tied me to a motorcycle and dragged me,” Mr. Haidar Khan told the media. “I fell unconscious and after that I was dumped on the road from where people took me to the local police station from where I was taken to the government hospital in Pilibhit,” said the injured TV reporter. “I had highlighted in one of my reports that Prakash was trying to pressure his father to transfer six acres of agricultural land which belongs to his brother who is blind. He had thrashed his father in order to force him to transfer the land to him, which I had reported,” Mr. Khan claimed. (The Hindu 16/6/15)

72. Protest against ban on Telugu news channel (1)

NIZAMABAD: Activists of Congress, TDP, CPI (ML)-New Democracy, people’s organisations, and student unions staged protests in front of the railway station here on Tuesday against the continuation of ban on the telecast of the ABN-Andhra Jyothy news channel. They took out a rally from the Press Club. Speaking on the occasion, DCC president Taher Bin Hamdan described the imposition of ban and its continuation as violation of freedom of speech and expression. Demanding an immediate lifting of prohibition on the television channel the CPI (ML)-New Democracy leader V. Prabhakar said that it would be unfair on the part of rulers to continue restrictions on the television channel. BC Vidyarthi Sangham president Srinivas Goud and TUWJ district president A. Sailu participated. Sangareddy Staff Reporter adds: Demanding the State government to lift the ban on the news channel, journalists took out a rally on Tuesday. Journalists also held dharna at Collectorate and later submitted a memorandum to the officials. (The Hindu 17/6/15)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

73. 13 arrested for Fatehpura rioting, three cops injured (7)

VADODARA: At least 13 people were arrested for rioting that broke out in the communally sensitive Fatehpura area in the Walled City late on Sunday night. Three policemen were also injured in the clashes that were sparked after an idol in a temple was desecrated by some miscreants. As soon as the news about the desecration spread, mobs from both communities started gathering on the roads and entered into heated arguments. The situation snowballed and heavy stone pelting began in the area. The violence was reported on the stretch between Champaner gate and Bhandwada area during the rioting. The accused torched an old house owned by Narmada Rana in Fatehpura. There were four persons present in the two-storied house when the arson took place but they managed to flee safely. The mob also set on fire a motorbike, damaged two ATM centres and ransacked some roadside stalls in the area. “The mobs targeted policemen too. We lobbed 28 tear gas shells to disperse the rioters. The situation was brought under control within two hours,” said assistant commissioner of police C division Saurabh Singh. The rioters did not spare firemen too who rushed to the spot to douse the house on fire. The police are trying to ascertain reasons behind the desecration of the idol and also attempting to track down the accused. Singh added that 45 people have been named in the FIR and combing operations are on in Fatehpura to track down other culprits. Three companies of State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) have been deployed in the riot- hit areas to avert any escalation. Fatehpura is one of the most communally sensitive areas in the city. It has a mixed locality with people from different communities staying close-by. Usually, it is among the first to witness trouble during communal riots. Spots like Ranavas, Bhandwada and Lal Akhada are notorious for trouble mongering during the riots. (Times of India 10/6/15)

74. Muzaffarnagar gangrape: Court representative of victims ‘threatened’ (7)

New Delhi: The Pairokar or the court representative of the seven women who were allegedly gangraped during the communal violence that engulfed Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh in September 2013 was allegedly threatened by one of the accused at a local court on Wednesday. The Pairokar had accompanied one of the women, whose case has recently been reopened, to the Muzaffarnagar district court. Outside the court, Amarpal, one of the accused, allegedly accosted and threatened him, after which the Pairokar drew his licensed revolver for self-defence. The Pairokar has worked closely in the investigation of the cases and aided the Special Investigation Cell that probed the various cases of communal violence, said sources in the police. He has received death threats earlier, when he lived in Fugana village, where six of the rape cases allegedly took place, they said. Following the threats, he shifted to Kairana area of Shamli district, while continuing to help the rape victims proceed with their cases in the court. But the police have dismissed the incident at the court as a mere “misunderstanding”. “The Pairokar saw the accused suddenly and thought his life was in danger. But that wasn’t the case. There was a court hearing and both parties happened to be in the court at the same time. We detained both parties and they have come to a mutual understanding, “ said Muzaffarnagar SSP KB Singh. Advocate Vrinda Grover — the lawyer for the seven women — said the incident raised questions about the safety of the Pairokar and the rape victims, adding that his testimony would be “critical” in the trial of the gangrape cases. “The incident is a cause for concern. The case is at a very critical juncture and the safety of the witnesses and the victims can’t be compromised,” she said. After the incident, social activist Shabnam Hashmi and lawyer Ratna Appnender have written to the Muzaffarnagar police and sought their intervention. The police should ensure that the Pairokar “remains safe and is not selectively targeted due to the fact that he is the Pairokar of the seven victims of gangrape during communal violence,” they stated in their letter. (Indian Express 11/6/15)

75. Communal tension spread in Dhar town after inflammatory posters (7)

MHOW: Communal tension was spread in Khalghat village of Dhar district on Sunday morning after inflammatory posters were found pasted on the walls in the village. Actually, posters were found pasted on a large number of public and private buildings in Khalghat village, in which derogatory and objectionable remarks and messages against a community were written. The posters were probably pasted on Saturday night as they were noticed on Sunday morning. As the information reached the residents, a large number of people gathered on the streets and the matter was reported to Dhamnod police station, on which the police party reached there. The saffron leaders called for a meeting in Dhamnod and the matter was discussed. Mahesh Karma, Dhamnod VHP president told that the posters have certainly hurt the sentiments of the community. He said that such incidents have occured earlier also and the cases were registered everytime but no action could be taken as the miscreants were never identified. Sub Inspector Lokendra Chowdhry of Dhamnod police station who is investigating the matter, told that till now, the police hasn’t got any lead regarding the identities of the people who had pasted the inflammatory posters. (Times of India 14/6/15)

76. Ballabhgarh Communal Violence: Muslims reject compensation of Rs 1 lakh per family as too little (7)

New Delhi: Riot-hit Muslims of Atali village have refused to accept the compensation amount of Rs 27,46,000 offered to them by the district administration, as they alleged that it is far less than what was promised to them initially. They also alleged that essential services such as transport and goods were being “denied” to the community. Kapil Patwadi from the Ballabhgarh Revenue department said, “The process of giving compensation to those in Atali has begun. A total amount of Rs 27,46,000 is being given out to 28 families who were affected by the riots. The money has been divided based on an assessment of the damage done.” While the Revenue department maintained that the compensation had been accepted by the Muslim community, riot victims said this was not the case. “The damage done to our homes and belongings is one thing. But we were also in a situation where we couldn’t return to our homes for almost two weeks. Farming has suffered and those with businesses have had to start from scratch. Before returning home, we were promised a total of Rs 1 crore to be divided among those affected,” Nizam Ali, a resident, said. National Minority Commission member Farida Abdullah Khan, who had visited the Ballabhgarh police station and the village after the rioting, also said that the compensation offered was “inadequate”.“Earlier, the administration talked about giving compensation that amounted to a crore. This is very inadequate. If you go to the village and see the damage that has been done, this will become apparent. Moreover, the lives of the community has been completely displaced,” she said. Villagers added that the continuing denial of essential services to Muslims was further leading to financial losses. “Auto-rickshaws driven by Hindus do not stop for us. They (Hindus) are refusing to sell us the small things we need. So a lot of people have begun leaving the village, while the old have simply stopped going into the city for work. A few families, who are wealthier than the rest are supporting the entire community right now,” Mohammad Ehsan, a villager, said. Members of the Jat community, however, denied that there was any “official” decision to boycott services to Muslims. “There are some people who do not wish to interact with the Muslim community since they are insisting on building the mosque. But there has been no official decision. It is a personal matter,” Sudhir Sharma, a villager, said. Violence broke out in Atali village on May 25 after 2,000 heavily-armed men selectively targeted Muslim homes located near an under-construction mosque — which served as the flashpoint for the violence… (Indian Express 15/6/15)

COMMUNALISM

77. National Hindu meet wants Hindu nation (26)

PONDA: Supporting the idea of declaring India as a Hindu nation, religious leaders attending the fourth ‘Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Adhiveshan’ (National Hindu Convention) under way at Ramnathi, Ponda, have expressed their “whole-hearted support” for it. Advocating the need of the ‘Hindu Rashtra’ (Hindu nation), national guide of Hindu janajagruti samiti (HJS), Charudatta Pingale asked, “If Christians can have 157, Muslims have 52 and Jews and others have two nations, why Hindus don’t have at least a nation?” He said if every religion can have their nation, Hindus should be allowed to have a nation. Pingale was addressing the gathering about the achievements of past conventions and programmes of the ongoing convention. He said ‘Hindu Nation’ is essential for the welfare of the world and not the Islamic State. “We will accomplish establishment of ‘Hindu Nation’ by following the path of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and Peshwas,” he said. The convention will be held until June 17 at Ramnathi temple hall, Ponda, and is being attended by over 390 representatives from over 200 Hindu organizations from 21 states of India along with Nepal and Bangladesh. It will discuss the establishing of a Common Civil Code across the nation, rehabilitation of Kashmiri Hindus, removal of Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir, love jihad, ghar wapasi (home return), increased killings of Hindu leaders, riots, etc, the organizers said. The convention began with the blowing of a conch, lighting a traditional lamp, recitation of vedic mantras. Cyriaque Vallee, originally hailing from France and the main guide of Spiritual science research foundation; Acharya of Arsh Vidyapith, Andhra Pradesh; Swami Pranavatmanand Saraswati, mahant of Nityanand Dhyanpith, Karnataka; Nitya Shantimayanand; and representatives of Swami Narayan sect, and Gujarat Divya Jivandas Maharaj, were present at the inaugural function.  (Times of India 12/6/15)

78. Practitioners say yoga has nothing to do with religion (26)

NAGPUR: Doubts, apprehensions and controversies are flying thick and fast as International Yoga Day approaches on June 21. The missive about compulsory adherence to yoga in schools has put minorities on the edge. But those who practise and preach yoga say it is just a fitness regimen. Conservative minds attribute religious connotations to yoga, says Mukul Guru, founder of Yoga Sanskar in the city. “This hesitation over surya namaskar is strange. There is only one sun which gives light, heat and energy to everybody in the world. So how would a series of exercises going by the name of surya namaskar affect religious beliefs,” he asks. The Om chant increases activity of vocal chords, mind and body. This is good for everybody regardless of what religion they follow, he feels. Yoga unites body and mind which is not possible in any other form of exercise, says Payal Adwani, a yoga instructor. “Every religion says we should possess healthy mind and body. Yoga can achieve this,” she says and adds, “I teach yoga to many Muslims. The Gayatri chants play continuously in my classes and nobody objects. Everybody chants Om and does surya namaskar.” More than religion, it is politics that is affecting yoga, feels Pramod Malwe of Institute of Naturopathy and Yoga. “June 21 is also the death anniversary of Dr Keshav Hedgewar, the founder of RSS. Perhaps many are seeing this Yoga day as pushing of Hindutva agenda. I think we should take a broad-minded approach as in future Yoga may become a symbol of unity of all religions,” adds Malwe who teaches yoga to Muslims and Christians too. Not just gurus, even physiotherapists say yoga forms the basis of exercises for back pain, lung ailments and bypass surgeries. “I suggest chakrasan, sarpasan for back pain and pranayama for lung and heart ailments. I have worked in Saudi Arabia and there too I would prescribe the same,” says physiotherapist Sudhir Mangrulkar. “When blood is needed, nobody asks whose blood it is nor are the bags sold on religious considerations,” he adds. There is no logic in connecting yoga with religion, feels professor of physiotherapy at GMC Dr Umanjali Dumke. People of all religions are well aware of its merits. “If you consider the process of offering namaaz, then there are many postures that are similar to yogasanas. Muslims have a better range of motion and less pain incidents because of these postures that they take while offering prayers,” she adds. Describing Yoga as a supportive treatment, Dr Smita Deshmukh, a cardiac rehabilitation specialist, says, “Yoga aligns our entire body system. In cases of hypertension it will assist a patient to stabilize along with medication. In the later stages of post bypass surgeries, yoga helps in achieving mental peace and physical well-being.” The doctor adds that yoga is all about self-discipline. “All over the world, people learn and practise yoga to avail its health benefits. It is everybody’s right to be healthy,” she says. (Times of India 16/6/15)

79. Bigger Hindutva organizations have become inactive: Pramod Muthalik (26)

Panaji: Sri Ram Sene chief Pramod Muthalik on Wednesday claimed that bigger Hindutva organisations have become inactive leaving the smaller groups to unite for the cause. “Today, bigger Hindutva organizations have become inactive. On the contrary, all small and big Hindu organisations who are striving sincerely for the cause of Hindutva are getting united,” Muthalik said addressing the All India Hindu Convention in Goa through tele-conferencing. Muthalik has been banned from entering Goa by the state government fearing law and order situation, which has forced him to cancel his visit for the convention. “I am confident that this Hindu Parivar will definitely establish Hindu Rashtra with divine power and Hindu unity,” he said. Muthalik, who was linked to the 2009 Mangalore pub attacks, said BJP government was displaying double standards on the issue of Hindutva. “BJP government has refrained a real Hindu activist like me from entering Goa although every Indian citizen has freedom of speech and expression. On one hand, anti-nationals like drug mafia, Taliban are allowed entry in the state, a patriot like me is disallowed,” he commented adding “I feel proud that BJP fears a real Hindu activist.” Referring to the ongoing controversy surrounding Union Minister Sushma Swaraj and Lalit Modi, Muthalik said, “She assisted corrupt Lalit Modi on humanitarian grounds as latter’s wife is suffering from cancer.” Muthalik said that on the same ground Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, a key accused in 2008 Malegaon blast case, should also be assisted. On the contrary, on similar humanitarian grounds, no one assists Sadhvi Pragya Singh who too is suffering from cancer and is in jail for years. This is unfortunate”, he added. (Asian Age 17/6/15)

80. VHP to collect stones for Ram temple (26)

AYODHYA: Asserting its resolve to build the Ram temple, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) on Wednesday said it would launch a nationwide drive to collect stones for construction of the temple here and asked the Muslim community not to pose any hindrance. “About 2.25 lakhs cubic ft of stones are required for the construction of the Ram temple and about 1.25 lakh cubic ft of stones are ready at the VHP’s headquarter in Ayodhya. The rest one lakh cubic ft stones would be collected nationwide from Hindu devotees,” VHP leader Ashok Singhal said.Mr. Singhal said that within one year, these stones would be collected and gathered in Ayodhya. Stone-carving for the construction of the Ram temple would be speeded up so that within a year all stones were ready for the construction, Mr. Singhal said addressing a press conference here after the executive body meeting of the Ram Janma Bhoomi Nyas trust, which is the VHP’s supreme body empowered to take decisions on the temple construction issue. “The Muslim community should leave their claim over Ayodhya, Mathura and Kashi,” the VHP leader said. (The Hindu 17/6/15)

81. ‘Will form Hindu nation without political party support’ (26)

PANAJI: The ‘All India Hindu Convention’ concluded on Wednesday with a call to work towards establishing a Hindu nation, without banking on the support of any political party for now. Charudatta Pingale, national guide of the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, said that the participants in the convention expressed that the BJP government has disappointed Hindus on almost all aspects of Hindutva. Around 400 representatives of over 210 organizations participated in the 4th convention this year from June 11 to June 17 at the Ramnath Temple premises, Ponda. Rehabilitation of Kashmiri Hindus, providing shelter to displaced Bangladeshi Hindus, withdrawing Article 370 and reconstruction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya are few of the examples where the government has let us down, he said. “The possibility of establishing a Hindu nation to the medium of political parties is getting progressively remote. Therefore, the participating organizations have expressed their readiness to effect complete change of power by creating awareness in the Hindu community through convention, dharma sabhas, agitations at various levels from regions to districts, without depending on any political party,” said Pingale. Social networking sites would be appropriately used to further the cause, he added. (Times of India 18/6/15)

TERRORISM

82. Intelligence agencies map out 17 terror camps in Myanmar (12)

GUWAHATI: Indian intelligence agencies have pinpointed locations of at least 17 camps of NE militants inside Myanmar. A source said the locations of these camps are within the 40km radius from the India-Myanmar border. But he did not disclose the names of the areas or outfits. India and Myanmar share a 1,643km-long border — Arunachal Pradesh (520km), Nagaland (215km), Manipur (398km) and Mizoram (510km). Almost all militant outfits of the region, which include NSCN (Khaplang), Ulfa(I), NDFB(S) and all Meitei outfits, are known to have camps in Myanmar’s western front. The camps are reportedly in the Taga area across the Tirap-Changlang-Longding districts of Arunachal Pradesh and across the border with Manipur and Nagaland. The NSCN (Khaplang) has always been based in Myanmar with Khaplang being a Hemi Naga tribesman from Myanmar. He also has a ceasefire agreement with Myanmar, which was signed in 2012. The Meitei groups moved across the border after counter insurgency operations were stepped up in Manipur over the years, while Ulfa and NDFB shifted base after rebels of these outfits were flushed out of Bhutan in 2003. “The nearest camp is just 6 to 7km from the international border and the rest are scattered within the 40-km range. There are exact coordinates of the locations of all these camps,” the source said. On Thursday, Union home minister Rajnath Singh chaired a high-level meeting on the situation in the northeast, which was attended by defence minister Manohar Parrikar, national security adivser (NSA) Ajit Doval, vice-chief of the Army, Lt Gen Philip Campos, and officials from intelligence agencies. The source said Indian intelligence agencies have also identified a few Myanmar-based Chinese NGOs who are helping NE militant groups in various ways. (Times of India 12/6/15)

83. 4 Assam terrorists hiding in Bengaluru arrested (12)

BENGALURU: Four persons allegedly belonging to the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) were arrested in a late-night operation on Friday. Tonon Basumatri, Sundun Basumatri, Nerson Basumatri and Jibnal Nersary, belonging to the NDFB’s Sonjit group, were hiding in their Laggere house, near Peenya. They work in a bag-manufacturing unit at Srigandhakaval, off Magadi Road, police said. “They are among 38 Bodo militants who have migrated to various southern states. Nearly 20 of them are employed in the city and elsewhere in the state. On Friday at 9.30pm, Assam police and Internal Security Division (an anti-terrorism wing of Karnataka) raided the house where they were staying. Search is on for more militants,” said a source in ISD. Bengaluru police said the militants were planning attacks on prominent personalities in Karnataka and garnering support from their friends in the state. Assam police said in the past two years, Bodo militants have unleashed terror in Assam. Many from the northeastern states have fled to Bengaluru fearing backlash from local residents. The arrested men have been booked under Sections 121, 121A and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC, and Sections 4 and 5 of the Essential Services Act read with Sections 10,13 and 18 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. The four were produced before the jurisdictional magistrate court in the city. Assam police will obtain a transit warrant to take them to their state for further investigation. (Times of India 14/6/15)

84. NSCN-K plotters on the run in Myanmar (12)

New Delhi: The National Investigation Agency has zeroed in on four masterminds of the worst attack on the Indian Army on June 4, that was led by key NSCN(K) operative Niki Sumi, who incidentally is also in charge of the outfit’s military operations. The plot was hatched in Myanmar, with intelligence sources saying Niki Sumi had escaped just hours before the retaliation by Indian Army special forces, who attacked his Ponue camp in Myanmar. Sumi is now learnt to be shifting base every 15 days. In addition, the role of two other key NSCN(K) members, Neymlang and Starson Lamkang, is also being looked into. While Neymlang is said to be a military operational strategist, Lamkang looks after the financial resources of the terrorist group. While the operation was carried out by the NSCN(K), it also got logistical support from local KYKL chief Oken, top sources said. The NIA, with help from Central intelligence agencies, is conducting investigations into one of the worst attacks on the Indian Army in recent times. It is also suspected that Niki Sumi has escaped to a high-security training camp somewhere in north Myanmar, where he is said to be under heavy protection of some Myanmar Army units as well as members of China’s People’s Liberation Army. Investigations have also confirmed a strong nexus exists between the NSCN(K) and a faction of the Myanmar Army and the PLA, under whose influence it is alleged to have called off the ceasefire with the Indian government. The government is now considering imposing a ban on the NSCN(K) under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), with the Union home ministry preparing to take the matter to the Cabinet. KYKL is already banned under the UAPA. NIA sources said Sumi was working on the directions of NSCN(K) chief S.S. Khaplang, who is also wanted for his role in hatching the entire plot. (Asian Age 16/6/15)

85. Activists, Parties Petition against Arrests under UAPA (12)

COIMBATORE:Activists from more than 20 outfits, including political parties and civil society groups, under the banner of the Organisation for the Protection of Democratic Rights, petitioned city Police Commissioner A K Viswanathan, against what they perceived to be a witch-hunt by the police against people from disenfranchised communities, for simply supporting subversive ideologies. In their petition, the activists said that since May 2014, 10 persons were booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Following the arrest of five alleged Maoists near Karumathampatty last month, three others were arrested near Pollachi for allegedly inducting a 23-year-old youth into the Maoist movement. Two more were arrested by Coimbatore city police for allegedly raising slogans in front of the Q Branch office in HUDCO Colony. The petitioners alleged that five of the 10 persons arrested were Dalits, and that the police were misusing the UAPA and clamping down on dissidents. They said that the now defunct preventative detention laws, such as the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) had been used to crack down on the fundamental rights of freedom of speech and expression granted to civilians. The 26/11 bombings in Mumbai had been used to justify the framing and enactment of the UAPA, which still had the repressive and draconian measures from the POTA and TADA Acts, they said. The laws had been used in the past to unjustly charge and imprison Dalits and people from tribal communities, they alleged. The petition went onto outline the 2004 verdict by the Supreme Court that by simply expressing support to a banned group could not be construed as a criminal offense. The recent verdict of the Kerala High Court, which had again reinforced the verdict of the apex court, in a separate case, was also highlighted. The petitioners alleged that those with political ideas and beliefs, which questioned the authority of the state, were being subjected to arbitrary arrests and that the rights of these arrested people are being crushed by the state apparatus. Responding to the petition, CoP Viswanathan, said that there was no concerted effort to clamp down on any legal organisation. He said that the two organisations to which the two persons who were arrested by Peelamedu police belonged to, had been given permission in the past to stage protests and other events. He contended that the arrests had been made not because of the ideologies or political affiliations of the two men, but because of their involvement in an unlawful act – the raising of slogans in front of the Q Branch office. The organisation also submitted a copy of the petition to district Superintendent of Police M Sudhakar… (New Indian Express 18/6/15)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

86. In Jharkhand, child soldiers fight a forced war under Maoists (12)

Gumla/Lohardagga (Jharkhand)| Lodged in a fortified remand home in a Jharkhand district overrun by Maoist extremists, 15-year-old Mohan Oraon has recurrent nightmares about armed guerrillas viciously thrashing his father a few years ago after the teenager refused to accompany them to their forest haven. “They hit my father repeatedly with rifle butts. Unable to bear his suffering, I decided to leave with the fighters,” Oraon recalled, speaking to HT over the phone from the correctional facility for juvenile offenders. In the Maoist camp where he stayed with other children, he was made to wash dishes, fetch water and haul baggage, before being caught during a raid by armed forces about two years ago. For being in conflict with law, he was declared a child soldier and sent to the remand home. Like Oraon, scores of boys and girls are recruited against their will by left wing extremist (LWE) groups, including the CPI (Maoists) in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, in a bid to bolster their military youth wing and replenish depleting forces.The issue was in the spotlight this week when security forces found the bodies of three child soldiers in full battle fatigues after a fierce shootout in the jungles of Palamu district in Jharkhand. “While the Maoists exploit children by voluntarily and forcibly recruiting them in armed conflicts, police are equal culprits as they show no maturity by pushing minors arrested from Maoist camps behind bars,” said lawyer Deepti Singh, who is also a tribal rights activist. “Often they fudge the ages of the arrested child soldiers and implicate them in crimes they would not have committed. The children thus languish in jails for many years and, once out, they turn more violent,” she argued. A report released by Delhi-based Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) in 2013 found that at least 3,000 children, some as young as six, were drafted by insurgent groups across India, with the majority recruited in Maoist-affected states. UNICEF defines a child soldier as a person “under 18 years of age who is part of any kind of regular or irregular armed force or armed group in any capacity, including but not limited to cooks, porters [and] messengers.”Lucky ones like Oraon manage to survive. But dozens have died fighting a war that has no meaning for them. The death of 10-year-old Jaguri Birhor while planting a landmine in Jharkhand’s Latehar district two years ago and of the three unidentified child soldiers on Monday are glaring examples. Recruitment of child soldiers has intensified in the past three years since the Centre and states launched coordinated offensives against the militants.In the absence of domestic and international monitoring systems on the use of children in conflict zones, HT contacted some child soldiers who shed light on the patterns of recruitment by extremists and their use in the rebel-affected heartlands of Jharkhand.After he escaped from a Maoist camp this month, 15-year-old Dheeraj Karmali told police the Maoists hold sway in his village. “Armed guerrillas came to our locality, held a friend of mine and me by the collars and dragged us along with them while the village elders shut themselves in their homes,” he said. … (Hindustan Times 12/6/15)

87. Maoists torch vehicles engaged in road construction in Odisha (12)

Koraput (Odisha): A group of around 30 armed Maoists today torched at least two vehicles and a machine used in road work in a bid to disrupt construction process here, police said today. The Maoists swooped down at Tolo Ganjeipadar village, about 70 km from here, under Pottangi police limits on Thursday midnight and set the vehicles on fire, they said. “The Maoists reached the camp of the contractor where the labourers were sleeping and first asked them to leave the area at the earliest. Later, the group of Maoists set fire to a JCB machine, a tractor and a mixture machine engaged in the road work,” they said. “The Maoists have also damaged around 15 other equipment used for the road construction work before leaving the spot,” the source added. From the crime spot, the police recovered two Maoist letters in which the rebels have warned not to continue the road work in the area. “Adivasi’s will not be benefited by the road. Stop the road work immediately. If the contractor dares to deviate from our diktat then he will be punished,” the Maoist letter reads. Police investigation has been initiated and combing operation has been launched in the area. “Srikakulam-Koraput division of CPI (Maoist) is behind the offensive. Preliminary investigation show that earlier the Maoists had never opposed the road work,” SDPO (Sunabeda) Ashok Pattnaik said. (Deccan Herald 13/6/15)

88. Over 15,000 Killed in Naxal Violence Since 1980: MHA (12)

NEW DELHI: Over 15,000 people, including more than 3,000 security personnel, have been killed in Naxal violence in the last 35 years, an RTI query has revealed. According to the Union Home Ministry, while 12,177 civilians have fallen prey to Left-Wing Extremism during this period, 3,125 security personnel, too, lost their lives tackling the Naxal menace. Also, as many as 4,768 naxalites were killed by security forces between 1980 and May 31, 2015, an RTI query has revealed. Another query under the RTI Act had the ministry stating that Rs 3,038.86 crore was disbursed among the various states in the last three years for the modernisation of the police force. Between the 2012-13 and 2014-15 fiscal years, Andhra Pradesh received Rs 161 crore under Modernisation of Police Force (MPF) scheme while Uttar Pradesh got Rs 377 crore. Among other states, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand received Rs 73 crore and Rs 69 crore, respectively. Following the bifurcation of AP, the newly-formed state of Telangana received Rs 68.13 crore in 2014-15. A third RTI query found that the ministry has given approval to develop 400 fortified police stations and posts in 10 Left-Wing Extremism-affected states. A sum of Rs 2 crore is being released for each fortified station with the expenditure in this regard to be shared on a 80: 20 basis by the Centre and the specific state, the ministry informed (New Indian Express 14/6/15)

89. Re-arrested Maoist sympathiser produced in court (12)

COIMBATORE: Maoist sympathiser C. Kannan (46) of Madurai, was produced in the court on Wednesday. He was formally re-arrested by the Coimbatore District Police, at Coimbatore Central Prison, on Tuesday for allegedly enrolling a youth of Angalakurichi village, near Aliyar, in the Maoist movement and was produced before the court in connection with this. Kannan entered and left the court raising slogans supporting Maoist movement. He denied his role in the case in which he was booked by the Aliyar Police on Tuesday. Principal District Judge (PDJ) R. Pongiappan directed that Kannan should be under judicial custody till July 2. He was taken back to the Coimbatore Central Prison where he has been lodged since his arrest along with Maoist leader Roopesh, his wife Shyna and Maoist sympathisers Anoop (31) and C. Veeramani alias Eswaran (60), at an eatery in Karumathampatty at the outskirts of Coimbatore, in the first week of May. Meanwhile, lawyers of People’s Union for Civil Liberties filed a bail plea for Shyna before the PDJ here on Tuesday. The organisation’s State General Secretary, S. Balamurugan, told The Hindu that this plea has been listed for hearing on Friday – June 19. “Roopesh and Shyna have two daughters, who are now under the custody of Shyna’s mother at Thrissur. Shyna’s presence is socially and economically required for the two girls,” he said and added that there are no cases against Shyna in Tamil Nadu or anywhere else. Roopesh and Shyna are in Kerala where they are being quizzed by the Kerala police in connection with the cases against them there. (The Hindu 18/6/15)

TRAFFICKING

90. 125 trafficked girls from 18 states rescued in one year (1)

PANAJI: From April 2014 to May 2015, 125 girls were rescued from prostitution in Goa. They hail from 18 states, though many of them are from the northeast states. An NGO, Arz, said that there is need for a special court to deal with human trafficking cases. Arz on Wednesday released posters on human trafficking at the police headquarters. Arz director Arun Pandey said that the distribution of 125 girls from across 18 states spreads over the northeast states, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. “When we talk about Goa, we find that the state is a destination for human trafficking and if we look at the statistics, we find girls from most states in India. Last year girls were trafficked to Goa from nearly 18 states. Girls are trafficked from not just withing the country but from across the border as well and brought to Goa,” Pandey added. He also said that Goa is a market where there is demand and supply. “To some extent we find that supply is being addressed with police and NGOs rescuing these girls who are being trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation in Goa,” Pandey said. Arz works closely with the police to combat trafficking of persons for the purpose of sexual abuse and commercial sexual exploitation in Goa Deputy inspector general of police (DIG) V Renganathan said the Goa police are determined to deal with the issue of commercial exploitation of women and children. On whether Goa police supports the NGO’s claims, superintendent of police Karthik Kashyap said “In the course of raids we have rescued 100 victims belonging to many different states, and he (Pandey) is right as far as origin is concerned and most of them are from northeast states particular from very bad economic backgrounds.” He added that of late police are rescuing most girls from the NCR region, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Kashyap also said that cases of rescues have increase in the state. Police added that there is a possibility of girls being trafficked from Nepal because of the earthquake. (Times of India 11/6/15)

91. UP government to install CCTV cameras to check human trafficking (1)

LUCKNOW: In a bid to check human trafficking from neighbouring Nepal, the Uttar Pradesh government has decided to install CCTV cameras on crossing points in bordering districts and maintain round-the-clock vigil. “After natural calamity in Nepal, there was exodus of people, but there were also inputs of human trafficking as well,” IG (Law and Order) A Satish Ganesh told reporters here. He said that to review the situation, principal secretary (Home) Debashish Panda held video conferencing with the district magistrates, police chiefs, officers of Sashastra Seeema Bal (SSB) and other officers. “The principal secretary directed that a strict vigil should be maintained at crossing points by installing CCTV cameras,” the IG said. He said it was directed that telephone numbers of officers involved in checking such activity should be displayed at check points and prominent public places, like railway stations, bus stands and police stations, so that public cooperation could be taken. Ganesh said that 35 anti-human trafficking units were operational in the state and they have been equipped with required resources. He said it has been directed to maintain mutual cooperation between administration, police and intelligence agencies and active cooperation of social organisations should also be taken. The IG said that to provide latest information to the agencies a state-wide training programmme would be organised and in this series, it has been decided to organise training programmes at zonal levels in Gorkahpur on June 22 and on June 29 in Lucknow. Districts bordering Nepal, include Gorakhpur, Maharajganj, Pilibhit, Siddharth Nagar, Lakhimpur, Kushinagar, Bahraich, Shravasti and Balrampur. (Times of India 11/6/15)

92. Myanmar Tamils another victims of human trafficking (13)

Kuala Lumpur: As the plight of Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar hit headlines, minority Tamils are lesser known victims of human trafficking crisis and their situation is worse as they are not recognised as refugees. Tamils, who are predominately Hindus and Christians and are descendants of rice growers in the Thaton and Bhamo districts of Myanmar, are conned by job agents who send them to Malaysia as bonded slaves. They were fleeced by agents of human trafficking rackets who lured them to leave the country with promises of job in Malaysia, the Star paper reported. However, they ended up being packed in the same boats with Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants, sailing for up to two weeks without food and after that being tortured at transit camps along the Thailand and Malaysia border, the daily said. Many of them said they had sold their properties to pay the agents but ended up as bonded slaves for the trafficking syndicates, which sent them to construction sites in Penang, Kedah and Perlis states in Malaysia, the Star said. 21-year-old Tamil migrant S Parimala said many in her group left home before the military junta in Myanmar announced the issuance of identification cards during the middle of last year. “We are in limbo because according to Rohingyas who just arrived, we could be shot if we return without identification papers and we are also living in fear of the authorities in Malaysia. We are stateless but UNHCR office refuses to give us refugee status,” she told the daily. She said about 110 Myanmar Tamils were now spread out in construction sites and living in squalid conditions. Another migrant, James Kanna, said, “I was duped into believing that I could enter the country legally.” He added that he too tried to get refugee status but was rejected. “I have not seen my son for a year and I don’t think I can see him again. He probably thinks I am already dead,” said the widower who left his son with a neighbour. Tens of thousands of minority Rohingya Muslims facing persecution in Myanmar have fled the country in recent years. Joined increasingly by economic migrants from neighbouring Bangladesh, they mainly headed for Malaysia and Indonesia. The exodus was largely ignored until a crackdown on the people-smuggling trade in Thailand last month caused chaos as gangmasters abandoned their human cargos on land and sea. (Deccan Herald 15/6/15)

93. Child trafficking: TN gets NHRC notice (1)

CHENNAI: The National Human Rights Commission, responding to media reports that children are being trafficked frequently from many districts in Tamil Nadu to Kerala, issued notices to chief secretaries and directors general of police of both the states on Monday. They have been asked to reply to the notices within eight weeks. Reports of trafficking of children in the age group of 12 and above have been appearing in the media and NHRC member Justice Murugesan, taking suo mutu cognizance of one such media report on June 14, quoting the state coordinator of Tamil Nadu Domestic Workers’ Association, issued notices to chief secretaries and directors general of police of the two states to enquire into the matter and submit reports. “Most cases of trafficking of children to Kerala have been reported from Salem and Villupuram districts,” noted child rights activist A Devaneyan told TOI. “Most of them are girls and they are taken to Kerala under the guise of domestic work and then forced into sex trade. The parents forget about them after a few years,” he said. Poor people in Villupuram and Salem districts as well as in the districts bordering Kerala fall prey to them. “During our interaction with some parents of these children, we found that in most cases they did not have money to marry off their girl children. Hence, they send girls to Kerala to work as domestic help and earn money on their own for their marriage,” said Devaneyan. An NHRC release said children from Salem and Villupuram districts of Tamil Nadu were being trafficked to Kerala and auctioned at Thrissur as domestic help. Reportedly, these children were also being subjected to sexual harassment, the release said. Murugesan has observed that the contents of the press report, if true, amounted to serious violation of human rights of the children. A number of brokers, who are part of the racket, approach poor parents in villages in the two districts and brainwash them and take their children along with them by paying a paltry amount. Children are being trafficked to Kerala from other parts of the country as well. Recently, 53 children from the NorthEast were rescued from Palakkad railway station. “Though the caretakers mentioned that they were brought to Kerala for education, authorities did not allow them to proceed and sent the children back with their parents to their respective states,” said Devaneyan. In another case, children from West Bengal, Jharkhand and Bihar were rescued last year at Palakkad railway station. More than 580 children from these three states were on their way to some orphanages in Kerala. They were stopped midway at Palakkad and child rights officials from those states said it was utter poverty that forced the parents to send their wards to Kerala. (Times of India 16/6/15)

CORRUPTION

94. Now, Bhujbal booked in Delhi’s Maharashtra Sadan case (5)

MUMBAI: Two days after booking him over allotment of a Kalina plot to a builder for construction of a library , the Anti-Corruption Bureau on Thursday lodged another criminal case against ex-PWD minister Chhagan Bhujbal for his alleged involvement in the New Delhi Maharashtra Sadan scam. Along with Bhujbal, his son Pankaj and nephew Samir have been named among the 17 accused in the case. Bhujbal has been booked under Section 13 (1-C and D) of the Prevention of Corruption Act and various sections of the IPC for misusing his official position for personal gains by corrupt means for pecuniary advantage and for cheating and forgery . In the wake of a PIL filed by AAP activist Anjali Damania, the Bombay high court had asked the ACB to form a special investigation team to probe charges against Bhujbal and his family members. Anjali Damania’s contention was that the contract for construction of the Maharashtra Sadan was awarded to Chamankar Enterprises without following the due process of law and in lieu, the firms and trusts controlled by Bhujbal and his family members had received huge kickbacks. The ACB found that after the contract was granted to Chamankar Enterprises, a huge amount of money was transferred from the partners of Chamankar Associates to firms directly or indirectly controlled either by Bhujbal or his family members. In addition, the contract for supply of furniture to the Maharashtra Sadan was granted to a firm owned by members of the Bhujbal family . More than Rs 15 crore was paid to Parvesh Constructions, Bawesh Developers and Armstrong Energy , all firms owned or controlled by Samir and Pankaj Bhujbal, the probe has revealed. The ACB has estimated a loss of Rs 2,867 crore to the state exchequer, while the public accounts committee, which too probed the scam, estimated the loss to be in the region of Rs 5,000 crore to Rs 6,000 crore. The ACB probe has also confirmed that Chamankar Enterprises was awarded the contract for construction of Maharashtra Sadan without inviting tenders. In fact, the finance, housing and urban development department had strongly opposed the proposal, saying it was bad in law. Chamankar Enterprises had submitted a proposal for rehabilitation of slum dwellers on two Andheri plots belonging to the revenue de partment. Chamankar had proposed that while he would provide free houses to the slum dwellers, in lieu, he should be given the vacant Andheri plots and he would construct, free of cost, the Maharashtra Sadan, the Andheri RTO building, the High Mount guest housein South Mumbai and any other construction admeasuring 14,000 sq metres as proposed by the state . The project cost proposed by him was worth Rs 82 crore. The finance department had strongly objected to the proposal, saying it was wrong to give the contract to an “isolated” developer. It had also said that he would gain huge profit in terms of the additional FSI and TDR he would receive. But Bhujbal succeeded in securing approval for the project from the high-level infrastructure committee headed by the then CM on May 5, 2006. (Times of India 12/6/15)

95. Sushma Swaraj helped get UK travel documents for ‘fugitive’ Lalit Modi (5)

NEW DELHI: BJP’s celebrations at having ensured a year of scam-free government were interrupted by the disclosure that foreign minister Sushma Swaraj had in her official role interceded with the UK government and top-ranking Labour Party MP of Indian origin Keith Vaz in July 2014 to organize a travel document for Lalit Modi, the controversial creator of the IPL. Modi, who’s been living in the UK since 2010, could otherwise not have travelled out of that country since his Indian passport had been revoked by the UPA government in 2011 for evading Indian authorities who wanted to question him for alleged serious foreign exchange violations. The opposition seized upon the disclosure made by Times Now that within less than a couple of months of taking over as foreign minister on May 27, 2014, Swaraj wrote to UK’s high commissioner to India James Bevan and Vaz with the assurance that the Indian government had no objection to grant of travel documents to Modi, who is wanted by Enforcement Directorate and whose repatriation had been sought twice by the UPA. The opposition alleged that Swaraj helped a fugitive because he had, a year before, helped her husband’s nephew Jyotirmoy get admission in University of Sussex for a law course. The Modi government and the BJP, supported by the RSS, however, toughened out the first serious allegation of impropriety against one of its senior functionaries by claiming that Swaraj had helped Modi on “humanitarian grounds” and because he was Indian. Swaraj said she had responded to Modi’s plea that he be allowed to travel to Portugal so could he sign consent papers for his wife’s cancer surgery. She stressed that she had made it clear to the British authorities that they should help him only if their rules permitted. In a series of tweets, the foreign minister, who had explained her side of the story to the Prime Minister on Friday, also pointed out that the Delhi high court has since restored Modi’s passport and that her nephew had secured admission on merit much before she became a minister. BJP chief Amit Shah endorsed the defence to say “no big moral issue” was involved as he rejected the demand for Swaraj’s resignation. Home minister Rajnath Singh also came out in her support after a meeting with the PM. Modi has a ‘blue corner’ notice pending against him for defying summons from the Enforcement Directorate to join investigations into alleged offences in Rs 125 crore for awarding the overseas telecast rights of the second edition of the IPL to a foreign-based broadcast company, an arm of Sony Corporation. ED got his passport revoked after he left for UK in May 2010 and refused to cooperate in the investigations. (Times of India 15/6/15)

96. Congress indefinite stir from today to oust Vasundhara (5)

UDAIPUR: Congress, at its executive committee meeting held in Udaipur on Wednesday, passed a resolution demanding the resignations of external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and chief minister Vasundhara Raje. Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president Sachin Pilot said that party workers across the state would take to streets from Thursday to press for the resignations. Swaraj and Raje were accused of secretly facilitating former IPL czar Lalit Modi, who is wanted by the Enforcement Directorate for alleged forex violations. Accusing Swaraj and Raje of misusing constitutional posts, the party demanded that cases be registered against the duo under the Prevention of Corruption Act. Pilot questioned prime minister Narendra Modi’s silence on the controversy. “The PM had made corruption a big issue during the general elections, but he is silent now. Why is he not even tweeting about it?” Pilot asked. Former chief minister Ashok Gehlot demanded that Raje should explain why her son Dushyant Singh’s company received investments from Modi, who is wanted in the country for financial irregularities. Gehlot, while addressing the meeting, highlighted how Modi used to act as a de facto chief minister from a five star hotel in Jaipur during Raje’s first tenure as CM. “Between 2003 and 2008, Modi spent more than 50 nights at Hotel Rambagh Palace where bureaucrats used to queue up outside his room with official files,” Gehlot said. Gurudas Kamat, AICC general secretary and party’s Rajasthan in-charge, said, “Lalit Modi purchased shares in the company of Raje’s son at a much higher price. To return the favour, Raje exercised her influence over the British authorities in a letter showing off her family background and political strength to help Modi get immigration documents.” Kamat also recalled the Raje-Modi proximity. “Lalit Modi was then the only person who could enter Raje’s house after 7.30 pm. Why? Raje should explain that,” Kamat said. He quipped, “Raje seems to be searching for another Modi in her present tenure as she is unable to take decisions now.” Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Kamat said, “Sushma Swaraj claims to have helped Lalit Modi on humanitarian grounds. Would she or the prime minister help Dawood Ibrahim and other gangsters also to travel to India if they made such appeals? Is this a new policy of the Narendra Modi-government — that of helping defaulters and culprits who are being chased by the enforcement agencies?” Gehlot said, “The BJP had made a big uproar on black money and corruption issues before the elections, but after coming to power, its ministers’ involvements in the same acts are coming to light. Their true faces have been exposed and people have realised the government’s motives.” (Times of India 18/6/15)

97. State yet to take a call on probe into Consumerfed corruption (5)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The State government is yet to take a call on holding an inquiry into the alleged financial irregularities in the civil works worth Rs.45 crore executed by the Kerala State Consumers’ Marketing Federation (Consumerfed) in the past five years. A three-member internal team, which randomly examined 50 of the 1,852 files related to the works, undertaken by the Special Project Wing of the federation, had detected misappropriation of funds worth Rs.30 crore. The report says, ‘85 per cent of the civil works were taken up with the intention of perpetrating corruption and swindling money. None of them were recommended by the officials concerned.’ The works were mostly done to deck out the head office in Kochi, regional and zonal offices, Thriveni and Nanma Stores, Neethi Medical Stores, their warehouses, and also the IMFL outlets run by the federation. The former managing director had appointed a pharmacist at the Neethi Medical Stores, K. Ajith Kumar, as officer on special duty with over-arching powers for implementing the works, ignoring the fact that he had no previous experience in construction or civil works, sources say. During 2010-11, the wing undertook works worth Rs.7.70 crore; Rs.6.89 crore in 2011-12; Rs.18.35 crore in 2012-13; Rs.11.66 crore in 2013-14; and Rs.40 lakh in 2014-15. The committee detected violation of norms for such work. The special wing went ahead with the task without securing administrative sanction, preparing an estimate, site plan, and even without competitive bidding. Fake quotations for works were furnished in the name of non-existent organisations, sources say. The inquiry team has specified instances of the undue haste shown by the finance monitoring committee in clearing the bills submitted by the contractors, without proper verification. The report has recommended a thorough probe against the former managing director and Mr. Ajith Kumar who is still an employee of the federation and steps to realise the loss from them. But the government has not taken any action on the report so far, sources say. (The Hindu 19/6/15)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

98. Vedanta’s Iron Ore arm in Goa does its bit for environment sustainability (9)

PANAJI: As part of its efforts towards environment sustainability in Goa, Vedanta Limited has undertaken a drive to plant sapling as well as a cleanliness drive at its Bicholim mine, which is operated by its iron ore mining arm. The company also distributed solar lanterns to tribal communities”We hope to co-create a model of sustainable community living for others to replicate and will soon be implementing the CII’s biodiversity Indian Business Biodiversity Initiative,” said president, group sustainability and CSR Roma Balwani. In Goa, the company organized a drive to plant saplings where school students participated. The company also conducted a solid waste management awareness drive and took children to visit the mines. The global natural resources company invested Rs. 361 crores towards environment sustainability in the previous financial year and planted 7.12 lakh trees in India itself. (Times of India 11/6/15)

99. Cutting carbon emissions could escalate hunger: Study (9)

New York: As several nations brace for implementing plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions, such efforts to rein in global temperatures may lead to more people going hungry, a new study suggests. “That risk doesn’t negate the need for mitigation but highlights the importance of comprehensive policies,” said lead researcher Tomoko Hasegawa from the National Institute for Environmental Studies in Japan. Previous studies have shown that climate change reduces how much food farms can produce, which could lead to more people suffering from hunger. Curbing the greenhouse gas emissions that lead to climate change can help maintain the yields of existing crops. But there might be indirect ways in which cutting emissions could actually put more people at risk of going hungry, said the study published in ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology. “For example, some grasses and other vegetation used for biofuels require agricultural land that might otherwise be used for food production. So, increased biofuel consumption could negatively affect the food supply,” Hasegawa noted. Also, the high cost of low-emissions technologies such as carbon capture and storage will be borne by consumers, who will then have less money to spend on food. The researchers used multiple models to determine the effects of strict emissions cuts and found that many more people would be at risk of hunger than if those cuts weren’t in place. The team concluded that governments will have to take measures, such as increasing food aid, as they address climate change. (Business Standard 14/6/15)

100. Mining on coastal sand dunes poses environmental hazard (9)

VISAKHAPATNAM: Mining in the dune sand along the coastal belt of Andhra Pradesh has raised many eyebrows. While the coast boasts of being rich in mineral deposits, especially Ilmenite (ore of Titanium), environmentalists believe human intervention and construction activities have resulted in vanishing sand dunes and depleting beach sand. Black sand and sand dunes are a common sight on the beaches in Visakhapatnam, Srikakulam or Kakinada. But its not always mud and garbage that makes the beach black. Mineral deposits like Ilmenite (ore of Titanium) lay in abundance in these beaches giving it a black look. Titanium is a light-weight tough metal that can withstand extremes of temperature and is usually used in the aircraft industry and manufacture of spacecrafts. Extraction of Ilmenite from the beaches of coastal Andhra Pradesh has already started in Srikurmam of Srikakulam district by a private firm, while applications for leases from various other companies are under consideration by the state government. The most promising deposit is in the 21km coastal stretch between Nagavalli and Vamsadhara rivers along the Srikurmam coast. However, mining can ecological hazardous to the non-renewable natural asset. The geology department of Andhra University published an article in April on the mineral deposits in the ‘Journal of Economic Geology and Geo Resource Management’. As per the study conducted by professor M Jagannadha Rao, J Venkata Ramana and T Karuna Karudu, Ilmenite concentration is almost 50% in the dunal system along the east coast belt. The deposits also differed geochemically from one area to another. In the east coast, the mineral is mainly found in the sand dunes of Gopalpur in Odisha and Srikakulam, Bheemilipatnam, Visakhapatnam and Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh. The beach sands of north coastal AP are also rich in garnet, sillimanite, zircon, rutile, monazite (radioactive thorium-bearing) and pyriboles deposits, which is yet to be extracted. “Extraction of Titanium ore from Ilmenite deposits entails various processes including dredging and removal of sands, jigging and magnetic separation. The process has already started at Srikurmam and will soon begin on a commercial basis at other beaches of Vizag, Bheemili and Kakinada. However, it has several adverse impacts on the coastal ecology and environment,” professor M Jagannadha Rao said. According to reports, near the areas in Gopalpur where mining has been going on in full-scale by a private firm, dead fish have been found floating and endangered Olive Ridley turtles have lost their habitat. Elaborating on the environment hazards, environment and heritage activist Sohan Hatangadi said, “Wherever mining takes place, the local flora and fauna gets affected besides the historical places in the vicinity. Many species become extinct or lose their habitat. Nesting and breeding grounds of endangered Olive Ridley turtles are also destroyed. Sand dune depletion and erosion would continue, which again is hazardous to the environment.” “Due to extensive mining, the mud and slime would pollute the sea water thereby reducing the biological oxygen demand. Therefore, fish and other aquatic creatures die and birds can’t feed on the fish. The mangroves would also perish. The entire food chain would eventually get affected, which in turn would also affect the fishermen community,” Prof Rao said. Another cause of concern is the radioactive monazite deposits which occur in the same level as Ilmenite. “As per the mining rules, only the state government has the right to mine thorium-bearing radioactive minerals like monazite. But since it’s of more or less the same density as Ilmenite, the two can get mixed up and nobody can ascertain if private companies are also craftily extracting this mineral,” said the geologist. (Times of India 15/6/15)

101. Bombay High Court pulls up state over policy on noise pollution (9)

Mumbai: The Bombay high court on Wednesday reprimanded government of Maharashtra for not following its order passed earlier asking it to frame a policy to control noise pollution and remove illegal pandals erected on public places, roads and footpaths during festivals. The government was supposed to file a compliance report in the court; but the judges were informed that the court order had not been complied with till now. The court was informed that no policy had been framed by the government in connection with noise pollution. The judges were also informed that it also did not take any action against organisers for violations of noise pollution rules and erecting illegal pandals in public places such as outside schools, hospitals, roads, footpaths, bus stops, among others. Irked with this, the division bench of Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice Revati Mohite-Dere reprimanded the state for not following its order. The bench adjourned the matter for hearing after a week and also asked the government details of music instruments used by DJs during such celebration that causes noise pollution. The judges clarified that they were not against festival celebration but were against it becoming a nuisance for citizens. The court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by district Thane-based Dr Mahesh Bedekar raising concern over the nuisance created by various organisers of religious festivals with regard to noise pollution and erection of pandals on streets and footpath causing trouble to many citizens. In March this year, the high court had observed that every citizen has a fundamental right to silence and to live in peace and comfort and the same could not be disturbed by organisers celebrating religious festivals. The high court had then asked the government to frame a policy and set up a redressal mechanism by which common citizen could lodge complaints and expect prompt action by the authorities concerned. The judges had also directed authorities concerned to withdraw licences of those Ganpati mandals which violate rules. (Asian Age 18/6/15)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

102. Farm widow ends life, 100 days after meeting Maharashtra CM (20)

Yavatmal (Maharashtra): Barely 100 days after meeting Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, a farm widow from Pipmpributi village here ended her life on Friday, a watchdog NGO said. Fadnavis had called on and consoled the victim, Shanta Tajane — whose husband Prahlad Tajane had committed suicide four years ago — while on a tour of the district on March 3 this year. “At the meeting, she had demanded a well, a motor pump and electric connection to continue tending her farm which was lying abandoned after her husband’s suicide. However, despite Fadnavis’ assurances, there was no progress in the matter and she took the extreme step today,” Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti President Kishore Tiwari told IANS. He added that after Prahlad Tajane’s death four years ago, the government had given an aid of Rs.100,000, of which Rs.30,000 was disbursed as interim relief and the balance was kept in a joint bank account with the state government. Tiwari said Shanta Tajane’s problems were compounded as she was unable to withdraw the balance amount (Rs.70,000) from the bank account, as nobody guided her on the formalities to be completed at the collector’s level. Out of sheer frustration, she ended her life and her last rites were completed in the village on Friday afternoon. The farm widow’s suicide came a day after a former director of a local cooperative credit society Madhav Gole Patil in Ghoddhara village committed suicide by jumping into a well. “Patil, who was a cotton farmer and a social activist, left a suicide note in which he urged the government to give farm loans waiver, higher minimum support price to agriculture produce and disbursement of the relief aid declared in October 2014,” Tiwari said. This year, since January 1, the number of farmers suicides has touched around 1,090, though state government officials question whether all are related to the agrarian crises. (New Kerla 12/6/15)

103. Cane farmers set to turn assembly session bitter (20)

BELAGAVI: The suicide of a debt-ridden cane farmer last week and the dues sugar factories owe farmers will once again rock the Belagavi assembly session set to begin here on June 29. Farmers’ organizations and the BJP are set to corner the chief minister on the crisis brewing in the farming community. The November 2013 winter session was marred by the suicide of farmer Vittal Arabhavi from Kankanwadi village in Raibag taluk. Arabhavi consumed poison in front of the Suvarna Vidhana Soudha when the session was in progress. The suicide led to widespread protests by farmers across north Karnataka districts forcing chief minister Siddaramaiah to announce an additional Rs 150 as support price for per tonne sugarcane. Last week Gurunath Chapgaon, 55, of Badal Ankalagi village of Belagavi taluk committed suicide by consuming pesticide. Hinting at Gurunath’s death as an issue to fight anti-farmer policies of the government during the session, Kurubur Shantakumar, state president of Karnataka Sugarcane Farmers Association, met the family members of the farmer on Friday. He announced a massive protest and hunger strike during the session. Shantakumar demanded that the government file criminal cases against Malaprabha Cooperative Sugar factory of MK Hubli and penalize it Rs 25 lakh and transfer the same amount to the victim’s family. He alleged that the farmer committed suicide because the sugar factory delayed in its payment. According to Sugar (Control) Order, factories must pay farmers within 14 days of sugarcane supply, which did not happen in this case. He also demanded Rs 10 lakh compensation to the farmer’s family. Farmer forums have threatened Mallikarjun Jakati, state president of Karnataka Krishi Sangh and Basavaraj Malali, district president of Karnataka Rajya Raitha to stage a protest in front of district minister Satish Jarkiholi’s residence demanding clearance of sugarcane dues for 2013-14. (Times of India 13/6/15)

104. Farmers suffering from depression, need support: BJP (20)

BHOPAL: BJP national vice-president and Madhya Pradesh party in-charge Vinay Sahasrabuddhe on Monday said that not making crop insurance a priority in the country has resulted in increasing cases of depression and addiction with our rural population. Defending the necessity of crop insurance for farm sector, Sahasrabuddhe said, “Insurance has been defined as mitigation of uncertainties. And with that definition, agriculture being a sector where uncertainty is largely prevalent, a national crop insurance should be a major agenda.” Sahasrabuddhe was addressing a gathering of agricultural and insurance experts at the inaugural session of the two-day National Conference on Crop Insurance being held here. “Not taking crop insurance seriously so far, has had damaging repercussions. At one time depression was a phenomenon of urban society. But today, psychiatrists have more patients of addiction and depression coming for the villages,” he said. The BJP vice-president argued that independent organisation Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhini conducted a study of 2,500 farmers of the Vidharba region of Maharashtra who committed suicide. “It was found that the village commune and institutions have undergone a sea change. When a farmer commits suicide, he hardly gets the sympathy of his neighbours the way he would be grieved even ten years ago. The village school, panchayats and temple do not give him the social and community support that it did at one time. And the administration consists of people from outside, officers who have the knowledge but are not that sensitive,” Sahasrabuddhe said. “Under such circumstances, a crop insurance policy can provide the support and security that is badly required by the agrarian community at these times,” he added. The BJP leader said that crop insurance could stop the drop-out rate of farmers. “We talk of school-drop-outs hardly noticing the drop-out from the far sector. The village youth no longer wants to make a career and living out of farming largely because of the risk factors,” he said. (Times of India 15/6/15)

105. Rahul visits family of farmer who committed suicide in Punjab (4)

Fatehgarh Sahib (Punjab): Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi today met the family of Punjab farmer Surjit Singh who killed himself in Fatehgarh Sahb on June 11, a day after the Centre announced marginal increase in MSP. Mr. Gandhi expressed solidarity with the crisis-hit farmers. Surjit Singh had explained the Punjab agrarian crisis to Mr. Gandhi on his mandi visit on April 28. Today’s visit was kept a secret from the leaders of the Punjab Congress unit which has been involved in a leadership tussle. Surjit Singh, while explaining the farming community’s distress to Rahul, had said: “If the farmers’ issues remain unresolved, many farmers might commit suicide.” “My father owed six acres but we are tilling 19 acres on contract. Due to less production, the family gets nothing as all the amount is paid to clear dues of land owners. He was under depression. He consumed Celphos (a brand name for compound Aluminium Phosphide),” Surjit Singh’s son Kulwinder Singh said. The farmer had a debt of around Rs. 13 lakh. (The Hindu 18/6/15)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

106. NCP against Land Acquisition Act amendment’ (4)

PATNA: In a scathing attack on PM Narendra Modi led NDA government’s claim with regard to the GDP growth rate achieved in last one year, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar said on Wednesday it has been achieved by substantially slashing the Plan fund. The BJP-led NDA government at the Centre has claimed 7.4% GDP growth rate besides maintaining that PM Modi had inherited 4.7 growth rate from the Congress-led UPA. The NCP was also a partner in the UPA government. “The central government is patting itself on the 7.4% growth rate. But, this is not the result of increase in tax revenue. On the contrary, it has been achieved by cutting the Plan fund,” Pawar said, adding that allotments under MNREGA and several other schemes that took care of the empowerment of weaker sections have been cut. He said the UPA never made cuts in the Plan-fund allotments in 10 years, even when the country was battling with recession. “If you leave out the organized sector, the rest of people feel cheated. Neither has their income increased in proportion to price rise nor have employment opportunities increased,” Pawar said, adding the industry is still under impact of recession and the agriculture scenario, too, is bleak. Pawar was addressing the delegate session of his party during the concluding session of its national convention after he was unanimously re-elected NCP president. “The industry hoped that downturn in the purchase of consumer goods would end, but if the monsoon remains weak, the situation would further worsen,” Pawar said, adding: “A large segment of the corporate world has started saying that the economy is directionless and is caught in quagmire of slogans and mere promises.” Pawar said not only foodgrain production has fallen and farmers have been distressed by serial crop losses due to unseasonal rains and hailstorms, but the central government has made no budgetary allotment to address their problems, and schemes like Green Revolution in northeast and national horticulture mission, too, would be hit. Heavy cut has been made in budgetary allotment to agriculture from Rs19,852 crore to Rs17,000 crore, Pawar said, adding that allotments on Rashtriya Kisan Vikas Pariyojana and animal husbandry have also been slashed, and the central government’s claim with regard to introduction of Soil Health Card is misplaced as it is 10 years old. Pawar said PM never talks about people’s plight in his speeches, nor in his ‘Man Ki Baat,’ and added that data regarding farmers’ suicides are being manipulated or misrepresented. Pawar said the NCP would resist any amendment regarding consent clause and compensation in Land Acquisition Act (2013), as the new Bill gives freedom and guarantee to corporate bodies to “loot.” The PM hides several facts from people with regard to grant of land to the corporate houses, Pawar said, adding the country needs bringing agriculture back on the rails, “not the snatching of peasant’s land by giving an allurement of job to one member from his family for his alienated land.” (Times of India 11//6/15)

107. Tribal, forest workers protest against land acquisition ordinance, demand stay on Kanhar dam project (4)

LUCKNOW: Tribal and left groups from across the state took part in a demonstration organized by the All India Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP) at Laxman Mela ground in the state capital on Friday against the land acquisition amendment ordinance of the Modi sarkar. Organized as a part of AIUFWP’s land rights movement, the protest saw tribal pledging to fight against the pro-corporate land acquisition amendment till their last breath. Apart from scraping the land amendment ordinance issued by the third time by NDA government after failing to get it pass through Rajya Sabha, the protesters demanded implementation of the Forest Rights Act and land rights for landless peasants and agricultural workers. The leaders said that the Joint Parliamentary Committee examining the land ordinance should reach out to the farmers, tribal and workers of this country and hold wider consultations, public meetings and public hearings on the Bill, especially where local communities have been affected by past or present experiences of land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement like in Kalinga Nagar and Dhinkia to Narmada, Sompetta, Raigarh, Madurai, Mundra, Kanhar, Bhatta Parsaul, Jashpur and Dholera among others in different parts of the country. The tribal also demanded end to state repression in Kanhar valley and action against those responsible for the police firing on villagers protesting peacefully in Sonbadhra on April 14 and 18, 2015, against illegal land acquisition in the Kanhar valley for construction of a dam. They said that the National Green Tribunal stay order on Kanhar Dam should be implemented and all leaders arrested for participating in protest must be released. (Times of India 12/6/15)

108. Raising Narmada dam height could lead to calamity bigger than Nepal temblor: Committee (4)

New Delhi: A Central fact finding committee has warned against increasing the height of Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada river in Gujarat, saying that it could lead to a calamity bigger than the earthquake in Nepal. In consultation with Delhi Solidarity Group, the six- member Central fact finding committee, including two members each from CPI and Congress and as many independent experts, on May 9 and 10 visited several villages in the Narmada Valley which are affected by the Sardar Sarovar project to find the current and actual ground situation of the project, affected families, and extent of resettlement and rehabilitation. The committee today released its report “Drowning a valley: Destroying a civilization” from Sardar Sarovar project submergence areas in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat. “Even with the present height of about 122 meters, the team found that many families have not been recognized as submergence zone families. “With the raising of the height of the dam structure by 17 meters to nearly 139 Meters, thousands more will be severely affected and submerged,” said environmentalist and energy expert Soumya Dutta, one of the six committee members. Dutta also warned that it will lead to a calamity bigger than Nepal earthquake. “This would be a massive disaster and government should conduct a scientific study to calculate back water,” he said. The committee said that Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Union governments have claimed in the Supreme Court that the rehabilitation of all affected families is now complete following which clearance to raise the height of the dam by 17 metres was given. “Government lied before the court as thousands of families are still living in the villages in the submergence zone, that they have not been given land based compensation as per Supreme Court order and tribunal awards,” Dutta said. The report said that thousands of affected families are still awaiting their due compensation and rehabilitation. Another member of the committee, Annie Raja, who is also the general secretary of National Federation of Indian Women, accused the state and Union governments of violating orders of the Supreme Court and the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal. “The physical condition of the rehabilitation sites is pathetic, with wild growth on them… no roads, no water supply or electricity. Along with the lack of schools, health centres etc, affected families are refusing to settle in rehabilitation sites,” Raja said. The report also highlighted that affected families have complained of large scale corruption in land allotment. “Many land allotments were done illegally to people who are not really project affected. Some of the land allotted to affected people was already allotted on the name of someone else,” Raja said. The committee’s report will be sent to the Central government, relevant state governments and other commissions to highlight the plight of project-affected people. (Business Standard 14/6/15)

109. Oustees should take back land given to Adani Group: Patkar (4)

Chhindwara: Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar who reached Chhindwara on Tuesday to attend a hearing of an old case of alleged unlawful assembly, raised demand for giving back the land taken over for Adani Group’s power plant and Pench diversion project coming up in this MP district. Patkar, who has been opposing both the projects, was arrested on November 4, 2012, at this town when the Pench irrigation project was being inaugurated. She had remained in custody for three days along with other activists. Addressing a group of around 200 farmers here, Patkar along with other activists Dr Sunilam and Aradhna Bhargav exhorted the audience to take back the possession of their holdings and start cultivating the land. She argued that the land, orignally acquired for Madhya Pradesh Electricity Board (MPEB) plant in 1986 and later handed over to Adani Group, should now go back to the original owners, according to the land acquisition law of 2013. “The section 24(2) of the law says ‘if physical possession is not taken over for the project after five years of granting the compensation award, the land goes back to the original owner’. In this case, the award was passed in 1986 and farmers continued to till the land until 2010 when Adani entered the scene,” she said. Going by the five-year standard, the land should now be returned to PAPs (project affected persons) and the acquisition process should start again under the new law, she said. Adani got 750 hectares land for setting up a 1320 MW power plant here affecting over 1500 families, she informed. This applies to the Pench diversion project also for which the awards were granted from 2006 to 2012, claimed Bhargav. A petition was submitted to the district collector Mahesh Chaudhary who said they will have to move the court for that, said Patkar. She alleged that even the Pench diversion is being done to ensure water supply for Adani’s plant. It will also affect water supply to Maharashtra, she warned. After the meeting, Patkar claimed to have got a message right then that the high court in Indore had extended stay on dispossession of PAPs of Narmada project in Dhar and Badwani districts of MP in a petition seeking implementation of the Section 24(2). “This is a major victory for us,” she said. Farmers present in the rally said they were tilling the land transferred to Adani Group till 2010, after which the company took possession and built a fencing around the area. “Though access to the land is allowed for grazing the cattle, the company does not allow cultivation,” said Sajje Lal of Chausa village. “We have no other choice but to either work as labourers with others or depend on milk business that hardly fetches any remuneration,” added Sumer Yadav also from Chausa. Meanwhile, PAPs of the Pench project said the government deposited compensation amount in their bank accounts without their knowledge. Only 10% of them have used the amount and the majority continue to cultivate the land till date. The money that ranges up to Rs 1 lakh an acre is too less going current land prices, they say. (Times of India 17/6/15)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

110. Consumer court orders fertility clinic to pay Rs 31 lakh (3)

Bengaluru: The consumer court, on Thursday, asked the Base Fertility Medical Science Private Limited (BFMSPL) and Srushti Medicare Research Foundation (SMRF) to pay Rs 31 lakh as compensation to nine complainants. In his order, Syed Ansar Kaleem, president of the Consumer Court, observed that the complainants suffered a lot, physically and mentally, due to the wrong treatment by the said centres. The complainants, during January 2013, were promised 100 per cent results in the Base Fertility package scheme, with which K T Gurumurthy was associated. As their treatment was not successful, several patients had lodged a complaint against the centre. The complainants had paid Gurumurthy, the first respondent, lakhs of rupees and followed his advise. Nagesh, an RTI activist who has been associated with the case, said that several other patients had come forward to file complaints.“We are also contemplating on lodging a complaint against the small screen actors who appeared in advertisements for these centres,” he added. (Deccan Herald 12/6/15)

111. 400 million people don’t have access to key health care services: World Bank report (3)

Washington: Some 400 million people worldwide lack access to essential health services, and the cost of healthcare is forcing many into poverty, the World Bank and World Health Organisation reported today. A new report by the bank and WHO on tracking universal health care (UHC) coverage said more people than ever around the world, 80%, have access to key health services. Universal health care, the two institutions say, encompasses services that should reach everyone regardless of socioeconomic level: family planning, antenatal care, skilled support when giving birth, child immunisation, TB treatment, HIV antiretroviral therapy, improved water sources and improved sanitary facilities. But hundreds of millions are reached by only a few of those services. In addition, in low and middle-income countries, 6% of the people were at risk of being forced into or pushed further into poverty by health care costs. “This report is a wakeup call: It shows that we’re a long way from achieving universal health coverage,” said Tim Evans, senior director of health, nutrition and population at the World Bank. “We must expand access to health and protect the poorest from health expenses that are causing them severe financial hardship.” For some kinds of services, well over 80% of people have access, the report says. And it said that the impoverishing impact of catastrophic health expenses has diminished over the past decade. “However, there is still a long way to go on the road to UHC, both in terms of health service and financial protection coverage,” the report said. The new report seeks to define UHC, in terms of measurable essential services, to be able to assess how governments and communities are performing. (Business Stndard 13/6/15)

112. Right to health services in State soon: Gogoi (3)

GUWAHATI, June 15 – Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today reiterated the State government’s plan to introduce right to health services wherein free healthcare services would be given to all poor and common people, and gradually the spectrum of the services would be scaled up to cover all sections of the people of the State. Speaking at the inaugural function of the 200-bed District Hospital at Sonapur today, Gogoi said that providing affordable, accessible, accountable and quality healthcare services to all sections of the people had been a long cherished commitment and the government was working persistently towards that end. He further said that the right to health services, which the government is contemplating to bring in, would ensure basic healthcare to everybody. Asserting his commitment to ensure better health to all, Gogoi said the government had passed on necessary instruction to the health and family welfare department to ensure better treatment, better medicines to reduce maternal mortality rate, infant mortality rate and finally improving the overall health scenario in the State. He said with the existing medical colleges and hospitals, the proposed four medical college and hospitals being set up at Diphu, Dhubri, Nagaon and Lakhimpur would be able to take healthcare to every family. (The Assam Tribune 15/6/15)

113. Global health funding stalled in recent years: Study (3)

New York: After growing rapidly from 2000 to 2010, global health funding remained stagnant between 2010 and 2014, amounting to $35.9 billion in 2014, says a study. Funding decreased by 1.6 percent between 2013 and 2014, the researchers found. Global health financing increased significantly after 2000, when the United Nations established the Millennium Development Goals, which included a strong focus on health. This trend in funding has only recently started to change, according to new research by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington. “Even though funding growth has stalled in recent years, it is clear that funding in support of specific Millennium Development Goals grew at an exceptional rate,” said the study’s lead author Joseph Dieleman, assistant professor at IHME. The article was published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).Since the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were launched in 2000, donors have invested $227.9 billion to help achieve the health-related MDGs, which target maternal and child health, HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. Yet funding for many of these areas decreased between 2013 and 2014. Development assistance for tuberculosis, maternal and child health and HIV/AIDS fell by 9.2 percent, 2.2 percent and 2.2 percent, respectively. Development assistance for malaria increased by 0.4 percent during this period. The silver lining in the study is that health spending by the governments of low and middle-income countries reached an all-time high of $711.1 billion in 2012, growing 9.7 percent between 2011 and 2012. “While a great deal of attention is focused on donors’ efforts to improve health in developing countries, the countries themselves invest much more money.” “For every $1 donors spend in global health, developing countries spend nearly $20,” Dieleman concluded. (Business Standard 17/6/15)

HIV/AIDS

114. India Scraps Import Duties on AIDS Drugs to Battle Shortage (3)

MUMBAI: India has scrapped customs import duties for drugs and test kits used to treat AIDS in an effort to cut prices across the country, as it struggles to cope with an ongoing shortage in its national program to fight the disease. More than a third of India’s 2.1 million HIV/AIDS patients depend on getting their daily antiretrovirals for free from state-run distribution centres, but many of them have been facing shortages or stock outs for months. The notice put out by the Central Board of Excise and Customs this week intends to make it cheaper to import raw materials that are used to make antiretrovirals under the national program, BB Rewari of the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) told Reuters. Currently, U.S. firm Mylan Inc and India’s Aurobindo Pharma supply AIDS drugs to the government program. The exemption applies to certain first-line and second-line antiretroviral drugs used to treat adults and children, as well as to certain diagnostic kits and equipment that are used by NACO, Rewari said. He added the drugs under exemption make up roughly 95 percent of the antiretrovirals used by India’s AIDS patients under the national program. The exemption, which will remain in effect until March 2016, is the national AIDS control department’s latest effort to deal with a chronic shortage of HIV/AIDS drugs at home, even though Indian companies are some of the world’s major suppliers of AIDS drugs. Local firm Cipla Ltd made headlines in 2001 by making antiretrovirals for Africa for under $1 a day. The AIDS control program has been in disarray for months after the government changed the way over $1.3 billion in federal funds were distributed, according to data and letters seen by Reuters. Construction of clinics in rural areas has been delayed and many health workers have quit. Government officials have previously told Reuters of a lack of participation by local drugmakers in the tenders floated by the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) to procure drugs. Industry insiders, meanwhile, cite delayed tender approvals, supply bottlenecks and late payments, as well as poor coordination between the central and state governments. AIDS drugs sold on the open market are expensive, so in an effort to make those more affordable, the government is likely to add more AIDS drugs under price control by including them in the national list of essential medicines, people involved in the process told Reuters in April. (New Indian Express 11/6/15)

115. Poverty Makes HIV Positive Man, Daughter Forgo Treatment (3)

BHADRAK (ODISHA):A 40-year-old HIV positive man and his daughter, also affected by the virus, have been running from pillar to post to avail medicines and benefits entitled to them. Bikash (name changed) of Bhatapada panchayat in Chandbali block of Bhadrak district, who lost his wife to the dreaded disease nine months back, have stopped taking treatment for lack of money. The father and daughter were diagnosed with the virus about five years back. “First my wife suffered from prolonged fever, cough and diarrhoea. I took her to SCB Medical College and Hospital at Cuttack where she tested HIV positive. Later, I and my two children were examined. Fortunately, my 12-year-old son was found safe,” Bikash said. Bikash earns livelihood by repairing bicycles. The meagre  earning from the job is not enough even to sustain his family. At the same time, he has to arrange money for treatment of his daughter and himself. “I earn only Rs 50 a day and it is difficult to manage my family. In such a situation, how can I meet the treatment cost,” he wondered. Bikash used to work with a construction company in Chennai about 10 years back and after working there for two years, he left for West Bengal where he took up a similar work. Not sure, where he contracted the disease, Bikash said it might be while staying in Chennai. Bikash claimed that though he is a BPL card holder, he is yet to get a house under IAY, Biju Pucca Ghara Yojana (BPGY) or Mo Kudia Yojana. Repeated requests for a house under any of the Government schemes have fallen on deaf ears, claimed Bikash. Bikash and his daughter have not been paid the pension given to HIV patients and medicines from anti-retroviral therapy centre for the last five months.Though he has been appealing to the district administration officials for financial help, nothing has come forth. Chandabali Block Development Officer Manoj Patra said he had not received any written grievance from anyone. (New Indian Express 16/6/15)

116. Anti-HIV drug shortage in Maharashtra, MSACS centres have only 3-week supply (3)

Mumbai: The 72 antiretroviral therapy (ART) centres in the state, which distribute free medicines to patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), are running out of drugs. The current stock will last only for another three weeks and patients are being given medicines for fewer days. The Maharashtra State Aids Control Society (MSACS), which runs these centres, has already asked the National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) to speed up the supply to avoid any further shortage. “We are making sure that no patient misses the dose. Instead of giving them a month-long drug supply, we are instead giving them a fortnight’s medicines,” said Kushalsinh Pardeshi, project director, MSACS. Currently, NACO is responsible for supplying drugs to the groups working with Aids patients. Agencies such as MSACS, implement the programme which involves testing, treatment and prevention to reduce HIV transmission. HT accessed the drug availability at the 72 centres and found the glaring shortage of these life-saving drugs. For instance, as on June 10, these centres had a stock of just 6.64 lakh stock of first-line drugs, Zidovudine, Lamivudine and Nevirapine, (a combination of drugs given to patients during the first-line of treatment), while the requirement was 42.45 lakh. “We are confident that patients will not be affected. We have already received additional drugs from other states. The centre has also promised to supply the drugs at the earliest,” said Pardeshi. Sources said that drug manufacturing companies have demanded exemption from taxes, which is one of the factors causing the delay in supply. The second-line drugs, which are given to patients who do not respond to first-line drugs, are also in short-supply. Dr Ishwar Gilada, president, Aids Society of India (ASI), said, “Patients are given one or two drugs and are asked to buy the remaining from the chemist, leading to a mismatch in doses.” A senior NACO official, said, “The supply will be restored in a few days. There are 25 different drugs beings supplied, there is always some drug which will remain in shortage.” (Hindustan Times 16/6/15)

117. Compensation paid to HIV patient in open court (3)

MADURAI: The State government on Tuesday disbursed a compensation of Rs. 1.5 lakh, as directed by the Madras High Court Bench here on June 9, to a HIV patient who was made to undergo imprisonment for about seven years in an unconnected case. Dindigul Superintendent Police handed over a cheque to the victim in the presence of Justice S. Nagamuthu who had ordered a total compensation of Rs. 6 lakh after holding the State vicariously responsible for the “serious human rights violation.” After recording the disbursal of the first instalment, the judge ordered that the rest of the money should be paid to the victim within two months. (The Hindu 17/6/15)

118. Panchayat-level funds sought for HIV awareness campaign (3)

KASARAGOD: There is a sharp increase in the number of HIV cases in India, and there is need for panchayat-level allocation of funds to create awareness against the disease, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) working for the HIV infected has said. Those infected with HIV faced numerous difficulties. Centres to test the immunity level of the infected should be set up, K. Kunhikrishnan, Project Director, Vihaan, said at a press conference here on Thursday. “Today, one is driven to visit the Thrissur medical college for second line medicine and Chennai for viral load tests. Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) pension has not been disbursed since April last year. There is no centre in Kerala to rehabilitate the paralysed nor for giving counselling,” he said. Those given three cents land were not able to remit tax for want of survey number, he said. The authorities concerned should address the issues faced by the HIV infected, Mr. Kunhikrishnan said. (The Hindu 19/6/15)

Posted by admin at 19 June 2015

Category: Uncategorized

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Dalit deaths trigger concern (2)

Mumbai, May 31: A fortnight after a Dalit youth was murdered by eight dominant caste youths in Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar for having a pro-Dalit slogan as his ringtone, another youth from the community has died under controversial circumstances in police custody in the same district. Nitin Balu Sathye (22) died in police custody on May 29 after being arrested on suspicion of being a robber in Ahmednagar city. “Sathye and (Sagar) Sehejwal (the youth whose murder was triggered allegedly by the ringtone) are victims of an anti-Dalit mindset. Intolerance – religious or caste – has become rampant. Whoever is raising their head to assert themselves is being crushed in the current political atmosphere – whether in the IIT in Chennai or in the interiors of Maharashtra. “These attacks are coming because Dalits have become politically assertive and some members of the dominant caste are not being able to handle that,” Dalit activist and B.R. Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar told The Telegraph. Ahmednagar superintendent of police Sourav Tripathi said there were reports of robbery in the Kotwali area and a team of policemen was patrolling the streets late on Wednesday night when they spotted Sathye on a motorbike with a pillion rider “moving around suspiciously”.The SP added: “The police party flagged them down and detained Sathye while the pillion rider escaped. He was then brought to the Kotwali police station where he was interrogated and then arrested around 7am on Thursday. The policemen in charge of him have claimed that Sathye then escaped with his bike from the police station around 5pm on the pretext of going to the toilet. Chased by the police, he allegedly hit a lamp-post, fell unconscious and later died in a private hospital. “But since this is a custodial death, I have suspended the policemen involved in the matter and, as per norms, ordered a CID inquiry.” Prakash Ambedkar said Sathye’s death was “not due to any accident – it was custodial murder”.”Sathye had no criminal record – yet he was picked up on the basis of suspicion, he was not produced before a magistrate after arrest and then he died in custody due to police torture. The police would have hushed up the matter but for protests by his family and neighbours.” On May 16, another Dalit youth, a nursing student, was brutally killed by high caste assailants. Sehejwal (21) was sitting with his cousin at a beer outlet in Ahmednagar’s Shirdi town when his mobile phone rang. The ringtone was ” Kara kitihi halla, majboot Bhimacha killa (Holler as much as you can, the fortress of Bhim is strong).” Dalits in Maharashtra refer to themselves as Bhim after Babasaheb Ambedkar’s first name. Sehejwal’s ringtone irritated eight youths belonging to the dominant Maratha community sitting at another t able. They allegedly abused and thrashed Sehejwal, all the time asking if he would still use the same ringtone, the police said. “They hit him with a beer bottle, kicked and punched him and then tied him to their motorbikes and dragged him into a forest where his mutilated body was found later,” Prakash Ambedkar said.Four of the eight assailants were arrested on May 22 with the help of evidence from CCTV footage in the beer bar. The others are absconding. (The Telegraph 1/6/15)

2. Sonia Gandhi writes to PM Modi expressing concern over atrocities on Dalits (2)

New Delhi: Congress president Sonia Gandhi Monday wrote to PM Narendra Modi on the “distressing rise in the incidents of atrocities against Dalits” and accused his government of letting lapse an ordinance brought by the UPA government to “strengthen the implementation” of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Sonia wrote that even though the Standing Committee which examined the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, which replaced the ordinance, tabled its report in December, the “government did not bring it to the Parliament for passage in the Budget session.”She said that while it is important to ensure that a fair inquiry is conducted in such cases and the guilty are punished, it is equally important to strengthen the institutional machinery charged with the welfare of Dalits. (Indian Express 2/6/15)

3. Dalit families want to relocate (2)

MUMBAI: Facing a social boycott from upper castes and fearing possible violence, all 13 Dalit families of Ansurda village in Osmanabad in Maharashtra have written to District Collector Prashant Narnavre seeking rehabilitation near an urban area. Mr. Narnavre said the administration would ensure the safety of the Dalits and see to it that their constitutional rights were not violated. On April 28, the Dalits took out a procession to mark the birth anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar, where songs dedicated to the Dalit icon were played. “A few upper caste youths objected to it and demanded that we play songs on Shivaji Maharaj. We played those songs too,” Nishikant Humbe, one of the Dalits from the village, told The Hindu. The young men desecrated the image of Dr. Ambedkar and abused Dalit women, according to a police complaint filed by the families. The police arrested four youths, of which two were minors. “The fact that we filed a complaint enraged the upper castes and they called for a social boycott,” said Bibhishan Avadhute, another villager. Ansurda, with a population of over 1,500, has only 13 Dalit households — 11 of Buddhist Mahars and two of the Mang community. The Dalits were asked not to drink water from public taps and their cattle was barred from grazing in the village. Shopkeepers were asked not to sell groceries to them. Despite the continuous boycott for over 12 days, no case has been filed under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. “On the contrary, all the arrested four came out on bail,” Mr. Avadhute said. While the boycott was officially called off on the Collector’s intervention, the situation remains unchanged. “We are still denied groceries from shops. Members of the upper castes have put saffron flags everywhere to threaten us. The police deployed by the Collector do nothing but watch. We want to shift somewhere safer,” said Sushma Sonawane, another villager from Ansurda. The families are living in fear of a possible attack by the upper castes. (The Hindu 5/6/15)

4. Dalit groom becomes first to ride horse in Rajasthan village (2)

JAIPUR: Anil Raigner (22) has become the first dalit groom of his village — Pathredi — in Rajasthan to ride a horse for his wedding procession. The procession passed through upper caste settlements in the village with much pomp on Thursday while 125 policemen guarded it in presence of top police and district administration officers. Pathredi is home to about 50 dalit families and none among them has ever ridden a horse for wedding procession. The security arrangements were made in the backdrop of tensions reported from various parts of the state recently after upper castes prevented dalit grooms from riding horses. “We deputed nearly 20 policemen at the groom’s house prior to the wedding. When his nikasi (a ritual before the wedding) procession was taken out in the village on Thursday, there were nearly 125 policemen for security,” said a police officer. Raigner rode the horse from his house to the village temple where prayers were offered before he left for nearby Jahidpura village, where he tied the knot.”People from upper caste do not like it (dalits riding horses), so there was no point in creating unnecessary tension. But Raigner expressed his desire to ride a horse following which it was planned for the first time,” said Dayaram Raiger, a local resident. Some villagers from upper castes offered to be present at the wedding procession to ensure that nothing went wrong. But the administration did not want to take any chances and offered security.Preventing dalits from riding horses, entering temples and cremating bodies in crematoriums is common in Rajasthan. A petition filed before the Rajasthan high court on May 29 highlighted 20 cases in which dalit grooms were not allowed to ride horses in 2014 alone. (Times of India 5/6/15)

5. IIT-Madras Lifts Ban on Dalit Student Group (2)

CHENNAI: Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-M) today reinstated recognition of a student group, whose de-recogition had triggered a controversy, and appointed a professor as its faculty advisor, bringing an end to the more than a week-long standoff. The re-instatement of recognition to Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle (APSC) and appoinment of Professor Miland Brahme as Advisor came after a meeting between the Dean of Students and representatives of APSC held today, ending the confrontation that had left the campus in turmoil. “The Dean of Students reinstated the recognition of APSC as an independent student body, and after consultation with the APSC representatives, recommended Professor Milind Brahme as the Faculty Advisor,” an official release from IIT-M said. “Professor Brahme has consented to advise APSC as required in the guidelines for independent student bodies,” it said. IIT-M found itself at the centre of a controversy after it recently derecognised APSC, many of whose members are Dalits, following a complaint that it was critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Union HRD Minster Smriti Irani also came under fire from political parties including Congress and students’ bodies for the action against the APSC.  IIT-M had, however, maintained that “as per the guidelines in force, student bodies cannot use its name or its official entities in any capacity to publicise their activities or garner support without official permission.” With students staging protests demanding withdrawal of the action, IIT-M had last week convened a meeting of the Board of Students. Noting that the Board of Students met and discussed the issues raised by APSC regarding modifications and suggestions for ensuring uniform guidelines for independent student bodies, the release said, some of the suggestions will be taken up in “due course”. “Some of these will be implemented by the Office of Dean (Students), while the Student Affairs Council, Board of Students, and Senate will take up the modifications in due course for consideration as per established procedure,” it said. APSC and Dean of Students expressed satisfaction that the matter “has been closed”, the release said.  (New Indian Express 8/6/15)

TRIBALS

6. HC asks govt to consider demand for separate tribal panchayat (6)

KOCHI: Kanikkaran, a scheduled tribe that is predominantly settled in Nedumangadu taluk in Thiruvananthapuram, has raised the demand before the high court that a separate panchayat should be established. In the petition filed by ‘Adivasi Kanikkar Samyuktha Sankhom’, it was pointed out that members of the tribe had been demanding establishment of a panchayat with headquarters at a place called Parandode, for long. Population of Kanikkaran tribe is 11,876, as per the 1991 census, and they are one of the 35 tribal groups in Kerala. Though scheduled tribes form 1.1% of the state’s population, at 3.64 lakh, there is only a single scheduled tribe panchayat in the state at present. Kanikkaran tribe is one of the six larger tribes in the state, after the most populous tribe Paniyan and second largest tribe Kurichian. Approaching the high court through advocate Latheesh Sebastian, P V Asokan and K Reghu, office bearers of the Sankhom, said the demand was raised before the director of panchayats in the form of a representation filed in May last year. During the hearing of the petition, Justice Dama Seshadri Naidu said records reveal that the principal secretary to local self-government department heard the petitioners on March 10 regarding non-inclusion of the proposed Parandode panchayat in the draft list of panchayats to be formed prior to the general election to local self-government institutions. Petitioners submitted that they feared that the authorities might not consider their claim for forming the panchayat before the proceedings for forming new panchayats was finalized. That was why they had approached the high court, the petitioners said. State government’s counsel told the court that government was not averse to considering the demand by the petitioners but it inevitably takes considerable time, the court was informed. Noting the government’s submission, the court ordered the government to consider the demand of the petitioners to form a new panchayat expeditiously, at any rate before the final list of new panchayats was prepared. (Times of India 1/6/15)

7. Tribal ‘sacrificed’ in Jharkhand for rain (6)

RANCHI/GUMLA: A 60-year-old tribal man, who went missing on May 28, was allegedly sacrificed in Jharkhand’s Gumla district for better rainfall and harvest. Police found Thepa Kharia’s headless body from his house at Kharvadih in the district’s Palkot block, 130km from Ranchi, on Sunday afternoon. They could not find the severed head, which villagers believe has been buried. Police ruled out role of Maoists or criminals in the murder after preliminary investigation. Kharia’s family suspects the man was killed by Orkas, a group of oculists in the district, who sacrifice humans and bury their heads in fields before sowing season “to please the rain God”.But FIR lodged by Jatru Kharia, nephew of Kharia, against unknown killers does not have any mention of Orkas, said police. “The villagers believe that Orkas have killed him. It is mysterious because Kharia did not have enemies and did not work for the police or Maoists. He was a landless farmer and chances of murder for property is also little,” said Palkot police station in-charge Ajay Kumar Thakur. “In case of human sacrifice, the body is offered to a deity and rituals are followed. Orkas, however, function differently. They sever the head and bury it in fields,” he added. Kharia lived alone as his son works in Goa. “He was last seen on Thursday evening. When villagers did not see him for two days, they went to his house and found his headless body,” Mayawati Devi, the mukhiya of Bilingbira panchyat, where the “human sacrifice” took place, said. “People in Gumla are very superstitious. The villagers are saying the Okras have killed him. He was an innocent man and no criminal or Maoist will kill him,” she added. Jharkhand has been reeling under extreme heat for the past two weeks with some parts of the state recording temperature as high as 47°C. Though weather predictions show sign of early monsoon, farmers in the state are sceptical after drought-like conditions in many districts, including Gumla, over the past two years. Terming human sacrifice as a “heinous crime”, former Gumla MLA Bairagi Oraon said the practice is age-old in the district. “Such incidents happened earlier too. It is believed that human sacrifice to rain God brings good rain and better harvest. It is done before the farmers start sowing paddy. But the tradition has almost vanished now.” Gumla SP Bheemsen Tuti said unless strong evidence was found to show involvement of Orkas, he would not comment. “The case is under investigation and so far no strong evidence has been found in connection with the murder,” Tuti said. Human sacrifice is common especially in backward districts like Khunti, Gumla and Lohardaga. In March 2012, a man was arrested in Lohardaga for “sacrificing” his wife. (Times of India 2/6/15)

8. Tribals flee home to escape torture (6)

BERHAMPUR: Tortured and harassed by Maoists, around 60 tribal families from the cut off area of Balimela reservoir in Odisha’s Malkangiri district, have left their homes. Members of these families approached the administration and Malkangiri Superintendent of Police (SP) on Wednesday seeking security and proper rehabilitation. These tribal families are from Andrapalli and Panasaput villages under Andrapalli panchayat of Chitrakonda block. Speaking to The Hindu , Malkangiri SP Mitrabhanu Mohapatra said the families had stated they had left their village and were staying with their relatives for the last one month. According to these villagers, they were being targeted by Maoists for the past few months. They alleged that for no reason Maoists had termed them police informers and their houses had been burnt or ransacked. Some of them were tortured by the Maoists. They complained that two villagers of their area had been murdered by Maoists in the recent past. But Malkangiri district police headquarter confirmed only one murder. The deceased was identified as Dasa Maandi of Jantri village of Andrapalli panchayat. In the meantime, the police have registered three cases in relation to terrorisation of tribal families by Maoists including one related to the murder of Maandi. The SP has taken up the matter with the administration so that some vocational training could be provided to these families under different government schemes to support their livelihood and rehabilitation. Mr Mohapatra said the exodus of these families was part of terror tactics of frustrated Maoists, who were losing base in the cut off area of Balimela reservoir due to increased area domination of security forces. The construction of Gurupriya bridge has also started which would provide proper road connectivity to 151 remote villages of this cut off area of Balimela reservoir. Frustrated by the dwindling support base, the Maoists have started using violence to terrorise innocent tribal families, said the SP. On the other hand, Maoists also came up with a statement that these families from the cut off area had not been terrorised by them, and alleged that the police had tactfully taken away these families from their villages. This was denied by the police. (The Hindu 4/6/15)

9. Tribals oppose mining in Odisha (6)

BHUBANESWAR: With the process having been initiated to allot Khandadhar iron ore reserve through the auction route, tribals residing in hilly terrains in Odisha’s Sundagarh district have announced that they will continue their resistance, which will be similar to their protest against the earlier proposal of handing over the reserve to South Korean steel behemoth, POSCO. Tribals here on Sunday demanded that Khandadhar should be declared as national natural heritage. Both the Union and the State government should give up the idea of carry out mining in the area, they warned. “We have been demanding a ban on mining in Khandadhar to save waterfalls and rich biodiversity as well as the habitat right of primitive tribal communities like Paudi Bhuyan under Forest Rights Acts 2006,” said Bilua Nayak, chieftain of Bhuyan community, addressing a press conference here on Sunday. Mr. Nayak said Khandadhar being the abode of their presiding deity, Kanta Devi, is sacred for them, and the Khandadhar hill is dotted with places of worships. More importantly, Khandadhar is a source of water for people in both Sundargarh and Keonjhar districts and it would be protected at any cost, he said. Similarly, Jhara Nayak, President of Khandadhar Surakhya Sangram Samiti said, “We had earlier announced not to give an inch from Khandadhar to POSCO. Now if fresh attempts are being made to dig out iron ore by destroying the ecology of Khandadhar, we are ready for a long-drawn fight.” Prafulla Samantra, prominent social activist and president of Lok Shakti Abhijan, said any mining in Khandadhar would jeopardise the livelihood of thousands of tribals in Sundargarh and Keonjhar district. Khandadhar is estimated to have 200 million tonne of iron ore reserve. The Odisha government had recommended mining lease in favour of POSCO, which proposed to set up a mega steel plant in Odisha’s Jagatsinghpur district. However, the Narendra Modi government, rejecting the State government’s appeal of allotment in favour of POSCO, asked Odisha to initiate the auction process. The tribals had already met Jual Oram, Union Minister of Tribal Affairs, who was opposed to any kind of mining in Khandadhar, and sought his intervention. (The Hindu 8/6/15)

WOMEN

10. Bring Acid Attack Survivors Under Disability Act: NCW (8)

NEW DELHI: The National Commission for Women (NCW) chairperson Lalitha Kumaramangalam today supported the proposal of bringing acid attack survivors under the Disability Act cover so as to provide them privileges in jobs and education. “We have recommended this to the Home Minister that acid attack survivors be brought within the ambit of the Persons with Disability Act so that they can get government jobs etc and he has agreed to look into it. “He was quite welcoming of the idea and said that he would look into it as to how this can be implemented,” said Kumaramangalam at the launch of the campaign ‘War Against Acid Violence’ and a Trauma Informed Care Kit (TICK) supported by the Acid Survivors Foundation of India (ASFI). She also vouched for the need to train the victims and rehabilitate them to make them self-dependent. “The acid attack survivors lack social support and people are not empathetic towards them. There is need to train them and rehabilitate them so that they can stand on their on own feet. Government and the private players need to step in to help them lead a normal life. “The acid attack survivors merely don’t need sympathy. They need to have some sort of life where they can live with dignity and self-esteem. And this is what the society as a whole does not accord them,” she said. Kumaramangalam also stressed on the need to introduce stringent laws to stop acid attacks and implementation of existing laws to combat the heinous crime. “We need to bring newer and tougher laws. In India we have quite many laws but they are not implemented properly. You see even though fast track courts have been set up for rape victims, the judgement is delayed,” she said. “There is immediate need to curtail the free sale of acids in the retail shops. Acid is freely available in our country. We need to look into the availability of acids and the manufacturers of acid. They don’t bother about where these bottles end up,” she said. The newly launched TICK claims to be the first of its kind and introduces the first holistic methodology for tackling the trauma consequent to acid attacks. A presentation by ASFI depicted various aspects of acid attacks pointing to the alarming rate at which the acid attacks have increased in the last one year. (New Indian Express 2/6/15)

11. Two Delhi women gang-raped by five men in Goa (8)

Panaji: Two Delhi-based women were allegedly gang raped and assaulted by five men, who posed as officers of the anti-narcotic cell of police, at a flat in Anjuna beach village in North Goa, police said on Wednesday. The women, aged 22 and 30, were holidaying in Goa and had hired a taxi to go to Anjuna beach when the accused stopped them midway in Arpora village posing as anti-narcotic cell officers. “The accused posed as policemen and waylaid a taxi in which the two women were travelling to Anjuna on Monday night,” Superintendent of Police Umesh Gaonkar told PTI today. They frisked the women’s bags and then took them to the flat where they allegedly raped and beat them. All the five accused were arrested today from the flat, in the presence of victims, after the taxi driver complained to the police. They were attached to a controversial nightclub at Calangute village which was recently demolished by local people for allegedly being a prostitution den. The accused were identified as Travor Joseph, Jeevan Pawar, Kamlesh Chowdhary, Ajay Kumar Khushwa and Nadim Sayyed. (Zee News 4/6/15)

12. Why Muslim women are at receiving end of bad marriages (8)

ALIGARH: With a Mumbai family court restraining a Muslim man from marrying a second time till he settled the rights and dues of his wife, the spotlight is on the Islamic law of ‘Khula’, which is a Muslim woman’s right to initiate divorce. Although the law was drafted to enable Muslim women to break free from an unhappy marriage, many women say they are unable to do so because the law is poorly enforced. Also, most men not only ask for the mahr money in order to grant the khula but also demand an unreasonable share in the woman’s dowry as well as her own property. Since the sharia courts do not have enforcement powers, women say that men don’t respond to notices sent by them. As a result, women who want to utilize the khula option end up going to the family court to seek a divorce. Farhana (name changed), a 27-year-old seeking khula for her 45-year-old mother, is one such woman caught in the dilemma of whether to opt for khula to get her mother out of an abusive marriage, or to approach the family court instead. “My father stopped living with my mother since a long time, and has also not been giving her maintenance money. Since my mother has the option of initiating khula, I want to consider the pros and cons of doing so. My only worry is that my mother should not be deprived of her money and I of her property. I will go to the court if things don’t turn out in our favor financially.” She is not the only one facing such a dilemma. Kausar Sakina is scouting for lawyers to fight her divorce case in the family court. She went to the sharia court first, but her husband turned hostile and threatened the qazi. The qazis say that if the man doesn’t respond, they can still grant divorce to the woman but she ends up not getting her money. “If in three months, husbands don’t respond to our notice, we annul the marriage. But we can’t make the man give back the woman’s dowry or her money,” said Qazi Shariate Amir Samdani. In Aligarh’s darul qaza, or Islamic court, 300 cases of khula were handled in the past few years of which in 200 cases, the women ended up without any money. Shaista Amber, who is the president of All India Muslim Women Personal Law Board, says that the problem lies in the male-dominated sharia courts. “I have dealt with 150 khula cases in the past three years. There is a problem in the way darul qaza handles women’s demand for khula – it is tilted too much in favor of men. I don’t agree that a woman should give away her mahr to get khula especially when in 89% cases that I have studied, women don’t even get their rightful mahr at the time of the marriage.” (Times of India 6/6/15)

13. Policies that bring about a healing touch to the people of Kashmir — Syeda Hameed (8)

NEW DELHI — Syeda Hameed, former member of the Planning Commission, extended her support for the repeal of the draconian AFSPA and called for policies that bring about a healing touch to the people of Kashmir. She was speaking at a symposium titled “Waiting Women of Kashmir”  after the presentation of the  research report titled, “Vulnerabilities of Half-Widows of Jammu and Kashmir: Role of the Judiciary, State, Civil Society and Community” held at Indian Social Institute, New Delhi.During the last three decades, Kashmir has witnessed immense human suffering on account of militancy and militarization.  Since the beginning of the insurgency, thousands of Kashmiris have gone missing. Among the disappeared men, there were many who were married, leaving behind wives now known as ‘half-widows’.  These ‘half-widows’, estimated to be over 1,500, are struggling to cope and adjust themselves to their new identity derived from the conflict in the region. Many of these vulnerable women are left to rebuild their lives and to face the struggle of everyday existence in the absence of male members in the family. The issue of ‘half-widows’ is symptomatic of how women in conflict zones are the most vulnerable object, of both, the patriarchal and traditional society and a militarized state.  The study conducted by Dr. Paul D’Souza, in collaboration with AMAN Trust, is based on responses from 150 households of half widows geographically spread across nearly 140 villages and towns in Poonch district of Jammu region and eight districts of the Kashmir valley, namely Baramulla, Pulwama, Srinagar, Shupiyan, Kupwara, Baandipora, Budgam and Ganderbal. It investigates the multiple vulnerabilities experienced by half-widows and how they been impacted, through the framework of “multidimensional vulnerabilities”. The framework explores mainly five Dimensions of Vulnerability, i.e. Gender, Social, Economic, Cultural and Health, and the degree of vulnerability in each case. The study also examines various supports for women caught in conflict from social networks, state actors and non-state actors during different situations in their state of vulnerability and presents recommendations for various stakeholders like the judiciary, state, civil society, and community for positive interventions in mitigating the vulnerabilities of half-widows.The findings of the study reveal that “half widows” experience moderate to high vulnerability in all the dimensions covered. Interestingly, they experienced high vulnerability on account of their gender (71%) and their economic condition (67%), while they experienced moderate vulnerability in their social milieu (83%), cultural practices (77%) and health related issues (55%). The plight of “half widows” is best captured in the words of a young mother: “I don’t know how to make him ( 6 year old son) understand the reality (of the disappearance of his father) because I told him that he has gone out of Kashmir for work. I don’t want him to experience the trauma I am experiencing.” Half widows are mainly among the economically poor and households at the bottom rung of society in rural areas even as their economic condition worsen day by day.  In a patriarchal society, they are not considered the head of the household, restricting their right to property or ownership and limiting their choices to those decided by others. Being neither a widow, nor a married one, they experience a life of ambiguity and a long period in the state of liminality. Almost all the half-widows depend on medication as multiple vulnerabilities have impacted their physical and psychological health. Over the years, the support and assistance to half-widows to adequately respond to or cope with the situation of vulnerabilities have not been forthcoming. Therefore, the study recommends sustained programmes from state institutions and civil society organizations that address the socio-economic and psychological issues faced by ‘half-widows’ of Jammu & Kashmir. Responding to the findings of the study, Ms. Sahba Hussain, a social activist, highlighted the need to focus on the political context of Kashmir that has produced half-widows. She also urged the gathering to go beyond the suffering of half widows and also bring out the strong voices of women crying for justice and engaging in the struggle and resistance to forces of violence. Ms. Urvashi Butalia, a feminist author and founder of Zubaan Books, admitted that the suffering of women in the conflict ridden Kashmir was initially ignored, but expressed happiness that in recent times there are a lot of writings emerging from Kashmir and of late the voices of Kashmiri women are also being published is various literary forms. (New Observer Post 6/6/15)

14. Haryana to honour activists for saving, educating girls (8)

Rohtak: Haryana will honour activists and organisations playing a significant role in implementation of the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ campaign, an official said here on Sunday. ‘Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao’ scheme, which seeks to address gender imbalance and discrimination against the girl child, was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Panipat in January. One hundred districts have been identified at the national-level with imbalanced gender ratio. These included 12 districts of Haryana, Yogender Singh Malik, the chief minister’s adviser on implementation of the save girl child campaign, told reporters here. He said the state was setting up ‘balika manch’, or girl platforms in schools to spread public awareness. Malik said this campaign had an action plan under which merely putting a check on female foeticide was not be enough but it would ensure overall physical and mental development of the girls. He said the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ campaign included putting a check on falling sex ratio, treating anaemia affected girls, providing better education to them and ensuring that the girls do not drop out. He said for an effective implementation of campaign, the Haryana government would honour activists and organisations at school and district-level. (Business Standard 7/6/15)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

15. 785 Held Last Year for Child Labour: RTI Reply (14)

NEW DELHI: As many as 785 were convicted last year under the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act 1986 for the employment of children below the age of 14 years, reveals an RTI reply. The Ministry of Labour & Employment, which collected the data from states regarding the violation and conviction said that 1098 violations came to notice and 1054 prosecutions were launched against the violators. “Any person who employs a child in any occupation or process where employment of children is prohibited under the Child Labour Act, is liable for punishment with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than three months, but which may extend to a year, a fine which shall not be less than `10, 000 but which may extend to `20,000 or with both,” the Ministry said in its RTI response. The Ministry also said that 5167 Special Training Centres under National Child Labour Project (NCLP) districts were operational till December 2014. The Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act prohibits employment of a child in 18 occupations and 65 processes and regulates the conditions of working of children in other occupations. Recently on May 13, the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave its approval for moving official amendments to the Amendment Bill, 2012 allowing children below age 14 to work in non-hazardous family enterprises after school hours or during vacations. The Act also allows for employing children as artists in the entertainment industry, including advertisement, films, television serials or any such other entertainment or sports activities except the circus. (New Indian Express 1/6/15)

16. ‘Child sex abuse cases on the rise in Tamil Nadu’ (14)

MADURAI: A 14-year-old dalit girl from a village near Kodaikanal in Dindigul district was abused by two non-dalit men on May 7, and she is one among the increasing number of child sex abuse victims in the state, Evidence the NGO said. The Class 9 student from Alapatti village in Kodaikanal had gone out of her house on May 7 at about 8.30pm to go to the toilet. Two men, Siva alias Sokkanathan, 26, and Suresh, 37, who had gone there allegedly abducted her in a car and took her into a forest in the region and raped her. They dropped her near her house on the morning of May 8. A case was registered by the Kodaikanal all-women police station on May 9. The two men were arrested under Section 3(2)(5) of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989. According to Evidence, 677 sexual abuse cases were registered in the year 2011, which went up to 1,124 in 2014. This shows a 60% rise in the number of sexual abuse cases in Tamil Nadu in the last three years. In 60% of these cases, children are the victims, the NGO said. Also, the accused in these crimes are never subjected to any medical examination. It is mostly the victims who are subjected to a namesake examination. Children who are victims of sexual abuse become psychologically disturbed and they are never given proper counseling or medical treatment. Hence, the Tamil Nadu government should ensure that this victim is adequately compensated with proper counseling. The government should also bear the expense of her education, apart from giving the family a compensation of Rs ten lakh, the NGO said. (Times of India 5/6/15)

17. 48 pc Rise in Child Abuse Cases in TS and AP, Says Child Rights Panel (14)

HYDERABAD: Child abuse cases in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are on alarming rise with 48 percent increase every year. At the same time, the crime rate by juveniles has also went up in the recent years, according to the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights for AP and TS. Despite these facts, this constitutional body hardly receives any complaints from victims or their parents. The commission found that more than 1,000 cases of both sexual, physical assault against children and other violations of child rights from both the states every month. But majority of them are going unnoticed. Blame it on lack of awareness or the absence of strict Acts, more than 90 percent of such cases are not being reported either to the commission or to the police. Currently there are around 100 child abuse complaints pending with the commission, out of which more than half of them are taken as suo moto cases. Sexual violence cases against minors in both AP and Telangana are one of the highest in the country, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). But only three such cases are reported to the commission every month. Achyuta Rao, a member of the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, AP and TS, said several of these cases are being settled by the police. To bring them into the light, the commission started taking suo moto cases based on news reports, he said. The commission has also expressed concern over rapidly increasing number of child labourers in Hyderabad. Recent rescue operations by the city police may have freed more than 500 children from factories, but there are thousands of children still stuck in domestic labour. A recent study by the commission discovered that even after the raids, highest number of child labourers are still working as house maids in apartments, especially in gated communities. Rao said often the commission’s attempts to rescue child labourers from apartments and gated communities face hurdles from politicians and influential businessmen who support the child labour mafia. (New Indian Express 8/6/15)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

18. Funds meant for minorities’ welfare looted since independence: Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi (7)

NEW DELHI: In a veiled attack on Congress, Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi today alleged that since Independence funds meant for welfare of minorities were not well spent and “looted” by middlemen and “power brokers”.”Much has happened in the past six decades but it can be clearly seen that justice has not been done with regard to socio-economic and educational empowerment of minorities. There can be vote-bank politics behind it or other things, I don’t want to delve into it,” Naqvi claimed. The Union minister of state for minority affairs was speaking at the inauguration of Central Waqf Bhawan, where cabinet minister for minority affairs Najma Heptulla was also present. He said judging from the “amount spent since Independence” in the name of education, development and empowerment of minorities, there “should not have been a single person” belonging to these sections, below the poverty line. “The money was not spent well and middlemen and power brokers continued to loot that money. We need to control such elements and this government has done that,” Naqvi alleged. He said it was a “priority” of the Modi government to ensure that every penny is well spent for the benefit of the people. Naqvi also claimed that he had travelled to across states but the impact of money spent by states “cannot be seen” on the ground. In a statement released by his office, Naqvi also said that “political secularists” should desist themselves from creating an atmosphere of fear among the minorities and misguiding them for furthering their political interests. “There was a competition among the so-called secularists to exploit these communities politically. Due to such approach, development of minorities especially Muslims has remained on papers only,” he said. Minority communities especially Muslims, should assess the central government on the basis of its work and not from the eyes of those people who are responsible for political exploitation of the Muslim community, he claimed. The minister also said there was a need for a war-like campaign to free waqf properties from the clutches of “waqf mafias”. (Times of India 1/6/15)

19. Centre Seeks Info on Minority Recruitment (7)

NEW DELHI: The BJP-NDA Government has started a headcount of the people hailing from the minority communities recruited for government jobs during the past one year to review Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s new 15-point programme for the welfare of minorities. The government also wants to know the reason, if any, for the decline in the number of recruitments from the minority communities compared to the previous years. The Department of Personnel and Training(DoPT) in its latest order has asked all the Central departments to send details of people belonging to the minority communities employed between April 2014- March 2015. There are about 48 lakh Central government employees working in various departments. “The reasons for decline in the percentage of recruitment of minority community candidates as compared to previous year’s data may also be intimated,” an order issued by the DoPT to all the Central  ministries on May 26, said. The data on recruitment of minorities was sought from the ministries concerned. In addition to the five communities already notified as minority communities — Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Zoroastrians (Parsis) — it may be ensured that data relating to Jain community candidates are also taken into account in the annual consolidated data, the DoPT said. The persons appointed on transfer or deputation may not included in the report. (New Indian Express 3/6/15)

20. US panel views on minorities reflect lack of understanding about India: Govt (7)

New Delhi: India on Thursday dismissed allegations made during a US Congressional Commission briefing that “violence” against minorities was taking place after the advent of the Modi government, saying it was based on lack of understanding of India, its Constitution and society. “We have seen media reports about a briefing by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Committee (TLHRC) on ‘Violence against Religious Minorities in India’. We regard such efforts as based on lack of understanding of India, its Constitution and society,” Spokesperson in the External Affairs Ministry Vikas Swarup said. “It is well known that the Constitution of India guarantees equal religious, social and political rights to all its citizens, including minorities,” the Spokesperson said. The reaction came after an American lawmaker and a panel of four experts had on Wednesday decried alleged “violence” against religious minorities in India and appealed to the US administration to include human rights violations as an issue for discussion in its talks with the new Indian government. “Ever since the BJP has come at the helm of affairs, with Narendra Modi as Prime Minister, Hindutva forces are becoming more and more vocal with assertive notion of their strength,” alleged Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon, a retired professor of history from Punjab University. He was speaking at the briefing on ‘violence against Muslims, Christians and other religious minorities in India’. (Business Standard 4/6/15)

21. Bangladesh minority leaders “happy” about PM Modi’s visit to institutions (7)

Dhaka: More than 30 members of the minority community in Bangladesh will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday. Mr. Modi will spend about half an hour in the city’s iconic Dhakeswari Kali temple and exchange pleasantries with the community’s representatives. However, the members are excited, as for the first time an Indian Prime Minister is visiting the temple. At least three Dhaka based organisation of the minorities – Bangladesh Puja Udjapon (management) Council, Mahanagar Sorbojonin (for all) Puja Committee and the Hindu-Bauddha-Christian Unity Council – will send their envoys to meet the Prime Minister. While the first two committees are socio-religious in nature, the Council is a socio-political organisation. Initially, the committee members were unsure about the visit but later they were communicated that a delegation of various minority councils will have an opportunity to meet the Indian Prime Minister. A couple of MPs will also be part of the delegation. “However, this time we will not hand over any memorandum to the Prime Minister,” said Rana Dasgupta, the general secretary of Hindu-Bauddha-Christian Unity Council. The united front of the Dhaka’s minorities gave a memorandum to the Indian Foreign Minister during her visit. “But we are happy that an Indian Prime Minister is coming to the temple,” he said. In a country where the space for the minorities is increasingly shrinking, Mr. Modi’s visit to two institutions run by minorities was interpreted as an action in solidarity with the Hindu, Buddhist and Christian community. “Perhaps it was important for Mr.Modi to make a statement. A statement to ensure that the minorities and even a section of the majority community who believe in extending space to every community is shrinking in Bangladesh. By deciding to visit the minority institutions, for the first time, an Indian Prime Minister has just made the statement,” a noted writer of Bangladesh has told The Hindu on condition of anonymity. Mr. Modi will visit the Ramkrishnn Mission (RKM) and spend 20 minutes with the monks, many of whom know him for nearly half a century since he first interacted with the order. The President of RKM’s internal committee Gaurgopal Saha told The Hindu that the Prime Minister will participate in a special prayer for about 10 minutes, during his short stay. “From 13 centers of RKM across Bangladesh the followers of the order are invited and will be in the Mission. We are expecting more than 400 followers. Many are coming from the main branch in Belur Math in West Bengal,” Mr. Saha said. The Prime Minister will call on President of Bangladesh Mohammad Abdul Hamid. He will receive the Liberation War Honour to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee before returning to India. The Prime Minister is also expected to meet the chairperson of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Begum Khaleda Zia and official leader of the opposition. He may also meet a couple of members of a few relatively small political parties. (The Hindu 7/6/15)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

22. Adani hires MBA grad who was denied job for being a Muslim (7)

AHMEDABAD: All’s well that ends well. Zeeshan Khan, who made national headlines after he was denied a job by a Mumbai-based diamond firm because of being a Muslim, has decided to join the Ahmedabad-based Adani group. “I received about a dozen offers following the religious discrimination I had to face. My mail box is flooded with solidarity messages,” says Khan, 22, who was in Ahmedabad to complete formalities at Adani’s corporate office. “Among all the offers I got, this was the best,” says Khan, who will join the group’s Mumbai office as an executive trainee. When asked why he chose to join Adani, he said it was one of the biggest integrated infrastructure companies in the country. “We encourage talent irrespective of caste, creed and religion. We found Zeeshan a competent candidate and hence a job was offered,” said an Adani spokesperson. In the third week of May, Khan had sent a email application to Hari Krishna Exports Pvt Ltd for a marketing job. Within 15 minutes, he received the reply: “We regret to inform you that we hire only non-Muslim candidates.” Khan and his friends put out a screenshot of the mail on social media and it went viral.Khan, who did his MBA in Mumbai, approached the Mumbai police and a case was registered against the company under section 153B of the IPC, which deals with national integration and provides for a jail term of up to three years for the guilty. Earlier this week, Khan received a call from the HR department of Adani group. “I cleared the interview and was offered this job,” he said. (Times of India 1/6/15)

23. Restore reservation for Muslims: NCP (7)

Mumbai: Taking Prime Minister Narendra Modi to task on his recent statement about the Muslim community, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has demanded restoration of reservations to the community in Maharashtra, which had been scrapped by the state government. The party has also demanded free education for underprivileged sections of the community and its representation in the government in all BJP-ruled states. Mr Modi on Tuesday appealed to Muslim leaders to judge him on the basis of his actions and performance, not by what his opponents have been saying about him, after meeting with a 30-member delegation of Muslim clergy and professionals. “I give you my word, I will respond if you knock on my door at midnight,” said Umer Ahmed Ilyasi, chief imam of the All India Imam Organisation, on behalf of Mr Modi, after the meet. Responding to his remarks, NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik on Thursday said that if the PM is seriously thinking about the welfare of the community, he should start taking action rather than depending on statements. “The Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP government in Maharashtra has scrapped reservation for Muslims in government jobs and educational institutions that was provided by the Congress-NCP government. We demand restoration of the facility immediately,” Mr Malik said. “Similarly, the betterment of the community can be made possible by involving it in the decision-making process. Thus, Mr Modi should start giving representation to the community in the government in all BJP-ruled states, or the Prime Minister’s statements can be seen as a mere damage-control exercise,” added NCP leader. NCP has made serious allegations about the Shiv Sena over on its alleged changed stand on the Jaitapur nuclear power project. Party spokesperson Nawab Malik said that Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray was in London on the day that senior Sena leader and environment minister Ramdas Kadam said they were not against Jaitapur nuclear power project. “Mr Kadam has recently said that Shiv Sena is not opposing the project but the locals are. This has created doubt among people as the Sena president was in London on the same day.” (Asian Age 5/6/15)

24. Suryanamaskar against Islam: Muslim law board (7)

Lucknow: “Surya namaskar should not be made mandatory in government schools,” because Muslims bowed only before ‘Allah.’ The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) will launch a nationwide campaign against making ‘surya namaskar’ and yoga compulsory in schools. The board’s executive council took the decision when the Modi government’s plan to observe International Yoga Day on June 21 and related issues came up for discussion at its meeting on Sunday.At the executive council meeting of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board here on Sunday, many members spoke up for a proactive role by the board on issues concerning the community. Executive council member Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangi Mahali told The Hindu that the board decided to constitute a committee, headed by Maulana Wali Rahmani for the purpose. “The board’s view on ‘surya namaskar’ and ‘yoga’ would be put forth by the committee along with the explanation why they go against the beliefs of the Muslims, and why they should not be imposed on their children,” the Maulana said. Another board member Kamaal Farooqui said that it was against Islam to salute the sun. “Surya namaskar should not be made mandatory in government schools,” because Muslims bowed only before ‘Allah.’ “The board has the option to move the court and to launch a movement against the proposal,” he said. The meeting of the 51-member working committee, held at Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulema here, deliberated on several other issues, including the decision to install a Majlis-i-Amal (a committee to implement the board’s resolutions, its aims and objectives). Taking the support of other organisations, not necessarily those of Muslims, and people belonging to other faiths on issues related to the community was also brought up by some executive council members. Sunday’s meeting which ratified the decisions taken at the board’s annual convention held in Jaipur in December 2014 decided to name Maulana Rahmani as the acting general secretary and constitute a team of spokespersons for presenting the board’s views. Maulana Syed Nizamuddin will continue as general secretary. This was disclosed to journalists by board spokesman Maulana Abdul Rehman Qureshi, though there was no official briefing. In fact, it was Maulana Rahmani who made a forceful plea for setting up a panel of spokespersons for giving instant reactions because by the time the official response (from the board’s spokesman) came, it was too late. The decision to name spokespersons was taken after it was felt that there should be more interaction with the media. The issue was raised at the meeting by Qasim Rasool Ilyas, who said the media played a pivotal role and hence should be kept informed of the board’s activities. (The Hindu 8/6/15)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

25. Peace rally on June 6 (7)

Imphal, June 01 2015 : A peace rally is going to take place on June 6 says Rev.K Premjit general secretary of Rally Committee, Meitei Christian. In a press meet held at the Press Club, Majorkhul on Monday Premjit informed that the rally will start from Presbyterian house, War Cemetery Road and go through Minuthong, Soibam Leikai, Palace compound and converge at Iboyaima Shumang Lila Shanglen. Premjit also informed that a meeting will also be held there. The rally is a peace walk to bring about communal harmony in the State, said the committee. The press meet also recalled the burning down of Meitei Christian church at Patsoi on May 13, 2015 during a mob protest and subsequent attack on some other churches. The committee also appeals not to target Meitei Christian. (Manipur E-pao 2/6/15)

26. Christian school ransacked in West Bengal, police blame burglars (7)

KOLKATA: In yet another attack on a christian missionary school at Madhyamgram in North 24 Parganas early on Wednesday, four class rooms were ransacked and official and educational equipments were also damaged. The almirah in an office room was also broke open and several articles in the almirah were also found scattered on the floor. Police are looking for the culprits. But no one has been arrested in this connection yet. The ransacking on Believers Charch missionary school at Abdalpur adjacent to the Badu Road towards Barasat’s Kharibari in Madhyamgram, barely 4 km from Kolkata Airport triggered a tension in the area. Panic gripped the bishop, fathers and nuns and the other teachers in the school and they also appealed to the police for a strong security arrangements for the school. Juria Bardhan, the bishop of the school lodged a complaint on Wednesday morning with Madhyamgram police station in this connection. The school was also remained closed on Wednesday. “We are really in panic following the attack for the first time in our under Charch school. We could be attacked any time. But We can’t understand why the ransacking was carried out and by whom. We have no problem with anybody in the locality. Most of the students come from local area. I have urged police to take a legal action in this connection and to provide adequate security for the school,” the bishop said. The regional co-ordinator of the school, Rabin Dutta said, “Several Christian missionary schools across the country already came under attack. The horror of recent past brutal attack on a Ranaghat convent and subsequent horrible torture on an elderly nun is yet to die down. We got frightened with the Wednesday’s attack.” He also said that the attackers damaged the books, study papers, several study equipments, food materials for the students and also musical instruments used by the students. The school is run under believers Charch here for over a decade. There are 130 students in the school and those students are studied at free cost. The lunch and tiffin are also provided to the students mostly come from under privileged families. The guardians of the students also launched an agitation to protest against the attack on an educational institution under the Charch. They have also demanded immediate arrest of the culprits. Police said the attack took place around 2.30 am and the goons sneaked into the building through an open window of a bathroom. “Initially we suspect that petty burglars could strike in search of valuables. We are however investigating the mater and a raid is on to nab culprits”, said Bhaskar Mukherjee,ASP, North 24 Parganas. (Times of India 4/6/15)

27. Christians protest against discrimination (7)

Imphal, June 06 2015 : Thousands of Christians in the valley protested on Saturday against discrimination on the Meitei Christians by the Majority groups and burning down of church by the some unknown persons. The protest rally was organized by Peace Rally Committee which was formed by Meitei Christian leaders under the theme “peace walk prayer” . The rally was started from Presbyterian House opposite DM College at around 10 am by passing through Minuthong road, Palace Compound later ended at Sumangleela Shanglen. Over five thousands Christians participated in the rally. Many slogans like “Please Stop burning Church” God Founded Church, lets us honour God” “Save the Church to see life and Future” “Church has the solution” Church can build up” “Manipur is a land of peace and prosperity”, etc. Later a public meeting was held at Sumang Leela Shanglen in the presence of MLA P Brojen Wangjing Tentha A/C.Representatives from various civil society leaders, students leaders and church leaders attended the Public meeting. The meeting also discussed the problems faced by the Meitei Christians in the valley mostly in the form of burning down church buildings, obstruction to construction works of Churches, pastors quarters, houses and threatening Meitei Christians, stoning during worship services and houses, etc. (Manipur E-Pao 7/6/15)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

28. ‘Migrant boat still being held off Myanmar coast’ (13)

More than 700 migrants found packed aboard an overcrowded boat in the Andaman Sea were still being held offshore by Myanmar’s navy on Monday, more than three days after the converted fishing vessel was intercepted off the country’s coast. “The government is checking their identity, asking what they want to do and where they want to go,” government spokesman Ye Htut said, without providing further details of the boat’s location. “Usually, most of them want to go back to Bangladesh, so we will arrange according to their wishes.” Government officials have been tight-lipped about the identities of 727 migrants on the overcrowded fishing boat, found drifting and taking on water early Friday, as well as their eventual destination. The government initially labeled the migrants “Bengalis”, a term used to refer to both Bangladeshis and Rohingya Muslims, a largely stateless minority in Myanmar that the government refuses to refer to by name. Officials later said they believed most of those on board were from Bangladesh. A senior US official said Monday that resettlement in a third country is not the answer to the swelling tide of boat people in Southeast Asia and called for Myanmar to give citizenship to Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution there. Anne Richard, US assistant secretary of state for population, migration and refugees, said resettling all Rohingya refugees in the United States would entice others to leave their homeland. “The answer to the issue is peace and stability and citizenship for the Rohingyas in Rakhine state, and that is the solution.” she said. (Asian Age 2/6/15)

29. Families of IDPs to receive resettlement allowance (13)

COLOMBO: As many as 2,175 internally displaced Tamil families in Jaffna and Trincomalee districts are set to receive a financial assistance of Rs. 38,000 per family for resettlement with the Cabinet of the Sri Lankan government sanctioning Rs. 16 crore Lankan. Two hundred and four families in Sampur, Trincomalee district of the Eastern Province, and 1,971 families in Jaffna of the Northern Province will get the assistance initially. Of the amount of assistance, Rs. 25,000 is set apart for resettlement allowance and the remaining Rs. 13,000 for purposes such as clearing land and purchase of tools. The payment will be made on verification of claims by district-level officials, says an official in the Ministry of Resettlement, Reconstruction and Hindu Religious Affairs. Resettlement Minister D.M. Swaminathan, when asked for a reaction said he would not like to comment now. (The Hindu 2/6/15)

30. Migrants trapped in tussle between Myanmar and Bangladesh (13)

Maungdaw: Unwanted by Bangladesh and unwelcome in Myanmar, hundreds of stick-thin migrants found adrift at sea as a transnational trafficking route collapsed are now living in tents on a frontier scrubland. After weeks crammed together on a boat bound for Malaysia — a treacherous journey many braved to flee persecution or poverty — they are back near to where they began. Since Southeast Asia`s migrant crisis erupted more than a month ago, 4,500 Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants have been washed ashore, and the UN estimates that around 2,000 others are still trapped at sea. Myanmar found the boat of 733 Rohingya Muslims and Bangladeshis — the majority men but also including women and children — abandoned by people-smugglers late last month, and eventually allowed them to disembark in its western Rakhine state Wednesday. The would-be migrants were then driven to camps in a remote region near the Myanmar-Bangladesh border, where an earlier boatload of 200 men was already being held, to wait in limbo as authorities wrangle over which country they belong to. Neither nation has shown a willingness to accept them and rights groups are concerned some could be pushed to the wrong side of the border.Arriving at one of the camps, the men bathed for the first time in days and received urgent medical treatment, some attached to IV drips, as Myanmar immigration officials noted down names, ages and addresses of migrants now at the heart of a diplomatic tussle with Bangladesh. “I want to go back to Bangladesh. I`m praying to God to be able to go back home quickly,” said 20-year-old Shophikuu from Chittagong in Bangladesh, who like many others boarded the boat in the hope of earning a better living in Malaysia. Nishok, 24, is also desperate to get back to his family, saying he was forced to leave at gunpoint. “A broker asked me whether I would like to go to Malaysia. When I refused to go, he pointed his gun at me and took me to the boat,” he told AFP of the moment he was cornered by traffickers in Cox`s Bazar, an impoverished coastal region in Bangladesh where around 300,000 Rohingya refugees eke out a life alongside poor Bangladeshis…..  (Zee News 6/6/15)

31. Deportation of illegal migrants remains a farce (13)

GUWAHATI, June 7 –The process of detection and deportation remains a farce even after the scrapping of the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act by the Supreme Court, as the Government of Bangladesh often refuses to accept those sought to be deported as its own citizens, while, taking advantage of the loopholes in the system, the suspects manage to escape when their cases are tried by the tribunals set up under the provisions of the Foreigner’s Act. This trend is the reason for the growing demand for signing of a repatriation treaty with Bangladesh. Moreover, the new system of deportation of foreigners, introduced by the Government of India in 2013, slowed down the process of deportation even further and only 35 foreigners could be deported from Assam in the last two years. Following objections from Bangladesh, the Government of India introduced a new system of deportation of foreigners in 2013, which is a lengthy process and prevents forcible push back of foreigners. Highly placed official sources told The Assam Tribune that as per the new system, whenever a person is declared as illegal migrant by a Tribunal, the Border Police informs the State Government with details of the person along with photograph. The State Government refers the matter to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and then the details are sent to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). The MEA, in turn, take up the issue with the Bangladesh High Commission. The Government of Bangladesh verifies the address given by the person declared as foreigner by the Tribunal and if that is found to be true, only then the person can be deported formally. After getting the clarification, the person is handed over to the Border Security Force, which arranges a flag meeting with the Border Guards Bangladesh to hand over the person formally. It turned out to be a very lengthy process and often, the Government of Bangladesh refuses to accept the person sought to de deported as its citizen. Sources revealed that the persons declared as foreigners by the Tribunals are kept in three detention centres. At present, 113 are kept in the detention centre in Goalpara, 49 in Kokrajhar and 45 are in Silchar. Interestingly, 28 persons kept in the detention camps are citizens of Myanmar. However, taking advantage of the loopholes in the system, majority of the suspected foreigners manage to escape when the trial is going on in the Tribunals. Sources admitted that there is no system of keeping the suspects under surveillance and taking advantage of it, the suspects manage to escape from one place to the other, making it impossible for the police to locate them. According to records available, during the period from 1986 to March this year, 6,16,213 inquiries were initiated by the Border Police and 6,09,377 of those have been completed. Altogether 1,19,641 cases were referred to the Tribunals and 49,314 persons have been declared as illegal migrants. However, only 900 of those could be deported and majority of those declared as foreigners are missing. During the same period, 27,251 fresh and re-infiltrators were pushed back. Sources said that 2,31,657 cases of Doubtful voters were referred to the Tribunals and 1,27,955 cases are pending before the Tribunals. (The Assam Tribune 8/6/15)

32. Sri Lankan refugee seeks compensation for daughter’s death (13)

MADURAI: An inmate of a refugee camp for Sri Lankan Tamils at Tiruvadavur near here has approached the Madras High Court Bench here seeking a direction to the State to pay his family a compensation of Rs.10 lakh for the death of his 11-year-old daughter when the asbestos sheets laid on the roof of their dilapidated house in the camp caved in on May 12 last year. When the matter came up for admission before Justice R. Mahadevan on Monday, he directed a government counsel to take notice on behalf of the Health and Family Welfare Secretary, Commissioner of Refugee Rehabilitation and the Collector. The writ petition had been filed by S. Athipathi who claimed to be residing in the refugee camp for more than 12 years. The petitioner, father of four children including the girl who died, said that the State Government had established the refugee camp in Tiruvadavur in 2002 by building about 400 houses measuring around 100 square feet each. The camp was filled up by shifting the inmates of another camp at Avaniapuram near here and his family was part of the migration. The occupants of Tiruvadavur camp faced several problems such as poor quality construction of their houses and absence of safe drinking water. Though several representations were made to the officials concerned to improve the infrastructural facilities, their pleas went unheeded, the petitioner said and claimed that the State was liable to pay adequate compensation for his daughter’s death. (The Hindu 9/6/15)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

33. NGOs told to disclose info under RTI Act (1)

BHOPAL: State information commission has passed an order directing all substantially financed NGOs of the state to make proactive disclosure of information under section 4 of RTI Act. This will require NGOs to disclose a 17-point query list of the organisation under section 4 (1) (b) of RTI Act, 2005, and also appoint public information officers. The first interim order concerning the same was taken out on October 10, 2014, by state information commissioner Heeralal Trivedi. On May 5, 2015, the info panel asked general administration department (GAD) of the state to send the compliance report of the order within a month. In another significant move, chief information commissioner ordered chief secretary Anthony de Sa to bring all substantially funded NGOs of the state under the ambit of RTI Act. Speaking to TOI, state information commission Heeralal Trivedi who passed the order said “To begin with all NGOs in Jabalpur division have been ordered to comply with section 4 of RTI Act and NGOs have begun appointing PIOs.” When asked about compliance of the order in Bhopal and other divisions, the Trivedi said, “I have ensured the order is being implemented in Jabalpur division as it is my division but the implementations in other divisions have to be looked into by respective information commissioners”.Bhopal which needs a strict implementation of proactive disclosure of information in all the substantially financed NGOs which the city accommodates is the division of chief information commissioner KD Khan. The state commission has also passed an order wherein an applicant can ask for reimbursement of expenses borne by him while filing an appeal. (Times of India 1/6/15)

34. Rs 50k penalty slapped on B’luru South Tahsildar (1)

Bengaluru: In another rap to Bengaluru South Tahsildar Dr Dayanand, the Karnataka Information Commission imposed a penalty of Rs 50,000 on him on Wednesday for not furnishing information about the public land in two villages under his jurisdiction. RTI applicant Kalidas Reddy said he had filed four RTI applications in March 2013 before the Bengaluru South Tahsildar seeking details of public land in four villages of Thurahalli, Gubbalala, Subramanyapura and Vasanthapura. In April 2013 he filed the first appeal and in June 2013 he filed a second appeal before the Karnataka Information Commission. Six months after he filed the second appeal, hearing into the case began. “It’s now two years and I have not received even bit information,” said Reddy. On Wednesday when the case pertaining to Thurahalli and Vasanthapura village came up for hearing before Information Commissioner T Rama Naik, he imposed penalty in respect of the two separate RTI applications.  In the last one and a half years, many directions were given to provide the information but the Tahsildar remained defiant.  Earlier, in the separate RTI applications pertaining to Gubbalala and Subramanyapura, the Information Commission had imposed a penalty of Rs 10,000 each. (Deccan Herald 4/6/15)

35. 327 hills areas vulnerable to landslides (1)

Mumbai: About 327 hilly areas in Mumbai spread across 25 constituencies, accommodating almost over a lakh people, have been identified as dangerous and are vulnerable to landslides, a city-based RTI activist claimed on Friday. “As per information received through RTI, there are 327 hilly areas classified as dangerous spread across 25 constituencies. Of the 22,483 huts in these areas, the authorities recommended shifting 9,657 on a priority basis,” RTI activist Anil Galgali said. “The remaining huts were proposed to be protected by constructing retaining walls around the hills,” he added. Mr Galgali has also alerted the state government about the 327 hilly areas that are vulnerable to landslides owing to the monsoon expected shortly. In Mr Galgali’s email sent to the chief minister, the chief secretary and the BMC commissioner, he said that through his RTI queries about resettlement, he found out that across 25 assembly constituencies of the city’s western and eastern suburbs, there are 22,483 hutments in 327 hilly areas, which are located precariously and need to be shifted urgently. (Asian Age 6/6/15)

36. CIC case pendency touches 40,000 mark; panel remains headless (1)

New Delhi: Over 40,000 complaints and appeals are pending in the Central Information Commission (CIC) which is working without its Chief for more than nine months. A total of 40,051 cases — comprising 32,531 appeals and 7,520 complaints filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act — are pending in the Commission as on today, as per CIC official data. Of these, 15,736 appeals and complaints are pending before the Chief Information Commissioner’s bench. Rest of the cases are pending with seven Information Commissioners — Vijai Sharma, Basant Seth, Yashovardhan Azad, Sharat Sabharwal, Manjula Prasher, MA Khan Yusufi and Madabhushanam Sridhar Acharyulu, it said. Three posts of Information Commissioners are vacant in the transparency watchdog. Among the Information Commissioners, Sharma is tipped to be the next Chief Information Commissioner. His name is understood to have been cleared in a meeting that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on June 1 with leader of Congress party in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who is also the part of three-member selection committee headed by the Prime Minister, had also attended the meeting. Last month, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party vice president Rahul Gandhi had attacked the Prime Minister over the delay in the appointments of Chiefs of CIC, CVC and Lokpal, saying the government feared transparency. The delay in the appointment of Chief information Commissioner and Information Commissioners, which has resulted in high pendency, has been questioned by the RTI activists who have accused the government of “gradually killing” the transparency panel. “With huge number of pending cases in CIC, the Commission requires drastic reforms including its Chief to work on Saturdays,” said Lokesh Batra, RTI activist. Batra has also questioned the government’s reported move to appoint Vijai Sharma as the new Chief Information Commissioner, who is the senior-most Information Commissioner in the panel. “If he does become the CIC, then it is a bad joke on the transparency movement of this country considering that he has only 179 days left to serve before retiring on December 1, this year. CIC’s tenure is for five years. Why appoint somebody who is due to retire soon? This means the government will have to start another selection process soon,” he said. Another Bhopal-based activist Ajay Dubey said the government must ensure the appointment of Chief Information Commissioners and Information Commissioners in CIC. “The Centre is trying to gradually kill the transparency watchdog by delaying the appointments,” he said. Dubey said if the government wanted to choose a serving Information Commissioner as its Chief, it should have done that earlier. “Why to keep CIC headless for over nine months?,” he asked. RTI applicants have also complained of delay in sending reply to queries filed by them with government departments. “Applications are pending for over three months with government departments and there is no sense in approaching CIC as pendency is too large there,” an RTI applicant said. CIC, which is mandated to resolve appeals and complaints filed against government departments or public authorities by information seekers under the Right to Information Act, has been working without a Chief for over nine months, after the tenure of CIC Rajiv Mathur ended on August 22, 2014. The posts of Chief and a Vigilance Commissioner are also vacant in Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), the country’s top anti-corruption body. The term of Central Vigilance Commissioner Pradeep Kumar had ended on September 28, last year, while Vigilance Commissioner JM Garg completed his tenure on September 7. (Zee News 8/6/15)

37. Karnataka Ministers Run Up Huge Hotel Bills (1)

BELAGAVI:Despite being given food allowance during last winter’s legislative Assembly sessions held here from December 9 to 21, most ministers ran up huge dinner bills, which the government footed. Information obtained by RTI activist Bhimappa Gadad through the RTI Act revealed that the government paid Hotel Eefa on Club Road Rs 48 lakh towards food and lodging charges for ministers and some senior officials. The hotel bill of Rs 8,727 of Upa Lokayukta Justice Subhash Adi who was on an official tour on December 19 and one of Rs 11,497 against former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda, who had stayed for a day on December 20 in the same hotel, were also paid by the government. Gowda was there to attend a wedding in Srimant Patil’s family at Athani. Gadad wondered how these two bills were included under legislature expenses. At a news conference here on Monday, Gadad said 10 ministers who stayed at the hotel ran up a bill of more than Rs 13 lakh. Minister HS Mahadev Prasad’s bill was Rs 1,98,936, TB Jayachandra Rs 1,84,856, Ramanath Rai Rs 1,27,376, Qamarul Islam Rs 1,26,799, Baburao Chinchansur Rs 1,24,254, P T Parameshwar Nayak Rs 1,18,758, M B Patil Rs 1,07,972, Umashree Rs 1,07,600, U T Khader Rs 1,05,875 and Vinaykumar Sorake Rs 1,05,136. Gadad expressed surprise over the huge dinner bills presented by ministers. He  said though the ministers were given a daily allowance of Rs 1,500, they ran up huge  hotel bills. (New Indian Express 9/6/15)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

38. Display Online Seats Under RTE, Government Told (11)

CHENNAI: The Madras High Court on Tuesday directed the Department of School Education to display on its website details of number of seats available under the RTE Act, in different educational institutions in order to help the District Education Officers play a pro-active role. Justice T S Sivagnanam passed the orders on a petition moved by Change India, an organisation, seeking a single-window online system for admissions under RTE Act. According to the PIL, various media reported that the Tamil Nadu Nursery, Primary, Matriculation, Higher Secondary and CBSE Schools Association had on April 24 passed a resolution stating they would not comply with the provisions of RTE Act for the forthcoming academic year, which mandates to reserve 25 per cent of seats for children belonging to disadvantaged groups, as the government had not reimbursed the fee to the tune of `150 crore due to the schools. Stating that the resolution would adversely affect the students from disadvantaged groups, the petitioner sought the court to issue an interim injunction restraining the schools from filling up the seats reserved under RTE Act with general category students. When the petition came up for hearing on Tuesday, the Department of School Education filed its counter, submitting that the department would ensure wide publicity to facilitate students to enrol in the 25 per cent quota available under the Act. “As the Central government had refused to reimburse funds to educational institutions for admissions made under the Act, the State government, through a GO dated May 16, has sanctioned `97.05 crore to reimburse the fee charged by institutions,” the department said in its affidavit. Recording the submissions, the judge said that as submitted by the department, unfilled seats under the Act shall be kept vacant till  November-end in accordance with TN Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Rules, so that direction may be issued to try to fill up the remaining seats. The court told the department to give the details of compliance within 4 weeks and posted the matter to July 6 for further hearing. (New Indian Express 3/6/15)

39. Vedanta Scholarship for Odisha Grads (11)

BHUBANESWAR: Vedanta Group launched a scholarship for students pursuing higher education – Odisha’s Young Achievers Scholarship Programme here on Thursday. The scholarship will cater to students opting for graduate courses in medical or engineering and award Rs 30,000 per year for five and four years respectively. Students with more than 70 per cent marks in Class XII examination can apply for the scholarship. The marks criterion has been relaxed upto 60 per cent for SC and ST students. Only those students whose parent’s annual income is less than Rs 2.5 lakh per annum can apply for the scholarship. Students opting for a degree in science will be awarded Rs 20,000 per year for three years. Reservation for girl students is upto 50 per cent and 22.5 per cent slots are reserved for SC and ST students in the scholarship scheme. CEO of Aluminium, Vedanta Ltd Abhijit Pati said, “This scholarship programme is the first pan-Odisha initiative by Vedanta to support meritorious students from economically weaker sections pursue graduate courses.” The scholarship was launched by Minister for Employment Technical Education and Training Sanjay Kumar Dasburma. Among others, Odisha Assembly Deputy Speaker, Sananda Marandi, President Vedanta University project BK Patnaik and Utkal University vice-chancellor Ashok Kumar Das were present. (New Indian Express 5/6/15)

40. ‘Make In India’ could revive engg education: DTE (11)

AURANGABAD: Even as almost 45% vacant seats in engineering colleges in the state last year posed worries before the institutes and government authorities, senior officials of the directorate of technical education (DTE) are hoping that the Centre’s ‘Make In India’ campaign would help dispel gloom prevailing over engineering education. Addressing a special seminar to guide the students and their parents on different career opportunities in engineering and technology ahead of the Centralised Admission Procedure, Mahesh Shivankar, DTE joint director for Aurangabad region, said the ongoing efforts of the government to boost the manufacturing sector of the country would create ample jobs. “If the manufacturing sector grows by say 2-3% due to the ‘Make In India’ campaign and associated efforts of the government, we could witness creation of thousands of jobs in the near future,” he said.  far as Aurangabad region of the DTE is concerned, around 50% of the 15,000-odd engineering seats had no takers in the last academic year. Shivankar specifically cited the ongoing Aurangabad-centric projects such the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) and development of manufacturing clusters, which hold huge potential for employment generation for engineering graduates. He said both traditional and unconventional courses could prove to be the best choices for the students, provided they choose a branch keeping their aptitude and skill in mind. “No branch can be termed as unimportant. Every branch of engineering and technology today possesses tremendous scope. If the students choose unconventional courses, they will face less competition and have good scope to excel. If they choose traditionally popular branches, they will have to demonstrate their knowledge and skills through action to achieve excellence,” he said. Shivankar said different engineering disciplines associated with manufacturing and other key sectors were merging together, giving scope for multi-disciplinary knowledge. Large number of students along with their parents took part in the seminar, which guided the students on carefully following the CAP for engineering and technology admissions. Umesh Kahalekar, head of the civil engineering department at the Government Engineering College, Aurangabad (GECA) guided the students on different stages of CAP. (Times of India 8/6/15)

41. Overhaul education, infuse Hindu thought, says RSS neta (11)

NEW DELHI: Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) general secretary Krishna Gopal on Monday stressed on “complete overhaul” of Indian education saying “only assimilation of Hindu thoughts into country’s education can provide perfection of means and finish confusion of ends”.Addressing a conference of Hindu Education Board, an RSS-affiliate, attended by HRD minister Smriti Irani, railway minister Suresh Prabhu and minister of state for finance Jayant Sinha, Gopal said all streams of knowledge are meaningless till mixed with n Smriti’s presence, Indian spiritual thoughts. Gopal expressed dissatisfaction with the current education system, saying there is need to connect students with their “roots, culture and provide spiritual integration”.On her part, Irani said there is a need for new education policy which will help India leap forward. “But any effort made in this direction is seen as saffronization attempt,” she said. “We are ashamed of our own inherent strength, cultural heritage and glorious history. This is only possible in India. You have ancient mathematics, which is explored and applauded across the world. But, it is saffron in India,” she said. Irani also took potshots at those criticizing the government’s overdrive to observe International Yoga Day on June 21. “It is same here in case of Yoga also. It is being abelled as saffron way of living. Perhaps this is not possible in any other country. I wonder, if those 175 countries, which supported us at the UN for celebrating Yoga Day were also saffron?” Explaining the broad contours of the new education policy, Irani said under the leadership of Modi, India for the first time has initiated a nation-wide consultation. “Indians living in villages are being asked what should be the shape of education policy of our country and the views are being taken from those living in blocks, districts and states. Education is also not limited to policy draft, or school or university. It defines the existence of human being, the society,” she said. Prabhu supported the views of Gopal and said there is need to further develop linkage between higher educational institutions and the industry to take Indian education system to greater heights. Sinha said India can solve many of its problems by using its “civilisational heritage”. (Times of India 9/6/15)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

42. What’s delaying Right to Food Act, PUCL wonders before Supreme Court (21)

NEW DELHI: The Centre’s resolve to rid the country of hunger will be tested with a petition being filed in the Supreme Court challenging the year-long delay in implementing the Right to Food Act and validity of three administrative directions issued by the government, postponing food and cash entitlements from reaching the poor. A petition filed by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), asks the Supreme Court to intervene with the government for the implementation of the National Food Security Act, 2013, and publication of the ‘final lists’ of Socio-Economic Caste Census 2011 to identify priority and Antodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) households under the Act. The PUCL, represented by senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, contended that the 2013 Act was supposed to be implemented by July 5, 2014, but three successive administrative instructions on June 30 and October 14, 2014, and March 24 this year had delayed it. Besides, a period not exceeding 365 days was given to the State governments to identify the eligible households for foodgrain entitlements. This deadline expired on July 4, 2014. The PUCL petition in 2001 for enforcement of the poor’s right to food had seen the Supreme Court pass repeated directions to the government to provide food security. The litigation had largely influenced the 2013 Act, according to the fresh petition. The petition highlights several pitfalls for the apex court to consider in the government’s proposals to implement the Act. Section 4(b) of the Act requires that pregnant and lactating women be paid a cash benefit of a minimum of Rs. 6,000 through the Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY). The petition said a revised proposal for IGMSY is with the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs. As per the proposal, IGMSY would reach all districts only by 2016-17, and that too if financial resources permit. In the second instance, the Act wants free meals to be provided through anganwadis to pregnant and lactating women and children up to the age of six years. The government proposes to do this through the existing Integrated Child Development Scheme, which has low coverage. Again, the Act entitles children aged between six and 14 to have cooked meals at government schools. The government proposes to do this through the prevalent mid-day meal scheme. However, the petition said, 3.9 crore of the 13.9 crore children under this scheme are deprived of this entitlement. It said both schools and anganwadi buildings suffer in terms of lack of basic infrastructure like kitchens, drinking water, sanitation facilities for proper implementation of the statute’s objectives. (The Hindu 1/6/15)

43. AP Government Spent Rs 40,000 Crore to Eradicate Poverty: CM (21)

RAJAHMUNDRY: Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu said here today that the state government spent Rs 40,000 crore this year to “eradicate poverty” from the state. Speaking at Chebrollu village of Gollaprollu mandal of the district, while participating in the ‘Neeru Chettu’ campaign, he said the government has prepared a five-point formula to fight poverty. He said though the state has a deficit of budget of Rs 16,000 crore, it implemented several socio-welfare schemes to benefit of all sections of the people. “We are taking steps to put Andhra Pradesh in the top position by 2029 and taking measures to overcome the financial crisis,” he said, adding, it would take four years to complete the Polavaram project which would irrigate an additional 2.5 lakh acres of land in East Godvari district. He said he wanted the Pattiseema project to be launched to supply excess and waste water from the Godavari river to the drought-prone Rayalaseema region, but opposition parties have been creating problems and blaming his government. He said steps are afoot to strengthen Development of Women and Children of Rural Areas (DWACRA) groups for which the state government has already allocated sand auction and sale of generic medicines to such groups. The state government is taking steps to provide a 10 MPBS fibre optic internet connectivity to every house in the state at a cost of Rs 150 per month, he said. (New Indian Express 4/6/15)

44. When 2-min food becomes staple, you invite trouble (21)

They fed starving soldiers stationed in remote areas, millions of those displaced by natural calamities and silenced hunger pangs of thousands during economic crises. From once being a source of sustenance, instant food — pushed by aggressive advertising — is slowly evolving as a staple diet. However, letting the market chalk out one’s diet may not be a healthy plan, say nutritionists.Against the backdrop of Nestle India, maker of Maggi 2-Minute Noodles, being embroiled in a scare over the product allegedly containing dangerously high levels of lead, experts also highlighted the lack of nutrition in these products that are increasingly usurping the gastronomic space in the country. “People often think that having instant noodles or cereal in the morning is a wholesome meal. Convenience food need not always be nutritionally sufficient,” said nutritionist Meenakshi Bajaj. Her explanation: they are calorie packed, contain more taste enhancers, little nutrition and lack fibre. “In noodles, for example, the vegetables, which provide fibre, are too fine and they are dehydrated. While eating them once in a while is all right, it could lead to life-long constipation if taken on a regular basis,” she said. She added that most of the processed food have high sodium content. “To this, we add sauces, which again have high sodium content. So we are basically stuffing ourselves with a lot of sodium and little else.”Experts say instead of relying on a food culture developed over centuries, consumers are banking heavily on marketeers to plan their diet. “A breakfast comprising idli, sambhar and chutney contains calcium, fibre, vitamins and nutrients. That’s a wholesome meal,” said another nutritionist. She said some cereal brands claim that they are iron rich. “What they don’t tell people is that when this is added to milk, the calcium in it interferes with iron absorption in the body. So basically, what you’re having has very little nutritional value.” Experts say in several instant food products and breakfast cereals, the health benefits are either destroyed by the manufacturing process or stripped away before it. When manufacturers speak of ‘value-added’ products, they seldom look at the nutrition side, and instead look for ways to add cost to things by creating convenience. While several countries are reverting to their traditional cuisine, India is increasingly absorbing instant breakfast.Consumer activists have asked the government to strengthen policy guidelines and make nutrition-fact labelling mandatory in India. “Right now, it is mandatory for food products to only include the ingredients and composition. We still have a long way to go before including the nutritional content,” said Pradip Chakraborty, former director, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India. (Times of India 6/6/15)

45. Poor Tripura tribal couple sell new born for Rs 4500 (21)

Khowai (Tripura): In a bizarre incident, a tribal couple in Tripura has claimed that they were compelled to sell their newborn son, as they were unable to bear the cost of bringing it up. The boy, the fourth child in the poverty ravaged family, was sold a day after his birth for Rs 4500. The incident took place in bordering Khowai district’s Munda Basti ADC (Autonomous District Council) village. “When my wife was three months pregnant, we (my wife and I) contacted the doctor for aborting. But then, a few villagers came to know about it and suggested us not to abort the child and that they will put me in touch with someone who will take the baby and give it a better life. Accordingly, I then contacted those people, and last Tuesday (June 2), the child was born, and on Wednesday at 11.20 a.m., we handed over the child. Those who took my son we very happy and gave me Rs.4500,” said Ranjit Tanti, the father of the baby. “I am not feeling bad. Rather, I am happy, because I know that we couldn’t have provided for him. He has gone to a rich family to live a better life, and I hope that in future, if he will be an owner of cars, I am happy.” Sima Tanti, the mother of the child, said she and her husband had decided to give the child away, as it was becoming impossible to run their family on their meagre income. “I and my husband had decided to give away our son hoping that he will lead a better life, be able to study there. We are poor and cannot educate him, as we do not have the money,” said Sima. The child was bought by a couple of Duski village under Teliamura, 35 km from the village. (New Kerala 7/6/15)

46. 14,737 BPL ration cards issued in four months (21)

Kozhikode: The Civil Supplies Department has issued ration cards to 14,737 beneficiaries in the Below the Poverty Line (BPL) category in the past four months with special focus on bedridden patients, physically or mentally challenged persons, cancer patients, and widows. Of this, 400 cards were issued during the Chief Minister’s mass contact programme. Officials said that Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AYY) cards were given to all eligible tribal families. Civil Supplies Department has also introduced a helpline number (1967) to register complaints regarding the public distribution system. Complaints are recorded as online data and will be sent to the respective offices to be redressed.“Ration card management system software is currently being updated as a part of the computerisation of ration cards. Once this is implemented, it will be easier to renew the present ration shops,” officials said. (The Hindu 9/6/15)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

47. ‘Workers in unorganised sector will get social security soon’ (14)

NIZAMABAD: Union Minister of State for Labour Bandaru Dattatreya has said that the BJP led Narendra Modi government at the Centre aimed at providing social security to 45 crore workers in unorganised sector in the months to come. It had embarked on simplifying Labour Act to totally eradicate child labour system, ensure payment of minimum wages and skill development and employability among youth, he said while addressing the ‘Jan Kalyan Parve’ here on Monday. He said the Modi government increased the amount of the Central Housing Scheme to beedi workers from Rs.45,000 to Rs. one lakh. He said a 50-bedded hospital would be set up in the district for the benefit of workers and dispensaries would also be sanctioned. The long pending Peddapally-Nizamabad railway line would be completed by next year, he said, adding that the Centre would lay 1,000 km-long National Highways in Telangana. Emphasising upon the need of coordination between Centre and States for the speedy progress Mr. Dattatreya said that the Modi government would extend all possible help for achieving the Bangaru Telangana. BJP State president G. Kishan Reddy said that the NDA government introduced several schemes to benefit farmers. It increased the compensation for crop damage by four times and decided to pay full amount even if 33 per cent crop was damaged in calamities, he said. The party national general secretary P. Muralidhar Rao expressed the hope that in next four years the country would become number one in infrastructure by completing all pending projects. The BJP ruled States such as Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Chattisgarh established a record of 18 per cent, 10 per cent and 8 per cent agricultural growth rate respectively in the last ten years and which was far greater than the national average whereas the Congress ruled States registered below the national average, he said. Former MLA Yendala Lakshminarayana, party leaders Loka Bhupathy Reddy and Aljapur Srinivas also spoke. The party district president Palle Ganga Reddy presided. (The Hindu 2/6/15)

48. Save Indian workers from ‘slavery’ in Qatar: BMS (14)

New Delhi: The Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), the trade union wing of the RSS, has asked the government to step in to protect rights of Indians working in projects in Qatar, which is hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), the trade union wing of the RSS, has asked the government to step in to protect rights of Indians working in projects in Qatar, which is hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup. It said that since the past five years, more than 1.5 Million migrant workers, including those from India, Pakistan and Nepal, were in Qatar. “They are badly treated and not being paid their wages. No proper living arrangement. They are forced to use very un hygienic toilets, kitchens. They are also being forced to work more than 14 hours without any recess to have their food. Many of them have reached the condition of starvation and suffering from very critical diseases,” BMS general secretary Virjesh Upadhyay said in a letter to external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj. He also said approximately 700 workers have died so far. At the time of the earthquake at Nepal, Nepali workers were not allowed to go home and contractors have snatched their passports and other related documents so that they cannot leave the country, the letter said. “This all is being done under controversial provision named “KAFALA” which in other words keeps a migrant worker like a slave,” Upadhyay said. Pointing out that many of the Human rights agencies and Amnesty International reports also reveal the deteriorated condition at Qatar, the letter said that though the Doha government was promising to address the conncerns it had not taken any step in the last five years. “Bharatiya Majdoor Sangh being a largest Central Trade Union of the Country takes the matter seriously & urge upon your good self to intervene the matter to make slavery end,” it said. (DNA 4/6/15)

49. Job Guarantee Under MGNREGS Fails Women in Odisha (14)

BHUBANESWAR: Though lakhs of persons are enrolled under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) in Odisha, not many women benefit from it. The State, which has a huge casual labour population, continues to lag behind when it comes to participation of women in MGNREGS. This despite the fact that the scheme, besides guaranteeing work, is aimed at making a positive impact on the social and economic well-being of rural women.  It was designed to provide women the opportunity to earn equal wages as men and narrow the gender gap in income that is around 30 per cent at present across the country. According to the Ministry of Rural Development, of the total man-days generated under MGNREGS in Odisha, women participation is just 36.21 per cent against 63.79 per cent for men in the current financial year.  While this contradicts the fact that poverty forces women to take up casual jobs, stakeholders claimed that the primary reason behind low participation of women in MGNREGS is male-domination and lack of motivation. Apparently, neighbouring states like Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have greater participation of women at 55.73 per cent  and 49.56 per cent respectively. The situation in Odisha has more or less been the same since 2012-13. The percentage of women workforce declined from 39.06 per cent in 2012-13 to 35.57 per cent in 2013-2014. However, it saw a marginal rise of 0.19 per cent in the last fiscal when it notched 35.76 per cent. Of the total 38,63,571 man-days generated in 2015-16 financial year till today, 14,17,558 man-days have been by women. Although 81,00,343 women across the State are registered under MGNREGS, only 11,69,751 get work regularly. Elsewhere in the country, labour intensive works like farming pulls more women in to the workforce, but the concept is the opposite when it comes to Odisha where paddy cultivation is taken up extensively. There is also a huge gap in women participation as far as tribal and general districts are concerned. The director, Panchayati Raj Department, Deba Prasad Das, said women were not coming forward in coastal areas to take up MGNREGS offers for economic freedom due to various reasons including male domination. “But, as women are the dominating force in tribal societies, we see a lot of them demanding work under MGNREGS,” he said. Tribal districts like Rayagaga, Nabarangpur, Koraput, Malkangiri and Keonjhar have 32 per cent to 39 per cent women enrolled in MGNREGS projects but in districts like Balasore, Bhadrak, Cuttack and  Jajpur, it varies between 20 per cent and 29 per cent. The Centre has, meanwhile, asked the State Government to increase women participation to at least 50 per cent in the coming years. Secretary, Panchayati Raj Department, DK Singh said a target had been set to increase women participation to 40 per cent this year. “We are working on creating specific strategies to increase involvement of women in the job scheme. This includes taking up women-specific projects under MGNREGS, changing work hours to suit them and providing work-site amenities,” he said. (New Indian Express 7/6/15)

50. Odisha to raise Rs 1,000 cr fund for construction workers (14)

Berhampur: The state government has decided to raise a corpus fund of Rs 1,000 crore to assist the workers engaged in building and construction sectors. The Odisha Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board has already raised Rs 750 crore through collection of cess from different government constructions. “The corpus fund will be utilized in the welfare measures of the labourers, especially the construction workers in the state. The registered workers in the state would also get the benefits, even he/she works out of the state,” state’s labour and employment minister, Prafulla Mallick said. Several welfare measures including safety equipment, working tools, bicycle, marriage and education assistance to the children of the labourers, death and funeral benefits to the kith of the deceased are being provided to the registered labourers in the state, said the board’s chairman, Subash Singh. He said, the government has already announced to provide pension of Rs 500 per month to the labourers who have crossed 60 years. “The scheme is under the law department for framing the rule. The scheme will be implemented after it is approved,” Singh said. Both the minister and the board’s chairman conducted review on the implementation of different welfare measures in Ganjam. The state’s higher education minister Pradeep Kumar Panigrahi, several MLAs and labour officials also attended the review meeting. In Ganjam district, as many as 61,740 construction workers have been registered with the labour department. In the first three months of the current year, they had received around Rs 12.57 lakh in different welfare schemes. Ganjam stands third in the labour registration list after Khurda and Cuttack, said Mallick. “There is need to create awareness among the workers about the different labour welfare measures of the government. It should be displayed in wall writing at major places, including the panchayat walls,” the minister stressed. He said, “The government would maintain constant coordination with other states to check labour exploitation. We have already talked to states like Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Telangana.” (Business Standard 8/6/15)

RESERVATION

51. Activist moves court over EWS reservation (25)

GURGAON: A city-based activist has moved the Punjab and Haryana high court challenging the non-implementation of a rule that allows 10% reservation for students under the economically weaker section (EWS) category. The activist pleaded that the high court give directions to the state government to implement provisions of 134A of the Haryana State Education Rules, 2003. “The academic session kicked off in April, but there is no clarity over admissions for students of classes I-VIII. At the last minute, the admission process was put on hold,” Satyaveer Hooda, the petitioner, said. “There are around 1,100 students waiting for admissions under the reserved quota in private schools of Gurgaon, while the count is 65,000 across the state,” he said. The court has issued a notice to the state government and has listed the matter for June 17. The district education officials say that they are helpless and the orders were issued by the state government and they have to implement them in letter and spirit. It is noteworthy here that on April 1, a double-judge bench of Punjab and Haryana High Court headed by Justice SK Mittal had directed the private unaided schools of Haryana to admit the EWS (economically weaker section) students under rule 134A for grade two to twelve. The court had also said that the provisions of Right to Education (RTE) Act will stand to apply in grade one. (Times of India 2/5/15)

52. Seek clarification on reservation list for Palike polls: High Court (25)

Bengaluru: The Karnataka High Court on Friday directed the State government to seek clarification on the reservation list announced by it as per the 2001 census for the elections to the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike. Disposing of a petition filed by the Karnataka State Commission for Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) challenging the reservation list, Justice Raghavendra S Chauhan directed the government to seek clarification with the single bench which had directed it to conduct the elections with the existing delimitation of wards and reservation list. In the order, the bench said there was an apparent contradiction with respect to the constitutional provision regarding the reservation list and delimitation of wards and the judgement of the court. The government, therefore, needs to seek clarification for any modification of the same, it said. Supreme Court senior counsel Gopal Subramanium, appearing for the SC/ST Commission, contended that the reservation list announced by the government had not been done in accordance with the 2011 census, which was published in 2013. The senior counsel said the government had not announced the reservation list in the interest of the community, as there was a 48 per cent difference in terms of the population percentage of SC/ST. The reservation list was announced keeping the population count as per the 2001 census and not the 2011 census. He said the list was not in the interest Article 234 T of the Indian Constitution, which talks about reservation for SC/ST in the municipal elections. Additional Advocate General A S Ponnanna submitted that the deputy commissioner had already submitted the draft on the delimitation of wards as per the 2011 census and it had been forwarded to the Urban Development Department. Due to the pending litigation and the single bench order, the government had not yet notified it, he said. During the hearing, the bench observed why the High Court should provide instructions to the State government to conduct the BBMP elections and why the government was not able to take a decision on its own. (Deccan Herald 6/6/15)

53. Creamy layer cap may be Rs 8 lakh (25)

New Delhi: The Centre is likely to raise the creamy layer ceiling for the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) from the present annual salary of Rs 6 lakh to Rs 8 lakh. If the government goes ahead with this proposal, families earning over Rs 8 lakh will not be eligible to seek OBC reservation benefits in government jobs and admissions in institutes of higher education. The government has reserved 27 per cent seats for the OBCs. Increasing annual salary bar from existing Rs 6 lakh to Rs 8 lakh would bring more backward class aspirants under the reservation net and increase competition in jobs and admission to educational institutions like IITs and IIMs. Recently, the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) had recommended the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to increase the creamy layer ceiling for OBCs from the existing annual salary of Rs 6 lakh to Rs 10.50 lakh. The creamy layer bars the affluent among the OBCs from reservation benefit on the basis of family income. Though the commission suggestion is not binding on the government for implementation, sources in the Ministry of Social Justice told Deccan Herald that it is studying it and trying to maintain balance. Instead of Rs 10.50 lakh as recommended by the commission, the government is thinking on limiting it to Rs 8 lakh per annum, the sources said. Taking into note the poor representation of backward classes in the central government jobs, the NCBC also recommended in its report that qualifying standards will be relaxed for the OBCs to fill the 27 per cent seats. A senior official in the commission said despite reservations, most of the seats for the OBCs in premier educational institutions such as IITs and IIMs have remained vacant and also in government jobs. (Deccan Herald 7/6/15)

54. HC refuses to vacate stay on quota for promotion to SC employees (25)

CHANDIGARH: Punjab and Haryana high court on Monday refused to vacate stay on its orders of restraining Haryana government from keeping 20% seats for Class III and IV employees belonging to scheduled caste (SC) category in departmental promotions. The court, however, allowed the petitioner employees to implead as party in the main case and issued a notice to general category employees and the state government.The court has passed these orders while hearing a petition filed by the SC category employees of the Haryana government seeking stay on the May 27 orders. It also refused to prepone the hearing of the case and fixed their appeal with the main petition on October 16. Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP government in Haryana had issued the notification on May 15 providing benefit of quota in promotions of employees of SC category with effect from April 1, 2013. The notification was challenged before the high court by Dinesh Kumar Sharma and others, who are working as assistants in the Haryana Civil Secretariat. Hearing their plea, a bench headed by Justice Amita Rawal had ordered a stay on the notification on May 27. According to the petitioners from general category, the representation of SC in the cadre of assistants was more than 20%. They stated a further benefit of 20% reservation through the notification would amount to reverse discrimination causing immense injustice to the general category staff. They had also pleaded that in the M Nagraj case and several other judgments, the Supreme Court had ruled that provision as contained in Article 16 (4) of the Constitution enabled the government to provide for reservation only during initial recruitment and not for the subsequent stage of promotion. It was also argued that reservation in promotion was held to be violative of Article 14 of the Constitution by the apex court on several occasions. Aggrieved from the petition and stay orders, the SC category candidates have now move the high court. (Times of India 9/6/15)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

55. Call to check rise in human rights violations (1)

Chikkamagaluru: State Human Rights Commission member C G Hungund said that the cases pertaining to the violation of human rights are increasing in the department of police and in order to put a stop on this, the issue will be brought to the notice of senior officials in police department. Briefing reporters, after visiting Mallegowda District Hospital, district prison and girls hostel in Chikkamagaluru on Monday, he said that if the police officials do not take necessary action to stop human rights violation incidents, the matter will be brought to the notice of the High Court judge. Lamenting on the increasing suicide cases of farmers in the state, he said the commission is aware of the deaths of farmers in the district as well. A discussion will be carried out with the department officials concerned, in order to take up suitable measures to prevent farmers’ suicides. Hungund said that the grants released under various packages by the government, and other schemes have not been reaching beneficiary farmers. He assured of recommending to the government for the increase in facilities given to farmers. He said during  his visit to the district hospital he has found that there have been many shortcomings in the hospital. The hospital has not been upgraded even after 10 years. There is acute shortage of staff, even though the number of patients has increased considerably. There are no cardiologists or related instruments for heart checkup and the patients from financially weaker sections are deprived of the facilities. Though a new ward has been reserved for the treatment of senior citizen, the ward has not been operational, owing to staff shortage. The problems will be brought to the notice of the government and directions will be given to take immediate actions. When the State HRC member visited government hostel for girls in Pension Mohalla, there were no students, due to summer vacation. He inspected the kitchen and gave instructions to the staff to maintain cleanliness and hygiene. He also paid visits to district prison and old age home and listened to the problems of the inmates. Deputy Commissioner B S Shekharappa, district health officer Dr Neeraj, district surgeon Doddamallappa were present among others. (Deccan Herald 2/6/15)

56. Foreign funding for NGOs: After inputs from IB, PMO tells Home Ministry to tighten FCRA regulations

NEW DELHI: Acting on instructions from the PM’s Office (PMO), the home ministry is stepping up scrutiny of foreign-funded non-governmental outfits based on recommendations of Intelligence Bureau, a move that could prove controversial coming as it does after actions against Ford Foundation and Greenpeace. The ministry plans to tighten some rules of the principal law governing the sector — the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).The home ministry has quickened its review of FCRA rules after the PM’s Principal Secretary Nripendra Misra wrote to Home Secretary LC Goyal asking him to put a mechanism in place “without any delay” to monitor foreign funding of NGOs.The Intelligence Bureau’s recommendations, numbering a dozen, were received last week. Encouraging transparency and improving oversight will be the “guiding principles” of the exercise, ET has learnt. PMO is said to be keen to have the new measures in place by June 15 in the interest of India’s “economic security”, officials said, explaining the urgency of the matter. The FCR rules were brought in by the erstwhile UPA government after FCRA was enacted in 2010, and these rules are now being tightened further. As part of the proposed changes, NGOs may have to provide details of all foreign funding within 48 hours to ensure transparency. “NGOs would be mandated to have a website on which they will be required to put out the details of each foreign inflow for public viewing within 48 hours of receiving the funds. This will include the source of funds, the intended activity for which the funds are expected to be used and the details of its partner NGOs in that specific project,” disclosed a senior government official. Annual audited reports for previous years should also be made public, the official said. The ‘oversight’ part of the new measures would allow the government to keep close tabs on NGOs through stricter checks and inspections. A detailed oversight system, describing each step, is being worked upon by the home ministry, officials said. “Each NGO would know the parameters on which it will be inspected,” an official said. The PMO communication to home ministry had stressed the “need for effective linkage between MHA, Reserve Bank of India and banks for effective monitoring” of NGOs. IB’s recommendations on the ‘oversight’ aspect is based on “it’s expertise in tracking NGOs misusing FCR Act and FCR rules,” a senior ministry official told ET. The Modi administration has been accused by critics of clamping down on foreignfunded NGOs. The US-based Ford Foundation, one of the biggest nonprofit organisations across the world, was put on a watch list by MHA and each of its foreign donations is now vetted before permission is given for it to be credited to any FCRA-registered NGO in India. “Officials of the Ford Foundation had met senior home ministry bureaucrats last week asking for a rethink on the move. Right now, there is no plan for a rethink till the inquiry against certain NGOs funded by Ford Foundation is complete. The ministry is soon going to take a decision on the propriety of the funding given to Teesta Setalvad’s NGOs by Ford Foundation,” a senior home ministry official said. (Times of India 3/6/15)

57. Red sanders killings: HC stays proceedings before NHRC (1)

HYDERABAD: The Hyderabad high court on Friday stayed the proceedings before the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) regarding the April 7 Seshachalam encounter in which 20 woodcutters were killed. This would provide relief to AP’s chief secretary IYR Krishna Rao and DGP JV Ramudu, who had been ordered to appear before the commission in New Delhi on June 9. A division bench comprising acting Chief Justice Dilip B Bhosale and justice SS Bhatt gave this interim order while hearing a petition filed by the AP government, which has questioned the powers of the NHRC in initiating a probe into the encounter. AP’s additional advocate general Dammalapati Srinivas told the court that the NHRC has been going ahead in the case in an ‘unlawful’ manner. “The involvement of NHRC is warranted when there are doubts raised about the authenticity of the ongoing probe by the state machinery. Moreover, the NHRC has unilaterally directed the CBI to take over the probe even without obtaining the consent of the state,” he said and contended that the commission was conducting a parallel probe. The additional AG also told the court about various directions given by the NHRC a week ago to the AP government and sought a stay on all of them. Paying Rs 5 lakh compensation to the families of the deceased and the appearance of the DGP and CS before the NHRC are some of the directions issued on May 29, 2015, by the commission. (Times of India 6/6/15)

58. Greenpeace India to present its case before political parties (1)

NEW DELHI: Greenpeace India will meet representatives of different political parties and raise the issue of fundamental rights, after the government suspended its FCRA registration and blocked its domestic and international bank accounts. Greenpeace India campaigner Priya Pillai said the organization will speak to all the political parties to stand up and protect the fundamental rights. Pillai was recently “offloaded” at Delhi airport from a flight to London where she was scheduled to make a presentation before British MPs regarding alleged human rights violation at Mahan in Madhya Pradesh. “Civil Society has an important role to play in a democracy. We will speak to all political parties to stand up and protect the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution. “We are calling on all political leaders across parties to stand up for Indian democracy and for the principles of freedom of speech and association,” said a statement from Greenpeace India quoting Pillai.On June 4, a delegation of civil society organizations met with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi to discuss the issue. Greenpeace India had organized World Environment Weekend under which various environment related activities were planned across 148 cities including Jaipur, Pune, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Kolkata, Chennai and Cochin.Last week, the Delhi high court had granted interim relief to Greenpeace India allowing it to access two of its bank accounts. On April 9, the MHA had suspended Greenpeace’s FCRA registration and blocked its domestic and international bank accounts. Sunanda Mehta, a Greenpeace activist, who participated in the Bangalore event said, “Greenpeace is under attack from the ministry of home affairs for speaking out, but criticism is an important part of any democracy. We are here to stand up for free speech. “If this government is keen on development, then it must work with civil society organizations like Greenpeace, instead of trying to silence them. Sabka saath, sabka vikaas has to be more than an empty slogan. (Times of India 8/6/15)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

59. Court rejects qualified woman’s plea for maintenance (19)

Mumbai: Section 24 of Hindu Marriage Act is not meant for creating an army of such persons who would be sitting idle waiting for a ‘dole’ to be awarded by her husband who has got a grievance against her and moved the court for seeking relief against her, said Dr Laxmi P Rao, Principal Judge of Family Court here. Reuters photo for representation Refusing to grant maintenance to a highly qualified woman, a Mumbai family court has held that she cannot be permitted to sit idle and put her burden on the husband for demanding alimony during pendency of a matrimonial petition. Section 24 of Hindu Marriage Act is not meant for creating an army of such persons who would be sitting idle waiting for a ‘dole’ to be awarded by her husband who has got a grievance against her and moved the court for seeking relief against her, said Dr Laxmi P Rao, Principal Judge of Family Court here. “In view thereof I hold that the wife is not entitled for interim maintenance. At this stage she also cannot ask for permanent maintenance which can be claimed only at the end of the trial,” the Judge ruled while rejecting her application. The respondent-wife had filed an application claiming permanent alimony of Rs 25,000 per month from husband and the same amount towards interim maintenance u/s 24 of the Act. It was her case that her husband, a qualified engineer, has filed a divorce petition. The applicant said she was forced to leave her job in August 2013 and since then she is not having any source of income. She is totally dependent on the mercy of her parents and brother. Her husband is working in a reputed company drawing a monthly salary of Rs 45,000. The husband, while opposing wife’s application for maintenance, pleaded that he had never objected to the wife being a working lady. He said she had left the matrimonial home on December 8, 2012, on her own accord. Hence he is not responsible to maintain her. Moreover, he claimed, she is employed and earns a salary which is sufficient for her maintenance. She was earlier employed as a senior HR Executive with a reputed firm in Thane and later with another company in the same position in suburban Andheri. “Inspite of several efforts made by him to make her join him at the matrimonial home, she has not agreed. She is deliberately not producing her employment details. Hence she may be directed to produce her pay slip,” he pleaded. The court held that the wife was not entitled to claim maintenance firstly because she has earlier filed the petition under section 125 of Cr.P.C. and secondly because she has not approached the court for maintenance from the time of separation in December 2012 till March 2015. Thirdly, she has not relied upon any of employment documents to show that she is no more in service and lastly she is a highly qualified lady and is further persuing her MBA, the judge noted in the judgement on May 30. The judge relied upon a Madhya Pradesh High Court judgement which had held that a spouse, who has capacity of earning but chooses to remain idle, should not be permitted to saddle other spouse with his or her expenditure. The judge also held that a spouse who is well qualified to get service immediately with less efforts, is not expected to remain idle to squeeze out the other spouse by relieving him of his or her own purse by a cut in the nature of pendente lite (pending litigation) alimony. “The law does not expect the increasing number of such idle persons who by remaining in the arena of legal battles, try to squeeze out the adversary by implementing provisions of law suitable to their purpose,” the judgement further said. (Deccan Herald 1/6/15)

60. In 2 decades, govt faulted 20 collegium-approved judges (19)

NEW DELHI: The central government has in the last two decades raised objections against 15-20 recommendations of the Supreme Court collegium for appointment of judges in SC and high courts. Some of the objections were also made against the recommendations for appointment of chief justices of HCs. The information has been collated to address queries raised by a five-judge constitution bench hearing a case on the validity of the National Judicial Appointments Commission. These are part of the arguments in support of NJAC the government may present before the bench when the hearing resumes on Monday.The Centre’s objections were based on Intelligence Bureau findings, a process followed by the government in case of appointment of a new judge. Though an IB report is not ‘required’ in case of a permanent judge’s elevation, but the government may raise objections if it receives an adverse report.A source said, in most of the cases where the government had raised objections against the collegium’s recommendations, the apex court had accepted them and dropped appointments, barring three or four cases where the SC had reiterated its decision. Gopal Subramanium’s case was one of them who later withdrew his candidature for SC appointment.Earlier, the SC had asked the government to place on record facts that how many times the Centre had raised objections against collegium’s recommendations and in how many cases the SC reiterated its decision. The government has been strongly defending the NJAC which has replaced the two decades old collegium system. The six-member NJAC has dominance of apex court judges as three members are from the SC, including the CJI who is the chairman of the commission. Besides the CJI and two senior-most judges of the SC, the NJAC has the law minister and two eminent persons as the other members of the commission. Though the NJAC was notified in April, it could not be constituted as the CJI refused to be part of the process citing pendency of the case…. (Times of India 6/6/15)

61. BAI bats for single window system, consolidated labour laws (14)

AHMEDABAD: The Builder’s Association of India (BOI) has demanded from the Union government a single window system for all kind of clearances for construction projects. The apex body has also urged the Central government to consolidate labour laws and formulate single legislation for the construction industry. The BOI organized its first managing committee and general council meeting for the current financial year in Ahmedabad. “Enough is not being done by the government to redress the problems of the construction sector. A large number of projects are stalled due to lack of clearances be for environment, from civic bodies or banks and other statutory bodies,” said immediate past president of BOI Sushanta Kumar Basu. This has resulted in number of project not being able to repay loan installments in time and being declared non-performing assets by the banks, he added. Basu said that another pinching problem for the builders was the over 30 labour laws they have to follow. “To work and to adhere to all these laws at the same time is virtually impossible. Most of the provisions of these laws are outdated and irrelevant. So we have asked the Union Labour minister to consolidate these laws into one,” he added. BOI trustee D L Desai was of the opinion that union government’s call of housing for all by 2022 was a little unrealistic as there was not enough manpower and land available in the country. “In order to implement this programme we would need to build 60 lakh houses every year for next seven years. However, the current capacity is 10 lakh houses per year. Also, we need to increase the FSI in towns as there is shortfall of non-agriculture land,” Desai added. (Times of India 6/6/15)

62. Consumer court orders 12% compensation for flat delivery delay (19)

GURGAON: In a landmark ruling, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) on Monday asked real estate major Unitech to pay buyers compensation at the rate of 12% per annum for delay in delivery of flats, overruling the builder-buyer agreement that had set the rate at 1.8% per annum. The order came in a case filed by 24 buyers of a housing project, Vistas, in Sector 70 of Gurgaon. The buyers alleged that they had booked the flats in 2009-10 and delivery was promised in 36 months. In his order, Justice V K Jain directed the company to pay compensation at the rate of 12% per annum on the amount paid for the period from the date of delivery originally promised to the new date. The new delivery dates promised by the company are between February 2016 and February 2018. The NCDRC also ruled that any delay beyond the new deadline promised would draw a compensation of 18% per annum. “In order to ensure that the opposite parties honour the revised date of delivery of possession, compensation in the form of interest at a rate higher than 12% per annum should be paid by the developer if the revised date of delivery of possession is not honoured,” the judge said. A Unitech spokesperson told TOI the company hadn’t seen the order yet and would respond only after it went through it. In its last hearing in the case on June 1, the apex consumer court had rejected Unitech counsel Sunil Goel’s contention that it did not have the jurisdiction to surpass the builder-buyer agreement.The NCDRC had said any unfair trade practice can be challenged by it, even if there is a prior agreement between the parties. “When the buyer is made to pay 18% penalty for default, is it fair on the developer’s part to pay a mere 1.8%?” Justice Jain had said. The lawyer who represented the buyers, Sushil Kaushik, said, “When the buyers are made to pay a penalty at 18% (for default), the same rule should apply to the developer also.” Prasoon Dubey, one of the buyers, said, “The court has given a positive judgment for the original allottees, who stand to get a handsome amount as compensation. By March 2013, I have already paid Rs 50 lakh out of the total cost of Rs 54 lakh for a flat of 1,560sqft. Now, I am hoping that the developer honours the new deadline.” (Times of India 9/6/15)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

63. Dalit deaths trigger concern (1)

Mumbai, May 31: A fortnight after a Dalit youth was murdered by eight dominant caste youths in Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar for having a pro-Dalit slogan as his ringtone, another youth from the community has died under controversial circumstances in police custody in the same district. Nitin Balu Sathye (22) died in police custody on May 29 after being arrested on suspicion of being a robber in Ahmednagar city. “Sathye and (Sagar) Sehejwal (the youth whose murder was triggered allegedly by the ringtone) are victims of an anti-Dalit mindset. Intolerance – religious or caste – has become rampant. Whoever is raising their head to assert themselves is being crushed in the current political atmosphere – whether in the IIT in Chennai or in the interiors of Maharashtra. “These attacks are coming because Dalits have become politically assertive and some members of the dominant caste are not being able to handle that,” Dalit activist and B.R. Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar told The Telegraph. Ahmednagar superintendent of police Sourav Tripathi said there were reports of robbery in the Kotwali area and a team of policemen was patrolling the streets late on Wednesday night when they spotted Sathye on a motorbike with a pillion rider “moving around suspiciously”.The SP added: “The police party flagged them down and detained Sathye while the pillion rider escaped. He was then brought to the Kotwali police station where he was interrogated and then arrested around 7am on Thursday. The policemen in charge of him have claimed that Sathye then escaped with his bike from the police station around 5pm on the pretext of going to the toilet. Chased by the police, he allegedly hit a lamp-post, fell unconscious and later died in a private hospital. “But since this is a custodial death, I have suspended the policemen involved in the matter and, as per norms, ordered a CID inquiry.” Prakash Ambedkar said Sathye’s death was “not due to any accident – it was custodial murder”.”Sathye had no criminal record – yet he was picked up on the basis of suspicion, he was not produced before a magistrate after arrest and then he died in custody due to police torture. The police would have hushed up the matter but for protests by his family and neighbours.” On May 16, another Dalit youth, a nursing student, was brutally killed by high caste assailants. Sehejwal (21) was sitting with his cousin at a beer outlet in Ahmednagar’s Shirdi town when his mobile phone rang. The ringtone was ” Kara kitihi halla, majboot Bhimacha killa (Holler as much as you can, the fortress of Bhim is strong).” Dalits in Maharashtra refer to themselves as Bhim after Babasaheb Ambedkar’s first name. Sehejwal’s ringtone irritated eight youths belonging to the dominant Maratha community sitting at another t able. They allegedly abused and thrashed Sehejwal, all the time asking if he would still use the same ringtone, the police said. “They hit him with a beer bottle, kicked and punched him and then tied him to their motorbikes and dragged him into a forest where his mutilated body was found later,” Prakash Ambedkar said.Four of the eight assailants were arrested on May 22 with the help of evidence from CCTV footage in the beer bar. The others are absconding. (The Telegraph 1/6/15)

64. Security agencies last word on scrapping AFSPA: Jitendra Singh (1)

Jammu: Union Minister Jitendra Singh Thursday said that the last word on scrapping of AFSPA should come from the security agencies and not political functionaries in Jammu and Kashmir. “The last word on revoking AFSPA should come from the security agencies,” Singh, Minister of State in Prime Minister’s Office, told reporters here today. “If the security agencies feel that there is an improvement in the situation or this is not the right time for revocation of AFSPA in Jammu and Kashmir, that should suffice and we should not create an issue time and again,” he said. He was replying to a question on the demand for revocation of AFSPA in the state from some quarters, inluding by its coalition partner PDP. “These questions hardly need to be answered and my stand on this is consistent over the years. I am not qualified to answer this question,” he said. “I have always believed and that is my consistent point of view that this is a subject where the last word should come from the security agencies. Any political functionary on any of the highest post can provide suggestions on the issue but cannot be a deciding factor,” he said. On the issue of waving of Pakistani flags in Kashmir and hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani’s statement advocating it, he said, “Union Home Ministry and Government of India has made it clear that nobody has the right to wave Pakistani flags and incite masses. “We cannot tolerate such acts. We have been assured of appropriate action against those elements so that these things are not repeated again and again,” he said. Singh also attributed the militant attacks on owners of mobile cellular towers in the Valley to separatist politics ahead of the Amarnath Yatra. “It has been a general practice for the last few years that some anti-national start such activities ahead of the Amarnath yatra,” he said. “Some Kashmir centric mainstream parties too get tempted to be trapped into this sort of separatist politics,” Singh said, adding that such elements will be dealt with sternly. “I am sure that authorities will take action,” Singh said. In an apparent reference to such anti-national activities evoking strong reactions from nationalist people, he said that “whenever there is some challenge to country’s sovereignty, it leads to provocation”.”We have conveyed our concern to the state government and I hope that it will take action,” he said. (Zee News 4/6/15)

65. Rally against ‘harassment’ in Sonitpur dist (1)

TEZPUR, June 4 – Registering strong protest against the alleged harassment of innocent people living in the northern belt of Sonitpur district by the police and security forces, the Tezpur Bodo Sahitya Sabha on Wednesday held a mass rally at the Batachipur Milon High School. It may be mentioned here that in the aftermath of the carnage by NDFB (S) militants on December 23 last year in which about 70 people were killed, security forces, including the Assam Rifles, CRPF and BSF, were deployed in the Batachipur area to curb the ultra menace in the area. The security personnel have been involved in counter-insurgency operations since the last five months. However, during this period, many poor and innocent people, including social workers, have allegedly been harassed. This has irked the common people of the area, thereby affecting the good will between the security forces and the civilians built up through various programmes. The recent incident of the alleged physical and mental torture on a Bodo Sahitya Sabha member has added to the resentment of the people of the area. The mass rally on Wednesday, attended by about 5,000 people, started from the Batachipur Milon High School playground. The protesters raised slogans like ‘We want justice,’ ‘Stop torture on innocent people,’ ‘Bodos are also Indians,’ etc. Earlier, a protest meeting was also held in the High School playground. The central and district-level office-bearers of the Bodo Sahitya Sabha, including Liladhar Boro and Jailen Boro, and the secretary of the Sonitpur district ABSU, Khaneswar Boro were present in the meeting. Addressing the gathering, the president of the Tezpur Bodo Sahitya Sabha, Liladhar Boro held the Government responsible for the insurgency problems in the region. Stating that the Bodo society has no objection to the measures taken to curb the insurgency problem in the Bodo belt, he said that the literary body has been appalled by incidents in which innocent people were killed in fake encounters. “We have statistics that till date more than 5,000 innocent and peace-loving Bodo people have been killed or arrested and many women have been raped in the so-called counter-insurgency operations. This will not solve the problem, rather it will make the situation more critical. Over the years, we have seen that after such unnecessary harassment of innocent people, youths start joining insurgent outfits,” Boro said, adding that in the North-eastern region, the insurgency problem has been aggravated by the wrong policies of the police and security forces. “We expect establishment of peace by the security forces, but unfortunately, the security forces have been found disturbing peace and harmony and violating human rights, which should be stopped,” he said. (The Assam Tribune 5/6/15)

66. Delhi HC frees 5 men, says false rape charges destroy lives (1)

NEW DELHI: Just as rape causes great distress to the victim, a false charge destroys lives and damages reputation, the Delhi high court has said, acquitting five men who were jailed sixteen years ago on the charge of gangrape. “There is no doubt that rape causes great distress and humiliation to the victim of rape but at the same time false allegation of committing a rape also causes humiliation and damage to the accused. An accused also has rights which are to be protected and the possibility of false implication has to be ruled out,” a bench of Justices G S Sistani and Sangita Dhingra Sehgal noted in its verdict. The court set aside the conviction of the five men after it found that the woman who had leveled the charge of being gang raped gave inconsistent statements in court and hid the fact she was in a relationship with one of the accused. “Her version has no correlation with other supporting material being medical, scientific and expert evidence,” the bench observed. The trial court had gone with the story of the prosecution as recorded in the FIR lodged by the woman. In her complaint registered in 1994, the woman had claimed she met the main accused Praveen, and they became friends. She said one day he took her to a friend’s house and raped her. Later he also secretly filmed her being raped by Praveen’s friend Bittoo. In her complaint the woman maintained she was regularly raped by Praveen’s other friends, all of whom were arrested and charge sheeted by the police. In its judgment the trial court relied to a large extent on the claim of the woman and convicted the accused, even though, as the HC bench pointed out, there were glaring errors in her statements to the police. Pleading innocence, Praveen told the court that he was framed by the girl since he refused to marry her. He submitted to the court that since the complainant started loitering with some other boys, he refused to marry her and for this reason she falsely named him in this case. (Times of India 9/6/15)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

67. Govt to engage with masses on social media (1)

CHANDIGARH: The Punjab government is all set to engage with people of the state on the social media for real-time updates and two-way communication. The government is marking its presence on popular social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and WordPress. An official spokesman of the state government said that information and public relations department has taken an initiative to foray into the world of social media to build a strong online presence. He said that official accounts of the Punjab government had been created on several platforms. The Punjab government would focus on regular real-time dissemination of government policies, programmes and initiatives beyond state boundaries. He said that the social media would increase audience reach and improve the accessibility of government communication for NRIs, besides increasing the speed of public feedback and input. He said that it would also help government reach specific audience on specific issues especially in the case of any emergency or natural calamity. (Times of India 2/6/15)

68. IIT ban shows free speech in danger (1)

Bengaluru: The ban on the activities of the Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle, a students’ group at the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras, is alarming for the sheer intolerance that the action reflects. The group, made up of students studying at the prestigious institute, was critical of the Narendra Modi government’s policies including the proposed amendments to the land acquisition bill, the Maharashtra government’s ban on beef and the general rise in Hindutva politics. The group’s views were neither outlandish nor defamatory. On the contrary, it was a kind of criticism that is perfectly acceptable in a practising democracy like India. The intention behind much of the criticism was to trigger debate, the very reason behind the very formation of the group. Most higher institutions of learning, especially the well-regarded ones like the various Indian Institutes of Technology, Bengaluru’s Indian Institute of Science and Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, to name a few, have historically seen students set up various specialised study circles that are meant to be arenas for free flowing thought,  including what some could characterise as being even radical. This is the case across the world. Students have played a major role in influencing politics and countless top-ranking leaders have had their initial political exposure in the various institutions of study. The Ambedkar Periyar group too was one among these groups that debated, argued and fought over several issues of their choice. For the Human Resource Development Ministry to take cognisance of an anonymous complaint that the group was spreading “hatred against Hindus” and was engaged in “anti-Modi” activities is shameful. As some reports have suggested, the complaint should have been thrown into the dustbin and the matter left there. Instead, for the ministry to have forwarded the complaint to the authorities at IIT-Madras, was despicable. The very act of forwarding the complaint held an unspoken missive: take action. The Institute dean in charge of students then conducted himself in the most undemocratic manner – derecognising the group on the grounds that they were “misusing their privileges”. In the process, what should have been a non-issue has today come to occupy headlines across the media. What is alarming is that it sends a signal across the country that criticism of the establishment will not be tolerated. This goes against the fundamental ethos of democracy and the right to free speech. If criticism (even if it is severe, perceived to be unfair and has the potential to influence many people) is not allowed, the right to free speech is as good as dead. Lift the ban, now. (Deccan Herald 2/6/15)

69. Scribe assaulted, media body demands protection law (1)

Guwahati:  A scribe of a local television channel was allegedly assaulted in Ganeshguri area of Assam on Tuesday night. According to the FIR lodged by the scribe at Dispur police station, he was attacked by some unruly youths when he was on official duty along with his colleague. The police detained one person who allegedly assaulted the journalist and tried to break the camera of the news channel. Condemning the incident, Electronic Media Forum Assam (EMFA) on Wednesday urged the authorities to take necessary action against the assailants. Demanding a special law to protect media persons while on duty, EMFA president Nava Thakuria said in a statement here, ‘Unless media persons are ensured justice under the law, they may opt for soft issues resulting in lack of critical journalism.” – PTI (The Hindu 5/6/15)

70. Journalists’ financial state matter of concern, says Mukhtar Naqvi (1)

Pune: Expressing concern over “weak and insecure financial situation of media persons in India”, union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Sunday said it affects the “honest, transparent and professional journalism”.Addressing an award function, ‘Narad Puraskar’, for journalists here, Naqvi said the media is the most independent and powerful in India but weak and insecure financial situation of media people is a matter of concern. “We have to think seriously about the financial situation of media persons as they show direction to the society through their work. Due to media vigil, the governments work with complete alertness,” he said. “India is the biggest democracy of the world and media is an important pillar of the country. Safety, prosperity of this pillar is in the interest of our democratic system,” he added. Naqvi said that social media, along with electronic and print media, has also created a space for itself in the society. He urged journalists, especially the young ones, to avail benefits of the central government’s welfare schemes such as Atal Pension Yojna, Pradhanmantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojna and Pradhanmantri Suraksha Bima Yojna. (Business Standard 7/6/15)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

71. Ballabhgarh Communal Violence: Won’t return till rioters held, say Muslims (7)

New Delhi: Tension continues to simmer between Muslims and Hindus at Ballabhgarh after meetings between the two communities on Sunday once again proved futile. Sources in the district administration admitted that they might have to change their dispute resolution strategy soon. The thorny issues in the ongoing tension are the Muslim demand for arrest of the accused and the construction of the disputed mosque in Atali village — the site of the original flare-up. “The first thing the Muslim community wants is the arrest of the Jat culprits. Only then will they return to the village. While the Jats will allow the Muslims to come back to the village, the construction of the mosque at the disputed site is not something most villagers are willing to concede,” a senior official, who didn’t wish to be named, said. Police said they were still trying to arrest the accused in the case.“We want the accused to be arrested promptly. There can be no talks until then,” Firoz Ali, a villager from Atali, said. “We are going to arrest them very soon. We have told the Muslim community about our efforts. The accused will not go unpunished. The situation is sensitive right now, so we need to proceed carefully,” Subhash Yadav, Commissioner of Police, Faridabad, said. Sunday was the third successive day when meetings to persuade the Muslim community to return to Atali village failed. The families had fled the village following communal violence on Monday evening. They are presently camped at the Ballabhgarh (City) police station. Like Saturday, a delegation of Jats, along with members of the district administration, met the Muslims and promised them that there will be no further violence. But talks failed once again as the construction of the mosque still continues to drive a wedge between the two communities. While Muslims maintain that the mosque is being built on Waqf land, Jats say the land belongs to the gram panchayat. The issue became the flashpoint for the rioting that saw hundreds of heavily armed men torch Muslims homes in an hour-long rampage. While the Jat delegation maintained that the construction of the mosque is not the issue, many in the village disagreed. “I don’t know what those who went to meet the Muslims said. But we are not going to allow the mosque to be built near the temple. First they wanted land for a graveyard. Now they want to build a mosque and tomorrow they will take over the village,” Satish Singh, a farmer in the village, said. (Indian Express 1/6/15)

72. Faridabad communal violence: Politicians demand immediate arrest of accused (7)

Faridabad: Leaders of different political parties on Monday demanded immediate arrest of the accused in the recent communal violence in Atali village in Faridabad, even as the affected families refused to return home and continued to stay at the relief camp in Ballabgarh police station. CPI(M) central committee member Tapan Sinha, accompanied by state party leaders, and MIM leader Akbaruddin Owaisi, who met the affected families, also slammed the governments at the Centre and state and the district administration over the insecurity to the minority community. Sinha, accompanied by Comrade Surender Singh, Secretary of state wing of the party and a team of party members, accused a certain community of hatching a plan of violence well in advance. He said that the violence against the minority community that left over 20 houses burnt, was a well thought out and unprovoked attack. Confusion on the ownership of the land, where a mosque was being constructed, was deliberately being created he said, adding that the land is owned by the Waqf from 1972. At least five persons were injured and over 15 houses burnt on 25 May night when people from the two communities clashed over construction of the religious structure adjacent to the other community’s religious site. A few years back there used to be a graveyard which was shifted elsewhere since the area became densely inhabited. The graveyard was shifted to a place allotted by the government for the purpose, Sinha said. He accused the police and administration of not taking enough steps for preventing the riots, first and later, not doing the needful to nab the culprits. Sinha noted that the arrangements were totally insufficient for the people in this scorching heat as women and children are forced to live in tents with no arrangement for drinking water. He said the state government was “totally indifferent” to the problems of minorities. Neither the Chief Minister, nor his senior ministers have made any statement to console the aggrieved section of society, he said and demanded the immediate arrest of the accused named in the FIR. He also called for immediate repair of houses affected by the fire by the local administration and called upon the people of Faridabad to extend their help to the victims in order to increase the mutual understanding between the communities. MIM’s Akbaruddin Owaisi after meeting the affected families accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of not taking care of the minorities despite giving slogans like “Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas”.He said it was very unfortunate that such communal violence has happened in a village 50 kilometers from the capital. He also expressed dissatisfaction on the arrangements made for the victims in the relief camp even after one week of the incident and demanded immediate arrest of the people responsible for the violence. Hindu leader Sadhvi Prachi is also expected to visit the place later. (Firstpost 2/6/15)

73. Ten days after communal violence in Ballabgarh, Muslims return home (7)

Ballabgarh: Muslim families who had fled Atali village following communal clashes, returned home after ten days with full police protection on Wednesday after talks between the two communities were successful. Union minister and Faridabad MP Krishen Pal Gurjar, Haryana education minister Ram Vilas Sharma and Haryana PWD minister Rao Narbir Singh were also present during the talks.Though Hindus had already apologised for the May 25 incident and even agreed to allow construction of mosque at the original site, Muslims were adamant on arrest of the accused. Hindus again apologised on Wednesday and welcomed them to return their home. However, there were heated arguments between the two sides during the talks before a solution was worked out. “During the partition of 1947, the elders from Hindus of this village never allowed us to flee to Pakistan,” Mulla Shabbir, an elder, said hinting towards the Hindus present in the meeting. “If they had to kill us, they would have finished us during the partition. But they never did this,” he said. Both sides hugged Shabbir for his words which broke the animosity of the last ten days between the two communities. The ministers present at the meeting also announced that the mosque’s broken wall would be reconstructed and compensation would be provided to the victims from Haryana government. Both the sides later went to Ballabgarh city police station — where the Muslim families were camping for the last ten days. The administration arranged three buses and all the families boarded the buses towards Atali village amid tight security arrangements. “Security has been intensified in the village after the families returned home,” said Subhash Yadav, commissioner of police, Faridabad. Apart from the state police, jawans of the paramilitary forces have also been deployed in the village. On Monday, Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi and CPI (M) MP Tapan Sen visited Ballabgarh city police station demanding arrest of the accused in May 25 violence. Later, BJP leader Sadhvi Prachi also visited Atali village. She lambasted state administration for ignoring the plight of Hindus in the village. She said many women belonging to Hindu community were also injured when the clashes took place. On May 25, the violence in Atali began following a five-year dispute over the construction of a mosque. The mosque, adjacent to a temple, was torched and the Muslims of the village fled overnight. (Hindustan Times 4/6/15)

74. Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale’s poster pulled down (7)

Mumbai: A poster of the mid-1980s Sikh militant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, that was put up at a local gurdwara in Vikhroli (east) was removed by the local police before it could lead to communal tension on Sunday afternoon. While no FIR or complaint had been registered, the police also denied any tension in the area and maintained that the gurdwara’s office bearers were cooperating with them. According to a PSI with the Vikhroli police station, they saw a news flash on a Marathi channel on Sunday that reported having spotted such a poster when they rushed to the spot and removed it at around 3.30 pm. The gurdwara is under construction and is located on route number 7 in Tagore Nagar at Vikhroli (east). “It was a single poster with a photo of Bhindranwale and some text about him. We believe some youth must have put it up. No FIR has been registered in the matter yet,” said the officer. The officer maintained that the poster did not cause any tension with other communities despite which they were still monitoring the situation with regular patrols in the area to prevent any “potential” flare-ups. Cops also said they were likely to speak to the gurdwara’s trustees on Monday before deciding on the further course of action. (Asian Age 8/6/15)

COMMUNALISM

75. RSS saffronizing education system: Congress (26)

BENGALURU: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) concept, calling for “Indianization” of the country’s education system has been criticized by former Union minister and MP Anand Sharma. Speaking to the media here in Bengaluru on the education system, Sharma claimed the RSS was getting more and more involved in the decision making policies of the NDA regime, for which the cabinet colleagues of Prime Minister Narendra Modi were giving a lot of leeway. Sharma. who is in Bengaluru to inspect the defence establishments, as part of the Parliamentary Defence Committee questioned the NDA government’s decision to keep HAL out of the MMRDA Rafale deal.” The UPA government had entered into a deal wherein HAL would make 108 fighter jets with the transfer of technology from the French company. However, the present government has left HAL out of the deal. This, despite HAL having an assembly line for the production of the Rafale,” he said. On the phone tapping and surveillance of political leaders in the country, Sharma said the UPA regime had confiscated a few imported phone tapping equipments after a some state governments and business houses had purchased it from outside. A few of these instruments were in circulation, he added. (Times of India 1/6/15)

76. PM Modi wasn’t talking about Hindus: Shiv Sena (26)

Mumbai: Shiv Sena has backed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks on zero tolerance towards religious discrimination and said that the PM’s comments were aimed not only at the Hindu community, but also at those involved in converting Hindu tribals to Christianity and Islam. In the party mouthpiece Saamana, the Sena said on Thursday that Mr Modi has warned fundamentalists from the Muslim and Christian community involved in forced conversions. But, propaganda has been created to suggest that the PM had only targeted Hindutva forces, the Sena said. “The Prime Minister has taken a tough stand against fundamentalism. He has also talked about zero tolerance towards religious discrimination. It was necessary, but for whom? Propaganda has been created that the remarks were for Hindutva forces, which is wrong. The Hindutva forces also existed in the Congress regime. In fact, the BJP could come to power because of the activeness of Hindutva forces during the Congress era,” the Sena said. The editorial came after Mr Modi said he would not tolerate any discrimination or violence against any community and termed anti-minority comments by some Sangh Parivar leaders “unfortunate” and “uncalled for”. “Hindutva is a culture and it should not be overzealous… There were attacks on churches in Delhi and Haryana after which Modi had to face criticism from Christians in the world. But has anyone tried to find out the reasons of the attacks and the real culprits? If this happened because of conversions, then Modi’s remarks are for those people (who are forcefully converting Hindus),” the Sena said. The editorial further read, “Modi’s comments were also directed at those who oppose the uniform civil code and those who oppose the scrapping of Article 370 of the Constitution. His comments also seem to be directed at AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi, who is stoking communal fire. Modi has also taken on those who unfurl the Pakistani flag in Kashmir,” the Sena said. (Asian Age 5/6/15)

77. Modi govt will go if it doesn’t build Ram temple, VHP says (26)

NEW DELHI: Although BJP president Amit Shah says that the Narendra Modi government doesn’t have the mandate to address its core issues, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a constituent of the Sangh Parivar, disagrees. The VHP has said that the huge mandate with which the Modi government came to power was not only for development but also to delver on its core issues, including building a grand Ram temple at Ayodhya. The Hindu outfit also reminded the government to be ready to “face the consequences” — like the previous NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee — if it did not deliver on the core issues. “The mandate which the BJP got in last general election was not merely for development. People expect that they will address the core issues too,” VHP spokesman and national secretary Surendra Jain told IANS. “Despite several comments on the issue by senior BJP leaders, our hope is still alive. We expect that this government will fulfill its commitment to construct a Ram temple at Ayodhya,” he added. Bharatiya Janata Party president Shah said last month that the party needs 370 seats in the Lok Sabha to address its core issues. Home minister Rajnath Singh said earlier that the core issues were not the government’s priority for now as it was focussed on development. Jain said building the Ram temple was also in the BJP manifesto. “How can they backtrack on the issue?” he asked. Jain said the previous NDA government didn’t address these issues, and the voters had shown them the door. “BJP leaders should learn from their mistakes of the past.” He said a committee of sadhus and spiritual leaders would soon meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi to urge him to construct the Ram temple. Recently, the Shiv Sena, another BJP ally, had said that the Prime Minister should reveal his “Mann Ki Baat” on the contentious issue of the temple in Ayodhya. Rajya Sabha MP Vinay Katiyar, who was the face of the Ayodhya movement in the 1990s, has said that the government should resolve the issue through legislation or dialogue and not wait for the Supreme Court’s verdict. The Allahabad high court’s verdict on the disputed Babri Masjid-Ram Janambhoomi issue is on appeal before the Supreme Court. N(Times of India 6/6/15)

78. IIT-Madras Row: RSS mouthpiece backs action against Dalit students’ body (26)

New Delhi: Even as IIT-Madras revoked the ban on the Dalit students’ body, the RSS mouthpiece justified last month’s crackdown on Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle (APSC), while accusing it of propagating  “anti-Hindu” and “anti-Bharat” ideology. Alleging that educational campuses in the country are “inflicted” with Marxist or “red ideology”, an editorial in the latest issue of the Organiser also attacked Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi for his recent visit to the Ambedkar memorial in Mhow in Madhya Pradesh, calling it an attempt to play votebank politics. “Recent issues of administrative disciplinary action against the Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle (APSC) in IIT-Madras and Rahul Gandhi visiting Ambedkar’s birth memorial are similar attempts to mask great nationalist reformers like Babasaheb with Communist garb of class divisions or the Congress’ way of votebank politics,” the editorial said. Justifying the action against APSC, the editorial claimed that use of institutional space and symbols without permission amounted to “indiscipline” and the institution had every right to question its students. “The educational campuses are inflicted with the wide range of ‘red’ ideology that has used forums such as APSC to propagate anti-Hindu and anti-Bharat divisive ideology, which Dr Ambedkar would have never approved of.” Pointing out that nobody can and should support a ban on any student outfit for criticising government policies, it said the HRD Ministry had only forwarded a complaint by another section of students. “The pet projects of Aryan invasion, inciting hatred, breaking democratic norms of discourse for political gains and then misrepresenting facts through media is the ultra-communist strategy, which is perfectly used in this case. Mentors like Arundhati Roy can happily use these forums to propagate anti-India ideology,” the Organiser said, while calling Ambedkar a “confirmed enemy of Communists.” However, the RSS weekly favoured a dialogue to create an atmosphere of social harmony, instead of following the path of divisive ideologies. The mouthpiece also accused the Congress of “always misusing national icons” and  “appropriating anti-Brahminism movement” as a part of its strategy. In a sharp attack on Rahul Gandhi, it said: “No Indian would believe that a person who took 10 years to understand his party will rightly address the complex issue of caste-based discrimination and untouchability.” The weekly’s cover story titled ‘Poisoning Student Politics’ alleged that both APSC and Congress’s student wing, NSUI, were trying to spread message of “hatred and disorder.” While it accused the APSC of misrepresenting reformers for spreading hatred in student politics, it said the NSUI’s top leader, Rahul Gandhi, was preaching  disorder and misrepresenting the facts about RSS… (Indian Express 8/6/15)

TERRORISM

79. Terror threat drives Taslima to US (12)

KOLKATA: The murder of three Bangladeshi bloggers and repeated threats to her life from terror groups has promoted Bangaldeshi author-in-exile Taslima Nasrin to leave Delhi and move to US. On Tuesday, she confirmed to TOI that she was in the US and said: “I will be back in India soon.” Taslima said she desperately tried to meet Union home minister Rajnath Singh to say she was feeling insecure and that her security needs to be strengthened, but could not get an appointment. This was just after a third Bangladeshi blogger — Ananta Bijoy Das — was murdered after Avijit Roy and Washikur Rehman. The terror group that had killed these atheist bloggers began threatening her, she tweeted. “They told me in a tweet ‘you are among the 84 in our hit list… count your days’,” Taslima said. Such death threats are not new to her, but Ananta’s brutal murder on May 12 shook her up, she says. The writer particularly fears Ansarullah Bangla Team, which has claimed responsibility for the three blogger murders. Ananta was very close to Taslima and had even written a poem on her. Soon after his murder, she sought an appointment with Singh, but apparently could not meet him. She refused to comment on why Singh did not meet her. Sources said that she had VIP security in Delhi — there was a police camp outside her safehouse and a security ring around her whenever she moved out. But she wanted the protection strengthened. Taslima, who holds a Green Card and Swedish citizenship as well, said she frequently travels to the US and Europe. “So it should not be concluded that I am leaving India for good. I often visit the US and I will be back to India when it is safe for me. Now, the terrorists might target me in the US, too. I always aspire to stay in Kolkata, but the Bengal government is not allowing me to stay there since 2007,” Taslima said. After a riot broke out in Kolkata in November 2007, she was forced to move out and has not been allowed back ever since. Taslima says she is a terror target because she writes against fundamentalists. She fears that terror groups from Bangladesh might have sneaked into India to assassinate her — her fears intensified after a Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen-Bangladesh terror network was busted in Bengal following the Burdwan IED blasts last year. Taslima has written in her blog that Bangladeshi police apprehend an attack on her. An organization called for Center For Inquiry (CIF) has arranged for her stay in USA, she said, adding that it is also organizing funds to support secular bloggers in Bangladesh so that they can move out of the country. (Times of India 3/6/15)

80. Police start restoring mobile networks in Kashmir (12)

Srinagar: After strict orders from Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayed and the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Jammu and Kashmir police have started restoring mobile phone transmission towers that were closed after terror attacks and threats in various parts of Kashmir, officials said on Wednesday. The police, with support of the Indian Army and the CRPF, are restoring mobile towers in south Kashmir and north Kashmir and most of mobile towers are likely to be restored by evening. We are restoring network services in the Kashmir Valley after facing militant threats to shut down the network. Our teams are on network sites to restoring the service, a telecom official told IBNS. On May 25, militants strike BSNL showroom in Sopore town and killed one employee of BSNL while two others seriously injured, while on May 27 a mobile tower owner was killed by unidentified gunmen in north Kashmir. The militants had issued several warning to the owners of the franchise offices of various telecommunication companies, including BSNL, asking them to shut down their business in and around Sopore. The state police have also deployed its men to protect the towers in vulnerable areas after Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed directed it to ensure security for the cellular towers and those manning them. The state police have assured the Union Home Ministry that if needed then the police will run the vulnerable towers. Police are restoring mobile network services in north Kashmir which was shut down after the killing of two persons and repeated threat posters pasted by Lashar-i-islam, Deputy Inspector General Police of North Kashmir told IBNS. He said 609 mobile towers, out of 1,058 shut down after militant threats, have started functioning again in the worst affected Sopore area after security and assurance grant to employees of cellular companies and mobile tower owners. The threat was made after equipment purportedly installed by terrorists on Badami Bagh in Sopore of Noth Kashmir cell phone tower was removed. Moderate Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has condemned the attacks while Hardline Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Geelani described the attackers as enemies of people and their struggle. (New Kerala 3/6/15)

81. 20 soldiers killed in Manipur ambush in deadliest attack on Army in 33 yrs (12)

GUWAHATI/IMPHAL/NEW DELHI: At least 20 soldiers were killed and over a dozen injured in a well-planned and clinically executed militant ambush in Manipur’s Chandel district on Thursday morning — the deadliest such blow to the Army since 1982 when 20 jawans were killed in the state leading to escalation of militancy for years to come. Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the terror attack as “mindless” and “very distressing”. Defence minister Manohar Parrikar, home minister Rajnath Singh, national security advisor Ajit Doval and Army chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag went into a huddle to review the situation. An immediate outcome was an order given to the Army to launch “all-out search and destroy” operations against militant hideouts in thick jungles along the Indo-Myanmar border as well as the hinterland in Manipur, sources said. The chilling ambush rudely brought the Indian security establishment’s focus back to the northeast, often neglected due to its geographical distance from New Delhi — as compared to terrorism-hit Kashmir — despite its long porous borders with Myanmar and Bangladesh.It also put the spotlight on the sudden escalation in violence in the region ever since Naga militant outfit NSCN(K) pulled out of the 14-year-old ceasefire with New Delhi in March. In two ambushes soon after, 11 Army and Assam Rifles jawans were killed in Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland on April 2 and May 3. Experts fear an uneasy truce in the region, largely the result of ceasefire agreements signed between the Centre and several insurgent outfits over years, seems to be now unravelling. The newly-floated common platform of United Liberation Front of Western South East Asia — which includes NSCN(K), Ulfa(I), Kamatapur Liberation Organization and NDFB(Songbijit) — claimed responsibility for the attack. Ulfa(I) leader Paresh Baruah called up some local television channels to claim that NSCN(K) chief and front chairman S S Khaplang had ordered the hit. It was around 8.15am on Thursday that a convoy of 6 Dogra Regiment was ambushed near Paraolong village in southeast Manipur, near the Myanmar border. IED blasts first ripped apart Army trucks before rocket-propelled grenades and heavy automatic fire from a hillock felled the soldiers…. (Times of India 5/6/15)

82. Manipur ambush: NIA registers case against NSCN (K) (12)

GUWAHATI: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Sunday registered the Manipur ambush case at its Guwahati branch office and accused chairman of NSCN (K) SS Khaplang of having hatched a conspiracy along with his top leaders to carry out the attack on 6 Dogra regiment convoy in which 18 soldiers were killed and 15 injured on June 4. An NIA statement said the case has been registered under Sections 302/307/120B/121/121A of IPC read with Section 25(1) (C) of Arms Act, 1959, Section 5 of Explosive Substances Act, 1908 and Sections 16/20 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. The case on the incident was earlier registered by the Tengnoupal police station of Chandel district in Manipur. “The aforementioned incident, representing an act of waging war against the government of India, is alleged to have been executed by armed formations belonging to the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) and its affiliates active in northeastern Region of India and along the India-Myanmar border region,” the NIA statement said. “The conspiracy behind the attack is suspected to have been hatched by the top leadership of the NSCN (K) led by Khaplang Pangmi of Myanmar, self-styled chairman of the outfit, Kughalu Molatonu of Nagaland, self-styled general secretary of Nagaland, Alezo Chakesang, self-styled information secretary, besides other senior members of NSCN (Khaplang) and other affiliate organizations,” it added. (Times of India 7/6/15)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

83. Woman naxal killed in gun-fight with security forces in Chhattisgarh (12)

RAIPUR: A woman naxal was killed in a gun-fight with security forces in Chhattisgarh’s Maoist-hit Bijapur district on Tuesday, police said. The cadre was killed in an exchange of fire between a joint team of security personnel and ultras in the restive Mirtoor police station limits in the wee hours, a senior police official told PTI. Several joint teams of Special Task Force (STF), CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force), CoBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action) battalion, and district force were mobilised from separate places yesterday on a special anti-naxal operation in forests of Mirtoor, Jangla and Gangaloor police station limits, around 450 kms away from here, he said. While cordoning off Mirtoor region, security forces spotted a naxal camp near Bechapal village following which they started encircling the spot. Meanwhile, some armed insurgents smelled presence of security forces and opened indiscriminate firing at them, triggering a gun-fight between both sides, the official said. However, on seeing security forces zeroing on them, ultras fled to the dense forest. Later, during search of the spot, body of a woman naxal in uniform was found. One wireless set, two hand grenades, one 315 bore rifle and other materials were also seized from the spot, he said. The deceased naxal will be identified once the security forces will reach back to their camp along with the body, the official added. (Times of India 2/6/15)

84. 2 Women Naxals Killed in Police Encounter in Chhattisgarh (12)

RAIPUR: Two women Naxals were killed in an encounter with police in Kondgaon district of Chhattisgarh today, police said. Inspector General of Police (Intelligence) Deepanshu Kabra said that police raided a Naxal camp in a forest near Kimdi village under Dhanora police station limits. In the ensuing exchange of fire with Naxals, two women cadres were killed, he said. Police also seized weapons and other material left behind by the rebels, apart from recovering the bodies of two women, who were yet to be identified. Meanwhile, two Naxals, one of them carrying a reward of Rs eight lakh on his head, surrendered at the district police headquarters today. The surrendered Naxals were identified as Phoolsinh (32) and Ramoli (25). Kondgaon SP Abhishek Meena told PTI that Phoolsinh was carrying the reward of Rs eight lakh on his head. He had joined the movement in 2009. (New Indian Express 6/6/15)

85. Home to control scheme for Maoist-affected states (12)

New Delhi: The Union Home Ministry will get control of the Integrated Action Plan (IAP), a development scheme for Maoist-affected states, after Rajnath Singh reportedly took up the matter with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The IAP, which functioned under the Planning Commission, had been transferred to NITI Aayog after it replaced the Plan panel. Union Home Secretary L C Goyal confirmed that the Home Ministry was set to get control of the IAP. The UPA had launched the IAP in 2010 for 82 Selected Tribal and Backward Districts in Left Wing Extremism (LWE)-affected areas for accelerated development, which was later revised to 88 districts. The aim of the initiative, which was being monitored by the Commission, is to boost public infrastructure and services in 88-affected/contiguous districts. Each district gets Rs 30 crore to spend on such projects. “The NITI Aayog is not an implementing agency. It is the Home Ministry which is coordinating with other ministries to bring development in Maoist-affected states. It is almost certain we will get the IAP,” said a senior Home Ministry official. (Indian Express 7/6/15)

86. Maoist from Jharkhand arrested in Jalandhar (12)

JALANDHAR: Jharkhand police and counter intelligence wing of Punjab police arrested a Maoist, who was wanted in several cases in Jharkhand and was living in Jalandhar with a fake identity. According to a press release issued by the counter intelligence wing, Deenbandhu Patar with several aliases had joined the Maoists in 2010 and killed four people of his village. Later, he abducted two persons from village Beer Banki of Jharkhand and killed them. Police claimed that he was involved in various encounters with police from 2010 to 2014. He was a platoon commander and was working under zonal commander Kundan Pahan and the latter provided him arms training. Kundan was carrying a reward of Rs 5 lakh on his head. Police said that initially he was working as an informer for Maoists by tipping them off about the movements of police and paramilitary forces. “Ranchi police arrested him in 2010 and after his release in the same year he joined the Maoists,” police said. He married a girl against the wishes of her parents and then in October 2014 he escaped from a Maoist camp with a rifle and ammunition and Rs 2 lakh. He managed to get a voter card in the name of Sooraj Munda and came to Jalandhar in December last year, police said. (Times of India 8/6/15)

TRAFFICKING

87. Drive to curb human trafficking in Bhutan (1)

KOLKATA: With Bhutan fast emerging as yet another centre for trafficking after Nepal, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has tied up with several agencies, including the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) to strengthen the border with India and counter movement of women and children who are sold to the flesh trade or end up as child labourers in several urban centres. The SSB is entrusted with guarding India’s border with Bhutan. “We conducted a workshop with the SSB and other agencies in the presence of officials from Bhutan at Siliguri recently to sensitize them on human trafficking and smuggling of migrants. Bhutan is feeling the heat of organized crime with more cases of human trafficking being reported every year. Boys and girls are trafficked from Thimpu and other parts of Bhutan to India and Nepal. Women from West Bengal and Assam have also been forced into the flesh trade in towns like Phuentsholing, Gelephug and Samdrup Jongkhar,” a UNODC official said. Several issues such as rehabilitation, co-ordination and mutual dependency were discussed in the workshop. Officials from the Australian customs and border protection service were also present during discussions. Officials from India and Bhutan spoke on existing legislative frameworks in their respective countries and the sharing of existing mechanisms to counter human trafficking and smuggling of migrants. Though the number of women and children trafficked from Bhutan is not as high as compared to countries like Nepal and India, there is need for sensitization in the country where lack of employment opportunities is an issue. Many cases are still not reported. “It is an immense issue confronting mankind and this region, in particular. The recent devastating earthquake in Nepal has already given rise to fears of trafficking and migrant smuggling from that country. Such crimes are engulfing the society and the ramifications are disastrous. All stakeholders will have to work together to counter the menace,” said Kuldiep Singh, IG, SSB. An important part of the discussions was interviewing skills and interrogation techniques to identify whether a woman or child is being trafficked. Bhutanese nationals don’t need to furnish passports while entering India. Neither do Indian citizens when they cross over into Bhutan. Everyday, hundreds of vehicles cross the border into India and travel to several parts of the country. The methodology of preparing checklists on identification and interception techniques was also discussed. (Times of India 1/6/15)

88. No. of trafficking FIRs rises 6-fold in 5 years (1)

Ranchi: The number of first information reports (FIRs) lodged in the state in trafficking cases has increased around six times over the past five years, shows the data compiled by the Crime Investigation Department (CID). As per the data, the number of FIRs in 2010 was only 25 that increased to 147 in 2015. This year, 70 FIRs have been lodged across the state between January and March. CID IG Sampat Meena said, “It is not that the number of cases has increased. The reason behind this increase in number of FIRs is the rise in awareness level. Now police are more aware of the trafficking issues and lodge FIRs immediately. Earlier, even if children were rescued, FIRs were not lodged.” Besides the police department, awareness among common people has also improved, said Meena.  ”Now, if a child goes missing, they (parents) immediately approach the police. We even get calls from individuals in Delhi who come across cases of children from Jharkhand working there,” she said. The CID data revealed that the highest number of cases lodged in the five years is 116 from Gumla followed by 76 from Ranchi and 56 from Khunti. The total number of FIRs lodged from January 2010 to March 2015 across the state was 465. Civil society organizations in Jharkhand have also played an important role in improving the situation, said IG Meena , adding that these bodies “are definitely working hard in providing us information and helping us in rescue operations”.However, social activists think that the police still do not consider trafficking a major issue. Baidnath Kumar, a social activist, said, “The number of FIRs has increased, which is good. But the police have still not brought human trafficking under major crime like rape, murder and dacoity. It is high time that now the police takes it seriously and put more effort in curbing the problem.” (Times of India 7/6/15)

89. Human trafficker shot dead in Bangladesh (1)

Dhaka: A Rohingya man accused of human trafficking has been shot dead in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar town, police said here on Monday. “The bullet-ridden body of 30-year-old Aman Ullah Anu was found at Ali Khali Laban field near a Rohingya refugee camp,” a police official said. Police are assuming that the Myanmar national might have been killed by other members of his trafficking ring following a row over sharing of money, bdnews24 reported. “Anu is a member of the gang that smuggles people to Thailand and Malaysia. He is accused in eight cases of human trafficking,” the official said. Originally from Myanmar’s Maungdaw, Anu lived in Nayaparha Rohingya camp at Cox’s Bazar. “We’ve found out that two rival factions of smugglers, in a row over money, exchanged fire in the morning. Teknaf police found the body at 8 a.m. after reaching the site,” the official added. Two firearms, bullet casings and two notebooks were found at the incident spot. (New Kerala 8/6/15)

CORRUPTION

90. Kalaignar TV got Rs. 200 crores through 2G scam: ED (5)

New Delhi: Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Monday told a special court that former Telecom Minister A Raja had “illegally” granted 2G spectrum licences to ineligible firms in lieu of which Rs 200 crore was allegedly transferred to Kalaignar TV, owned by DMK chief M. Karunanidhi’s family. Commencing final arguments in the 2G scam-related money laundering case, special public prosecutor Anand Grover alleged that a conspiracy was hatched by Mr. Raja and other accused and Rs. 200 crore was the “proceed of crime.” He claimed that the amount was transferred to Kalaignar TV through various firms and was returned only when Mr. Raja was called by the CBI for questioning in 2G spectrum scam case. “Kalaignar TV was owned by Kanimozhi (DMK MP) and Dayalu Ammal (wife of M Karunanidhi) who both are related to DMK supremo M Karunanidhi and Raja also belonged to the same party,” Mr. Grover told Special CBI Judge O P Saini. He further alleged that “the conspiracy was hatched by A. Raja and others, including the companies, for illegally granting telecom licences to ineligible firms.” Mr. Grover also said that the money was transferred to the TV channel through various companies in a circuitous route. The arguments on Monday remained inconclusive and would continue on July 27. Mr. Raja, Ms. Kanimozhi, Ms. Dayalu Ammal and 16 others, including nine firms, are facing trial in the case. The ED on April 25 last year had filed a charge sheet against the accused for alleged offences under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). The court had on October 31 last year framed charges against the accused saying that Raja, allegedly in connivance with Kanimozhi, Dayalu Ammal and other co-accused, was involved in “parking” of illegal gratification of Rs 200 crore in Kalaignar TV. (The Hndu 1/6/15)

91. BJP wants list of arrested officials (5)

New Delhi: After a series of posters across Delhi by the AAP claiming to have arrested 35 officers on corruption charges, the Delhi BJP has challenged chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s government to issue a list of the 35 officers arrested by them on corruption charges. Delhi BJP president Satish Upadhyay on Tuesday said that the Delhi government is not serious on curbing corruption. In fact, the working of the ruling party ministers and MLA’s is only suggestive of their inclination to get the share of corruption. “For Arvind Kejriwal, corruption is a key to exploit people’s sentiments. Soon after coming to power, he used the corruption tag to put up his self publicity hoardings all over Delhi but after Supreme Court’s decision, he had to remove his photo hoardings,” said Mr Upadhyay. Mr Upadhyay said that nothing can be a bigger lie then this claim and we challenge the chief minister to come out with a list of the 35 officers who have been arrested. “The Bharatiya Janata Party believes this figure of 35 arrests is fudged as it is a matter of open knowledge and no one has heard of any single Class I or II officer being arrested,” he said. “The Delhi government website and its Anti Corruption Bureau too are silent on these details,” he added. The Delhi BJP chief also challenged the Delhi government’s decision to take on deputation five Bihar police officials for deputation in the Anti Corruption Bureau. (Asian Age 3/6/15)

92. Black money market larger than India’s education spend (5)

Wealth earned from crime, corruption and tax evasion, and illegally taken out of the country tops India’s total spending on education or health, according to a new study by financial watchdog Global Financial Integrity (GFI). Average yearly flows of such illicit finances, popularly called black money, were nearly 120% more than the government’s yearly education spend and about 100% more than health expenditure. The report correlated outflows of black money from 82 developing countries around the world and discovered that the poorer the country, the more money is illegally taken out, presumably to be stashed away in tax havens. Earlier GFI studies have found that nearly $1 trillion worth of illicit financial flows take place every year from developing countries. India was estimated to lose about $44 billion annually between 2003 and 2012, the total working out to a mind boggling $440 billion over the decade. Notably, GFI investigations have shown that globally, 80% of the illicit financial flows take place through trade misinvoicing done by international corporate entities. For India, this component is even more predominant, accounting for over 98% of illicit financial outflows.For India, the average yearly illicit outflow for the years 2008-12 was 4% of GDP, 10% of trade, 215% of foreign direct investment ( FDI), 40% of total tax revenue and 0.7% of capital stock, the report said. The report also found a disturbing correlation between illicit financial flows and higher levels of poverty, higher levels of economic inequality, and lower levels of human development, as measured by the United Nations’ annual Human Development Index. “Higher illicit outflows aggravate poverty, exacerbate income inequality, and erode human development in the world’s poorest countries,” said Joseph Spanjers, co-author of the report. Correlations are also found between higher relative levels of illicit financial flows and trade openness, tariff rates, and the efficiency of customs. But no correlation was found between indicators of quality of public institutions or rule of law like the Fragile State Index, Corruption Perception Index or Public Sector Management rankings, and illegal black money outflows. No correlation was found with broad fiscal or macroeconomic indicators either. Surprisingly, no correlation was found even between the extent of the shadow economy within the country and illicit financial outflows. Earlier GFI studies on India, Mexico, Russia and the Philippines had shown a link between the two phenomena. (Times of India 5/6/15)

93. Cash-for-votes scam: Naidu’s purported conversation adds new twist (5)

Hyderabad: A purported conversation in an audio tape between Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu and nominated MLA Elvys Stephenson, aired in a section of local TV channels, gave a new twist to the cash-for-votes controversy on Sunday. Parakala Prabhakar Advisor (Communications) to the Andhra government strongly denied reports saying that the tapes were fabricated and the AP government will take up the issue seriously. The reported conversation suggested that the Andhra CM was giving “assurance of all sorts” to the MLA if he votes for TDP nominee in the Telangana Legislative Council election. Prabhakar further alleged that the Telangana Government is trying to malign the image of the AP chief minister by resorting to cheap tactics. “It is not the chief minister’s conversation. How come they are available outside. Telangana Government has to give answer to this. Telangana CM and Home minister should give answers,” Parakala said. He said that the Telangana CM is trying to mislead the people of Andhra Pradesh by resorting to “cheap tricks”.The anti-corruption bureau of Telangana is in the process of questioning TDP MLA Revanth Reddy and two others who have been arrested in cash-for-vote case. On May 31, the ACB arrested Reddy for allegedly trying to bribe the nominated MLA Elvis Stephenson to vote for TDP nominee in the Telangana Legislative Council election. Based on a complaint by Stephenson, ACB officials held Revanth, Sebastian Harry and Uday Simha after they were caught while allegedly handing over Rs 50 lakh to Stephenson. Earlier, Telangana Home Minister alleged that Naidu is the key person in the issue. (Zee News 8/6/15)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

94. Andhra Pradesh eases compensation rules for heatwave deaths (9)

Gudur: As the block of ice under her husband`s body melted, Chanaga Ratnam wondered whether local officials would arrive in time to verify that he did indeed die from the extreme heat wave, thus qualifying her for compensation. The 55-year-old could not afford more ice to preserve Aankaiah`s remains for much longer, and was keen to cremate him as quickly as possible in line with local custom. Andhra Pradesh, which accounted for around two-thirds of 2,500 who died from the recent searing temperatures, has responded to such concerns, easing conditions for paying compensation of 100,000 rupees ($1,600). “Now the procedure has been changed; no post-mortem report is required,” said Y. Maithreya, local administrator of Venkatagiri, a town near the village where Ratnam lives. Most families are reluctant to conduct post mortems as superstitions abound about the removal of organs from the dead. Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu`s state government, which initially insisted on a post-mortem report to award compensation, realised it was impractical. Now, three local officials will inquire into deaths reported to be from the heat. If bodies have been cremated, five witnesses, usually neighbours or friends, are called together to determine the cause of death. “We have to verify all of this, since the compensation has to reach the right people; not those who have died of natural causes or heart attacks,” said Maithreya. The change comes as no comfort to Ratnam, widow of Chanaga Aankaiah, a 59-year-old farm labourer who died of sunstroke on Friday after going to work in fields around the village of Madhu Reddy Colony, near Gudur. “They called him for some odd jobs in the fields and he went enthusiastically,” she sobbed. “He came home, said he was unwell, drank some water and just died.” The Chanagas are among the poorest people in Andhra Pradesh, and work as farm labourers earning 150 rupees ($2.35) a day. Doctors and support workers have fanned out across the state to hand out relief materials like rehydration drinks and saline solutions, advising people not to go outdoors in the afternoons. “These deaths are easily avoidable,” said M. Sudhir Kumar, a civil assistant surgeon at Dakkili Primary Healthcare Centre. “All they need to do is follow basic precautions like avoiding working in the sun. Not many listen. What can we do? It`s a problem of poverty.” Recent natural disasters have highlighted India`s vulnerability to the effects of climate change. Following floods in Uttarakhand, northern India, that killed nearly 6,000 in 2013, the heat wave is the next danger sign. May was the hottest month on record in Andhra Pradesh for nearly four decades. A reported 1,677 people died from the heat wave in the state alone, up sharply from last year. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned in 2014 that freak weather patterns in India due to global warming could become more frequent, resulting in huge loss of life and crops. “The problem is made worse by people living in little huts with asbestos sheets for roofs,” said V. Haripriya, Deputy District Medical and Health Officer at Venkatagiri. “In villages in Andhra Pradesh it is very common for children to leave ageing parents behind while they seek a living in faraway cities. There is no one to care for the elderly.” Officials dismiss reports that Naidu`s offer of compensation has led to over-reporting of heat wave deaths in Andhra Pradesh. “It is wrong to say that the death toll figures include deaths due to old age or other reasons,” said Tulasi Rani, the state`s Special Commissioner for Disaster Management. (Zee News 2/6/15)

95. Delhi children suffer from lung damage as pollution levels spike daily (9)

New Delhi: Nearly half of Delhi’s 4.4 million school children suffer from irreversible lung damage from the poisonous air, wrote New York Times journalist Gardiner Harris in his last post from the capital after a three-year-assignment. The shocking article that went viral on social media and reproduced by some dailies reflected the concerns of thousands of parents whose children are suffering from severe respiratory problems, unable to deal with the rising pollutants and toxic particles in the capital’s air. Harris wrote about how his 8-year old son, Bram, began gasping for breath nine months after he moved with his family to Delhi. Such terrifying experiences are common for parents in the capital where an increasing number of children suffer from coughing and wheezing, symptoms of a much more dangerous malaise. Pallavi Sinha, 40, is scouting for a house in Pune. The Sinhas had moved to Indirapuram in Ghaziabad 10 years ago. But when their 10-year-old daughter Smriti suffered an asthma attack on Diwali last year, they decided to move out of the city. “We had started to fear Diwali ever since we moved to Delhi from Patna a decade ago. Smriti’s collapse last October because of high air pollution was the last straw, we’re all moving to Pune,” said Sinha, speaking to HT from Pune. When they had moved to Delhi, Sinha’s older daughter Ahana was 5 and Smriti was just a few months old. The baby first developed signs of lung distress at the age 3, which progressively became worse. At school, she occasionally faints on exertion. “It is hard to make friends at school as I can’t run and join them in sports,” says Smriti, 10. Ahana’s lungs took a hit at the age of 11, after she had spent six years in Delhi. Both have been diagnosed with asthma and use inhalers. Asthma has jeopardised Saksham Sharma’s childhood too, with the 12-year old spending all day playing video games or watching TV. “I hate it when other kids play outside and I have to sit at home. At school, too, I’m excused from sports because of my bad lungs,” says Sharma. “Many doctors treat the exacerbations and attacks and do not bother with baseline asthma control, which is critical. A child who may not become breathless may have an attack the moment his/her system is challenged, like when he goes out to play, and the lungs collapse,” says paediatrician Dr Anupam Sibal, director, hospital services, Apollo Hospitals. Dr Sibal explains that asthma can be managed effectively with medicines but parents need to follow-up regularly so that the medication can be enhanced or reduced as per the requirements of the case. “I’m really careful about what he eats, but we can’t ration his medicine,” says Saksham’s grandmother Usha Sharma, 66, who looks after him when his parents are at work. Every bit helps, as Saksham’s grandfather PD Sharma, 75, has found out. He has created a micro-garden in his terrace for Sakham to spend time in. “I love gardening but the main reason for these plants is Saksham’s health. Delhi’s pollution is a nightmare for my grandson, I’m just doing the best I can for him,” says Sharma. (Hindustn Times 4/6/15)

96. India needs ‘new way of environmentalism’: CSE’s Sunita Narain (9)

Stating that India’s environmental movement is at a crossroad, noted environmentalist and political activist Sunita Narain, who is associated with the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), has said that there is a need for a new way of environmentalism, one that can move beyond the problems of today and yesterday, and can embrace ideas without dogma, but with idealism and purpose. In an article written recently, which has been released on the occasion of World Environment Day, Narain opines that a particular brand of politics has to be imbibed to make this new way of environmentalism a reality. While acknowledging that there is a greater acceptance of India’s concerns on the issue of environment, Narain says there is also a growing resistance to taking required action, and as a result, every indicator shows that things on the ground are getting worse. “Our rivers are more polluted; much more garbage is piling up in our cities; air is increasingly getting toxic; and hazardous waste is dumped, and not managed. Worse, people who should have been at the frontline of protection are turning against the environment,” she says in her article. “They see it as a constraint to their local development and even as they may protest against the pollution of neighbourhood mines or factories, they have no reason to believe that their livelihood from natural resources is secured. They are caught between the mining companies and the foresters. Either way, they lose,” she adds. She acknowledges that while much has changed in the over decades since the beginnings of India’s environmental movement, yet nothing has changed. “The worst indictment is that over 700 million people in India still use dirty, polluting biomass for cooking food and that an equal number defecate in the open. They do not have access to the basics-clean water, hygienic toilets that do not end up polluting rivers and groundwater, and energy for lighting or cooking. Clearly, somewhere we are going wrong, very wrong,” she says. Targeting institutions for their oversight, Narain says many more actions need to be taken to ensure consistent protection of the environment, as many more people are interested in environmental issues. She says there are fundamental weaknesses and contradictions, one of which is, the fact that, “we have lost the development agenda in environmental management.” “Instead of working to regenerate the natural capital for inclusive growth, we have increasingly framed action as ‘development versus environment’,” she adds. “The management of natural resources-swinging between extraction and conservation-is leaving out millions who live on the resources. These people cannot afford either degradation of the resources or pure conservation. They need to utilise the natural resource for their livelihood and economic growth. In this way, the environmental movement is in danger of making enemies of the very people whose interest it is working to protect,” Narain maintains. She further states that the debate on environmental issues is getting increasingly polarised and seen as being obstructionist. She concludes by saying that solutions for environmental management require inclusive growth, as search for technologies and better sustainable approaches to environmental management. (The Financial Express 7/6/15)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

97. Modi’s income insurance idea may not win over angry farmers (20)

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi plans to provide millions of farmers with income insurance linked to crop prices, officials say, but it may not do much to ease rural distress, with small farmers standing to benefit little and likely to be put off by bureaucracy. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, which swept to office a year ago, hopes to consolidate its power in local elections in large rural states over the next two years, but anger is growing after rain and hailstorms ravaged farms in the north, contributing to the suicide of hundreds of ruined farmers. Modi has already tried an income-based farm insurance scheme in his home state of Gujarat, with limited success – less than 10% of farmers opted into the scheme from 2013 as the method for calculating payouts was skewed against smaller farms. Details of the new insurance plan are still being worked out but federal farm ministry officials say the aim would be to ensure a guaranteed income for farmers by covering not just losses due to weather but also from any slump in produce prices. However, the absence of modern methods for assessing damage to crops or falls in yields will continue to favour big farmers over the 260 million smallholders in India who till plots smaller than 2 hectares (5 acres). Under the new plan – which a farm ministry official said was a priority for Modi – farmers would be paid if their income fell below a guaranteed minimum. That minimum would be set by multiplying the average yield in recent years in a cluster of villages by government-set crop prices. However, shortfalls would be based not on individual farmers’ yields but on those across a wider area, influenced by the higher yields of rich farmers able to afford better fertiliser and pesticide. So a farmer with a poor crop will only get the same compensation per hectare as others who may have had far higher yields. In the United States, satellites or drones are used to assess crops for income-based insurance policies but India still depends on more primitive methods, with personnel from land record offices travelling around villages to inspect damage. “We’re taking baby steps in satellite mapping of farms but unless the technology covers the entire country, crop loss assessment will remain a tedious, time-consuming and inaccurate process,” said Avinash Kishore, an economist with the US-based International Food Policy Research Institute…. (Business Standard 3/6/15)

98. Country’s top corporates owe U.P. farmers Rs. 6,000 crore (20)

Meerut: Several sugarcane farmers in Uttar Pradesh have committed suicide as they are yet to get more than Rs. 6,000 crore owed to them by some of the country’s top corporates for this crop season alone. The corporate houses that owe the State’s farmers money include Bajaj, Birla, Modi group and the liquor baron Ponty Chaddha-led Wave group. These private defaulters, which own 40 of the 103 sugarcane mills, have left the farmers in a state of crisis. According to an Uttar Pradesh Cane Development department document accessed by The Hindu, the figures of arrears the industrialists owe the State’s farmers are the highest in the country. The top defaulter is Bajaj group which is yet to pay Rs. 1598 crore to the farmers. The Mawana group, which owns three mills in the State, has defaulted on the payment of Rs. 524 crore. The Birla group, which owns five mills, owes Rs. 376.5 crore, the Modi group, with two sugar mills owes Rs. 406 crore. The Yadu group, owned by U.P. strongman D.P. Yadav has defaulted on payment of Rs. 50 crore. The Dalmiya group which owns three mills is yet to pay Rs. 94.3 crore. There are 20 others in the list with smaller outstanding amounts. Senior officials of the Cane Development department told The Hindu that the officials will soon initiate action against the top defaulters. A senior office-bearer of the Sugar Mill Owners Association said, on condition of anonymity, that the “government needs to seriously look at the crisis in the sugar industry and reward those who pay the farmers even in this crisis.” “There is no dispute that the private sugar mill owners owe more than Rs 6,000 crore as arrears but frankly, the industry is going through a big crisis. Due to the decreasing sugar prices we are unable to recover the money from the market. So, we are just not in a position to pay Rs. 240 per quintal,” he said. Sudhir Panwar, a farmer expert argued that farmers have not got even a fourth of the price of the sugarcane they sold to these private players. (The Hindu 6/6/15)

99. Shift farmers to countries which Modi has granted loans: VJAS (20)

Mumbai: Farmers’ advocacy group Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) on Sunday attacked NDA government over alleged farmers’ suicide in the country saying the crop growers should be “shifted” to one of the foreign nations to which Prime Minister Narendra Modi has granted loans. “It pains and shocks us to see Modi giving money to every country that he visits without making a single visit to the Vidarbha region where more than 1,300 farmers committed suicide last year. His election promise of waiving farm loans and granting fresh farm credit to indebted farmers has turned out to be an empty one,” VJAS convenor Kishor Tiwari told reporters here. Tiwari said that on Modi’s recent visit to Mongolia, he announced a credit line of USD 1 billion for its economic capacity and infrastructure as well as announced a fresh line of credit of USD 2 billion to Bangladesh. “Thus, to get a fresh farm credit, we urge Modi to shift us to either Mongolia, Bangladesh, Mauritius, Nepal, Fiji or Sri Lanka so that the agrarian crisis comes to an end,” he said. He said that it is “shameful” for the Indian government to give credit to other countries at a time when it has refused to give any money to farmers in Maharashtra citing financial constraints. (Zee News 8/6/15)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

100. Opposition members may quit House panel on Land Bill (4)

NEW DELHI: Upset over the re-promulgation of the land acquisition ordinance when the Bill to replace it is under parliamentary scrutiny, some Opposition members on the Joint Committee of Parliament examining the draft legislation are toying with the idea of “boycotting” it. At least three members from different parties confirmed that they were in touch with one another and would take a decision on whether or not to participate in the work next week. “Both options — to boycott or to continue — are on the table,” a member said. But the Trinamool Congress has decided to fight it from within. CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said in Hyderabad on Tuesday that the party was actively considering “withdrawing” from the committee. Mohammad Salim, the party member on the panel, said the Opposition members were in consultation with one another as the re-promulgation of the ordinance at this juncture was unacceptable. The CPI(M) would take a final decision at its central committee meeting here in the coming weekend, after consulting other Left parties, he said. “We will oppose the Land Bill 200 per cent, but boycotting parliamentary committee is not the solution. We will not allow the Bill. We will fight it every step,” Derek O’Brien, Trinamool member on the committee, said in a late-night statement. Jairam Ramesh, one of the Congress members, under whose watch as Union Minister the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act was passed in 2013, told The Hindu: “I believe that the third promulgation is an insult to the select committee and makes a complete mockery of its work.” Janata Dal (United) member Sharad Yadav was non-committal, saying a decision would be taken on his return to Delhi on Friday. Here are the six important facts you need to know about the Land Bill. Source: prsindia.org

1          The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015 seeks to Amend the Act of 2013 (LARR Act, 2013).

2          The Bill creates five special categories of land use: 1. defence, 2. rural infrastructure, 3. affordable housing, 4. industrial corridors, and 5. infrastructure projects including Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects where the central government owns the land

3          The Bill exempts the five categories from provisions of the LARR Act, 2013 which requires the consent of 80 per cent of land ownersto be obtained for private projects and that of 70 per cent of land owners for PPP projects.

4          The Bill allows exemption for projects in these five categories from requiring Social Impact Assessment be done to identify those affected and from the restrictions on the acquisition of irrigated multi-cropped land imposed by LARR Act 2013.

5          The Bill brings provisions for compensation, rehabilitation, and resettlement under other related Acts such as the National Highways Act and the Railways Act in consonance with the LARR Act.

6          The Bill changes acquisition of land for private companies mentioned in LARR Act, 2013 to acquisition for ‘private entities’. A private entity could include companies, corporations and nonprofit organisations. (The Hindu 3/6/15)

101. Himachal Pradesh HC moved over land acquisition for road project (4)

SHIMLA: Opposing less compensation being paid for acquisition of their land for the construction of a four-lane road, some residents of Mandi district approached Himachal Pradesh high court on Tuesday. Admitting their petition, the court has directed the respondents, including Union government, state government, National Highways Authority of India, Mandi collector Mandi and land acquisition officer, Pandoh, to submit their replies within four weeks and posted the matter for June 30. The division bench of Chief Justice Mansoor Ahmad Mir and Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan accepted the application for writ petition filed by Brig Khushal Thakur (retd.), Bhagat Ram and Brajesh Mahant in a representative capacity on behalf of farmers and villagers belonging to Aut, Banala, Panarsa, Takoli Nagwain and Jhiri of Mandi district, who have been affected due to four-laning of NH-21 from Nagchala to Manali. Brigadier Khushal Thakur said that people whose land is being acquired are been denied their constitutional rights by non-implementation of various mandatory provisions as given in the New Land Acquisition Act. He said that affected villagers have been agitating to seek fair compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement as per the New Land Acquisition Act 2013 and 2015, for the loss of their land, livelihood, dislocation and displacement due to the proposed land acquisition. He said that affected farmers would be given only two times the market rate as compensation for their land and not four times as has been claimed by the state government. He said that as the state government was not ready to listen to the demands of farmers whose land was being acquired in violation of the new land Act, they were left with no other alternative but to move the court to seek justice. (Times of India 4/6/15)

102. Central team to study UP’s land acquisitionSubhash Mishra, (4)

LUCKNOW: Impressed by UP government’s hassle-free land acquisition for 302-km Lucknow-Agra Expressway, a six-member team from the Centre will arrive to study the model. According to sources, the team, comprising senior officials from the Centre, will interact with chief secretary Alok Ranjan, Uttar Pradesh Expressway Industrial Development Authority CEO Navneet Sehgal and IMDUP DG Netram. The Central team will be in Lucknow on June 9 and get a brief from the chief secretary and the UPEIDA CEO over peaceful acquisition of 28,000 acres of land for the country’s longest expressway. Highly placed sources said that the Centre had confirmed sending its team. The Lucknow-Agra Expressway has already drawn attention of the defence ministry which has requested the UP government to develop the project in such a way that fighter planes could also land on it in case of an emergency. “It’s a matter of delight that our land acquisition model and the progress in the expressway is drawing national and international attention,” said a senior officer. (Times of India 8/6/15)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

103. Drive to arrest infant deaths (3)

Ranchi, June 1: The state is pulling out all the stops to streamline the healthcare system, beginning with a month-long campaign to reduce infant mortality rate (IMR). Chief minister Raghubar Das today kicked off Jharkhand Matri Shishu Evam Poshan Maah (Jharkhand Mother and Child Health and Nutrition Month) at Project Bhavan auditorium in Dhurwa, Ranchi, by administering vitamin dose to a child. Present on the occasion were health minister Ramchandra Chandravanshi, principal secretary, department of women and child development, Mridula Sinha, principal secretary of department of health and family welfare K. Vidyasagar and Unicef officials, among others. Under the campaign, the health department will administer Vitamin A to children aged between nine months and five years, de-worm children between one and five years with Albendazole tablets, administer vaccines, screen children from six months to five years by using the middle upper arm circumference (MUAC) tape and then refer those with less than 11.5cm MUAC to the nearest malnutrition centre. Urging the sahiyas, anganwandi workers and members of panchayat raj institutions to extensively take part in the campaign, Das said: “Human resource is the biggest asset of our country. Health facilities can improve only with the help of this resource. Jharkhand will be made a malnutrition-free state. We are in the process of appointing poshan sakhis (nutrition workers), who will visit every household and make a report card of children, pregnant women, lactating mothers and adolescents.” According to annual health survey (2012-2013), the national average of IMR is 42 deaths/1,000 live births. Jharkhand’s figure is far higher at 68 deaths/1,000 live births. Other initiatives that have been lined up are collection of salt samples from eight districts, namely Ranchi, Pakur, Dumka, Sahebganj, Palamau, Godda, Gumla and Lohardaga, where people are suffering from goiter; distribution of iron folic acid supplements among pregnant and lactating mothers; and promotion of infant and child-feeding practices. Mridula Sinha stressed on the need for joint team work to reduce IMR. “Anaemia is a major health issue among women, adolescents and children, and is one of the primary reasons behind maternal mortality, weakness, low birth weight. This campaign will help reduce anaemia among all age groups,” she added. (The Telegraph 1/6/15)

104. ‘Govt Spent Rs 8.5 Cr on Health Projects’ (3)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The state government spent Rs 8.5 crore for the comprehensive healthcare project for scheduled tribes, Minister for Welfare of Scheduled Tribes P K Jayalakshmi said. The grants are distributed through the district medical officers. The utilisation certificate for the amount given to the DMOs should be submitted to the ST Development department. The minister refuted some media reports that only Rs 16 lakh had been spent for Kozhikode district last year. “The allegation is baseless. Rs 41 lakh was granted through the Kozhikode Medical College alone. Rs 10 lakh was sanctioned from the health care project fund in the 2015-16 financial year,” she said. The comprehensive scheme was started with an additional allocation of Rs 1,000 lakh crore from the Centre in 2007-08. As the fund was fully spent, the scheme was run by the corpus fund in 2012-13. It was made into a separate scheme from 2013-14, she said. The minister said the scheme intended to provide quality healthcare to the scheduled tribes through selected hospitals. The fund is spent to purchase medicines not available at the government hospitals, scanning facility, ambulance facility and food assistance for food. The funds to the 14 district hospitals are distributed through the district medical officers. Selected government hospitals and semi-government hospitals in the tribal belts are also included in the scheme.   Assistance is also provide to the patients of Government medical colleges, Pariyaram medical college, MCC Thalssery, SCTIMST and RCC through doctors. The scheme aims to cater to 14,000 beneficiaries in 2014-15. (New Indian Express 4/6/15)

105. Over 1,500 Garhwa kids suffer from malnutrition (3)

GARHWA: More than 1,551 children continue to suffer from severe malnutrition in Garhwa district. This despite repeated efforts to bring down the infant mortality rate and malnutrition among children. Infant mortality is much higher in the poorest areas of the district. This was revealed recently during a health check-up of 89,548 children between nine months and five years of age by the district social welfare department. While the health of 71,399 children was found satisfactory, over 16,598 children were found to be unhealthy for want of a nutritious diet. As many as 1,551 children were suffering from severe malnutrition and needed immediate treatment. The blockwise break-up of the number of children suffering from severe malnutrition include Garhwa with 436 followed by Nagar Untari 410, Kandi 356, Bhandaria 159, Ranka 58, Meral 56, Dhurki and Majhiaon 38. Devendra Narayan Singh, the district social welfare officer, has asked all CDPOs and supervisors to submit a comprehensive list of children suffering from malnutrition and get them admitted to the nearest malnutrition treatment centre. There are four such centres in the district’s Nagar Untari, Majhiaon, Bhandaria and Garhwa blocks. A total of 1,08,403 children between nine months to five years of age are registered in 1100 anganwadi centres. It is the duty of the anganwadi centre to provide nutritional supplements to children in the aforesaid age group, pregnant and lactating women. (Times of India 7/6/15)

HIV/AIDS

106. Spurt in HIV Positive Cases Rings Alarm Bells in Bengal (3)

KOLKATA: West Bengal is fast becoming a high-risk HIV positive state. According to statistics for the last two years available with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare,  West Bengal accounts for eight per cent of the nation’s 1.61 lakh newly-infected persons. A large number of skilled labourers, who are employed in Gujarat and Maharashtra, act as carriers of HIV AIDS on their return home. Earlier, West Bengal was a state with low HIV incidence. However, the spurt in the number of  infected adults over the last two years has made the health authorities sit up and take notice. Over the last couple of years, Bengal accounted for only 2.2 per cent of the 25 lakh people afflicted with the disease across the country. The high-risk category states were Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Manipur and Nagaland, mainly because of lack of sex education. In Manipur and Nagaland, the disease sneaked in from Myanmar through sex workers and heroin addicts. “In the early 90s, Manipur was known as the AIDS capital of India,” said a West Bengal health official. “But now the disease is spreading in West Bengal at such an alarming rate that we will soon be the AIDS capital of Eastern region because of our population and international borders.” he added. And regular check-up of migrant workers is required to stem the spread of HIV infections, he pointed out. The NGOs claim that because of their work in the red light areas, the number of HIV-positive sex workers has come down drastically. But, specialists in Kolkata, who treat men infected with sexually transmitted infections (sti), say otherwise. A doctor, who has a clinic in the city’s high-end Salt Lake locality, said, “I treat a large number of patients with gonorrhea, warts and syphilis. If not treated at the primary stage, these can prove fatal, but people are only worried about HIV and AIDS. My patients are not poor, but are from the middle and upper classes who think that having sex with high-class call girls is safe.” (New Indian Express 1/6/15)

107. Person with HIV loses in GP elections (3)

Udupi: Sanjeeva, an HIV positive person and a transgender, who fought the gram panchayat (GP) elections from Vandse Gram Panchayat in Kundapur taluk, was defeated in the polls on Friday. He had entered the fray with an intention to create more awareness about the needs of HIV positive persons and the problems faced by them. Speaking to The Hindu , Sanjeeva said that he had got only 95 votes and was defeated by a candidate supported by the Congress. “I did not spend any money on my publicity unlike others. I campaigned from house to house. I am happy that I got 95 votes. My intention was to create more awareness about the issues concerning HIV persons,” he said. Sanjeeva (42) has been HIV positive for the last 15 years. He has served as a board member of the Karnataka Network of Positive People and was the former president of District Network of Positive People. He is now a counsellor at Asare Samudaya Sanghatane, an organisation working for welfare of sexuality minorities. “There are nearly 5,500 HIV positive persons in the district. I will continue working for the welfare of the HIV positive persons. More opportunities should be created for HIV positive persons. They suffer due to stigma and discrimination,” he said. “I had thought that if I win, I will get a platform at least on the gram panchayat level to raise the issues related to HIV persons. I have lost the election but not my determination to serve HIV positive persons,” Mr. Sanjeeva added. (The Hindu 7/6/15)

108. Trained Volunteers Turn Bystanders of HIV Patients to Help Fight Stigma (3)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Even when the state is going great guns in fighting HIV, there remained a major problem to solve – the stigma associated with hospitalising HIV patients without a bystander. To solve this, the Kerala State Aids Control Society (KSACS) has started training volunteers to accompany the HIV patient in hospitals. Those who are ready to volunteer were selected from the People Living with HIV (PLHIV) community. This is the first-of-its-kind initiative ever taken by a state in the country. The volunteers were identified with the support PLHIV networks in every district. So far, the KSACS has trained 32 members from the PLHIV community, said Sunil Kumar G, Joint Director, (Information Education & Communication), KSACS. “Be it any ailment due to HIV infection or any other disease, the HIV patients without a bystander are stigmatised at hospitals. Hence, with the formulation of this ‘Treatment Care Team’, this hurdle could be crossed to a greater extent,” he said. The scheme is being implemented through seven Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) Centres situated at Thiruvananthapuram, Alappuzha, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Palakkad, Kozhikode and Kasargod. The volunteers will get a remuneration of `300 for 12 hours and the project is financially supported by the Kerala Social Security Mission. “It has already transferred the first installment of grant to ART centres for implementing the scheme,” he said.The main duty of the volunteers is to ensure proper and timely treatment of the patients. “It mainly includes ensuring medication in proper course and also see that the patient adheres to the course. Special focus will be given to women, children, aged people, migrants and orphans in home-based and hospital-based treatment. ]The volunteers will ensure every support they required,” Anjana G, assistant director, Greater Involvement of People Living with HIV/AIDS (GIPA), said. On a psychological level, they will also have to address stigma and discrimination associated with the disease faced by an individual, family or community. “It consists of providing psycho-social support to individuals, especially the marginalised women and children affected by HIV,” she said. (New Indian Express 8/6/15)

 

Posted by admin at 10 June 2015

Category: Uncategorized

Vol. 17                                                   No. 13, 14 & 15                                       May 29, 2015

(From May 1 to 31, 2015)

 DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

 1. Heat in Rajya Sabha over ‘discrimination’ against dalits in Gujarat (2)

New Delhi: Heated exchanges between opposition and BJP benches were witnessed in Rajya Sabha on Thursday after a Congress member alleged discrimination against dalits in Gujarat saying they were not being allowed to enter temples in some villages there. Raising the issue during Zero Hour, P L Punia (Congress) said dalits in many Gujarat villages were being discriminated against and not allowed to enter temples. He also alleged that the dalits were also not being allowed to take water from the village well. “Dalits are migrating from villages as those associating with them are being punished. We heard of Gujarat’s progress and equality. Today the real face of the government has come out…Government is not concerned about welfare of dalits and poor. It is clear that this government is anti-dalit,” he said, urging the government to maintain equality and harmony. Strongly objecting to the allegations, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said the member should not make “sweeping statements without any basis” to target a state which is a “model state” of the country. “It is a political speech. The people have given their mandate. Try to respect that. Don’t make political speeches. If there are specific complaints, government will address them. Let him not make sweeping political comments. I totally condemn such comments,” he said. As heated exchanges ensued between members from treasury benches and opposition on the issue, Deputy Chairman P J Kurien asked Punia to bring to the House if he had “any specific instance. But no sweeping allegations.” This saw some Congress members display some papers to highlight the issue, much to the dismay of Kurien, who said, “What is this nonsense…Don’t display anything”. Earlier K C Tyagi (JD-U) raised the plight of sugarcane farmers saying their problems should be addressed by the government while granting relief to sugar mills. He said though he had no objections to provision of relief to sugar mills, the pending amount of Rs 20,000 crore due to sugarcane growers should also be addressed. Tyagi lauded the role of leaders like Devi Lal and Parkash Singh Badal a few years ago to fix MSP for farm products, saying now there was no such criterion. Pointing to the relief provided to Indian Sugar Mills Association, he alleged, “it reflects the friendship between Ministry of Consumer Affairs and ISMA” but while sugar mills are being bailed out, nothing is being done for farmers. (Indian Express 1/5/15)

2. Punjab SC commission to meet Rajnath over incidents related to Dalits in state (2)

JALANDHAR: In the wake of rise in the number of attack on Dalits in the state, Punjab Scheduled Caste Commission has sought an appointment from Union home minister Rajnath Singh and request him for getting these issues investigated. It also plans to urge the home minister to form a policy to check the incidents targeting Dalits as these could be part of a larger conspiracy to disturb peace in Punjab. The commission also sought status reports of these incidents from Punjab DGP Sumedh Singh Saini. Revealing this here on Saturday, commission’s chairman Rajesh Bagha said that, in the recent past, quite a few instances have hurt the sentiments of Dalit communities. “There can be a larger conspiracy to disturb the atmosphere of the state through such actions as Punjab has the highest population of Dalits in the country. There should be a thorough probe to find if there are any linkages in these events,” Bagha said while addressing a press conference to justify the reason to seek an appointment with the Union home minister. He said Punjab DGP Saini had been called to see the commission on Tuesday. The incidents include killing of a Dalit girl in Moga who was thrown off an Orbit Transport bus, thrashing of granthis by Guru Granth Sahib Satkar Committee, damage caused to a statue of B R Ambedkar in Phagwara and defiling of a picture of Guru Ravidass. Asked if the commission lacked confidence in the state government that it was going to the Union home ministry, Bagha evaded a direct reply. He said he did not want to politicize the issue. “We want some mechanism to be evolved to tackle these incidents,” he said. Before his appointment as SC commission chairman, Bagha has remained national general secretary of SC wing of the BJP. (Times of India 3/5/15)

3. Dalits’ Houses Burnt after Clash in Perambalur (2)

TIRUCHY: A dispute between the Dalits and Caste Hindus of V-Kalathur in Perambalur over Chithirai festivities took a violent turn on Sunday when the members of both the communities entered into a free-for-all, leaving many injured. Later, a group of Caste Hindus allegedly went on a rampage, torching seven huts belonging to Dalits. However, no casualty was reported in the arson. Sources said the village had a public ground (chavadi), which was used by both the communities. On Sunday, the Dalit residents decided to organise a festival to honour Moopanar Swamy and erected a digital banner at the chavadi. The very day, the members of the caste-Hindu group planned to organise Chithra Pournami festival and decided to take out a procession, followed by a pooja at chavadi. A group of Caste Hindus visited the spot and demanded that the Dalits postpone their plans and remove the banner. Opposing the demand, the Dalits entered into a heated argument with the caste-Hindus. Soon, the matter came to a head and the verbal altercation gave way to fisticuffs. Sources said that during the fight, members of both the communities began pelting each other with stones, injuring many from the two sides injured. The fight was stopped after village elders intervened. However, a few hours later, a group of Caste Hindus reached the Dalit settlement in the village and set afire seven houses. On information, Perambalur Fire and Rescue personnel rushed to the spot and doused the fire. The victims of the attack were identified as Govindhan (45), Samikannu (37), Selvamani (40), Amarthavalli (43), Ramesh (32), Raja and Ramasamy. On information, SP Sonal Chandra and sub-collector P Madusuthanan held a spot inquiry. One of the victims was sanctioned a house under the Greenhouse project while the rest were awarded a compensation of `5,000. On Monday, based on  complaints lodged by both groups, the police registered a case and arrested 40 people from both the communities. A huge posse of police was deployed to avert the incident from flaring up again. (New Indian Express 5/5/15)

4. Dalit grooms beaten, forced to get off horses (2)

AJMER: In another case of backward community people being subdued in society, two dalit grooms were thrashed by villagers after they arrived on horses for their wedding in the remote Chindaliya village of Makrana block on Thursday night. Angry villagers also forced family members of the bride to stop the music being played. Finally, the grooms had to walk out of the house of the brides. Makrana police on Friday registered a case against six villagers under Dalit Atrocity Act and are trying to arrest them. There was tension in the village after the incident with dalit organizations demanding action against the ‘samants’ of the village. According to sources, Bhomaram, a dalit of Chindaliya village, fixed marriages of his two daughters Swaroop and Bhagwati with Rajuram and Gajender, sons of Lichman of Pabupura village of Naguar district. The marriage was fixed on May 7 and relatives of Bhomaram gathered to celebrate the occasion. On Thursday evening the marriage procession reached the outskirts of the village from Pabupura village where both Rajuram and Gajender with relatives and friends prepared to reach the house of grooms. The procession started late with a musical band and the grooms climbed onto horses for the ritual of ‘toran’. When the procession reached inside the village, the Jat community got angry and gathered on the street and declared the procession as unreligious. “They brought sticks and threatened us and forced my sons to get down from the horses as they don’t allow dalits from the village to ride on horses,” said Lichman, father of grooms to police. Villagers also stopped the band and directed the procession to walk quietly to the house of the brides without looking upward. When the news broke at the house of grooms, Bhomaram along with his relatives reached the spot and tension spread in the village. Someone called the police and two constables from Makrana police station reached the spot after half-an-hour. Both sides this morning filed an FIR in the Makrana police station and demanded action against the accused. “We have registered a case against six people of the village and others under dalit atrocity and started investigation. Arrests will be made soon,” said Dilip Soni, SHO of Makrana police station. He added that police was deputed for peace and order in the village. (Times of India 8/5/15)

5. Barriers broken as Dalits brush shoulders with swamijis at Sahapankti Bhojana (2)

YADGIR: In a district like Yadgir where the caste system still rules the roost, the heads of religious mutts visiting Dalit colonies and eating the food prepared by them is unheard of. To protest against the discriminatory practise of serving food to upper castes and others in some of the temples in Dakshina Kannada district, the swamis initiated the movement of Sahapankti Bhojana — where the upper castes have food with Dalits in their colonies. The first such programme was held in Basavakalyan in Bidar district and the second at Belthangady in Dakshina Kannada district last year. This is the third Sahapankti Bhojana held in the State. Right from the morning, the Maremma Temple complexwas teeming with the people, both Dalits and curious onlookers from other localities. The local delicacy Huggi, a sweet item made out of wheat and jaggery along with ghee, was served to the swamis who sat on the floor along with Dalit families. Later they were served rice and Sambar. “This is a special day for me. I still cannot believe that the swamis had food with me,” said Susheela Melinamane, a Dalit housewife. After taking part in the programme, Sri Chennamalla Shivacharyaru of Nidumamidi Mutt, who took the lead in organising the event, said that people should adopt humanity and reject the Manu Smriti which was against the freedom of women, equality, social balance and education. Sahapankti Bhojana is a part of the struggle against untouchability, he said and added that people should organise similar programmes to bring the social equality among the people of all communities. Prominent among other swamis who participated in the event were — Sri Sarangadareshwara Mahaswamigal of Saranga Mutt in Srisailam in Andhra Pradesh, Sri Gnana Prakasha Swami of Urilinga Peddi Samastana Math of Mysuru, Sri Nanjundaswami of Urilinga Peddi Samsthana Mut at Kodla in Kalaburagi, Sidda Kabira Mahaswamigalu of Marlu Shankara Mutt at Chigarallia and Sri Shantaveera Murugarjendra Swami of Kasa Mutt in Gurmitkal in Yadgir district. Members of the Pragatipara Dalit Okkuta including Sabanna Sungalkar, Baghawanth Anwar, Veerabhadrappa Eddalli, Samsan Malikeri, Mareppa Chattarkar and Chandrakanth Motnalli participated in the Sahapankti Bhojana. (The Hindu 12/5/15)

6. Dalit Groom Wears Helmet for Marriage Procession, as Villagers Stone Him (2)

Along with the regular preparations for a barat, the wedding procession, a groom in Madhya Pradesh was forced to carry a sturdy helmet too. Reason? The groom Pawan Malviya’s father expected the villagers to hurt him as he dared to use a horse in the barat. It is reported that the Balit groom was at the receiving end of the fury by the upper cast men for breaking the norm. Dalits in the area are expected not to have a grand procession and are also not allowed to use a horse for a wedding. The incident took place late Sunday night, when the Pawan Malviya’s procession made its way through the village in Ratlam district to reach the venue. Half-way into the procession, upper caste men attacked the groom and his family members by hurling stones at them. Many from the groom family were injured in the incident. The procession was blocked for a while and resumed  with policemen on rooftops to guard against any more attacks. It was then, Pawan traded his traditional headgear to a helmet. It is also reported that Pawan’s father was worried for the safety ohf his son and had asked for police protection. The police also worked for a compromise between the two sides, following which the upper caste families is said to have agreed to shut their doors and not witness the procession. Close to 30 villagers have been arrested and scores more have been booked under a law that bans caste-based atrocities. (New Indian Express 13/5/15)

7. Rajasthan: Dalits killed, thrashed in violence over land dispute (2)

Nagaur: A man was arrested on Saturday over the death of four people during a bloody clash in Rajasthan’s Nagaur district, where Jats used tractors to flatten the homes of Dalits and allegedly thrashed several women following a sudden flare-up over a decades-old land dispute. Officials said the situation in Dangawas village, where the Jats and Dalits clashed on Thursday, was slowly returning to normal. Twenty policemen were deployed in the village, located 250 km east of state capital Jaipur, to instill confidence among residents, Superintendent of police Raghvendra Suhasa said.Ram Kumar Jat, 40, was arrested by police at Nagaur hospital, where he was admitted for treatment, Suhasa said. State home minister Gulab Chand Kataria said all the accused would be arrested soon. After visiting Dangawas on Saturday evening, National Commission for Scheduled Castes chairman PL Punia indicted the Nagaur district administration for laxity in handling the clash. “The victims were not happy with the police inquiry. I will ask the government for a probe by an independent agency,” Punia told Hindustan Times. He said the violence began as an individual dispute but snowballed into a caste clash because the administration failed to act. A team from the Centre for Dalit Rights in Jaipur also visited the village and met people injured in the clash who are being treated in a hospital in Ajmer. The violence was sparked by a dispute over 24 bighas of land between Chimnaram Jat and a Dalit man named Ratanram Meghwal. Chimanram Jat claimed Meghwal’s ancestors had sold the plot to his family and that the Dalit family had encroached on the land. Both sides had filed cases in court.Tensions spiked on Thursday morning when Chimanram Jat’s supporters began moving towards Meghwal’s home built on the disputed land. There was a pitched battle when a group tried to occupy the land, police said. However, the Jats said they had sent two men to call the Dalits for a panchayat meeting organised to resolve the issue. The Jats alleged the Dalits fired at the two men, killing one Rampal Gosain. They added that this had triggered the clash.Three Dalits – Ratanram Meghwal, Pokaram Meghwal and Pancharam Meghwal – also died.Bhanwari Meghwal, who sustained multiple fractures in the clash, alleged the Jats thrashed the Dalits, molested women, flattened their home with tractors and even tried to crush them under the tractors.She claimed one person was crushed by a tractor but police denied this. Police officials said three Dalits were beaten to death while 13 more were injured.The injured were admitted to the government hospital in Ajmer, where doctors described the condition of one person as serious.Members of the Dalit community also alleged that the Jat men had assaulted Dalit women and tried to insert rods in their genitals. However, police officers and doctors treating the women denied this claim.Suhasa said the dead were cremated on Friday. He contended the violence was not the outcome of a caste clash.“The accused include Meghwals as well as Jats. FIRs have been registered against 12 persons, eight of them Jats and two Meghwals,” he said.Nagaur collector Vishal Rajan said all the victims would be given compensation on Monday. He said police had been deployed in the hospital in Ajmer where relatives of deceased Ratanram Meghwal are being treated.The village with a population of 15,000 is dominated by Jats but also has about 4,000 Dalit families. There are proper roads and houses and agriculture is the main occupation… (Hindustan Times 16/5/15)

8. 4 Dalits Slippered for 2 Hours in Kanchi Village (2)

CHENNAI: Four Dalit youth, including two Class 12 students, were allegedly tied to an electric pole and beaten with slippers for nearly two hours in public view in a Vanniyar-dominated village about 25 km from Kancheepuram town, on February 28. A fact finding team, comprising human rights activists, which conducted an inquiry into the shocking episode blamed the police for biased attitude as the cops had arrested two of the victims. The Kancheepuram Taluk police, after a delay of 18 days, filed an FIR on the persons from the Vanniyar community based on the complaint of the victim Dalits. But no arrest was made since the accused persons was granted anticipatory bail in the meantime. The incident is said to have taken place in the Purisai village in which about 50 families live, and is otherwise dominated by Vanniyar community. Narrating the incident, M Alexander, a Class XII student and one of the victims, said he and his friend G Prasanth were visiting a shop in the village in the evening to recharge a cell phone when a group of bike-borne youth surrounded their cycles and started assaulting them. “They then took us forcibly to a ground nearby and asked us to kneel down. I asked why we should do that. Then they started severely beating us and forced us to the ground,” said Alexander. They were made to call their two elder brothers — D Saravanan and M Govendhan over phone, asking them to come to the place. Soon after the two reached the spot, all four were tied to an electric pole and the men in the village took turns to beat them with slippers. “We were all tied in four different directions and about 20 members were assaulting us when a huge crowd of the villagers gathered around us hurling abuses,” says Prasanth, another victim and a Class 12 student. The reason for the abuse of the four youth is the alleged misbehaviour towards a 14-year-old girl of the Vanniyar community by a group of unidentified men. “When we enquired with the Vanniyar community members, they confessed to having assaulted the four youth for misbehaving with the girl by sprinkling powder on her face when she was walking alone and giving her abusive letters. But nobody, even the girl concerned, does not know who those persons were as they had covered their faces with kerchieves,” said A Marx, a noted human rights activist who was part of the fact-finding team. The four Dalit youth say they were assaulted initially asking them to reveal names of the persons who misbehaved with the girl. “They assumed that we knew those persons and wanted us to tell their names. But we pleaded them we had no idea about the incident. But after the incident, now they have filed a police complaint that we misbehaved with the girl,” said Alexander. The Kanchi Taluk police had on the same day registered a women harassment case and remanded D Saravanan and M Govendan, who managed to come out on bail after 18 days in jail. (New Indian Express 17/5/15)

9. Dalit youth killed for keeping Ambedkar song as ringtone (2)

Shirdi (Maharashtra): A Dalit youth was brutally assaulted and killed in the temple town of Shirdi in Maharashtra allegedly over his mobile ringtone of a song on Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar. Four assailants have been arrested while four others are absconding. Sagar Shejwal, a nursing student , had come home to Shirdi to attend a wedding. On May 16 around 1.30 p.m., he went to a local beer shop with two of his cousins. According to Vivek Patil, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Sagar was assaulted by eight youths over his ringtone. Mr Patil said: “Eight youths were sitting at a table at the shop. When Sagar’s mobile rang with the Ambedkar song as its ringtone, the youths told him to switch it off. In a police statement, the cousin has described the song as Tumhi kara re kitihi halla / Mazbut Bhimacha quilla [Shout all you want / Bhim’s fortress is strong]. An altercation ensued and the assailants hit Sagar with a beer bottle and started kicking and punching him. Then they dragged him out, put him on a motorbike and took him away to a nearby forest. They crushed him under the bike. Sagar’s body was found around 6.30 p.m. in a naked state near Rui village. The cause of death was multiple fractures. The autopsy says Sagar sustained around 25 injuries. He died between 2 and 4 p.m.” The perpetrators, a group of local youths from the dominant Maratha and OBC communities, ran their bike repeatedly over Sagar’s body mutilating it . “I can understand that they hit him. Quarrels can happen anytime, but look at the brutality of the act. Why would they do this on such a trivial matter?” Sagar’s father Subhash Shejwal asked, unable to comprehend the horror of the assault. The initial assault was captured on the CCTV cameras at the beer shop. The 21-minute footage, in which the faces of the assailants are clearly seen, provides strong electronic evidence to the police. The shop itself is within a stone’s throw from the Shirdi police station, raising serious questions about police inaction. “I called the police at 1.45 p.m. when the youths were beating up Sagar, but for a long time they did not come,” said Sandeep Ghorpade, manager of the beer shop. Sagar’s cousins, who managed to escape, also alerted the police, but in vain. The family alleged that the officers on duty demanded an air-conditioned vehicle to look for Sagar. The police said a departmental inquiry would be initiated against Inspector Pramod Wagh and constable Sharad Kadam. “Only our relatives were looking for Sagar. No police vehicle was in sight. The body was also discovered by family members,” said complainant and Sagar’s cousin Satish Gaikwad. The police arrested Vishal Kote, Somnath and Rupesh Wadekar, who are historysheeters and Sunil Jadhav. They have been booked under the Sections 302 (murder), 395 (punishment for dacoity), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence), 109 (punishment of abetment) of the Indian Penal Code and Sections 3 (2) (v) and 3 (1) (x) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. (The Hindu 22/5/15)

10. Dalits in Madhya Pradesh Village Allegedly Not Allowed to Use Public Borewell (2)

Alirajpur, Madhya Pradesh:  Dalit residents of Ghatwani village in Alirajpur district of Madhya Pradesh — some 400 km from Bhopal — have alleged that they are not allowed to use a public borewell and have to drink dirty water of a disused well. Ironically, the Bhilala community in the village, which allegedly does not allow Dalits to use the lone hand-operated borewell, is itself a scheduled tribe. Over 200 Dalit residents of the village recently met Collector Shekhar Verma and demanded that a separate borewell be dug for them. Mr Verma told PTI that he was going to send a team of officials of social justice and revenue departments to the village to stop the discrimination. “Untouchability won’t be tolerated at any cost,” the collector said. Also, as demanded by the Dalits, another hand-operated borewell would be provided in the village, he said. RS Chouhan, Executive Engineer of Public Health and Engineering Department, said, “A complaint has come that Bhilalas don’t allow Dalits to fetch water. We will install a new hand-pump for the Dalit community in the village.” Mehtab Mandor and Mukesh, both Dalits, said the existing borewell is just 100 metres from their houses, but they are not allowed to use it. They fetch water from an old well. “Our children frequently fall ill due to its contaminated water,” they said. Pinki Mandor, a Dalit woman, said there were instances where members of her community were thrashed for daring to use the only borewell in the village. The village has a population of about 930, over 200 of them Dalits. Majority are Bhilalas, a sub-community of Bhils, who consider themselves descendants of Rajput chiefs who married daughters of Bhil chieftains. (NDTV 24/5/15)

11. Dalits Attacked for Tea Shop Entry; 8 Booked (2)

THANJAVUR:Days after four Dalits were allegedly assaulted by a group of caste-Hindu members at a tea stall here, the Tiruchitrambalam police on Sunday booked eight persons from the intermediate caste. Police said K Mathimurugan (44), a Dalit from Vellaiyan street in Navakollaikadu, along with his relatives Vignesh (22), Madhavan (22), Aravind and a  few locals had gone to a tea stall at Ottankadu bazaar on Friday night. However, a group of caste-Hindu persons allegedly prevented them from entering the shop and verbally abused them. To prevent the fight from snowballing into a caste clash, Mathimurugan asked his friends to return. However, his friends picked up some logs from roadside as a precaution. On seeing the Dalits arming themselves, the caste-Hindu people allegedly started attacking them with clubs, iron rods and aruval, police said. (Indian Express 26/5/12)

12. Dalit villager set afire for fetching water at hand-pump in MP’s Sagar dist (2)

Sagar: A Dalit villager was allegedly set on fire by an upper caste man in Madhya Pradesh’s Sagar district for collecting water from a hand-pump, police said on Wednesday, highlighting the social divide in the caste-ridden state. The incident took place May 23 at the remote Belai village near Bina town, around 160 km from Bhopal, but came to light only on Wednesday after the injured person was referred to the Sagar district hospital. The incident came barely days after a Dalit groom was assaulted in neighbouring Damoh district by a group of people, also from an upper caste, for riding a horse on his way to the bride’s house.Bina police station officer Anil Gupta said a case under the SC/ST Act has been registered against the accused Ramsahay Richariya, who was absconding.The victim Samrat Ahirwar, 31, said that Richariya had tried to stop him from fetching water from a government-installed hand-pump before him. “When I objected, he abused and thrashed me,” said Ahirwar. “Later, when I was passing by his house he threw a burning kerosene oil lamp at me resulting in burn injuries in the lower part of my body.”Dalits, considered among the lower strata of society by the so-called high castes, regularly face discrimination across many parts of the country where the social divide is strictly enforced. Activists say that divisive politics by different parties have nullified efforts by successive governments to create awareness and bring in legislations to end the discrimination. (Hindustan Times 28/5/15)

TRIBALS

 

13, Two Mega Projects’ MoU to be Inked During Modi’s Chhattisgarh Visit (6)

RAIPUR: In order to fuel the development process in tribal-dominated Bastar region of Chhattisgarh, an MoU for two mega projects will be inked during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the state on May 9. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi will gift two major projects to tribal-dominated Bastar region during his visit to Chhattisgarh on May 9,” an official statement issued here said today. The two projects are – one of setting up of an ultra-mega steel plant at village Dilmili in naxal-sensitive Dantewada and another, extension of second phase of Rowghat-Jagdalpur 140 km railway line. Both the projects will come up in insurgency-hit areas and the state government officials claim the projects would accelerate the pace of development in vastly-populated tribal regions. The total investment on the two major projects will be around Rs 24,000 crore and it would help in a rapid socio-economic transformation of sprawling Bastar, it said. Dallirajhara-Rowghat-Jagdalpur broad-gauge railway project will cover a length of 235 km. The laying of railway line of 95 km in the first phase from Dallirajhara to Rowghat is currently underway at a rapid pace. An MoU on the second phase Rowghat-Jagdalpur line was signed earlier but it was shelved due to lack of funds. Now, the Centre has given consent to the state’s proposal to lay the railway line through SPV (special purpose vehicle) and a fresh MoU will be inked on May 9, the statement said. (New Indian Express 3/5/15)

14. Tribals Triumph as Mining Lease on Temple Hill is Scrapped (6)

VISAKHAPATNAM: In a major victory to the tribals, Srikakulam district collector P Lakshmi Nrusimham Sunday cancelled the No Objection Certificate (NOC) issued over the mining lease of the Kannedhara hill, the ancient home of the three sacred temples worshipped by tribals, in Seethampeta agency area. The orders were issued a day before the meeting of the Cabinet sub-committee scheduled to be held Monday. The Cabinet sub-committee, which observed that the NOC was issued in violation of revenue norms, asked the officials concerned to take immediate action during its previous meeting held on April 23. Soon after learning about the orders, tribals of Patharegulapadu, Kantamanugooda, Regulapadu and neighbouring villages broke into celebrations. They distributed sweets and congratulated each other over the victory. Savara Subbudu and other petitioners claimed the orders as the victory of tribals and thanked the government for respecting their sentiments and protecting their livelihood. In the wake of cancellation of the NOC by the district administration, the Mines and Geology department is expected to issue orders cancelling the mining lease. During the Congress regime, the then tahsildar of Seethampeta mandal issued an NOC for an extent of 15 hectare in survey no. 289 of Puliputti village for extraction of granite mineral in June 2010. Based on the NOC and recommendation of the then assistant director of Mines and Geology Department, the then director of Mines and Geology granted a mining lease in favour of Virgin Rocks Private Limited for a period of 20 years in an extent of 10 hectare. The tribals, along with environmentalists, strongly opposed the decision and alleged that former minister Dharmana Prasada Rao used his influence to get the mining lease sanctioned for the benefit of his son. They tribals launched state-wide agitations and a few of them approached the Lokayukta alleging that though the land was in possession of tribals with pattas the tahsildar overrode them and issued the NOC. They also pointed out that despite the presence of three dieties and temples worshipped by the locals in the area, the tahsildar issued the NOC. Based on the Lokayukta’s orders, the district administration launched a probe into the issue. Simultaneously, the Mines and Geology department too, investigated the lease. After assuming power, Telugu Desam Party which supported the tribals on the issue during their fight, formed a Cabinet sub-committee to look into the issue and was informed that the lease was given to former revenue minister Dharmana Prasada Rao’s son against the interests of tribals living in the hilly region. During the last meeting on April 23, the ministers were informed about the manner in which the NOC was issued, prompting them to order immediate action and subsequently scrap the deal altogether. New Indian Express 4/5/15)

15. Left Front wins all 28 Tribal Council seats (6)

Aizawl: The ruling Left Front in Tripura has won all 28 elected seats in polls to the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) and grabbed 54.21 percent of all the votes polled, the state’s Election Commission said Wednesday. The Left Front’s vote percentage has, however, dropped by 9 percent compared to the 2010 polls when it won the same number of seats. Polls for the 30-seat TTAADC, two of which are filled up by nominations by the Governor, were held on Sunday with 83 percent turn-out. The state’s main opposition Congress, meanwhile, polled the least percentage of votes at just 5.49 percent, with the BJP polling only slightly better by polling 7.87 percent of the total votes. Its successes were mainly restricted to areas close to the state’s border with Assam, however. Two tribal parties performed better than both the other national parties active in the state with the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) polling 18.6 percent of the votes with many tribal youth believed to be backing its call for a separate state for tribals. The Indigenous Nationalist Party of Twipra (INPT), meanwhile, polled 10.77 percent of the votes, taking third place as regards to votes polled. The IPFT’s relative success in the polls has caused some worry even in the Left Front with CPM’s general secretary for the state Bijan Dhar admitting in a press conference at Agartala that the support the rallying cry has mustered especially among tribal youth might have repercussions in the near future. The CPM led by CM Manik Sarkar has long dismissed the idea of a separate state for tribals in the North-East’s smallest state. Tripura has seen ethnic riots and armed tribal groups demanding autonomy since the 1970s, although much of it has greatly diminished in the past decade. The TTAADC — established by the Left Front in the early 1980s — covers two-thirds of the state’s territory, most of it hills and forests. (Indian Express 6/5/15)

16. Protest against ‘police threat’ to Chhattisgarh legal aid group (6)

RAIPUR; The People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) has condemned Chhattisgarh police’s “threat” of taking sever action against “certain” NGOs in Chhattisgarh for allegedly aiding and abetting the Maoists under guise of helping tribal people.“At a recent press conference in Bastar, Inspector General of Police S.R. Kalluri said that many such organisations were under surveillance. The IGP’s list of suspicions activities included providing legal assistance to Naxalites — a thinly veiled reference to the Jagdalpur Legal Aid group, a small NGO working in Bastar to provide free legal aid to the Tribal people, many of whom are falsely implicated in cases of Naxal activities,” a PUDR statement said. “This warning [by police] comes on the heels of two recent incidents of illegal detention of tribal people in Bastar in which the Jagdalpur Legal Aid group actively intervened on behalf of the victims and highlighted police violations,” claimed the PUDR. Highlighting the need for free legal aid to Bastar tribal people, the PUDR said that most of the tribal people arrested for alleged Maoist activities in Bastar , are victims of government’s false successes and fake surrenders. The organisations such as the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group are making their presence felt in a situation in Bastar in which on the one hand, a war is being waged by the state in the interests of large scale industry and the everyday persecution of local tribal people on the other, it added. . “The State’s reaction of clamping down on all resistance by the tribal people as well as targeting activists and people’s lawyers in the name of fighting Naxalim, indicates the lengths to which it is prepared to go to silence all constitutional freedoms in Bastar,” the statement added. (The Hindu 8/5/15)

17. 430 individual titles ready for distribution to forest dwellers on Sathy hills (6)

Erode: A total of 430 individual titles for land ownership will be granted to forest-dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers on Sathy hills under the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006, once a court case against such granting of pattas is settled, official sources said. The Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs is keen on early conversion of forest villages into revenue villages as a vital component of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, called FRA in short. According to the Ministry, the Act that makes officials of Forest Department part of committees constituted at different levels for recognition and vesting of forest rights is under implementation in various States. The Ministry has observed a significant increase in community rights title distribution: As on February 28, 2015 as many as 15,32,555 individual titles and 29,898 community titles had been issued. Tamil Nadu, however, has not kept pace with the implementation of FRA. In a recent representation to the Chief Secretary, who is the Chairperson of the State Level Monitoring Committee (SLMC) constituted under the Act to ensure establishment of Gram Sabhas, constitution of Forest Rights Committees, and determine Community Forest Resources rights by the Gram Sabhas, Bhavani Sagar MLA P.L. Sundaram questioned the State’s tardy progress in distribution of titles for land ownership. Demanding a public announcement on implementation of FRA 2006, Mr. Sundaram had said that there were only 21,781 titles for land ownership (18,420 individual and 3,361 community) to be distributed. But, just 3,723 titles were ready for distribution to the tribal community people pending approval of the Supreme Court, despite notification of rules as early as in 2008, Mr. Sundaram said. The process requires SLMC to identify hamlets, and instruct Tribal Welfare Department to convene hamlet-level Gram Sabha and constitute Forest Rights Committees. The department is required to organise training about the Act to all members of the Forest Rights Committees along with members of the Sub-Divisional Level Committees and District Level Committees. (The Hindu 11/5/15)

18. Pro-Maoist tribal leader Chattradhar Mahato, others convicted (6)

Kolkata: Pro-Maoist tribal group, the Peoples’ Committee Against Police Atrocities convener Chhatradhar Mahato and three others were on Monday convicted under various laws including the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act by a West Bengal court. “Mahato, along with Sukhsanti Baske, Sambhu Soren and Sagun Murmu, was convicted by the court of additional sessions judge (West Midnapore) Kaveri Bose,” said the accused’s counsel Mrinal Kanti Chowdhury. “Besides the UAPA, they have been convicted under various provisions of the IPC dealing with murder, criminal conspiracy, waging war against the state and various other sections of the Arms Act and the Explosives Act,” said the counsel. Besides the four, Raja Sarkhel and Prasun Chatterjee – two other PCAPA members – have been charged with sedition. “The quantum of punishment will be decided by the court on Tuesday,” said Chowdhury. Before his arrest in 2009, Mahato was one of the prominent faces of Maoist-backed tribal resistance in West Midnapore district’s Lalgarh area – about 200 kms west of Kolkata – against the erstwhile Left Front government. Lalgarh was on the boil for over two years since November 2, 2008, when a landmine exploded on the route of the convoy of then state chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and central ministers Ram Vilas Paswan and Jitin Prasada. Complaining of police atrocities after the blast, angry tribals egged on by the Maoists launched an agitation virtually cutting off the area from the rest of the district. The agitators torched CPI-M offices, drove away its supporters and forced police to leave, thereby establishing a virtual free zone. In June 2009, joint forces comprising central paramilitary troopers and crack teams of state police reclaimed the areas and conducted intense operations to flush out the left wing ultras. There were a spate of arrests while a number of PCAPA and Maoist leaders were killed in shootouts with the secuirty forces. Mahato was nabbed on September 26, 2009. The movement gradually died down. The tribal leader had also participated in rallies by Trinamool Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee before her party came to power in 2011. “Today those who are in power were associated with the movement. They accept the movement but are convicting those who were behind it,” Mahato told media persons after his conviction. (Zee News 11/5/15)

19. Tribal welfare dept to observe May 25 as ‘Sankalp Dis’ (6)

Margao: The tribal welfare department of the state government will observe May 25 as “sankalp dis” (a resolution day) in memory of the two tribal youths – Dilip Velip and Mangesh Gaonkar – who died in the tribals’ agitation at Balli in 2011 that day. “The tribal welfare department has introduced various welfare schemes and we are determined to take these schemes to all the needy and deserving persons from the tribal communities. Eighteen schemes have been drawn up by the tribal welfare department during the last three years, and we have decided to create awareness about these schemes across the state,” tribal welfare minister Ramesh Tawadkar said, while briefing mediapersons on Tuesday. Two awards instituted by the state government will be awarded to those who have made outstanding contribution in the field of education. The award consists of a cash prize of 1 lakh and a citation. The awards will be presented at a ceremony to be held at Ravindra Bhavan, Margao, on May 25 at the hands of defence minister Manohar Parrikar in the presence of chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar, it was informed. Two awards instituted by the state government will be awarded to those who have made outstanding contribution in the field of education (Times of India 13/5/15)

20. Adivasi team’s push for ST status (6)

GUWAHATI, May 15 – A delegation of 11 members of the All Adivasi Students’ Association of Assam (AASAA) met the Chairman of the National Scheduled Tribe (ST) Commission, Dr Rameshwar Oraon at his office in New Delhi on Tuesday over the issue of including the Adivasis of Assam in the Scheduled Tribe list. During the hour-long discussion, the Chairman observed that the demand for the ST status by the Adivasis of Assam is genuine and assured that he was striving to push the issue so that the Adivasis can be put in the ST list at the earliest, said AASAA president Raphael Kujur. The AASAA delegation also met the Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Shambhu Singh at North Block, New Delhi, on May 11 and discussed the scheduling of Adivasis, Assam-Nagaland border row and rehabilitation of Adivasi militants under ceasefire agreements. “During the discussion, the Joint Secretary assured that the Adivasis of Assam would be put in the ST list at the earliest, and that the Government of India was making all efforts to resolve the Assam-Nagaland border dispute permanently,” Kujur said. The AASAA delegation also met the Union Minister for Tribal Affairs Jual Oram at his residence, which was followed by a meeting with Union Minister for Sports and Youth Welfare Sarbananda Sonowal. The delegation asked Sonowal to take up the issue of increase in the minimum wages of tea garden workers to Rs 169. The AASAA also called for a separate ministry for the tea, coffee and rubber sectors. (The Assam Tribune 16/5/15)

21. 6 Assam tribes may soon get Scheduled Tribes status (6)

NEW DELHI: In a move that will turn Assam into a tribal-majority state, the Centre is planning to notify six communities in the state as Scheduled Tribes. “As per a key demand of Ulfa’s pro-talks faction, with which tripartite negotiations were held here last week, six Assamese tribes — Koch-Rajbongshis, tea tribes, Tai Ahoms, Morans, Motoks and Chutiyas – are being actively considered for ST status. The home ministry is in touch with the tribal affairs ministry to see the proposal through,” a senior home ministry official told TOI on Monday. The faction, led by ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, has been voicing concern over the alleged unabated illegal immigration from Bangladesh. It has conveyed to the government that granting ST status to the six communities, now listed as other backward classes (OBCs), was the only way to protect the interests of indigenous people of Assam. That the BJP, which bagged 7 of the 14 Lok Sabha seats in Assam in the 2014 general election and hopes to repeat the good performance in assembly polls due next year, is favourably inclined towards Ulfa’s demand was clear when Union tribal affairs minister Jual Oram announced in Guwahati last month that the six communities would be given ST status within four to five months. The decision could boost electoral prospects of BJP which has always expressed concern over illegal immigration from Bangladesh, leading to demographic changes in the state. The granting of tribal status to these communities would have political ramifications. According to PTI, almost 80 out of 126 assembly constituencies are likely to be reserved for tribals if the six communities get ST status. However, this will be possible only when the next delimitation exercise is undertaken. Once the Union Cabinet clears ST status for the six communities, a Constitution amendment Bill will have to be introduced and passed by both Houses of Parliament. (Times of India 19/5/15)

22. Yanadi tribal people suffer in the crossfire (6)

TIRUPATI: As the task force set up to stop illegal red sanders felling in the Seshachalam forests goes about rounding up smugglers, the tribal community of Yanadis have been unwitting losers in the bargain. While there have for long been restrictions on the tribe’s entry into the protected forest, the stricter curbs imposed since the fight intensified two months ago have affected the livelihood of the tribe. What is ironic is that the entry of woodcutters into the Seshachalam forest increased only after native tribes were barred from it. The Yanadis, native to the eastern mandals of Chittoor district, rely extensively on non-timber forest produce (NTFP). Some 15,000 Yanadi families in 22 mandals of Chittoor district eke out a living by gathering honey, grass, tamarind, gooseberries, wild palm leaves (eethaaku), and an assortment of other forest products, known locally as karakkaya, palagadda, buraga banka, maredugadda, kanuga ginjalu, nerramamidi chekka, etc. and selling them in the nearby towns.A visit to the forest fringe village of Kukkalagunta in Yerpedu mandal showed how the state of affairs has turned pathetic for the Yanadis. They are dismayed that what was once their home is now barred to them and that their ‘sense of belonging’ to the forest is now lost. Even the possession of identity cards provided to them by the Girijan Cooperative Corporation (GCC) does not serve the purpose as forest officials demand a ‘permission letter’ from none other than the Forest Minister.  “From Vadamalapeta to Thottambedu, tens of thousands of Girijans depend on the forest for a living,” says K.V. Ramana of Pragathi, a voluntary organisation working for the Yanadis’ rights. When the community loses its livelihood, it shows up in the form of losses incurred by GCC, he added. The president of the Andhra Pradesh Yanadi Sangham, Mr Chandamamala Kotaiah, questions the ban, asserting that no Yanadi has ever been accused of felling red sanders trees or assisting woodcutters. Tales of woe come pouring of the Yanadis in Kukkalagunta village. A frightened Nelluru Suraiah narrates how he and his wife were thrashed by officials and shows the injury marks on his limbs. Desamma laments that a memorandum submitted to the Chittoor Collector bore no fruit. The stories are the same in Sivagiri Colony and Payal Centre where Yanadis cower from the officials. Kandada MPTC member K. Nagalakshmi, who hails from the Yanadi community, says officials use abusive language against women to keep them away from the woods and torture any males who brave the curbs. (The Hindu 21/5/15)

23. Move to revive Salwa Judum fizzles out in Bastar (6)

RAIPUR: Amid opposition from political parties, the move to revive a “Salwa Judum” like people’s movement against Maoists in tribal Bastar region of Chhattisgarh has fizzled out with organizers now saying that they would organize a meeting on May 25 to pay homage to the victims of Naxalite attack that killed frontline Congress leaders of the state in May 2013. Slain Congress leader Mahendra Karma’s son Chhavindra Karma and other leaders had announced on May 5 that they would convene a meeting at Faraspal in Dantewada district on May 25 — the third anniversary of Bastar massacre — to chalk out strategies to re-launch a peoples’ movement against Maoist rebels. Leaders of erstwhile Salwa Judum had also supported the move. While Maoists have threatened a bloody backlash against all those trying to revive any movement against them, mainstream political parties did not come out in open to support the proposed campaign fearing violence and bloodshed in the tribal region. Late Mahendra Karma’s son and two former Salwa Judum leaders Chaitram Atami and Sukhdev Tati had formed a “vikas sangharsh samiti” to fight for the development of Bastar. In the process, they sought to project the proposed movement as the second phase of Salwa Judum, a controversial movement that led to bloodshed in Bastar between June 2005 and December 2008. Then, Congress leader Mahendra Karma had spearheaded the Salwa Judum campaign. “We are organizing a meeting at Faraspal on May 25 to pay homage to Mahendra Karma and others who were killed in Maoist attack in 2013,” said Chhavindra Karma. The May 5 announcement to re-launch a Salwa Judum like movement had triggered protests in Bastar. Maoists began organizing meetings to mobilize people against the proposed campaign while political parties including local BJP, Congress, Communist party of India (CPI) and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) went public against the call to revive such a movement. Slain Congress leader Mahendra Karma’s spouse Devti Karma is a Congress legislator while his sons are also active members of the opposition Congress. After the announcement came, AICC general secretary BK Hariprasad announced that his party has nothing to do with Salwa Judum campaign and it was not in favour of any such campaign. “It is the responsibility of the state government to formulate and implement strategies to deal with Maoist menace,” he added. (Times of India 22/5/15)

24. 25,000 tribals to attend reputed schools: CM Devendra Fadnavis (6)

Mumbai: The state government has decided to admit 25,000 tribal students in reputed schools instead of ashram schools every year. The announcement was made by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who termed this an effort to bring the tribal students into the mainstream. “We will be sending 25,000 tribal students to reputed schools for education. This is to bring them in the mainstream and give them education like other students of their age,” Mr Fadnavis told reporters. Earlier, the government had been providing the facility to only 2,500 tribal students. However, the government has decided to increase the number of students from this academic year, Mr Fadnavis said. “Their mixing with other students is necessary to build confidence in them,” the CM added. However, activists in the field of education have raised concerns about its implementation. “The government does not make budgetary provisions for such plans. How are the students going to pay the fee to these schools? Also, we have seen that the decision to include 25 per cent of students from weaker sections was not implemented properly. What is the guarantee that tribal students will get admitted in good schools?” asked Sham Sonar from Mumbai Shikshan Companikaran Virodhi Abhiyan. He even expressed displeasure over the poor standards of ashram schools that are meant for the tribal students. The ashram schools have no educational facilities, notebooks, books, blackboards, toilets or laboratories, he said. “The students from tribal backgrounds will also have to face discrimination in big schools and the government should address this issue also,” Mr Sonar said. (Asian Age 25/5/15)

25. Adivasis stage blockade (6)

Kokrajhar, May 28: The Adivasi National Convention Committee, BTAD unit, today put up a six-hour blockade on National Highway 31 (C) at Karigaon in Kokrajhar to press for their demands, including ST status for communities residing in Assam. Traffic on the national highway was affected from noon as thousands of activists staged the protest. A memorandum was submitted to chief minister Tarun Gogoi through the Kokrajhar deputy commissioner’s office. Birsing Munda, the secretary of the committee, appealed to chief minister Tarun Gogoi for tripartite talks between militant groups, the Centre and the state government to resolve their issues. (The Telegraph 29/5/15)

WOMEN

 

26. Punjab bus molestation: Badals face the heat, police arrest three accused (8)

Moga: The Punjab police on Thursday arrested three person in connection with the death of a 13-year-old girl who died after jumping off a running bus to escape molestation in Moga area of Punjab. Addressing a press conference, Punjab DGP said three accused in the Orbit bus accident have been nabbed and maintained that no special treatment is being given to the bus company, owned by Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal. The DGP also informed that other passengers of the bus are being located to help in the investigation. The DGP, however, ruled out interrogation of the Deputy CM. Meanwhile, the incident echoed in Parliament with the members of Congress and Aam Aadmi Party attacking the Akali Dal-BJP government in the state over the law and order situation. Members of both the parties from Punjab stormed the well of the House denouncing the state government.Ravneet Singh Bittu and Santokh Chaudhary (Congress) Dharmveer Gandhi and Bhagwant Mann trooped into the Well after their efforts to raise it were unsuccessful. Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said they could raise the issue during Zero Hour in the evening. As the protests were unrelenting, the Speaker adjourned the House for five minutes. Reports said the girl and her mother jumped off a moving bus in Punjab’s Moga district to avoid being sexually assaulted by the conductor’s assistant, after the driver refused to stop the bus and the conductor did not come to their help. (Indian Express 1/5/15)

27. UP girls take a stand, say ‘no’ to unfit grooms and mismatched marriages (8)

Bareilly/Kanpur/Kanpur Dehat/Varanasi: Minutes before solemnising her wedding vows, Kanpur’s Lavli Kushwaha discovered to her horror that the man she was about to exchange garlands with was not the one she had agreed to marry – it was his illiterate elder brother. The prenuptial ceremony was already complete, but she did not hesitate and walked out of the wedding, backed by her family and relatives. The bride’s father told HT the man they had matched Lavli with, Sonu, was replaced with his brother Ram Karan but the groom’s family disputed this, saying Sonu was already married. The Kanpur resident is not the only one as a bunch of brave women across Uttar Pradesh have been taking a strong stand against mismatched marriages in a state otherwise in the news for rampant violence against women and dowry-related deaths. In Varanasi last month, a minor girl escaped a forced underage marriage when she called the police with the groom’s party at her door. The authorities arrived after getting a call from Kavita* and stopped the marriage, sending the girl to a child welfare committee. Some of these botched weddings have also been settled amicably – as was the case last Friday in Bareilly’s Aonla, where the bride discovered during the wedding rituals that her husband-to-be had very poor eyesight. She noticed the groom kept missing the mark when asked to offer water to the deities and got up to tell her mother she could not tie the knot. As news spread, members of the groom’s family tried to convince the girl that the boy’s eyesight was alright but it soon came to light that the bride had been deliberately left in the dark about his problem. The groom then returned home unwed with the two sides sitting down amicably and deciding to share the expenses of the botched wedding. In yet another case, a Dalit girl, Shakuntala Devi, refused to tie the knot with an ill-matched groom, Vipin, in Kanpur Dehat. Shakuntala’s relatives and friends noticed a lump on his back and that he had a problem opening his mouth. They told her about the groom’s ‘problems’. When she confronted Vipin she also found that he was inebriated and without thinking twice, Shakuntala announced she was calling off the wedding. Despite requests from her family as well as the groom’s side, Shakuntala put her foot down and the two sides agreed to return all the things that they had exchanged in prenuptial ceremonies and the groom went home single. Such incidents are reported across religions as educated women refuse to compromise on their husbands and listen to the diktat of their family, rejecting obscene dowry demands.  An educated Muslim woman in Kanpur, Gulshan Khan, refused to marry an illiterate carpenter who demanded a dowry of Rs 1.5 lakh in cash and electronic gadgets, filing a police complaint against the man. Khan was engaged to Mohammad Nazir Ahmad since December 2009 but while she worked hard on her education for the last 5 years and got two post-graduate degrees, he remained illiterate, even taking Rs. 50,000 from Khan’s family for a motorcycle at a pre-nuptial ceremony held earlier this year. Before the wedding, Khan’s septuagenarian father Mukhtar Ahmad Warsi requested Ahmad’s family to accept his educated daughter without any dowry and said his family was already impoverished. He even put his turban, a sign of a man’s honour, at the feet of the groom’s father and asked him not to press for dowry, but to not avail. When Khan learnt all this, she decided to call off the proposed alliance. (Hindustan Times 4/5/15)

28. Activists call for abrogating law which ‘discriminates’ against men (8)

MYSURU: Several activists under the aegis of Centre for Men’s Rights staged a demonstration in the city on Tuesday demanding the scrapping of Section 498 A of the Indian Penal Code, the Domestic Violence Act, 2005, and similar laws which they alleged suffered from a gender bias. The demonstrators raised slogans and said most of them were victims of the misuse of Section 498 A, under which, if a woman files a complaint of dowry harassment, the accused could be taken into custody by the police without sufficient evidence or investigation. The organisation said that it also aims to reduce suicide rate of men by promoting laws “which do no marginalise men or undermine their role in families and society”. (The Hindu 6/5/15)

29. SC raps Centre for not publicising order on female foeticide (8)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday expressed displeasure over the conduct of Centre, Delhi government and various states for not giving wide publicity to its directions on female foeticide for strict implementation of law prohibiting sex determination. A bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Prafulla C Pant slammed Bihar government over “low” prosecution rate of cases relating to female foeticide in the state after noting that no case has been registered after 2013. The court noted that Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of sex selection) Act has been in operation from 1994 but only 159 cases have been instituted and 126 cases are pending since 2012-2013 in various courts in Bihar. “We cannot restrain ourselves from observing that had there been apposite awareness among the competent authorities in all possibility, the result would have been different. “Lack of awareness is a known fact. In our considered opinion, the competent authorities who have been authorised under the Act to launch prosecution and also to see that the the Act is properly carried out and sex ratio is increased, are required to be given training,” the bench said. The apex court asked the Chairman of the Bihar Judicial Academy of the Patna High Court to fix a time schedule for imparting the training. “In our considered opinion, the cases under the 1994 Act should be dealt with in quite promptitude and the concerned courts have to treat the said cases with utmost primacy. “In view of the aforesaid, we direct that the cases which are pending before the trial court shall positively be disposed of by end of October 2015,” the bench said. During the proceedings, advocate Binu Tamta, appearing for the Centre, assured the bench that “appropriate” directions are issued to the authorities of All India Radio and Doordarshan functioning in various states to give wide publicity. The court directed that the copy of the April 15 order be sent to the Principal Secretary, Health, and the Principal Secretary, Law, so that the order can be translated and be published in newspapers and broadcast by All India Radio and telecast by Doordarshan in an “appropriate” manner. “We hope that by the next date of hearing, there would be substantial compliance…,” the bench said. (Zee News 7/5/15)

30. Rights panel files PIL in rape case (8)

Imphal, May 9: A Manipur-based human rights group has filed a public interest litigation in Manipur High Court against the failure of police to frame charges against the accused in the rape of a minor. The petition, filed by Thokchom Premlata, assistant director of Human Rights Law Network, yesterday prayed for framing of chargesheet by the police and providing financial assistance to the victim by the state government. A division bench of Justices N. Kotiswar and N. Nobin has issued a notice to the state government and asked it to file a reply within three weeks.This is the first time in the state that a PIL has been filed in court against the failure of the police to submit chargesheet in a sexual offence case. The accused, S. Haridas Sharma, then 36, allegedly raped the 16-year-old, his neighbour, in Thoubal district in 2013. Kakching police station registered a case in July 2013 and the sexual assault came to light after the girl became pregnant. “As the police failed to frame the chargesheet and submit it in court within three months, the accused was granted bail. The police are yet to file the chargesheet,” Rakesh Meihoubam, director of the human rights group, said. He said the victim gave birth to the child a few months after the police registered a case. The girl is now staying at a women’s home in Imphal East while the child was given to an adoption agency through the Child Welfare Committee, Imphal East. The victim’s mother died some years ago while her father is a drunkard, Meihoubam said. “In criminal cases taken up under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, the trial should be completed within a year. However, the trial in this case is yet to begin in the absence of the chargesheet,” he said. Rakesh said there were many cases in Manipur where the police failed to submit the chargesheet in time, denying justice to the victims and letting the accused go scot-free. He said the state government was yet to provide financial and support services to the victim under the centrally sponsored scheme. (The Telegraph 9/5/15)

31. Conviction for female foeticide cases rare (8)

New Delhi: Despite India’s declining child sex ratio, as many as 30 states and Union Territories have not convicted even a single person for pre-conception and pre-natal diagnostic between 2011 and 2013, raising concerns about the poor implementation of the PCPNDT Act. The five states which have worst child sex ratio (CSR) — Daman and Diu (618 girls per 1,000 boys), Dadra and Nagar Haveli (775), Chandigarh (818), Delhi (866) and Andaman and Nicobar Islands (878) — have also not punished anyone during the period. The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994 was enacted to stop female foeticide and arrest the declining sex ratio by banning pre-natal sex determination. Child sex ratio in India has reached an alarming low with 918 girls per 1,000 boys in 2011 from 927 in 2001, but not much seems to have been done to ensure strict implementation of the Act to deter female foeticide. According to data available with the health ministry, only 32 people have been punished in the whole country as against 563 cases reported for conducting sex determination tests between 2011 and 2013. The data shows that only four states convicted 13 people in 2013. In 2012, eight persons were punished by three states and in 2011, 11 people by four states. Punjab, which has one of the lowest CSR with 895 girls to 1,000 boys, has convicted only two persons in the period while it reported 52 such cases. Haryana with 879 CSR registered 54 cases under the Act but no conviction took place. Similarly, Delhi registered 10 cases but could not manage to punish anyone. The phenomenon has spread to areas which were not known for disparity in CSR including tribal areas and eastern states, said a WCD ministry official.The trend was particularly acute in more developed areas of the country including metropolitan cities. Non-implementation of the Act has been the biggest failing of the campaign against sex selection, the official said. (Asian Age 11/5/15)

32. ‘Women welfare schemes slashed by 20%’ (8)

LUCKNOW: Prime minister Narendra Modi’s promise of ‘achchhe din’ was declared a farce by women associated with All India Democratic Women’s Association here on Monday. Leading the group was AIDWA national president Subhashini Ali who said, “In the same month last year, women were full of hope as BJP and PM Narendra Modi had promised many things to empower women through various schemes. But in one year, the ruling party has proved that that its promise was hollow.” Citing an example, economist Smita Gupta said, “Instead of additional allocation, funds meant for women welfare schemes have been cut down significantly in the current year’s Union budget which reveals the government’s true intention.” In her paper titled ‘Booting women out of the budget’ Smita noted a 20% drop in the gender budget. In 2014-15, allocations under this head were Rs 79,258 crore. Ali attacked the BJP for double standards on the issue of women’s emancipation. “On one hand they make claims of women empowerment while on the other, their leaders say foolish things like women were born only to bear kids.” AIDWA demanded restoration of funds deducted from various women welfare schemes in national interest. (Times of India 12/5/15)

33. Rights notice on lack of toilets for women at nine police stations (8)

GURGAON: Following TOI’s April 3 report that only a third of Gurgaon police stations have ladies’ toilets, the Haryana Human Rights Commission (HHRC) has sent a notice to commissioner of police Navdeep Singh Virk, seeking a response. The notice was issued, as order number 483, through the director, investigations, at HHRC, said a source. Virk, though, denied receiving the notice. “I’m not aware of it. I haven’t seen the notice. But we’ll do whatever is expected of us, once we’re officially intimated,” said the commissioner. TOI had published that nine of 24 police stations in Gurgaon do not have a separate lavatory for women. As a result, all women, including police staff and visitors are forced to use the men’s toilets. The information was revealed in a reply to an RTI, filed last month by activist Harinder Dhingra. The activist had written to the director general of Haryana police (DGP) and Gurgaon police commissioner in January this year, asking them to provide separate sanitation facilities for women. The reply revealed that police stations in Pataudi, Kherki Daula, Bhondsi, Farooq Nagar, Badshahpur, Civil Lines, Rajendra Park, Udyog Vihar and Metro at IFFCO Chowk, do not have a separate ladies’ toilet. More than 300 women are employed by city police. “The information was provided by cops in reply to an RTI query. In May 2014, Punjab and Haryana high court had ordered that such facilities are required. It should now be easier for police to finance such projects, as they have tied up with corporates through Community Policing 2.0,” said activist Dhingra. (Times of India 15/5/15)

34. Harassed for dowry, woman kills self (8)

Nashik: A newly-wed woman immolated herself at her husband’s house in Gunjalnagar village of Deola Tehsil of Nashik district. Deola police station sub-inspector Ankush Borate said that deceased Kaveri had married Prashant Aher in Deola on May 6. According to her uncle Hiraman Santosh Gangurde, she was being harassed by her in-laws to give a dowry of Rs 3,00,000 and 10 tolas of gold. Kaveri had informed her family about the matter, who intervened and sent her back to her in-laws place. However, the harassment continued and she immolated herself on Saturday morning. She was taken to Nashik Civil (General) Hospital, where she died in the evening. The police has arrested her husband Prashant, her mother-in-law Latabai and her mother. They were taken to court on Sunday evening. In another case, a married woman Priyanka Hanuman Avhad was on her way to answer nature’s call when she was accosted by one Samadhan Sangale in Jalgaon Budrul village of Nandgaon tehsil on Saturday evening. According to bystander Gurudatt Suresh Bodke, she was beaten up and thrown into a well. The deceased had spurned Sangle’s advances and this allegedly led to the murder. Sangle was later produced in court, where he was remanded to judicial custody. (Asian Age 18/5/15)

35. Rapes, women’s abductions in Mumbai rise sharply this year (8)

MUMBAI: A statistical study of crime in Mumbai in the first three months of 2015 shows that abductions of women rose more than one-and-a-half times (165%) over the same period last year. The response to the right to information (RTI) query also revealed that cases of rapes increased by 43%, although the number of gang-rape cases dropped from seven to four. The data sought by activist Chetan Kothari showed 172 cases of rape cases were registered (against major and minor accused) in January to March this year against 138 in the first three months of last year. Cases of kidnappings rose sharply by 202 in 2015 compared to 76 registered the previous year. Experts and police said higher awareness in Maharashtra leads to more crimes being reported and hence the spurt in statistics. They have found that 95% of rape cases follow false promises of marriage. “Only five per cent of the rape cases are genuine cases of sexual assault,” said an IPS officer, requesting anonymity. He also blamed growing urbanization for the rise in crime. Most crimes against children below 10 years are committed by relatives and people known to the victim or her family members. Similar, the majority of kidnappings of minor girls are cases of elopement. “The RTI information about such crimes in the first quarter clearly indicates a spike in offences against women,” said Kothari…. (Times of India 18/5/15)

36. OHRC takes cognisance of child pregnancy case (8)

BHUBANESWAR: The Odisha Human Rights Commission (OHRC) has directed the Nabarangpur district administration to make arrangements for protection of an 11-year-old school girl in Nabarangpur district where the girl became pregnant after being raped by her neighbour. Taking suo motu cognisance of the news report, the OHRC asked the Nabarangpur District Collector to explore financial assistance that could be provided to the minor girl as she was seven-month pregnant. The accused had once waylaid the girl who was on her way to tuition class and allegedly raped her. Since then he had been repeatedly raping the girl. Only recently, her pregnancy came to the light and subsequently the accused was arrested. The OHRC Acting Chairperson Justice B. K. Mishra said since the girl was seven month pregnant, it was risky for her to undergo an abortion. The Chief District Medical Officer has been ordered to go to the girl’s home to make periodical assessment on her health and constitute a medical board, if necessary, for providing focussed treatment. The District Collector was further directed to give psychological counselling to the girl and her parents to overcome the trauma. Moreover, efforts should be made to incorporate the girl in an educational programme in addition to vocational training, directed Justice Mishra saying protection of the family must be given utmost priority. The Nabarangpur Superintendent of Police has been asked to submit status of investigation into the crime. (The Hindu 18/5/15)

37. Six women in Meerut village defy boycott, go to work (8)

PEEPLIKHEDA (MEERUT): Ostracised and slapped with a huge “fine” by the community panchayat for going to work, six women of this sleepy village, 60 km from the national capital, tell a story more complicated than that of patriarchy feeling threatened by the idea of financially independent women. Ten days into the boycott, the women have shown a rare courage, an inspiring story to emerge from a deprived community. Geeta, Premwati, Ombiri, Suman, Pinki and Rekha belong to the most backward Nat community, and they have “broken the social norm” by going to work in nearby paper mills and meat factories. The Nat panchayat, in a diktat issued on May 10, banned them from working in the factories. When they did not abide by the order, the panchayat ordered the 200 Nat families in the settlement to boycott the women and their families. The panchayat diktat states that if the women want to be a part of the community again, they will have to bear hundred lashes in public, pay a Rs. 1 lakh penalty for each person and stop going to work. The social boycott of these women has started showing its impact as grocery shop owners have refused to sell them anything. On Wednesday, the six families were asked not to use the government water pump in the Nat colony. “Right now, nobody talks to us. Even my brother-in-law who stays next to my house doesn’t want to be seen talking to my family because he will also be declared an outcaste,” says Geeta, more forthcoming of the six. “Essentially, it is about a set of moneylenders in the community trying to prevent women from working, which has the potential to destroy their thriving business. Though my community is socially and economically deprived, the affluent ones among us lend money to maximise their capital. These men control the panchayat.” The standard rate of interest is 120 per cent, Premwati says. “The moneylenders don’t want to see women working. Since we owe them money, they don’t want us to become financially independent,” she says. “We can manage like this. The local administration and the people living in neighbouring areas have helped us a lot,” says Ms. Geeta adding that the local police have assured them of security. Having seen the community’s ways of dealing with issues, she is scared of violence. The women may have to migrate to some other village in case of violent reaction from the “frustrated community panchayat”, as she terms them.… (The Hindu 21/5/15)

38. 23-year-old tortured to death for dowry (8)

NAINITAL: A woman, allegedly tortured for dowry, died at Dr Sushila Tiwari Government Medical College and Hospital on Sunday. A case has been filed against her in-laws. Shaista, 23, was admitted to a private hospital on Thursday and referred to the medical college on Sunday. According to doctors, she was in severe pain and diagnosis showed she was hemorrhaging due to severe internal injuries. Shaista had married Mohammad Irfan, 26, in 2013 and Rs 4.5 lakh had been spent in arrnageemnts, the victim’s family informed. A few days ago, her in-laws had raised demands for a four-wheeler which was to be provided to them after a loan had been sanctioned for the same. “Irfan used to beat my sister brutally which ultimately resulted in her death,” said Danish Khan, Shaista’s brother. Charges of torture and murder have been slapped on Irfan’s elder sister Reena and his father Riyaz, who are currently on the run. “A case has been registered under relevant sections of Indian Penal Code. The body has been sent for the post mortem. The accused will be nabbed soon,” said Santhil Abudai, SSP, Nainital. (Times of India 25/5/15)

39. Pilibhit Man Chops Off Wife’s Nose for Not Paying Dowry (8)

PILIBJIT: A man from Ahmadpur village in Uttar Pradesh’s Pilibhit District allegedly chopped off his wife’s nose after her family refused to pay dowry. Police said Jahan-e-Alam first assaulted his wife, and then, chopped off her nose and hair after she failed to meet his dowry demands. “A woman in Puranpur area has reported that after a domestic fight over dowry, she was beaten by her husband. He then hit her nose with a sharp item. She is undergoing medical treatment now. Based on the complaint given by the girl’s family, we have filed a case against the accused. We will investigate the matter and take action against the culprit,” said Superintendent of Police, Pilibhit, Sudhir Kumar Singh. The victim is undergoing treatment at a local hospital. “He was asking me for dowry. He first assaulted me. Then he chopped off my nose and hair,” said the victim. The girl’s parents said that Alam was demanding Rs 20,000 and a motorcycle from them. The incident has evoked sharp comments from rights activists. “It is a very sad day that after so many years of independence and talk of equality for women, here is a young bride whose hair and nose has been chopped off by her husband and in-laws for not getting dowry. 498(A) of IPC says that it is a cognizable, non-bailable offence with three years’ imprisonment and also Section 338 which says endangering life by causing grievous hurt. Action must be taken against the husband and in-laws under these sections,” said lawyer and activist, Abha Singh. Police said that a First Information Report (FIR) has been registered and search is on for the accused who is absconding. (New Indian Express 27/5/15)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

 

40. 34 child labourers rescued (14)

BENGALURU: Thirty-four children, including 19 girls, employed in an agro industry at Kannahalli, near Sheegehalli Cross, were rescued by the anti-human trafficking unit of the Criminal Investigation Department on Thursday. Of them three are under the age of 14. The police arrested the contractor and HR Manager of the company. “We had information that many minors were being forced to work in Ballad Agro Industries, which makes herbal products. The industry was raided on Thursday. There were around 200 employees in the industry and 34 of them were minors,” a CID source said. “Jirad, the contractor who was bringing the child labourers, and Gopalakrishna Kamat, HR Manager, were arrested,” the source said. A case has been registered in Tavarekere police station under the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act and Child Labour laws. (The Hindu 1/5/15)

41. Activists write to Modi on plan to dilute child labour law (14)

BENGALURU: The Centre’s proposal to amend the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, is not something Bengaluru’s activists agree with. The amendment will allow children between 14 years and 18 years to work in non-hazardous, select family enterprises without letting it affect their education. In an email to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other MPs, activists have demanded that the Centre revisit the proposal that will exempt certain family enterprises like farming from being labelled child labour. “All forms of child labour must be prohibited (up to 18 years) and it must be ensured that children get a good education,” said the appeal which was prepared through a resolution passed at an emergency meeting convened at the Centre for Child and Law (CCL) in National Law School of India University on April 23. Arguing that the proposal to divide children into two categories—children (0-14) and adolescents (14-18) based on the recommendations of the National Advisory Council is unacceptable, CCL said: “It is ridiculous from the point of progressive realization of child rights.” The Parliamentary Standing Committee has also asked the government to review its proposal regarding the definition of a child. While the Act aims to abolish child labour, a sub-section of the proposed Bill provides immunity to family businesses that are not hazardous. CCL said the standing committee had asked the labour ministry to review the meaning of hazardous processes and widen the definition to include all those processes that may jeopardize health, safety and morals of adolescents, which the ministry paid no heed to. Stating that exempting certain occupations from child labour laws is a violation of the Right to Education Act Niranjan Aradhya VP, fellow, CCL, said: “If we propose another law that takes away this right to education, how will children attend school? Any activity that prevents a child from attending school is child labour and must be abolished.” Samuel Sathyaseelan from CCL said that even if the work is after school hours, it will obstruct a child’s right to rest and indulge in recreation, which may eventually result in the child discontinuing from school. Komal Ganotra of Child Rights and You said, “Agriculture-based work, for instance, requires seven to eight hours a day. In some cases, children have to wake up at 3am to pluck jasmine flowers. The work is done by 6.30am and then they leave to school. This will affect their performance in school.” (Times of India 4/5/15)

42. Poor urban children more likely to die than the rich kids (14)

Children of the urban poor in Delhi are 3.2 times more likely to die than their richer counterparts, a report released here on Tuesday said. The global under-five mortality rate has come down down by half from 90 to 46 deaths per 1,000 live births between 1990 and 2013 and the success story includes India. India, in the same period, has achieved a decline of 54.4 percent as against the global progress of 44.8 percent, the report “The Urban Disadvantage”, prepared by NGO Save the Children and released by Union Minister Najma Heptullah, said. The report which analysed urban child survival gap between the rich and the poor urban kids in 36 developing countries shows that in the age group 0-5 years, the urban poor are 3.2 times more likely to die compared with the urban rich in Delhi. The report’s findings state that the quality of life of mothers and children in the urban slums of India’s capital city is one of the worst in the world and the health inequity between the rich and the poor is stark. Heptullah said: “We used to feel that more children are not being taken care of in rural areas. But this report proves otherwise.” She said that the health of urban children was an important issue as by 2030 a significant amount of population will be moving to cities. People living in slums and congested areas face a lot of health issues due to poor sanitation and congestion, she added. The 10 countries showing the greatest survival divide between wealthy and poor urban children are: Rwanda, Cambodia, Kenya, Vietnam, Peru, India, Madagascar, Ghana, Bangladesh and Nigeria. Sudeep Gadok, director of programs of Save the Children, said: “The government of India has made great progress in ensuring the survival of newborns, infants and mothers.” “For the first time in history, more than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas. People are often drawn to cities by the prospect of a better life for their children, but many cities around the world are unable to keep up with breakneck growth.” “… leaving hundreds of millions of mothers and children in cities without access to essential health services and the clean water they need to survive and stay healthy,” he said. The report asserts that there is an urgent need to close the gap in life chances for mothers and children so that – no matter where they live – everyone has a fair chance to survive and fulfil their potential. (Times of India 6/5/15)

43. NGO rescues 10 child labourers near labor dept building (14)

LUDHIANA: Members of Navchetna, an NGO working for child labour in the city, on Monday start their awareness campaign against child labour in city. However, they were in for a shock when they spotted 10 child labourers near the labor department building on Gill road. Sukhdhir Sekhon, Navchetna president, said, “As many as 10 child labourers were spotted near the labor department building and nearby areas. We had gone there to start our awareness campaign. Three children were working at a scrap shop in the building, one was working at the backside of the building in a car washing garage, three were selling tobacco in shops near the labour department building and one child was working at a shop.” He added, “Charity should begin at home. The labor department, besides raiding different places in the city, should also look in their backyard. All the children rescued near the department building were working on the daily wage of Rs 50-100 per day and were between 6 and 14 years of age. The NGO members also met with the parents of these children and urged them to send their wards to government schools in the nearby areas localities. They also gifted them books and pencils. “We also met the shopkeepers who had employed these children and told them that it was wrong and illegal to employ children. Instead when any child comes to ask for employment, they should motivate them to study and go to school,” Sukhdhir added. Ludhiana coordinator, labor-cum-conciliation officer, Mona Puri said, “We continuously conduct raids in the city. The NGO members should have informed us if they were going to do some campaign. If they had spotted or rescued any children, they should have come to us and got them registered at schools under the National Child labor Project. We are working in accordance with the Bachpan Bachao Andolan as directed by the court.” (Times of India 12/5/15)

44. State child rights panel serves notice on DTO (14)

LUDHIANA: For making students of Sacred Heart Senior Secondary School, BRS Nagar, wait under the hot sun on May 4 when as many as 24 school vehicles were challaned, out of which 13 were impounded the district transport officer (DTO) Anil Garg has been served a notice by the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR) Punjab. In the notice, the commission has asked the DTO to give an explanation for making students suffer when their school vehicles were being challaned/impounded. Apart from this, the commission has also asked the DTO to give suggestions and precautions which could be taken while school vehicles are being challaned/impounded, so that students are not made to suffer in the process. Reportedly, while the DTO was checking and challaning school vehicles, students were unloaded, and they had to stand outside the school until the formalities were completed. Talking to ToI, SCPCR Punjab chairperson Sukesh Kalia said: “Through the news, I became aware that while the DTO was challaning school vehicles of Sacred Heart Senior Secondary School, BRS Nagar, students had to wait outside the school in extreme hot weather. The DTO might be performing his duty, but any act which causes inconvenience to children should not be accepted. So, I have served a notice to him to give an explanation. Alongside, I have also asked him for some suggestions to make challaning drivers hassle-free for school children.” Kalia added that it was not necessary to impound a school vehicle on the spot. A guard or constable may escort the school vehicle until the last kid is dropped home, and then the DTO can impound the vehicle. Another option is that the DTO may keep all the documents of the driver, with directions to report at his office after dropping the children home. Garg responded: “According to the Motor Vehicle Act, only a moving vehicle can be challaned, so I have to challan a school vehicle when it is loaded. If parents or schools pro-actively follow their responsibility and examine vehicles, it will help avoid such incidents. Importantly, the high court has asked schools to designate a traffic manager who can examine all the vehicles being used to ferry school students. However, most of the schools have not let their owned vehicles or private vehicles be examined, as revealed under an RTI (A copy with ToI). Moreover, that day, the guard went along with the buses, and only when the last child was dropped, then the drivers, accompanied by the guards, came back and thereafter, their vehicles were impounded.” (Times of India 13/5/15)

45. Employing Adolescents in Any Industry Not Correct: Activists (14)

CHENNAI:Compulsory education, generation next, and progress. While these buzzwords are seen as representing the ‘future’, allowing children in the age group of 14 to 18 to work by categorising them as adolescents has irked child rights activists. The National Policy for the Child, which India ratified in 2013, classifies anyone under the age of 18 as a child. But the changes proposed to the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012, exempts them from child labour – a glaring contradiction according to activists. “These are double standards, where we are claiming to agree with the policy to the outside world, but are buckling under market pressure and allowing children in this age to work,” says V Geetha, advocate, Madras High Court. The age of 14 is considered vulnerable and one where it is most easy to abandon education and follow a downhill path to ill habits and delinquency, believe activists. “If children suddenly get money at this age without adult supervision, the independence might get to their heads. We saw in the Nirbhaya case that one of the accused was a dropout and labourer. We blame them but do not want to protect them,” says Thomas Jayaraj, director, Centre for Child Rights and Development. The age of 16 could be a better option for children to get employment, where they have at least the minimum education qualification, believes Andal Damodaran, president, Indian Council for Child Welfare (ICCW), TN. The clause has allowed for adolescent labour to be exempt from ‘hazardous industries’ – 18 occupations and 65 processes. “I know children who roll 1,500 beedis a day with their mothers, and then go to school. Many of them have dropped out. How will this Act help them?” wonders Girija Kumar Babu, joint secretary , ICCW. Some others argue that employment of any form at this age is detrimental to the growth of the child. “If a 15-year-old is wiping a table for 12 hours a day, wouldn’t you call that hazardous to him or her? This would never be acceptable to a middle class child, why is it alright for them?” asks Ossie Fernandes, director, Human Rights Advocacy and Research Foundation. (New Indian Express 16/5/15)

46. Proposed amendments to Child Labour Act slammed (14)

VELLORE: The amendments proposed to be introduced in the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986, for which the Union Cabinet has accorded its approval recently, has been widely criticised by social activists. The Vellore Institute of Development Studies (VIDS) has stated that the amendments to impose stricter punishment on those employing children below 14 years, but allowing minors to work in non-hazardous family enterprises and the audio-visual entertainment industry are “ill-conceived and ill-advised”. It is also contrary to the central government’s declared policy of total elimination of the bonded child labour system. These amendments will only tend to perpetuate the child labour system in the society, said P. Jegadish Gandhi, Director of VIDS. Dr. Gandhi said that the bonded labour system should not be allowed in any form or sectoral activities. The VIDS, he said, strongly advocates the total abolition of child labour by 2020 in India by adopting the hitherto best practices of pro-active NGOs. “Against this scenario, by allowing the presence of child labour in many shades of family enterprises will facilitate child exploitation within walls under the cloak of learning family skills”, he said. Era. Chandrasekharan, president of Udhavum Ullangal, a Vellore-based NGO said that the amendments will create loopholes. This will embolden employers of child labour to perpetuate child labour under the garb of legal protection. He pointed out that only in the last few years, the government has created a semblance of awareness among the employers. It has also thrown light on the need to eliminate child labour through its stringent measures against employment of children in work, He was of the view that the proposed amendments will only help the traditional employers of child labour to engage children in work and escape from the clutches of law. The amendments, Mr. Chandrasekharan said, will tend to reverse the good work done in the area of rescuing child workers and enrolling them in schools, and lead to a situation where school-going children are taken out of schools and engaged in labour. Thanks to the measures taken by the district administration through the Child Labour Abolition Support Scheme (CLASS) in Vellore district, there was considerable reduction of child labour in the hotel industry. The amendments will reverse the trend. The amendments are not in the interests of children who are supposed to enjoy the pleasures of childhood and the benefits of education, he said. Ruby Nakka, founder of The Hope House, a home for special children in Gandhinagar, Vellore and a former president of the District Child Welfare Committee said that the proposed amendments would provide ample scope for abuse of the exemptions given to the engagement of child labour. While it is good to encourage the talent among child artistes in the entertainment industry, paying the children for their performance would constitute child labour, he said. (The Hindu 17/5/15)

 47. Debt-ridden farmers ‘sell’ their children in MP (14)

MOHANPURA: Lal Singh was desperate. The farmer from Mohanpura village in Madhya Pradesh had seen unseasonably heavy rains and hailstorms destroy crop after crop, while he fell deeper into debt. Finally, last August, with no way to feed his family, Singh felt he had only one choice: He sold his two sons to a shepherd for a year of labour, in exchange for Rs 35,000. “I was in no position to repay the debt and needed more money to make ends meet and plant a further crop,” Singh said in an interview in Mohanpura. He made the decision, he said, despite knowing “it was illegal and they could be abused and forced to work in cruel conditions.” Worsening crop failures, brought on by extreme weather, are leading to increasing financial desperation in Madhya Pradesh – and a rash of suicides and child trafficking, officials say. According to Rajnish Shrivastava, the district collector of Harda district, authorities rescued five children from forced labour in April, all from Khargone and Harda districts. Officials believe there could be many other cases of farmers trading their children for money, he said. “It is a matter of concern that farmers have been forced to sell their kids to repay their debts,” he said. “We can’t allow children to be abused and trafficked in this way.” Eight months after being sold into labour, Singh’s children were among the five rescued, Shrivastava said. Sumit, 12, and Amit, 11, fled from the shepherd and were taken to a local shelter, according to officials. Initially reluctant to return to their family for fear of how their parents would react, the boys are now back home, officials said. “Our job was to look after the sheep and other animals,” Amit told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “(The shepherd) thrashed us over trivial issues. We were not given even two meals a day. As things became intolerable we took courage and fled.” Authorities have ordered an investigation, while the shepherds who allegedly bought the five rescued children have been charged with the unlawful confinement of children and are awaiting trial, Shrivastava said. According to Vishnu Jaiswal, director of the Harda branch of children’s charity Childline, officials from his charity and from the government will visit the rescued children’s families from time to time to ensure they are being well looked after. “Trading our children was wrong but we were forced to do this just to stay alive,” Sumit and Amit’s mother, Manibai, said in an interview. “Otherwise, like many other farmers, we too would have been forced to commit suicide.”.. (Times of India 21/5/15)

48. Helped mom sell onions, it wasn’t child labour: Bandaru Dattatreya (14)

NEW DELHI: Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya stoutly defends the proposed amendments to the law allowing children below 14 years to work in family-owned enterprises, arguing that the existing law is impractical and often results in harassment. Just in case you are not convinced by his arguments, he shares his personal experience. When he was 10- or 11-years-old, the soft-spoken BJP veteran from Telangana, would go down to the Osmangunj market in Hyderabad in the evenings to assist his mother, Eswaramma, who used to sell onions. “Like other street vendors she would put up an umbrella and sell onions sitting under it. In the evenings, after school, I went to assist her. I would pack the leftover onions in bags and carry it back home, while she settled the accounts. My mother could not employ anyone to carry the bag because she could not afford paying wages to anyone else. Her income was Rs 15 and to pay Rs 5 would have been tough,” Dattatreya told TOI in an interview, while defending the move that has faced criticism from several child rights activists. The union cabinet recently cleared amendments to the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, and proposed to allow employment of children below 14 years in family enterprises with the rider that work should not interfere with their education. The minister said that several safeguards have been built, including a provision that is meant to ensure that children assist their parents after school hours and during vacations. Further, a rehabilitation fund is also proposed for those employing child labour, which will result in employers having to shell out Rs 50,000 that will be used for education and skill development with another Rs 15,000 coming from the state government. “When it comes to family-owned enterprises, seeing the economic and social conditions in our country, we need to be practical. We have proposed a very clear definition of family to include parents, siblings, maternal uncle etc. It is not a question of labour at all, you are assisting the family and there is no question of wages or salary,” Dattatreya said. Isn’t the definition of family a little open-ended? The minister again goes back to his own experience to justify the proposal. Dattatreya’s maternal uncle would often seek his help in getting rice to his shop or would ask him to man the shop for a while. “This is not child labour. These are Indian traditions, which are very different,” the minister insisted. (Times of India 23/5/15)

49. 7 months on, child rights panel exists only on paper (14)

NEW DELHI: For over seven months now, work has come to a grinding halt at the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights. The statutory agency, tasked with monitoring violations of child rights, does not have either a chairperson or any of the six members since October 2014. While new cases have reduced to a trickle because of the lack of members, the Commission continues to have a backlog. It has 1391 cases of violations of the Right to Education Act as on December 2014, while cases of child rights violations and abuse are 2216. Former Commission member Dr Vandana Prasad said, ” This is a loss of space in a statutory institution that has power and visibility and can act in a very non-partisan way on the issue of child rights. There are so many decisions being taken by the government which are inimical to the interests of the child and we as activists are feeling that loss. We have nowhere to raise these issues or debate them?”Prasad was referring to recent decisions like amendments to the Juvenile Justice act and the Child Labour Act which have been opposed by the activists. While JJ Act provides for children between 16-18 years of age accused of heinous crimes like gang-rape or murder to be tried as adults, the new amendments to the Child Labour Act encourages businesses to use child labour with impunity, activists say. Child rights activist Raj Mangal Prasad said, “There is no forum for grievance redress and monitoring of POCSO (Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences) and RTE at the national level are completely missing.”Activists have also pointed out that political appointments with little or no knowledge in the field of child rights have been made earlier and subverted the institution. “If the Commission is headed by a political appointee, isn’t it much better it is left vacant? The person may do more harm than good,” a rights activist said. The government, however, seems to be in no urgency despite a Supreme Court order in February this year asking it to expedite appointments. According to a RTI response, the women and child development (WCD) ministry invited applications after the term of chairperson Kushal Singh expired in October 2014. About 1364 people applied for the post of member while 169 applied for the position of the chairperson. Sources said the ministry had at least twice sent a list of shortlisted candidates which was rejected by the PMO. (Times of India 26/5/15)

 50. Campaign to provide free education for economically underprivileged children

MANGALURU: Seven-year-old Shailesh and his six-year-old brother Srinidhi from Pachchanady, studying in a Government School visited the Deputy Commissioner’s office with their mother Pushpa, after assurance by activists of Child Rights Activists and Parents Association of free education for Pushpa’s children in a private school in the locality. “We do not have any problem in going to the present school. We have been assured of a seat in private school. Hence we are here,” said Pushpa, who stays in a thatched roof house in Panchchanady. Her elder son Shailesh will be studying in the third standard this year while her younger son Srinidhi will be in the first standard. These two children were among the 15 odd students brought by the Child Rights Activists and Parents Association to the office of the Deputy Commissioner. Dinesh Hegde Ulepady, the President of the Association, said these students should be admitted to private schools that has all facilities as prescribed under the Right to Education Act. “There is lack of awareness of the Act and hence they have not filed applications (seeking admission),” said Mr. Ulepady, who wanted the Government to ensure admission of these children. The children belonging to underprivileged category are entitled for free education in private schools, who have earmarked 25 per cent seats for LKG and first standard. The process of admission has started with as many as 95,139 students getting admission in the two rounds of allocation process held till May 5 through out the state. (The Hindu 29/5/15)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

 

51. Modi govt rejects US report on religious freedom, says it does not take cognizance (7)

New Delhi: India on Thursday strongly reacted to a report by a US Congress-established panel claiming that minorities in the country have been subjected to “violent attacks” and “forced conversions” after the Modi government assumed power in 2014, saying it does not take cognizance of such reports.External Affairs Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said, “Our attention has been drawn to a report of the USCIRF which has passed judgement on religious freedom in India. “The report appears to be based on limited understanding of India, its Constitution and its society.” In its 2015 annual report, USCIRF (US Commission on International Religious Freedom) said, “Since the election, religious minority communities have been subject to derogatory comments by politicians linked to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and numerous violent attacks and forced conversions by Hindu nationalist groups, such as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP).” It also said that despite the country’s status as a pluralistic, secular democracy, India has long struggled to protect minority religious communities or provide justice when crimes occur, which perpetuates a climate of impunity. USCIRF said in December 2014, Hindu groups announced plans to forcibly “reconvert” at least 4,000 Christian families and 1,000 Muslim families to Hinduism in Uttar Pradesh on Christmas day as part of a so-called ‘Ghar Wapsi’ (returning home) programme. It may be mentioned here that US President Barack Obama had twice made a strong pitch for religious tolerance in India. (Indian Express 1/5/15)

52. Minorities Panel to Probe Alair Encounter (7)

HYDERABAD: The State Minorities Commission for Telangana and Andhra Pradesh will soon appoint an advocate commissioner to inquire and prepare a detailed report on the recent Alair encounter in which five suspected terror operatives were killed. The advocate commissioner will visit the location of the encounter and examine witnesses, said Abid Rasool Khan, Chairman, State Minorities Commission. The report will be submitted within 15 days after its appointment. The commission said it had received several petitions from social activists and minority groups seeking a fresh report on the encounter. “After examining the petitions, we have decided to obtain legal opinion from the standing counsel and send recommendations to the government in the interest of justice,” said Khan. The commission has already received a report on the encounter from the SP, Nalgonda and is awaiting another report from the DG, Prisons, Telangana. Addressing a press conference here after a monthly review meeting, commission members said they had also sought a report on the alleged custodial death of a Muslim youth, Shaik Hyder, from Nizamabad. The commission has recently taken up the suo motu and sought reports from the district collector and SP of Nizamabad. The commission has received reports and is pursuing the case. The panel has decided to send a four-member team to Nizamabad on May 8 after receiving petitions from different organisations alleging torture by police behind the death of Hyder. The team will interact with police officials, revenue officials, family of the victim and local religious heads in Nizamabad. They will submit a report to the commission, Khan said. The commission also took up other two cases of harassment and discrimination against members of the minority communities. An enquiry has been initiated in a case where a Muslim woman, Raheema Bi of Ranga Reddy district killed herself by consuming poison after alleged harassment by police. A sub-inspector has already been suspended in this matter, said Khan. In another case, the commission directed the district collector of Karimnagar and chief engineer of Sri Ram Sagar Project to provide employment to three men from minority communities within 15 days under the displaced persons of lower Manair dam reservoir job scheme. These men alleged they were denied employment under BC-E reservations despite belonging to the eligible category. …  (New Indian Express 3/5/15)

53. Protest against atrocities with minorities in Sindh (7)

AMRITSAR: Pakistani Hindu’s held a protest at Karachi on Wednesday alleging police inaction against rape, forced conversion of Hindu girls, extortion from minorities and most recently case of triple murder of a Hindu family. “On April 4th, three members of Hindu community were killed in Nagarparkar, Sindh but no action has been taken against the perpetrators of crime” said Chander Kumar, CEO, Progressive Human Foundation (PHF), Karachi, Pakistan while talking to TOI on Wednesday evening. He said in past there had been several cases of rape and forced conversion of girls from minority communities but rued that no action had been taken against the culprits leaving minority community in fears . “Parents and relatives of these victims tried to raise their voice but to no avail” he said. In recent past Neto Kolhi his wife Pooni Kohli and grandson Parsoo Kolhi were killed in cold blood he informed . “We had identified the culprits and informed about them to police but to utter surprise police is trying to hush up the case despite their arrest” he said. Advocate Haman Das Kolhi who led Wednesday’s protest said that it had been more than one month since the culprits in triple murder case at Nagarparkar were arrested but police officials were not presenting them in the court . “It is clear that government has no intentions to give justice to minorities , the culprits go free after greasing palms of the policemen” he alleged. While condemning the incidents violence and intimidation of Hindus, Christians and Sikh community in Karachi he said law enforcing agencies and government should take action against culprits to infuse a sense of security among minority communities of Pakistan. . “Due to inaction against culprits, the people’s anger have spilled on roads” he said. Quoting, Bhomon Kolhi, brother of deceased Neto Kolhi in triple murder case , Chander Kumar said that “We have been protesting against atrocities on minorities in Hyderabad, Mirpur Khas, Badin Mithi and Nagarparkar but government have taken no notice so far”.Comrade Hero, general secretary, PHF said that in recent past , in Badin some people from majority community asked Hindus to vacate their houses and when the resisted they tried to demolish the graveyard of Hindus and threatened them to occupy their houses in future. (Times of India 6/5/15)

54. Dissent is being stifled, minorities feel insecure: Sonia (7)

NEW DELHI: Mounting yet another attack on Modi government, Congress President Sonia Gandhi today said dissent is being stifled and minorities feel increasingly insecure. Gandhi was speaking at a ceremony to honour eminent Editor Vinod Mehta, who passed away recently, with G K Reddy Memorial National award. The award was received by Mehta’s wife Sumita. Addressing the gathering, which included former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Congress President said, “In the present climate when dissent is being stifled, when the minorities feel increasingly insecure, when the secular fabric of our society is threatened, when bigotry and obscurantism seem to flourish unchecked, we miss Vinod Mehta’s works.” Gandhi has accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of running a government “of some people, by one person, for a select few”.Lauding Mehta’s integrity, honesty and commitment to values, she said, “He has never failed to raise his voice against religious intolerance, communal violence and social injustice.” Calling Mehta a passionate upholder of our “democratic and secular ideas”, the Congress President said that he was also a courageous crusader of the causes that he believed were just and a proud and “eloquent advocate of our pluralistic society”.She also quoted the late Editor as saying that politicians and journalists can never be friends and they were naturally adversaries. “But he would have been surprised that how many of us across the political spectrum looked to VM as a friend,” she said. Gandhi said that Mehta had an instinctive understanding of what the freedom of the press meant “to our country, that it was a cornerstone of our democracy and without this freedom, all our other liberties would be threatened”.The award carries a cheque of Rs 5 lakh, a gold medal and citation. Mehta, a distinguished Editor and commentator who had successfully launched a number of newspapers and magazines, passed away in New Delhi on March 8 after prolonged illness. He was 73. Mehta, who was Editorial Chairman of ‘Outlook’ magazine which he had founded, also wrote the best selling autobiography ‘Lucknow Boy’ in 2011. Born in Rawalpindi (now in Pakistan) in 1942, Mehta was known for his bold journalism. (Times of India 9/5/15)

55. UN urges protection of religious minorities in Pakistan (7)

United Nations: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the terrorist attack that killed 45 people in Pakistan and called for effective protection of religious minorities in the country, a UN spokesperson said. The attack occurred on a bus in Karachi, Pakistan, reportedly killing at least 45 members of the Ismaili community and injuring several others, Xinhua quoted UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric as saying. The secretary general called on the government of Pakistan to take all necessary measures to bring to justice the perpetrators of “this despicable act”, Dujarric said. “Taking note that a number of attacks against the Shia and Christian minorities have taken place in the recent past in Pakistan, the secretary general urges the government of Pakistan to take swift measures aimed at effective protection of religious minorities in the country,” Dujarric said. “Creating a climate of tolerance, understanding and respect will greatly contribute to achieving this objective,” Dujarric added. Pakistan, as a responsible member of the international community, must uphold its obligations and commitments towards protecting its citizens, including all minorities, Ban said. The UN chief sent his heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and to the government and people of Pakistan. He also wished those injured in the attack a speedy recovery. (Business Standard 13/5/15)

56. ‘We have given preferential treatment to minorities’ (7)

Bengaluru: Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Wednesday admitted that the government has given preferential treatment to AHINDA (Kannada acronym for minorities, backward classes and Dalits) communities to ensure social security to them. Mr. Siddaramaiah, who completed two years in office on Wednesday, said “preferential treatment is given to AHINDA to ensure social justice to the poor by focussing more on social welfare schemes.” The Chief Minister, who had held several AHINDA conventions before joining the Congress in 2006, said under the Constitution, it is the responsibility of the State government to safeguard the interests of the poor belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Tribes, and the minority communities. Speaking at ‘Meet the Press’ organised by the Press Club of Bangalore and Bangalore Reporters’ Guild, he dismissed the charge that the government had protected interests of only the AHINDA communities.Listing out achievements, he said 21 lakh farmers had availed themselves of interest-free crop loans from cooperatives last year; as many as 1.08 crore BPL families got subsidised rations; and drip irrigation subsidy. Unlike the previous BJP government, the Congress government headed by him remained “scandal-free”, he said. “I am satisfied with the performance of my government so far. We are not after publicity of welfare schemes,” he said. (The Hindu 14/5/15)

57. Meet held on 15-point programme for minorities (7)

VISAKHAPATNAM: The additional joint collector D Venkata Reddy on Monday convened a meet with district officials on the various programmes that would be taken up by the Minority Welfare Board under the 15-point programme. The additional joint collector said a full-fledged census survey must be conducted to arrive at an accurate figure of the number of minorities in the district. He also said that priority must be given to minorities who have complained against alleged land grabbing in any part of the district. Regarding the other key issues, the additional joint collector called for development of a composite plan of action for the upkeep of madrasas, allotment of bank loans to the needy amongst minorities, promotion of self-employment schemes and inclusion of minorities in skill development programmes as well as allotment of pensions. On the other issues, Venkata Reddy said special housing schemes for minorities had been allocated, under which minorities would be provided subsidised loans of up to Rs 75,000 for housing purposes and in case of minorities who own land, a 100% subsidised loan of Rs 75,000 would be allotted. Responding to a petition that he had received about 334 acres of land owned by minorities in Nakkapalli mandal being occupied by land grabbers, the additional joint collector immediately ordered an enquiry into the matter and told the tehsildar to file a report on the issue at the earliest. Venkata Reddy also said that petitions concerning special monthly pensions to maulas and imams would also be considered and reported to the government for approval. Regarding the Rs 50,000 expense grant for minority weddings, the additional joint collector said the sum would be deposited in less than 60 days after the wedding into the bride’s account. Speaking on the need to conduct a special survey to determine the number of minorities in the district, Venkata Reddy said this was to ensure that the funds for the welfare scheme would be utilised in a fair and transparent manner for the benefit of minorities alone. (Times of India 19/5/15)

58. MBA graduate allegedly denied job for being Muslim.. (7)

Khan claimed on his Facebook page that he was denied a job due to his faith. He said to ANI, “The company should change their ideology and shouldn’t discriminate candidates on basis of religion, or else the nation won’t progress.” Zeeshan Khan, a management graduate was allegedly denied a job because he is a Muslim. The situation has led him to move the National Commission for Minorities. The Commission has said it will conduct an inquiry if there is any truth in the matter. Khan had applied at Hare Krishna Exports Pvt. Ltd, a Mumbai based company. According to the email accessed by ANI, the reply he got from the company reads, “Thanks for your application. We regret to inform you that we hire only non-Muslim candidates.” The diamond export conglomerate has offices all around the world. (DNA 21/5/15)

59. ‘Secular’ job fair to counter discrimination (7)

MUMBAI: The discrimination against management graduate Zeeshan Khan by a diamond exporting firm, which refused to hire him because of his religion, continues to rankle the city. However, many in the community are responding constructively to the unhappy episode. While Indian Union Muslim League city president Parvez S Lakdawala has promised jobs to 10 non-Muslims in his firm and those of his other Muslim friends, corporator Mohsin Haider held a “secular” job fair in Andheri on Saturday. India’s integrity lies in its pluralism while discrimination will tear apart the country’s secular fabric. Ten non-Muslim aspirants will be immediately employed in my company and those owned by many Muslims in the city. It is to awaken the conscience of those companies and firms who practice absurd and divisive discrimination in recruitment,” said Lakdawala. He said his party has decided not to protest on the streets against the injustice to Khan, but denounce it through “Gandhigiri.” “Gandhiji taught us to remain non-violent even in extreme provocation. Religion has never been and should never be the criteria for recruitment. The decision to place 10 non-Muslims in Muslim-owned firms is a symbolic protest,” said Lakdawala, a Bandra-based builder. Haider, who also heads an NGO, Khidmat Organisation, along with Association of Muslim Professionals held an annual job fair in Andheri on Saturday. “After we heard of the injustice to Zeeshan, we called our festival ‘secular’ though it has always been so. Around 25 companies participated in the fair and gave jobs to 5,000 candidates,” said Haider. AMP’s president, Amir Idrisi, while denouncing the diamond firm’s brazen discrimination, called upon Muslim youths to work harder and become indispensable to a globalised economy. (Times of India 24/5/15)

60. HC notices to Rajasthan govt over surya namaskar (7)

JAIPUR: The Rajasthan High Court on Monday issued notices to the state education department on the issue of compulsory ‘surya namaskar’ introduced in schools by the Raje government. The division bench of Justice Ajit Singh and J K Ranka issued notices on a petition by Ajmat – a- Rasool Foundation challenging the diktat of the education department of making surya namaskar, yoga, singing Vande Mataram compulsory in schools during the assembly. Earlier, the single bench of Justice Mohammad Rafiqe had transferred the petition to a double bench. The petition said the education department through a notification on February 15 this year had made yoga and Vande Mataram compulsory in all schools in the state. Accordingly the 20 minutes assembly time has been divided into three segments. Under which five minutes have been allotted for singing the national anthem and national song Vande Mataram, 10 minutes have been allotted for yoga, including surya namaskar and the last five minutes for news in Hindi and English. The petition said making the singing of Vande Mataram and making surya namaskar compulsory in schools is untenable in a secular country like India with its diversity of religious faith and believes. It militates against the tenants of some religions and needs to be struck down.The notice is returnable by May 28. (Times of India 26/5/15)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

 

61. Those who ‘stall’ housing for Muslims have real-estate links (7)

Vadodara: Leaders of both the BJP and Congress, including Vadodara Mayor Bharat Shah, are among those with substantial real-estate stakes in the city’s two locations — Sayajipura and Kalali — which have been seeing protests over a proposal to relocate Muslim slumdwellers there. Some of these leaders were part of the negotiations to get Muslim families to opt out of the relocation. Muslim families of Kalyannagar slums failed to get plots in Sayajipura during two draw of lots, held in March and April. On April 30, the Standing Committee of the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) cleared a proposal in principle to construct homes for the Muslim evacuees of Kalyannagar in Muslim-dominated Tandalja neighbourhood. VMC officials cited “law and order” as the reason, pointing to protests by residents. Around 320 Muslim families from Kalyannagar slums were to be moved to Sayajipura into houses built for them under the Basic Services to Urban Poor (BSUP) scheme of JNNURM. The VMC had in October 2014 given a sworn affidavit to the Gujarat High Court to relocate evacuees from Kalyannagar and Kamatipura slums to Kalali. But the VMC retracted from the Kalali promise and, in March, Mayor Shah suspended a housing draw at Sayajipura, thereby stalling the move to shift Muslim evacuees to the area from Kalyannagar slums. On April 8, he skipped a second draw of lots, which selected 320 of the 481 Muslim families of Kalyannagar slums to be moved to Sayajipura. None of them has got allotment letters till date. Kalpesh Shah, the elder son of the BJP Mayor, is a partner in Earth Realty Group that has a high-end residential project as well as flats and a commercial shopping complex coming up within 500 metres of both Sayajipura and Kalali. Former mayor Shabdsharan Brahmbhatt of the BJP, who is a sitting corporator from Tandalja, has real-estate interests in Kalali along with his brother. BJP MLAs Yogesh Patel (Manjalpur) and Rajendra Trivedi (Raopura), who were involved in negotiations with representatives of Muslim families, have real-estate interests close to the JNNURM BSUP projects. Another BJP MLA, Manisha Vakil, in whose constituency Sayajipura falls, had approached Chief Minister Anandiben Patel at the insistence of residents against Muslim relocation. Also with real-estate interests in the area is the Congress’s Chandrakant Shrivastav, whose Yamuna Mills is located about 2 km from the relocation site identified for Muslim families in Sayajipura. The son of BJP corporator Dadu Gadhvi, who first submitted a memorandum to the VMC Standing Committee in March on behalf of Sayajipura residential colonies against the Muslim families, has two residential projects under development within 2 km. The brother of another BJP corporator, Ketan Brahmbhatt, is a partner with him in the projects… (Indian express 3/5/15)

62. Minorities panel to probe harassment of Muslim inmates’ in Bijnor jail (7)

Lucknow: Taking cognizance of reports about alleged assault on some Muslim prisoners inside Bijnor district jail preventing them from offering Namaz, the Uttar Pradesh Minorities Commission has decided to send a fact finding team to the district. Meanwhile, district administration claimed that Furqan, who is lodged in jail on charges of helping six SIMI men who escaped after an explosion in Bijnor last year, is fabricating such allegations and there is no truth behind it. On the other hand, the Commission claims that it had sent a letter to the district administration seeking report into the allegations. “We had sent a letter to District Magistrate of Bijnor seeking details of the incident within a week, but there has been no response yet,” Shafi Azmi, member and spokesperson of the Commission, told The Indian Express. He said the Commission is sending a fact finding team to Bijnor next week for probing into the matter. The Commission took cognizance of reports in local newspapers carried last month, which alleged that several Muslim prisoners had informed their relatives who further conveyed to some local clerics that they were being harassed by the jail staff and some prisoners. They alleged that on April 9, there was an attempt to stop them from offering namaz. They also claimed that they face objectionable comments on their religion and go through physical assaults for being Muslims. The commission sent a letter to Bijnor DM seeking report over the alleged incident by April 20. “As no reply came, we called up Bijnor DM and apprised him about the matter. He assured us that the matter will be probed. Since then we are awaiting for a reply,” Azmi claimed. A group of local clerics also met the DM and alleged that when Muslim inmates offer namaz, the TV is switched on in full volume and they are harassed if they raise voice in this regard. “We got a primary inquiry conducted into the allegations and it appeared true so we sent the notice to the DM,” Azmi said. When inquired, Bijnor DM Bhupendra S Choudhary said, an inquiry has been conducted by the ADM (administration). He denied about the harassment to Muslim prisoners on religious grounds. “Only one particular prisoner has some problem, rest everything is normal,” he said. ADM (administration) Vinod Kumar, who conducted the inquiry, too, said that only one prisoner is spoiling the atmosphere. “Furqan, who is lodged in jail for allegedly providing shelter and logistic help to the SIMI men, spreads rumours like this to vitiate the atmosphere. Other prisoners are afraid of him. There is no tension in jail and no issue of stopping anyone from offering namaz,” he added. (Indian Express 5/5/15)

63. Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut gets EC notice for his remarks on Muslims (7)

NEW DELHI: The Election Commission on Thursday issued a show-cause notice to Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut for his April 12 remark that Muslims should be stripped of voting rights. The poll panel said his comment, made in an editorial published in Shiv Sena’s mouthpiece Saamna, prima facie violated the model code of conduct in force then for the by-poll in Vandre East and Tasgaon Kavathe Mahankali assembly constituencies of Maharashtra. Raut has been asked to file his reply to the show-cause notice by 1 pm on May 11. According to the commission, his remark suggesting that Muslims should be disenfranchised prima facie violated sub para (1) of Para 1 of the poll code, which restrains party leaders and candidates from making communal appeals and statements that can create mutual hatred, and sub-para 4 of Para 1, which debars “corrupt practices” and offences under the election law. The EC notice cited Section 125 of the Representation of the People Act, which recognises promoting enmity between classes in connecting with an election as an electoral offence, as well as Section 153A of the IPC (creating communal hatred). The EC action follows a complaint filed by Shakeel Qureshi of Pune on April 16, in which he demanded that the recognition of Shiv Sena as a state party be cancelled. According to a report sent to the EC by the Maharashtra chief electoral officer on April 20, Raut, in the April 12 editorial, had said: “The day Muslims’ voting rights are taken away, the mask of all secularists will fall off. That will reveal (Asaduddin) Owaisi’s sensitivity towards Muslims destitution and Muslims themselves should take lead in this. This decision should not be political but a national decision”. (Times of India 8/5/14)

64. Gunmen on bikes attack bus in Karachi, kill 43 Shia Muslims (7)

KARACHI: Gunmen on motorcycles killed at least 43 people from minority Shia Ismaili community in an attack on a bus in Pakistan’s southern city of Karachi on Wednesday, police officials said. “Six armed men on motorcycles opened fire on a bus at Safoora Chorangi, Gulistan-e-Johar area of Karachi, killing at least 43 passengers,” a police official said. Television channels carried pictures of a pink bus covered in bullet holes and lines of waiting ambulances. The death toll could further rise as about 20 others are seriously injured. The injured and dead were shifted to various hospitals by rescue workers. The gunmen stopped the overloaded bus, entered inside it and open fire indiscriminately, the police said. Taliban have claimed responsibility of the attack. Police and Rangers arrived at the scene and started manhunt. More than 60 people were on the board the bus which was carrying the people of Ismaili community from Al-Azhar Garden area of the city to their place of worship near Aysha Manzil, police said. Ismaili community is a branch of Shia Muslims and they are considered very peaceful people. The attack came a day after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited Kabul and declared that enemies of Afghanistan are also enemies of Pakistan. Pakistan has seen a rise in sectarian violence in recent years particularly against minority Shias who represent around 20 per cent of the country’s Muslim population. Taliban splinter groups have bombed several mosques belonging to religious minorities this year. In March, suicide bombings outside two churches in Lahore killed 14 people and wounded nearly 80. Days later, a bomb after Friday prayers wounded 12 people outside a minority Bohra mosque in Karachi. In February, 20 people were killed in an attack on a Shia mosque in the northeastern city of Peshawar, and 60 were killed in a January attack on a Shia mosque in the southern province of Sindh. (Times of India 13/5/15)

65. Road signs with Muslim names defaced in Delhi, Hindu outfit owns responsibility (7)

New Delhi: Signages of roads named after Muslim personalities such as Emperor Akbar and Firozshah, among others, were found defaced late Wednesday. The names have been blackened and posters of right-wing group — Shiv Sena Hindustan — were pasted on them. The posters read, ‘Bharat mein Islamikaran manzoor nahi. Safar mein mushkilen aaye himmat aur badti hai. Koi agar raasta roke toh zaroorat aur bhardti hai. Jai Hind! Jai Bharat! (Islamisation will not be tolerated in India. Our courage only grows when our journey meets difficulties. Our need only grows when our path meets with obstacles)’. The names of Rajinder Singh (national president), Charan Singh (national general secretary), Dinesh Kumar (national secretary) and Vinay Sonkar (secretary) of Shiv Sena Hindu-stan were also on the poster. Outfit president Rajinder Singh said around 17 members, in three teams, carried out the “operation” between 11 pm and 1 am on the intervening night of May 13-14. Asked if the group feared any police action for the defacement, Rajinder said, “Let them file a complaint. If the law of the land finds us guilty, we are ready to face the punishment that violating the law entails. We have not caused any real damage. It was a symbolic protest. We had written to former PM Manmohan Singh a couple of times, protesting against the use of Muslim names for roads in a country called Hindustan. All Hindus look up to a leader like our Prime Minister Narendra Modi. We are hopeful that he will pay some heed to our concerns.’ Sonkar said his organisation was a splinter group of the Shiv Sena. “We parted ways with the Shiv Sena because it was too limited to Maharashtra and its activities never ventured beyond the state. We have built our base in around 12 states, including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Delhi. Our Delhi unit has around 1,300 members and we often meet to carry out our nationalist agenda,” he said. “Senior leaders held a meeting on Wednesday and discussed several of our issues, including the plan to deface signages of roads named after Muslims. Our group members carried out the task. We have a problem with roads in the city not being named after our leaders like Subhash Chandra Bose and others who fought for Independence. The names of unpatriotic people adorn our pathways,” Sonkar said. The area falls under the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) and the civic body has lodged a police complaint. “We have already filed a complaint and an FIR is being registered in the case. We are in the process of replacing the vandalised boards,”NDMC spokesperson Jagjiwan Bakshi said…. (Indian Express 15/5/15)

66. Muslim body slams communal elements for instilling fear among minorities (7)

NEW DELHI: One of India’s largest Muslim organizations on Saturday said the community would fight efforts by communal forces to create fear among the minorities even as it urged the Centre and states to firmly deal with such elements. Reading out the declaration of its general session held at Ramlila Maidan, Jamiat Ulema-I-Hind chief Maulana Arshad Madani said, “The community that could fight against the British who believed sun never sets in their empire, will not cow down in fear of something that small groups are trying to create within the country.” He, however, said the community won’t overreact even when provoked. Amid huge applause, Madani said lakhs of Muslims like him are Indians “by choice and not by chance”. He said there was a choice before Muslims to shift to Pakistan, but most of them stayed back and fought for the country’s independence. Madani said the communal elements, both in government and outside, have carried out campaigns as if “our religion, culture, constitution and identity, nothing is safe”. The declaration said the government is fully aware of such anti-Muslim tirade, but has maintained “studied silence”.”It puts a question mark on the credibility of its popular slogan ‘sabka saath sabka vikas’. We want the government to respond in action and not in words,” Madani said. Taking potshots at Modi administration on issues of communal incidents, Madani said the government’s failure is being mocked upon and country’s dignity is tarnished when foreign guests sermonize the government, a reference to Barack Obama’s address at a town hall meeting in Delhi. However, he was quick to add that such foreign guests have no right to teach lesions of secularism to India as “they have killed thousands of innocents” in other parts of the world. Setting the larger goal for thousands of volunteers who had gathered at the outfit’s 32nd general session, the Muslim leader said for the next 20 years each member of the community must ensure that no child is deprived of education and training. (Times of India 17/5/15)

67. Bihar Muslims donate land for world’s largest Hindu temple (7)

PATNA: Muslims in Bihar, in a stellar demonstration of communal harmony, have donated land to help build the world’s largest Hindu temple which will have the capacity to seat a staggering 20,000 people. “Muslims have not only donated land, they have also provided land at a nominal rate for construction of the world’s largest Hindu temple. Without help of Muslims, it would have been difficult realise this dream project,” Acharya Kishore Kunal, secretary of the Patna-based cash-rich Mahavir Mandir Trust that is undertaking the ambitious project, told IANS. Kunal, a former Indian Police Service officer, said that Muslims have come forward to ensure that the temple comes up soon. The construction of the temple will commence in June at Janki Nagar near Kesaria in East Champaran district, about 150 km from here. It will cost over R.500 crore. “It is usual for Hindus to donate land for temple, but it is unusual for Muslims to donate land for the construction of temple,” he said and added that Muslims should be lauded for joining hands with Hindus to donate land for a pious cause. Kunal said that more than three dozen Muslim families have their land in the middle of the proposed location of the temple and some Muslims families have land along the main road that connects to the project site. “Some Muslims donated lands and others helped and supported us to purchase their land for the temple. If Muslims had not come forward, the temple project was sure to have got delayed…” He said that Mahavir Mandir Trust has obtained 200 acres of land. “Hindus and Muslims have donated about 50 acres of land and the remaining has been purchased.” Earlier, some Muslims had helped build a Hindu temple dedicated to Goddess Durga in Gaya district, another temple was dedicated to God Shiva in Begusarai district and in Sitamarhi district. Mumbai-based Valecha Construction Company will construct the temple, which will be 2,500 feet long, 1,296 feet wide and 379 feet high. “The temple will be earthquake proof (since it) is near the Nepal border,” Kunal said. Gurgaon based Radheyshyam Sharma, director of Indgenious Studio Pvt Ltd, will look after the architectural aspects. He said the Virat Ramayan Mandir will be taller than the world famous 12th century Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia, which is 215 feet high. The complex will comprise 18 temples with high spires and its Shiv temple would have the largest Shivling in the world, another distinction. He said the temple would have a seating capacity of 20,000 people in the hall facing the main temple having the idols of Ram, Sita, Luv and Kush. According to him, no temple in the world has such a huge seating capacity. He said the temple was to be named “Virat Angkor Wat Ram Mandir”, but later its name was changed following objections by people in Cambodia. Angkor Wat was built during king Suryavarman’s rule and is today a Unesco World Heritage site. (First Post 20/5/15)

68. Cops file case after Mumbai firm tells job-seeker ‘we hire only non-Muslims (7)

MUMBAI: A Mumbai-based diamond jewellery export firm faces action for religious discrimination after it declined to entertain the job application of a youth on the grounds that he was a Muslim. The job-seeker, Zeshan Ali Khan, a business management graduate from Mumbai, had applied for a position in Hari Krishna Exports Pvt Ltd, a leading exporter of diamond jewellery, as marketing executive but was shocked when he received the response from the firm stating that it hires only “non-Muslim candidates.” Mumbai Police have lodged a case against the firm on the youth’s complaint. “As per the law, there is punishment of 3 years. After investigation it will be revealed who is actually related to offence,” police inspector Suryakant Jagdale said. After the rejection letter sparked a controversy, the firm said it was an error on the part of one of its staff and it never practised religious discrimination. “I just completed my final semester exams of MBA last week and like other classmates have been looking for a job. I came across an update regarding a recruitment drive undertaken by leading diamond and jewellery exporter and thought it would be a great start for my career,” Khan said. “I along with my two classmates applied for the job. I forwarded them my resume on 19th May, 2015 at 5.45pm and exactly 15 minutes later I got a reply from the HR in charge of the firm that my application has been rejected because the company only hires non-Muslims,” Khan added. “At a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi is visiting foreign countries and inviting them for investment and pushing ahead the ‘Make in India’ campaign, the leading export houses are rejecting candidates for their religion,” he said. A Mumbai diamond jewellery export firm rejection letter to a Muslim job applicant. (Photo: ANI/Twitter) In its reply to Khan, the company said, “We regret to inform you that we hire only non-Muslim candidates.” Khan later narrated his experience on a social networking site, following which and received a ‘regret’ mail from the company after his post generated sharp reactions. “As a company, we would like to reiterate that there is an error done by one of the newly joined HR trainees. Company functions without being biased with any caste, religion and gender,” a company representative said in a posting on Facebook. “It was a blunder and personal mess created by one of our trainees who has no decision making power. We have 61 employees in our office here including one Muslim in the HR team,” Hari Krishna Exports Private Ltd said in the mail. Taking note of the incident, activist Shehzad Poonawalla wrote to the National Commission for Minorities urging it to look into the issue. In response, Naseem Ahmed, Chairman of the NMC said, “We have received the petition. If there is any truth in this, it is unfortunate. An inquiry shall be conducted,” he said. (Times of India 21/5/15)

69. ‘Indian Muslims are nationalists who oppose terror’ (7)

LUCKNOW: Contending that terrorism should not be associated with any particular religion, home minister Rajnath Singh today said Muslims in India are nationalists who have always opposed terrorist elements. He lauded India’s Muslims for not allowing fundamentalist groups like ISIS to influence them. Responding to questions here after an event, he said terrorism should not be associated with a particular religion. “Muslims in India are nationalists. They have always opposed such (terror) elements. They have opposed and demoralised them,” the Union home minister said. He said several countries in the world are facing the menace of terrorism and they should fight unitedly against it. To a question regarding naxalism, Singh said, “though I don’t believe in the figures, if one focusses on last 10 to 15 years, then there has been a decline of 20 per cent to 25 per cent in the last one year.” With regard to questions being raised by opposition over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s foreign visits, Singh said all his predecessors have travelled abroad but the “warm welcome” accorded to Modi showed that the country’s goodwill and prestige is rising. “The questions being raised over PM’s foreign visits are unfortunate. All PMs including Manmohan Singh have undertaken foreign visits. The warm welcome being accorded to PM Modi is evidence that the country’s goodwill and prestige is rising. The world has started taking India seriously,” Singh said on the sidelines of a programme organised by Mahamana Madan Mohan Malviya Mission. Earlier, addressing the function, he said great personalities should not be associated with any particular party and Mahamana should have been conferred with Bharat Ratna long back for the contribution he made. By establishing Banaras Hindu University, Mahamana made an important contribution in linking traditional knowledge with modern science, he said. He also discussed about personality and contribution of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. In another programme when asked about Mumbai serial blast mastermind Dawood Ibrahim, Singh said he had already made a statement in Parliament. (Times of India 24/5/15)

70. No flat for her in Mumbai because she is Muslim (7)

MUMBAI: Growing up in Gujarat post-2002 riots exposed her to religious prejudice and forced ghettoisation. So when Misbah Quadri moved to Mumbai, she hoped the city, known for its cosmopolitan culture, would treat her better. However, the 25-year-old communications professional is today knocking on the doors of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) after she was denied a flat in the city just because she is a Muslim. After a hard search, Ms. Quadri found a tidy 3-BHK apartment at Sanghvi Heights in Wadala. Her new flatmates — two working women, in their early twenties and Hindu — found her on Facebook. However, a day before Ms. Quadri was to shift, the apartment’s broker warned that the housing society did not accept Muslim tenants. Even if something worked out, the broker told her, she would have to sign a “no-objection certificate” declaring that if she faced any harassment from her neighbours because of her religion, the builder, the owner and the broker “would not be legally responsible.” She was also asked to submit her resume. Though she disagreed with the terms, she moved in because the notice period at her previous flat expired and her flatmates supported her and she hoped for a compromise later. But within a week, the agent contacted her again. “He threatened to call the cops and throw me out of the flat. It got very ugly.” When she approached the representative of the builder, she was told that it was “a policy” of the company not to have Muslim tenants. She was then served an ultimatum to vacate the house. Ultimately, she was forced to leave the flat. Incidentally, the other women had to pay a price for sheltering a Muslim; they have vacated the house unwillingly. (The Hindu 27/5/15)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

 

71. Catholic Church never works for conversions: Syro Malabar Major Arch Bishop (7)

MANGALURU: The Catholic church never works for conversions. There are people who misunderstand the mission of Christians, especially of the Catholic church, said Cardinal Mar George Alenchery, the major archbishop of Syro Malabar Church. The major archbishop, who is on a pastoral visit to the diocese of Belthangady till May 5, said, “Conversion is a personal response of a person to God. Nobody can force or coerce a person. The church witnesses the charity of Christ and proclaims Christian values—truth, justice, love and harmony—to others. This attracts people. It is not something which we create, it is something they (people) request. “Evangelization is not converting people. Actually conversion is not a business of a pastor or missionary. Conversion happens in the mind of a person while listening to the word of God. Ghar Wapsi is too simple a reaction to a complex problem,” he added. The archbishop said his pastoral visit is to maintain a contact with the clergy, laity and an occasion to rejuvenate the energies of those engaged in the work of church. “A pastoral visit helps the bishop to evaluate the effectiveness of the structures and agencies designed for pastoral services, take account of the circumstances and difficulties and determine more accurately the priorities,” he said adding this was the 16th year of the establishment of Belthangady as a diocese. The archbishop visited St Alphonsa Forane Church, Kankanady, where he was met Mangalore diocese bishop Aloysius Paul D’Souza, bishop of Belthangady Mar Lawrence Mukkuzhy and vicar general Fr Joseph Valiaparambil among others. A religious harmony meet was also held on Bishop’s House Campus in Belthangady on Friday. Religious leaders Sri Kshetra Dharmastala dharmadhikari D Veerendra Heggade, Kukke Sri Narasimha Mutt seer Sri Vidyaprasanna Thirtha Swamiji, Maulana Abdul Aziz, Union minister for law and justice D V Sadananda Gowda, ministers B Ramanath Rai, Vinaykumar Sorake, U T Khader and MP Nalin Kumar Kateel were present. (Times of India 1/5/15)

72. 21-year-old held for attacking church (7)

Mumbai: A 21-year-old man has been arrested for allegedly punching and breaking a glass case containing a statue of Saint Anthony at the Saint Anthony’s Roman Catholic Church in Bhandup (west). The incident occurred in the early hours of Monday. The accused, Paulson Yauvan Nadar, was allegedly in a drunken stupor when he broke the glass case. The police has however, ruled out any communal angle as the accused is a Christian and is not affiliated to any political party. The police is now looking for the accused’s brother who was with him during the incident. According to the case registered with the Bhandup police, the incident took place at around 1 am when Paulson punched the glass enclosure that held a statue of the revered St. Anthony holding baby Jesus Christ. Though Paulson’s brother Dinkaram was present when the case was broken, police is yet to ascertain his involvement in the incident. The church is located in the Tembhipada area of Bhandup (west) and the two brothers are residents of the same area. The complainant in the case, P. Selvaraj, said while speaking to The Asian Age, “They broke it at around 1 am and some of our parish members heard some noise, but did not bother to check at the time. However, at around 2.30 am, they discovered the broken glass and we approached the police. The miscreants only know how to harm people and destroy public life.” Soon, a huge crowd of Catholics in the area reached Bhandup police station and demanded immediate action. “We initiated investigations and soon certain eyewitnesses told us about Paulson being seen in the area in a heavily inebriated state. We picked him up and found his hand was bloodied with several cuts and gashes on the knuckles and fingers. He appeared to be heavily drunk and it could have been the influence of alcohol that made him punch the glass case. We have arrested him and his brother is being sought,” said senior police inspector Pratap Chavan of the Bhandup police station. The police has registered a case under sections 336 (act endangering life or personal safety), 295 (defiling place of worship), 288 (negligent conduct with buildings) 506-2 (punishment for criminal intimidation) of the IPC and relevant sections of the Maharashtra Police Act. (Asian Age 5/5/15)

73. Minority panel’s call (7)

KOCHI: The nearly 6.5-million Christians in the country had shown little interest in the welfare measures for the minorities envisaged in the Constitution and given shape by Parliament, member of the Kerala Minority Commission V.V. Joshi said here on Wednesday. He was cited in a press release from the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council (KCBC) as saying that the community should be alert to take advantage of the schemes meant for the uplift of the minorities. Mr. Joshi was addressing a meeting of the heads of Christian educational institutions at the Pastoral Orientation Centre, headquarters of the KCBC. (The Hindu 7/5/15)

74. Reporting only church attacks is half-truth: RSS (7)

NEW DELHI: Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh leader Krishna Gopal said on Saturday that reporting only attacks on churches in Delhi is a “half-truth” and amounts to lying and cheating the country. According to him, it also puts national prestige and honour in jeopardy. This is the first RSS reaction since the U.S. commission on inter-religious freedom released its report last week placing India amid more than 30 countries that meet a “systematic, ongoing, and egregious” standard for failing to protect religious freedoms. Mr. Gopal is a sahsarkaryavah — the number three position in the Sangh hierarchy — and the RSS official designated to liaise with the Bharatiya Janata Party and, effectively, the government. Flagging concern over “Hindu nationalist” groups for programmes of forced conversion, ghar wapsi (re-conversion to Hinduism), attacks on churches and “hate campaigns” against Muslim minorities, the U.S. commission retained India’s status as a “Tier 2 Country of concern” on religious freedom. Ghar wapsi is one of the Sangh’s key, professed goals. “The media creates a false impression on church attacks. Only four churches were attacked in Delhi. During the same period, 458 temples and 25 masjids were also targets. You cover half the truth and show the other half, it becomes a lie that amounts to cheating the country,” he said at a function to honour journalists. The reporting on church attacks exposed India to unfair international criticism and hurt it, he charged. Mr. Gopal in his address earlier said media sensationalised rapes. “You read the papers and it seems no woman is safe, there are rapes on every street. We all know women are targeted, but the percentage of rapes in the U.S. and Europe is much higher,” he said. (The Hindu 10/5/15)

75. 146-year-old Xavier’s College to get its first non-Jesuit principal (7)

MUMBAI: For the first time in its 146-year history, Mumbai’s iconic St Xavier’s College will be headed by a non-priest: Agnelo Menezes, a hugely popular economics professor at the institution. The college, founded in 1869, has always had a Jesuit priest as principal. The development comes close on the heels of another Jesuit institution in Mumbai, the 152-year-old St Stanislaus High School in Bandra, deciding to appoint for the first time, a non-Jesuit principal—school supervisor Anna Correa—as its head from the new academic year. For Menezes (58), it hasn’t quite sunk in that he’ll be taking charge in a fortnight. The son of a clerk who doubled as a carpenter at St Paul’s Church in Dadar, Menezes grew up in the chawls of Parel in central Mumbai. He worked his way out of poverty through a single-minded focus on his education. Menezes will take over from Fr Frazer Mascarenhas, who served as principal for 12 years and during his stint supported social activists Binayak Sen and Arun Ferreira, charged with Naxalism, chastised his student, Shiv Sena’s Aditya Thackeray, after the Sena’s youth wing burning copies of a book that critiqued the party and before the 2014 general elections wrote to his students cautioning them against voting for a model of development that he claimed privileged growth over social justice. It was during his tenure that Xavier’s became Mumbai’s first autonomous college for arts and science. Autonomy allowed the college freedom to design its own syllabus and method of evaluation. Menezes hopes to build on the legacy he’s set to inherit. He wants to introduce a greater research orientation to all course content. “I want to convert one exam paper in each subject into a research project,” he adds. Menezes, better known as Aggie to students, is sad that as principal, teaching will now take a backseat for him. “Social involvement is my passion. The canteen will remain central to my activities,” adds Menezes, known to hold forth on an array of subjects in the college canteen. Menezes was too shy to enter the canteen while in his first year as a student at St Xavier’s. He credits poet and writer Eunice de Souza, a former teacher at the college, for having helped him develop self-confidence as a student. After graduating from the college, he returned to the institution as a teacher. After five years, he took a break and joined the Jesuit order. However, he could not deal with the religious rigour it entailed and chose, instead, to return to teaching. He spent 19 years as an economics professor in Dr T K Tope Night College for underprivileged students. “Many of my students were first-generation learners. Teaching them economics helped me hone my skills in the subject,” says Menezes. When he returned to St Xavier’s eight years ago, little did he imagine that he would, one day, head the institution. (Times of India 14/5/15)

76. Man attacks 2 Christian girls in Pakistan with acid (7)

Islamabad: A Pakistani man on Friday attacked two Christian girls with acid in the Quetta city, severely injuring them. “The incident took place at Kasi road. The man used a syringe, which sprayed acid on their faces,” a police official said. The girls identified as Rimsha Masih (27) and Hina Masih (15) were rushed to Bolan Medical Hospital for an emergency treatment. “The girls were admitted in the burns ward of hospital,” a doctor said. The police said the families have already nominated an accused Vijay Masih, a resident of Brewery Road in the case. Vijay Masih, also a Christian, was subsequently arrested and taken into custody. Quetta police officer Razzaq Cheema said the families of the two girls had accused a Christian man, Vijay Masih, for the crime. Mr Cheema said the incident appeared to be linked to some old enmity over a rejected marriage proposal but admitted in the past women had been sprayed with acid by religious fanatics. Last year, at least four women were sprayed with acid-filled syringes in different parts of Balochistan, while in 2011, four female Baloch school teachers were attacked with acid by unknown culprits. (Asian Age 16/5/15)

77. Mother Teresa to be canonised in September 2016 (7)

KOCHI: Mother Teresa would be canonised in September 2016, senior priest and spokesperson of the Syro Malabar Church Paul Thelekat said on Monday. Pope John Paul-II beatified Mother Teressa on October 192003. “As a Christian, I am eagerly waiting for the canonization of Mother Teresa. She has been a mother to millions of Indian especially the poorest of the poor and the underprivileged,” Thelekat said. “Christians and her followers will continue her work among the poor with a winged humanism which the Hindu fundamentalists failed to understand. Where have all the converts that the great missionaries of this age and especially Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, were supposed to have proselytized gone? If Christianity converts it is to that winged humanism which India needs so dearly,” added Thelekat. The Albanian born Teresa turned a nun and was given Indian citizenship in 1948. She founded the Missionaries of Charity and worked for the welfare of poor and the downtrodden. Mother Teressa breathed her last on September 5th 1997. (Times of India 18/5/15)

78. Asia’s largest Cross being built in Karachi (7)

Islamabad, May 22 (IANS) A 140-foot bullet-proof Cross is being built in Pakistan’s Karachi city, the biggest in Asia, a media report said on Friday. Pakistani Christian businessman Parvez Henry Gill is building the Cross at the Gora Qabristan Cemetery, Dawn online reported. Following a dream in which Gill claims to have seen God asking him to do something for the Christian community four years ago, he in due course decided to build Asia’s largest Cross in the 90 percent Muslim country. The nature of the structure was kept a secret until it became evident. When it did, 20 Muslims quit construction in disapproval, but one stayed. The Muslim worker, Mohammad Ali, says the Cross is a “work of God”. He is working 14 hours a day, seven days a week, mentioning Gill’s support of his family as a reason for his commitment, sources said. The Christian community comprises about one million of Karachi’s population of 21 million. Gill says the Cross will “be a symbol of God, and everybody who sees this will be worry-free”.The Gora Qabristan is a Christian cemetery that is frequently the target of miscreants. Inhabitants of an intruding settlement live in buildings covering old graves, and they often throw garbage, waste in the cemetary. (sify News 22/5/15)

 

79. Agra church attack accused gets bail (7)

Agra: Haider Ali, the man who was supposed to have desecrated Agra’s main church after a tiff with his Christian ‘girlfriend’, got bail after the court found that his name was not there in the FIR. Additional district and sessions judge Pankaj Kumar Singh said no one identified him in court and that all the police have is a ‘self confession’. Haider Ali’s defence lawyers Dinesh Aggarwal and Manoj Kumar Sharma told TOI, “The poor rickshaw puller was false accused. His only fault was that he was passing by the church when the incident occurred.” “In the court, neither police nor the complainant party produced any evidence against him. Taking cognizance of the FIR, which did not even mention Haider’s name, and the fact that he had no previous criminal record, the judge granted him bail on ​two ​​sureties​​​ of Rs 25,000 ​each,” the lawyers said. Public prosecutor Shishupal Yadav confirmed that Haider Ali had got bail on Wednesday. However, the 23-year-old Ali, who hails from Sultanpura area of Idagh colony, is still in the district jail, as he doesn’t have money to pay his bail bond. Miscreants had vandalized the popular St Mary’s Church in the cantonment area of the city on April 16, decapitating the statue of Baby Jesus and putting what resembled some sort of a leash around the neck of Mary. The desecration, which had come on the heels of a string of similar attacks on churches in New Delhi, had the 1 lakh-odd Christians in Agra up in arms, following which the state minority commission dashed off letters to the district magistrate and SSP. The commission sought an explanation from the officers even as police lodged an FIR against unidentified persons hours after the incident came to light. (Times of India 24/5/15)

80. Syrian church burgled in west Delhi (7)

NEW DELHI: Burglars broke into a Syrian catholic church in west Delhi’s Hari Nagar area and fled with cash kept in a donation box on Saturday night. The miscreants entered the premises by scaling the main gate. CCTV footage from the church has been recovered and is being determined to find out the identity of the miscreants. In the police complaint, Father Jose, the priest in-charge of the Chavara Elias Kuriskose Church in Anand Vihar of Hari Nagar, said that he visited the church around 9pm on Saturday and found the lock of the donation box kept below the a statue of Mother Mary in the courtyard smashed. Jose then informed the local police following which a team from Hari Nagar police station reached the spot. “The miscreants had broken the lock of the donation box and fled with the money. However, no religious structures have been damaged,” Jose said. A case under Section 380 IPC (theft) has been registered at Hari Nagar police station. A crime and forensic team was called in and evidence lifted from the site. Investigating officers said that the footages from CCTV cameras in the church have been recovered and sent for analysis. Cops said that one of the footages shows a few men in the premises and a team has been tasked to identify them. A sketch is also being prepared on the basis of the footage. Delhi Police was asked to deploy its men around churches and other minority institutions round the clock after a spate of thefts and burglaries led to an uproar. The beat constables in-charge of security in the area have also been asked to join the probe. Investigators suspect the role of local criminals and a few of them have also been rounded up for questioning. Officials said that the incident appears to be a case of burglary. The church, too, has ruled out the possibility of vandalism. (Times of India 25/5/15)

81. Goan Catholic BJP MLAs warm up for date with Shah (7)

PANAJI: BJP MLAs in other states of the country may not dare to pose tough questions to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national president Amit Shah, but the party MLAs in Goa, belonging to a minority community, have decided to raise the issues of ghar wapsi, attacks on churches and the beef ban in Maharashtra, when he visits Goa this week. Six of the 21 BJP MLAs in the Goa legislative assembly belong to the minority community, including deputy chief minister Francis D’Souza. A few MLAs from this community told TOI that there is fear and anxiety in the minds of minorities in the state regarding various anti-minority activities carried out all over India by Hindu right wing organizations, including the ghar wapsi mission run by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Shah will arrive on May 28 on a two-day visit to the state and will hold a meeting with local MLAs. Environment and forest minister Alina Saldanha has decided to mention all the issues that are affecting the image of the party and government. Speaking to TOI, Saldanha said, “Our government has done most of the development in the state.” “I will mention to the national party president that we should not allow the Congress to take advantage of the statements (regarding ghar wapsi, beef ban), which does not hold much water, but these statements are being made by individuals who are destroying the image of BJP in the state,” she added. Calangute MLA Michael Lobo said, “I will raise the issue of ghar wapsi, attacks on churches and beef ban in Maharashtra before Shah.” Lobo added that he would submit his memorandum in writting raising all the issues concerning the minorities and the public at large. Lobo said he would also raise the issues that the government is not taking MLAs into confidence before taking major decisions pertaining to the state. Curchorem BJP MLA Nilesh Cabral said he would apprise the party president about the fear and anxiety in the mind of minorities across India about the statements being made about ghar wapsi, attacks on churches etc. “The BJP government is not doing this, but some individuals are making statements and the party should make it clear that we are not part of all that is going on at the national level,” C abral added. Cabral said that there is nothing wrong in Goa but Shah should allay the fear from the minds of minorities in India. Aldona MLA Glen Ticlo said that he will also raise the same issues and tell him that this is not good for party in general. Some things happen in the neighbouring states and minorities in Goa are taken aback, though they are safe here. Ticlo said, “We will ask Shah to strongly condemn such statements which are not good for the people of India.” Attempts to contact deputy chief minister Francis D’ Souza and Vasco MLA Carlos Almeida failed. (Times of India 25/5/15)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

 

82. Migrants return to Karimnagar (13)

KARIMNAGAR: A total of 133 persons belonging to 56 families of Budugu Jangala community belonging to various parts of Karimnagar district and who migrated to Nepal to eke out a living have returned back to their native villages on Thursday. All the migrants have arrived in Gorakhpur Express train at Ramagundam railway station. The revenue authorities received them at the station and provided them food. They also distributed Rs. 1,000 and 50 kilograms of rice to each family. The district administration had also provided transportation to all the persons to reach their villages safely. A record 99 persons were belonging from Ramakrishna colony of Thimmapur mandal. Remaining people hailed from Ramadugu, Karimangar, Manakondur and Huzurabad mandals. (The Hindu 1/5/15)

83. Number of South Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia passes 200,000: UN (13)

New York: The number of South Sudanese refugees who have fled to Ethiopia since fighting broke out in South Sudan in mid-December 2013 has passed the 200,000 mark and more are expected amid fresh conflict across the border, the United Nations refugee agency reported on Friday. “We have to save lives. We are conducting registration of refugees with an increased number of staff at entry points,” said Alexander Kishara, who heads the activities of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Gambella, Ethiopia. “UNHCR is also working with partners to provide water, sanitation and shelter,” he added. Some 199,000 of the refugees are in western Ethiopia’s Gambella region while about 3,000 are in neighbouring Benishangul-Gumuz region. UNHCR field staff has observed a sharp increase in new South Sudanese arrivals from some 1,000 people a month in the first quarter of this year to more than 4,000 refugees registered in April. The UN refugee agency is currently registering more than 10,000 new arrivals at various entry points in the Gambella region. The new arrivals tell stories of “walking for several days through the bush with little or no food and water and carrying few or no belongings,” UNHCR has reported. The refugees are being relocated to the Pugnido Refugee Camp, which currently hosts nearly 60,000 South Sudanese refugees, and the Tierkidi Refugee Camp, which hosts about 50,000. These camps are being enlarged to cope with the new influx. The refugees are mainly women, children and older people. Most are fleeing from renewed fighting in Upper Nile and Jonglei states or as a precautionary measure. Some young men say they are fleeing from alleged forced conscription. A young mother told UNHCR that she fled her home when nine months pregnant and gave birth on the way. She crossed into Ethiopia with her family at the Pagak entry point, where more than 7,000 new arrivals are being registered before being transferred to camps. The arrivals since December 2013 add to a refugee population from southern Sudan of about 58,000, most of who have been staying in the country for more than 20 years. Ethiopia is Africa’s largest refugee-hosting nation with nearly 700,000 refugees from neighbouring countries, including South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea. The new arrivals, who are being provided with high energy biscuits and relief items such as mattresses and plastic sheets for shelter, say more people are on their way to Ethiopia. UNHCR is working with Ethiopia’s Government and other partners to provide humanitarian assistance. (New Kerala 2/5/15)

84. 50 killed as mortar shells hit refugee camp in Yemen (13)

Aden (Yemen) : At least 50 people, mostly women and children, were killed and 100 others wounded when random mortar shells struck a refugee camp in Yemen’s southern port city of Aden on Wednesday, a medical official and witnesses told Xinhua news agency. “Several mortar rounds and tank shells randomly struck a refugee camp in Tawahi district of Aden, while hundreds of people were gathering and preparing to escape from fierce battles by boats to other places,” the medical official of Aden’s health department said. According to the initial counts from local medical centres, 50 people were killed and more than 100 wounded in the incident. Witnesses near the scene confirmed to Xinhua by phone that “scores of civilians were either killed or wounded after being hit by random shells while they were trying to reach small boats to flee the fighting in Tawahi”.The fighting between the Shia Houthi group and tribal militia loyal to Yemen’s President Abdu-Rabbu Mansour Hadi escalated in Aden’s district of Tawahi, forcing thousands of people to flee their homes by boats to the Buraiga district in western Aden. So far, neither side has commented on the incident. Tens of thousands of civilians have fled their homes due to fierce street battles between the two sides since late March. The pro-Hadi militia covered by warplanes of the Saudi-led coalition forces on Wednesday failed to repel an attack by the Houthi gunmen who stormed and took control of the densely populated Tawahi in Aden, where key government facilities and headquarters of the Fourth Regional Military Command are located, according to government officials based in Aden. Several sources in the area said tens of thousands of residents who fled their homes in Tawahi, Mu’alla and Crater had sought refuge in neighbouring areas as the fierce battles between the two warring rivals and Saudi-led airstrikes were heavily intensified during the past three days. A security source confirmed to Xinhua that the Houthi gunmen killed Major General Ali Nasser Hadi, the commander of the Fourth Regional Military Command that announced loyalty to Hadi, during armed confrontations near the main entrance of the Tawahi district in Aden early on Wednesday. Experts said that the Houthi gunmen backed by some army units gained ground during the fighting against the pro-Hadi militia. They said that the pro-Houthi forces advanced from several directions toward Tawahi after they seized several towns around the area, prompting the Saudi-led coalition forces to launch intensified airstrikes on Houthi-controlled buildings in the area on Wednesday afternoon. Information on the number of casualties and extent of damages caused by the Saudi-led airstrikes remains unclear. Yemen’s southern provinces have witnessed an escalation of battles since late March when deadly armed clashes erupted between Houthi gunmen and tribal militia linked to President Hadi who is currently taking refuge in Saudi Arabia after fleeing his presidential palace in Aden. The deadly fighting still flares over the control of the main port city of Aden and about five other southern provinces amid sharp shortages of basic needs such as food, drinking water, medicine and fuel supplies. (Business Standard 6/5/15)

85. 24 more Myanmar nationals held in Tripura (13)

Agartala: Twentyfour more Mayanmarese, including six women and 12 children, have been arrested for illegally entering Tripura, police said on Sunday. Two Indians, including a resident of Kashmir, were also arrested along with the foreigners. “Acting on a tip off, 24 Myanmareses were arrested from a house at Meleghar in western Tripura on Saturday,” police officer Ashok Kumar Sinha said. The house owner, Kurban Ali, and a Kashmiri youth, Amir Hossain, were arrested too. With the arrest, the total number of Myanmarese held in the state in the past two years has risen to 125. Most entered India looking for work. “They told police that they are recognised as refugees by the UNHCR (United Nations refugee agency),” the official said. The Myanmar nationals would be presented before a court on Monday and then it would be decided whether they should be pushed back to Bangladesh or jailed. The Myanmarese told police that following the ethnic violence in Mayanmar, they left the country four years ago and worked in Kashmir. They came to Tripura in search of jobs, Sinha added. More than 50,000 Myanmarese have been living in different parts of neighbouring Mizoram, which borders Myanmar and Bangladesh, and working at shops and factories after obtaining work permits. Since the mid-1990s, over 225,000 Myanmar nationals, mostly Rohingya Muslims, have been living in the Teknaf region in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district. Tripura, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Assam share an 1,880 km border with Bangladesh, while Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh share a 1,640 km unfenced border with Myanmar. (Business Standard 10/5/15)

86. Around 6,000 Rohingya, Bangladeshi migrants stranded at sea (13)

JAKARTA: Hundreds of migrants abandoned at sea by smugglers in Southeast Asia have reached land and relative safety in the past two days. But an estimated 6,000 Bangladeshis and Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar remain trapped in crowded, wooden boats, migrant officials and activists said. With food and clean water running low, some could be in grave danger. One vessel that reached Indonesian waters early Monday, was stopped by the Navy and given food, water and directions to Malaysia. Worried that boats will start washing to shore with dead bodies, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, the United States and several other foreign governments and international organizations have held emergency meetings, but participants say there are no immediate plans to search for vessels in the busy Malacca Strait. One of the concerns is what to do with the Rohingya if a rescue is launched. The minority group is denied citizenship in Myanmar, and other countries have long worried that opening their doors to a few would result in an unstemmable flow of poor, uneducated migrants. “These are people in desperate straits,” said Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch in Bangkok, calling on governments to band together to help those still stranded at sea, some for two months or longer. “Time is not on their side.”The Rohingya, who are Muslim, have for decades suffered from state-sanctioned discrimination in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, which considers them illegal settlers from Bangladesh even though their families have lived there for generations. Attacks on members of the religious minority, numbering at around 1.3 million, have in the past three years left up to 280 people dead and forced 140,000 others from their homes. They now live under apartheid-like conditions in crowded camps just outside the Rakhine state capital, Sittwe, where they have little access to school or adequate health care. The conditions at home _ and lack of job opportunities _ have sparked one of the biggest exoduses of boat people since the Vietnam War. Chris Lewa, director of the non-profit Arakan Project, which has been monitoring boat departures and arrivals for more than a decade, estimates more than 100,000 men, women and children have boarded ships since mid-2012. Most are trying to reach Malaysia, but recent regional crackdowns on human trafficking networks have sent brokers and agents into hiding, making it impossible for migrants to disembark _ in some cases even after family members have paid $2,000 or more for their release, she said. Lewa believes up to 7,000 Rohingya and Bangaldeshis are still on small and large boats in the Malacca Strait and nearby international waters. Tightly confined, and with limited access to food and clean water, their health is deteriorating, she said, adding that dozens of deaths have been reported. “I’m very concerned about smugglers abandoning boatloads at sea,” said Lewa. In the last two days, 1,600 Rohingya have washed to shore in two Southeast Asian countries… (Times of India 12/5/15)

87. 41 Sri Lankan Tamil refugees head back home(13)

TIRUCHI: Having spent several years in refugee camps in the State, a group of 41 Sri Lankan Tamils headed back home from Tiruchi on Wednesday upon getting clearance. The refugees, including 16 women and 13 children, arrived at the crack of dawn at the airport to board the Sri Lankan Airlines flight (UL-132) to Colombo after completion of immigration and Customs formalities. Some of them had landed in Tamil Nadu in the 1990s by boats after fleeing the island nation that was plagued by civil war during that period. The refugees, who left on Wednesday morning, had been staying in camps at Pudukottai, Sivaganga, Madurai, Dharmapuri, Karur, Tirunelveli, Tuticorin, Tiruchi, Ramanathapuram and Salem districts, police sources said. The highest number of refugees was from Madurai district from where 12 of them returned. They were allowed to return home from the respective camps after it was found that no case was pending against them in the State, sources said. Prior to their departure, the refugees obtained written clearance from the State police in order to get temporary passports from the Sri Lankan High Commission and exit clearance certificates from the respective district administration authorities where the camps had been functioning. Some of the refugees had landed as early as in 1990 and few others in 1997 and 2007 in Tamil Nadu and were accommodated in refugee camps, the sources said. (The Hindu 14/5/15)

88. Mizoram to take back its tribal citizens from Tripura after 18 years (13)

Agartala: Following pressure from the union home ministry and the Tripura government, Mizoram has finally agreed to take back all the tribal refugees sheltering in Tripura for the past 18 years. “The repatriation of refugees expected to start from June 8. A tripartite meeting between the officials of Tripura and Mizoram governments and refugee leaders took this decision,” Panisagar Sub-divisional magistrate Biplab Das told IANS. He said: “It was decided in the meeting that from June 2 to June 4, a study would be done about how many of the refugees’ names have been enrolled in the electoral list of Mizoram. Then sub-divisional level officials of the two states in presence of the refugee leaders would be held before starting of the repatriation on June 8.” According to Relief and Rehabilitation Minister Badal Choudhury, there are 5,286 tribal families comprising 31,223 men, women and children sheltered in seven camps in Kanchanpur and Panisagar sub-divisions under North Tripura district adjoining Mizoram. The Reang tribals, who locally call themselves “Bru”, have lived in makeshift camps camps in Tripura since October 1997 when they fled western Mizoram after the killing of a Mizo forest officer triggered ethnic trouble. The Mizoram government earlier refused to take back all the refugees citing that all the migrants are not the resident of Mizoram. “In the Friday’s district magistrate-level meeting, the Mizoram government officials more or less agreed to take back all the refugees sheltered in Tripura,” said Das, who was also present in the meeting. The Tripura government team was led by additional district magistrate of North Tripura district Ranjit Das while Mizoram’s team was led by Mamit district Deputy Commissioner Vanlalngaihsaka. Meanwhile, Mizoram’s additional secretary of home department Lalbiakzama said in Aizawl that following the Supreme Court’s directives and the decision made in the meeting of the union home ministry in presence of Mizoram and Tripura governments’ officials on January 30, it was proposed to repatriate all the remaining tribal families from the relief camps in north Tripura district. “The union home ministry has recently released Rs.4.7 crore for the repatriation purposes, but the amount would not be sufficient for repatriation of all the remaining Reang tribal families,” Lalbiakzama said. The Mizoram government earlier sought around Rs.70 crore financial assistance from the union home ministry to rehabilitate the repatriated tribal refugees. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and his deputy Kiren Rijiju had visited the refugee camps and held talks with the refugee leaders on February 14 and persuaded the tribal to go back to their villages in western Mizoram. Refugee leaders told the central ministers that they were willing to return to their homes in Mizoram if their 10 points demands, including security and rehabilitation, were met. The Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF), an organisation of the refugees, submitted a six-page memorandum to the central ministers accusing the Mizoram government of discriminating against them…. (Business Standard 17/5/15)

89. UN chief voices growing concern over migrant crisis (13)

UNITED NATIONS, United States: UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said on Sunday that he was increasingly concerned by the humanitarian crisis sparked by refugees stranded in boats in Southeast Asia, and offered help from the United Nations. Ban said he had spoken by phone with the prime ministers of Malaysia and Thailand while his deputy Jan Eliasson had discussed the crisis with ministers from Bangladesh and Indonesia. “In their discussion with leaders in the region, they reiterated the need to protect lives and uphold international law,” Ban’s spokesman said in a statement. They urged the leaders to “uphold the obligation of rescue at sea” and not turn away the refugees. Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand have sparked outrage by turning away vessels overloaded with migrants from Myanmar’s ethnic Rohingya minority and with poor Bangladeshis. Ban said he was encouraged by plans for Thailand to host a regional meeting to try to resolve the crisis and encouraged leaders to take part. “The United Nations stands ready to assist all efforts to address the situation, including at the proposed meeting,” he said. Ban is due to travel to South Korea on Monday for a visit that will later take him to Vietnam. (Times of India 18/5/15)

90. Rohingya crisis: US envoy urges region to cooperate (13)

Myanmar: A top US diplomat has urged Myanmar’s government to work with its regional partners to address the migrant crisis in Southeast Asia. Deputy secretary of State Anthony Blinken met with Myanmar officials in the capital, Naypyitaw, on Thursday. More than 3,000 people have landed in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand in recent weeks, most of them members of the Rohingya minority who were fleeing Myanmar or were tricked by traffickers and then abandoned at sea. The embassy in Yangon posted on Facebook that Blinken shared the US government’s concerns about the migrant crisis. State Department officials in Washington said earlier that the US was willing to lead multicountry efforts organized by the UN refugee agency to resettle the most vulnerable migrants. Blinken said earlier on his trip to Southeast Asia that the only sustainable solution to the problem was addressing the conditions that led the Rohingya to flee. (Times of India 21/5/15)

91. Cholera infects 3,000 Burundian refugees, UN calls for help (13)

KAMPALA, Uganda: The UN refugee agency says an outbreak of cholera has infected 3,000 people in a Tanzanian border region where refugees from Burundi have massed. UNHCR says 300 to 400 new cases are being reported daily. At least 31 people, including two Tanzanians, have died of cholera recently. More than 64,000 Burundians have fled to Tanzania in recent weeks to escape political unrest sparked by their president’s bid for an unconstitutional third term, according to the UN. UNHCR and its partners appealed for help Friday, saying $207 million is needed to respond to the humanitarian crisis caused by the influx of refugees. Thousands more Burundians have fled to Congo and Rwanda. (Times of India 22/5/15)

92. Yearning for original home (13)

CHENNAI: Six years after the civil war ended in Sri Lanka, over a lakh nationals are unwilling to return to their country as there is no viable repatriation package on offer. Even as Sri Lanka is preparing to observe the sixth anniversary of the end of the civil war on Tuesday, over a lakh nationals from the island nation, who arrived in Tamil Nadu since 1983 continue to live as refugees in the State, in the absence of a viable voluntary repatriation package. Though several batches of refugees voluntarily returned after the Lankan government officially declared the end of the 25-year-long civil war on May 19, 2009, the lack of a complete repatriation package seem to add to the reasons behind the refugees in the State hesitating to return. “We support repatriation whenever it can take place on a well-informed request of refugees, in safety and dignity and with prospects for sustainable reintegration back home,” says UNHCR India’s Public Information Officer Shuchita Mehta. Despite the financial assistance available for repatriation, over 1.02 lakh refugees remain in the State as on March 1 this year. “Most of the refugees hesitate because they have to leave the things they have earned all these years here and might have to start from scratch and rebuild their lives there,” says the treasurer of Organisation for Eelam Refugees Rehabilitation (OfERR) S.C. Chandrahasan. “All the governments involved in the issue should come together and offer a repatriation package allowing refugees to take back the assets they have earned all these years with them to Lanka. Of course, there can be an upper limit,” he says. The package could include repatriation on board a ship with some of their assets and continuing financial assistance from the Government of India to refugees for a few years till they rebuild their livelihood, he adds. An official of the Sri Lankan Deputy High Commission in Chennai says, “We have always been encouraging the refugees to go for voluntary repatriation. We process their documents free of cost.” An effort by the Government of India to discuss voluntary repatriation of refugees with all stakeholders early this year fell through after the Tamil Nadu government contended that the conditions in Lanka “were still not conducive” and it could be considered only after concrete and credible measures are taken by the island nation. (The Hindu 26/5/15)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

 

93. Make Public Records of Polavaram Project: CIC (1)

NEW DELHI: The Central Information Commission has directed the Environment Ministry to place on its web site the records related to Rs 16,000-crore Polavaram dam project after the ministry told an RTI applicant that it was difficult to trace the documents as they were over a decade old. Suresh Kumar, an environment scientist, has sought from the Ministry the details of Impact Assessment of the controversial project in Andhra Pradesh but he was informed that the records being a decade old are difficult to be located. Kumar complained that the official web site of the Ministry does not have information as required by Section 4 (1)(b) of the RTI Act in the same manner as it was provided for other projects, prompting him to file the RTI plea. A Ministry official, however, countered the allegations saying while most of the information about the project has been provided on the web site, some documents need to be digitised and posted on the portal. He said delay in furnishing information was because of exigencies related to various projects, court cases before the Supreme Court, National Green Tribunal, and High Court besides Parliament related works. “The Commission agreed with the contentions of the appellant that the ‘failure to trace records’ would not exempt the public authority from their duty to provide the information sought,” Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu said in the first ever order also issued in Telugu.The Information Commissioner directed the Ministry to place all available information on Polavaram project on their official web site. “The Commission also directs the PIO to furnish copies of environmental clearance given at first instance, and also when the issue of environmental clearance was revisited for Indira Sagar Polavaram project in West Godavari district in Andhra Pradesh, file notings and correspondences along with minutes of meetings…,” he said. The multi-purpose dam and irrigation project has been accorded national project status by the Centre. The project has attracted controversy after neighbouring states of Odisha and Chhattisgarh raised the issue of submerged land in their states. (New Indian Express 3/5/15)

94. Government rejects RTI query on Obama’s visit expenses (1)

Mumbai: The ministry of external affairs has rejected a Right To Information (RTI) query seeking details of the expenses incurred during US President Barack Obama’s three-day recent visit to India, an activist said here on Monday. The information was denied as “it could affect India’s international relations”, RTI activist Anil Galgali said. Galgali, Mumbai’s leading RTI activist, had sought the information from the MEA on the expenses for hosting President Obama and his large contingent last January, at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. MEA’s deputy chief protocol officer Rohit Rathish declined to provide the information, terming it as “confidential and sensitive” with a bearing on India’s future bilateral relations with other foreign countries. Rathish explained that every year, the Indian government hosts dignitaries and delegations from various foreign countries, but each visit is treated as unique. The type of delegations, reason for the visits, categorisation, organisation, how the visit is hosted, how many cities they visit and other details are different from each other, the reply explained. Under such conditions, the expenses incurred by the government on each such visit varies and giving out such sensitive information could adversely affect India’s bilateral relations with other countries. Reacting to the MEA’s denial, Galgali questioned the government’s motive behind not revealing the expenses on such VVIP visits. “The Modi government revels in claiming transparency in governance… But it is trying to conceal the huge expenses, raising the bogey of sensitivity and confidentiality. It is a matter of debate how revealing such information can hamper India’s foreign relations,” Galgali told IANS. He stressed on the need for the government to inform the people of the country on all such expenses incurred from public money, collected by way of taxes from the hard earned income of the masses. (Business Standard 4/5/15)

95. Govt nod to amendment in Whistleblowers Protection Act (1)

New Delhi: Government on Wednesday approved amendment in the Whistleblowers Protection Act 2011 to keep issues of national security out of its purview. The decision came on a day when Congress President Sonia Gandhi attacked the government in Lok Sabha for not notifying the bill despite it getting the President’s assent in May 2014. The amendment to the bill is being done with a view to incorporate necessary provisions aimed at strengthening safeguards against disclosures which may prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of the country, security of the state, etc. The amendments would address concerns relating to national security. “This would strengthen the safeguards against disclosures which may prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of the country, security, strategic, scientific or economic interest of the state, relations with a foreign state or leads to incitement of an offence. “Safeguard has also been provided in respect of such disclosures which have been exempted under section 8(1) of the Right to Information Act, 2005,” the government said in a release. After the Cabinet nod, government will move an amendment bill in Parliament during the Budget session itself. In order to give statutory protection to whistleblowers in the country, the Public Interest Disclosures and Protection to Persons making the Disclosures Bill, 2011 was introduced in the Lok Sabha in August, 2010. The bill was passed by Lok Sabha, in December 2011, as the Whistle Blowers Protection Bill, 2011. The Rajya Sabha had passed it on February 21 last year. It had received the assent of the President on May 9 the same year. During the last days of UPA rule, BJP had proposed certain amendments in the bill when it came up for consideration and passage in the Rajya Sabha. One was to bar whistleblowers from seeking information on national security. The UPA government had agreed to the amendment saying it was necessary… (Zee News  6/5/15)

96. NGOs protest in Delhi against ‘çoercive’ state action (1)

NEW DELHI: Seeking an end to “coercive action” against non government organisations and donors, a collective of close to 200 organisations on Friday said there was irrefutable documentary evidence that state action against select organisations had been arbitrary, non transparent and without any recourse for administrative redress. The NGOs were speaking on the recent “crackdown” by the ministry of home affairs on the organisations that had violated Foreign Controbution Regulation Act (FCRA) regulations. In a letter to PM Modi the NGOs including those working on issues of human rights violations, right to information and environment laws and others have sought a review of all orders placing restraint on them. “We are not against government demanding transparency and and accountability but are questioning the arbitrary manner in which the government is targeting NGOs who are raising issues that it is uncomfortable with,” Anjali Bharadwaj, from the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information said. “We are extremely uncomfortable to say the least about the messaging the government is putting about civil society organisations,” Enakshi Ganguly from the HAQ: Centre for Child Rights said. Wada Na Todo Abhiyan’s Paul Divakar said it was the organisations working for the most marginalised and excluded communities that was suffering from this “crackdown.” (Times of India 8/5/15)

97. Bill tabled to protect whistle blowers (1)

New Delhi: A bill to amend the Whistleblowers Protection Act 2011 to keep issues of national security out of its purview was introduced in the Lok Sabha on Monday. The introduction of the Whistleblowers Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2015 came close on the heels of the Opposition attacking the government for not notifying the bill despite it getting the President’s assent in May 2014. The amendments to the bill are being carried out with a view to incorporate necessary provisions aimed at strengthening safeguards against disclosures which may prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of the country and security of the state. “This would strengthen the safeguards against disclosures which may prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of the country, security, strategic, scientific or economic interest of the state, relations with a foreign state or leads to incitement of an offence. Safeguard has also been provided in respect of such disclosures which have been exempted under section 8(1) of the Right to Information Act, 2005,” the government said. In order to give statutory protection to whistleblowers in the country, the Public Interest Disclosures and Protection to Persons Making the Disclosures Bill, 2011 was introduced in the Lok Sabha in August, 2010. The bill was passed by the Lok Sabha in December 2011 as the Whistleblowers Protection Bill, 2011. The Rajya Sabha had passed it on February 21 last year. It had received the assent of the President on May 9 the same year. During the last days of UPA rule, BJP had proposed certain amendments in the bill when it came up for consideration and passage in the Rajya Sabha. One was to bar whistleblowers from seeking information on national security. The Whistleblowers’ Protection Act aims to provide a mechanism for protecting the identity of those who expose corruption. (Asian Age 12/5/15)

98. ‘Strict enforcement of RTI Act ensures transparency’ (1)

VISAKHAPATNAM: Administration would be transparent only if the Right to Information Act was implemented strictly, State Information Commissioner Vijaya Babu said at a press conference here on Wednesday. There was a need to strengthen the RTI Act and the Anti-Corruption Bureau to eliminate corruption in all the welfare schemes and programmes the government was implementing, he said. The Information Commissioner informed that show cause notices were issued to Panchayati Raj and Labour departments while dealing with 33 cases from the north coastal districts and East Godavari.On a complaint filed by a pensioner Kuncha Gangatalli of Elamanchili that she had not received pension for the last eight months, the Commission ruled that she should be paid Rs. 8,000 within 48 hours. (The Hindu 14/5/15)

99. 10 years after RTI, transparency under cloud (1)

NEW DELHI: Ten years after the Right to Information Act was passed by the Rajya Sabha on May 12, 2005, its implementation remains inefficient and transparency and accountability seem to be under threat in India. Experts cite poor record-keeping practices within the bureaucracy, lack of infrastructure and staff for running Information Commissions, and dilution of supplementary laws such as the one for whistleblower protection as reasons for this. Madabhushi Sridhar, Information Commissioner at the Central Information Commission, says: “In my office, my secretary doubles up as the stenographer, registrar, deputy registrar and personal assistant who must also respond to letters my office receives. Compare this with the kind of staff support courts receive. With such poor staffing how can we be expected to discharge our responsibilities efficiently?” He points to the problems posed by missing files in government offices. “The information sought by citizens can be provided only if the records are maintained properly. If the RTI has to succeed, then the Public Records Act must be implemented,” he says. Inefficient implementation has delayed the settlement of information appeals. An October 2014 report brought out by the RTI Assessment and Analysis Group (RAAG) showed a waiting period of up to 60 years in Madhya Pradesh and up to 18 years in West Bengal, calculated on the basis of current rates of pendency in Information Commissions. “In less than 3 per cent of cases, penalties were imposed on government departments denying information sought,” Amrita Johri of Satark Nagarik Sangathan says. What the RTI Act has managed to achieve in the last decade is to unleash a silent citizen’s movement for government accountability across the country. The RAAG report found that on an average, 4-5 million applications are filed under the Act every year. But this has not been without its negative consequences. Forty activists who had demanded crucial information, with the potential to expose corruption within the government, had been killed. This has necessitated supplementary laws such as whistleblower protection laws to ensure protection for information activists. But the Whistleblowers Protection (Amendment), Bill, 2015, passed by the Lok Sabha on Wednesday has renewed concerns regarding the vulnerability of information seekers making disclosures in the public interest. “The original intention of the whistleblower protection law was to protect citizens disclosing information regarding wrongdoing in the larger public interest. But the proposed amendments have turned the law into a ‘Whistleblower Prevention and Victimisation Act’,” quips Venkatesh Nayak, Access to Information programme coordinator at Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. The amendments do not provide immunity to whistleblowers, making them liable for prosecution under the Official Secrets Act, he says. The Bill completely dilutes the provisions of the earlier law removing everything exempted under Section 8 (1) of the RTI Act from within the ambit of whistle-blowing. “If the government wanted to ensure that sensitive information regarding national security, integrity, etc., is not made public, then the law could have been appropriately amended to ensure additional safeguards or by making provisions for a mechanism for confidential disclosure. What is sought to be done now is a blanket ban on disclosures containing sensitive information,” Anjali Bharadwaj of Satark Nagarik Sangathan says… (The Hindu 16/5/15)

100. Govt delay in appointing Chief Information Commissioner a blow to RTI (1)

Why isn’t the government appointing a Chief Information Commissioner so I can get the answer sheets that I have been fighting for?” asks Chandan Singh, a disabled engineering student, as he hands over a copy of his petition filed at the Prime Minister’s Office. Chandan had moved the Central Information Commission (CIC) against his college, the National Institute of Technology, Trichy, to get a copy of his answer sheets. He won, but the institute insisted it couldn’t locate all the papers. “When I complained to the commission, they said I would have to wait for the government to appoint the Chief Information Commissioner,” says the 22-year-old who was born without a lower arm. “How much longer will it take?” Chandan isn’t the only one asking that question ahead of the 10th anniversary, next month, of RTI’s enactment. Right to Information (RTI) activists have been protesting the vacancy for nearly 10 months – since Rajiv Mathur, a retired Intelligence Bureau director, stepped down as CIC on 22 August last year. This was the first time that the commission has been without a chief. “It is a deliberate attempt to cripple the transparency law,” says Nikhil Dey, who had campaigned with IAS officer-turned-social activist Aruna Roy for an information law in the mid-Nineties. Last week, Dey’s charge was echoed in Parliament when Congress president Sonia Gandhi lashed out at the Narendra Modi government for blunting the information law. “The unavoidable conclusion is that this government is setting out to systematically subvert the functioning of RTI Act and shield itself from public scrutiny and accountability,” she charged. In 2005, it was Gandhi who had persuaded the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to accept a liberal information regime drawn up by civil society under the aegis of the National Advisory Council that she headed. The bureaucracy resisted, but gave in sensing Mrs Gandhi’s determination. A decade later, India’s RTI law, that promised to give information in just 30 days, is still ranked the world’s best, next only to legislation in Serbia and Slovenia. It has also inspired other countries in South Asia to enact similar information laws…. (Hindustan Times 17/5/15)

101. CIC may have its head soon: Centre to Delhi High Court (1)

New Delhi: The CIC, which has remained headless for over 10 months, may soon have a new chief with the Centre informing Delhi High Court on Thursday that candidates for the posts of Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners have been shortlisted and granted vigilance clearance. “Vigilance clearance from the respective cadre controlling authority in respect of the shortlisted serving officers and inputs from the Intelligence Bureau in respect of retired officers has been sought vide communications dated May 5, 2015 and May 2, 2015, respectively,” Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain told the court. The clearance has also been granted, he informed a bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw, adding that the matter now be put up before the selection committee headed by the Prime Minister as per the RTI Act, and the process would take another one or two months. The goverment’s response came after the court directed it to expedite the appointment process and inform it about the progress as the vacancies in Central Information Commission have led to a massive backlog of cases. The Centre’s counsel further said that the Chief IC and IC would be appointed by the President on the recommendations of the selection committee. The court was hearing a PIL filed by RTI activists R K Jain, Lokesh K Batra and Subhash Chandra Agarwal alleging that no action has been taken on the issue despite two “distress” letters written by CIC to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). The PIL filed through lawyers Prashant Bhushan has sought filling up of posts of Chief IC and subordinate staff in a time-bound frame. (Zee News 21/5/15)

102. Disclose travel expenses of ministers proactively: CIC panel (1)

NEW DELHI: The PMO not disclosing information about expenses incurred on foreign visits of the Prime Minister notwithstanding, a CIC-constituted committee has recommended not only putting out such details proactively by all ministries but regular updating as well. The committee of former Chief Information Commissioner A N Tiwari and Information Commissioner M M Ansari, constituted by the CIC gave its report on “Transparency Audit: Towards An Open and Accountable Government”.It referred to the circular issued by the ministry dated September 11, 2012 where it asked all departments to proactively disclose expenses incurred on the foreign and domestic visits of their respective ministers. “These disclosures should be updated once every quarter,” the committee said in its report asking the government to also disclose other details such as places visited and the institutions/individual interacted, period, number and the names of the members in the official It said a democratic government keen on empowering the people and delivering to them goods and services speedily and efficiently, cannot allow walls of secrecy to separate them from the very people they serve. “Transparency brings the government closer to its people– a closeness which underpins good governance. In spite of repeated directions to the public authorities, the results on account of voluntary disclosures have been below par,” the committee observed. It said quite large numbers of wholly avoidable RTI petitions by citizens for information, which should even otherwise be openly available, are still being filed. “One cardinal aspect of the RTI i.e. timely furnishing of quality information to the citizen, became difficult to be adhered to, while the cost for disclosing information, at all levels, kept increasing,” it said. The Prime Minister’s Office has been refusing to disclose information related to expenses incurred on the abroad visits of Prime Minister Narendra Modi citing various excuses such as the records sought for being “vague”.These refusals to part with the information are being made even though Central Information Commission, in an order, had directed the Cabinet Secretariat to make public expenses incurred on the travel of ministers and VVIPs because of large public interest in the matter. “We have been noticing a lot of public interest in the visit of such high dignitaries as the President, the Vice-President and the Prime Minister of India. Quite often, one comes across RTI applications seeking similar information about these visits,” Chief Information Commissioner Satyananda Mishra had said. Following the orders of the CIC, the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had started the practice of making public on the official website details of expenses incurred on his visits as well as on the visits undertaken by the Ministers. Complying with the mandatory provisions of suo-motu disclosure under the transparency law, the PMO under Manmohan Singh has placed in public that a sum of over Rs 642 crore was incurred on his air travels abroad between 2004 and 2013. (Times of India 24/5/15)

103. Over Rs 4 lakh spent on bottled water (1)

Mumbai: It seems that even the occupants of Mantralaya do not trust the quality of piped water provided by the BMC. Information received under the Right to Information Act has revealed that from December 2014 to April 2015, the Mantralaya canteen spent Rs 4.66 lakh on 24,648 litres of bottled water. RTI activist Anil Galgali had sought information from the state government regarding the cost and quantity of consumption of bottled water in Mantralaya. In a reply to the query, J.M. Salvi, general manager and public information officer of the Mantralaya canteen, said that between December 2014 and April 2015 a total of 83,628 bottles of mineral water were purchased at the cost of Rs 4,66,019. Of these, the maximum usage was of 250 ml bottles, accounting for 68,976 bottles amounting to Rs 3,67,642. The next was 14,496 bottles of 500 ml amounting to Rs 96,688 and 156 bottles of one litre that cost Rs 1,689. Mr Galgali claimed that it was a wastage of public money by the government. “The BMC charges for the same amount of water would have been merely Rs 171. The BMC charges just Rs 4.32, plus sewerage charges, totalling Rs 6.912 for 1,000 litres of water supplied through its pipelines. Moreover, there is a water purifying system installed at Mantralaya by the state government,” he said. The activist further claimed that the water supplied by the BMC is high in quality and thus the CM should instruct all those working at Mantralaya to use water supplied by the civic body for drinking purposes. In his letter addressed to the CM, Mr Galgali has said that in a situation where the state is reeling under severe drought and citizens are craving a single drop of water, the people who are supposed to perform for the citizens are indulging in wasteful expenditure by consuming mineral water. (Asian Age 27/5/15)

104. Salman Khan files gutted in Mantralaya fire (1)

Mumbai: In a response to an RTI query, the state government has conceded that the files pertaining to the Salman Khan hit-and-run case were gutted in the Mantralaya fire three years ago. City-based RTI activist, Mansoor Darvesh, had sought to know from the state law and judiciary department the names and the total number of counsels, solicitors, advocates, legal advisers and public prosecutors appointed by the state government for this case. To his surprise, Mr Darvesh was informed that the files pertaining to the case were burnt on June 21, 2012. The RTI reply said: “The fire engulfed the state secretariat and therefore, they cannot be made available.” To his query on the expenses incurred by the state government in the case from 2002 to May 6 this year, when the judgment was pronounced in the case, the RTI reply said, “The only thing that the government knows is about the appointment of Special Public Prosecutor Pradeep Gharat, who was appointed at a fee of Rs 6,000 per hearing.” Mr Darvesh pointed out that the government had assured that it would restore the files that were destroyed or damaged in the fire. “The government had promised the people that all files that were destroyed in the fire would be reconstructed. Here is a blatant example of the inefficiency of the government. There might be many more such important cases that will not reach a conclusion as we do not know the facts of those cases,” Mr Darvesh said. The government officials and state home minister were not available for comment on the issue. However, sources in the home department said it was true that many files of the department were destroyed and could not be restored even though three years have passed. Khan was convicted in the case on May 6 by the sessions court for culpable homicide not amounting to murder. However, the Bombay HC had given bail to the actor giving relief. (Asian Age 29/5/15)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

105. Teaching crisis remains after $95 bn spend on basic education (11)

NEW DELHI: In February 2015, Maharashtra held its annual evaluation tests for teachers of government-run schools. Only one percent of more than 245,800 primary teachers who took the test passed. Upper-primary teachers did better, somewhat — 4.9 percent cleared the tests. This is the situation in a state where 99 per cent of children aged 6-14 years are, officially, enrolled in schools, and there are 25 teachers for each student, near the global average. “In the wake of teacher eligibility tests [introduced after the Right to Education Act, 2009] and the high proportion of candidates who fail to clear the examination, there are people who argue that subject knowledge is poor among our teachers,” wrote Vimala Ramachandran of the National University for Educational Planning and Administration. “They point out that it is the quality of teacher — her’s or his mastery over subjects, pedagogic skills and aptitude to teach — that is perhaps responsible for poor learning,” Ramachandran, whose organisation is an affiliate of the human resource development (HRD) ministry, wrote in the study. “Many of them argue that people enter the teaching profession as a last resort-when they have no other option.” Teaching as an option of last resort might explain a key problem in India’s education system. This apart, less than one in five teachers adequately trained. In an effort to boost the quality of teaching in government schools, the union government in 2011 launched a programme under the universal education programme, or Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, to support states and union territories for annual, in-service teacher training programmes. According to HRD Minister Smriti Irani, there are 4.5 lakh untrained elementary school teachers. The central programme has trained only 19.2 per cent of the teachers up to 2013-14. So much has improved, yet the quality has plunged. Despite spending Rs.586,085 crore (nearly $95 billion) over the last decade on primary education, India has been unable to arrest the decline in learning. The quality of teaching and teachers, millions of them untrained or under-trained, is now emerging as a key problem. A recent United Nations report showed that some basic indicators such as enrolment and access have improved. Over 12 years, India has reduced its out-of-school children (enrolment rate) by more than 90 per cent. Universal primary education has been achieved, 99 per cent of children (6-14 years) in school. India had a ratio of 35 pupils for every teacher in 2012, up from 40 in 2000 — the second highest in South Asia after Bhutan — but behind the global average of 24 pupils for every teacher. Despite these improvements, learning outcomes in India have fallen…. (Times of India 2/5/15)

106. MDMK begins campaign on Right To Education Act (11)

COIMBATORE: Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) cadre have begun a campaign in the district on the Right To Education Act. Led by Coimbatore district secretary V. Easwaran, the cadre are informing the public that this Act mandates all private schools to set aside 25 per cent of their total seats to students from socio-economically weak families. Further, even though the State government claims that 1.36 lakh students have been admitted under this Act, he said that this claim was dubious. He urged the parents to demand applications from private schools for admission under the Act. The schools must issue applications during May for LKG. Mr. Easwaran urged the public to make use of this Act and ensure that its provisions did not end up benefitting ineligible persons. (The Hindu 4/5/15)

107. Directive to not admit girls in co-educational schools (11)

GURGAON: A block-level education department in Haryana’s Hisar village has issued directions to school principals to ensure that girls were not admitted to a co-educational school when a separate school was available for them. The letter, issued a week ago, says that as per the norms of the education department when separate schools were available for girls and boys in a village then admissions should also be made accordingly. The letter was issued to two schools – Government Girls Middle School (Class 1-8) and Government High School Co-Educational (Class 1-10) – of Bhagana village on April 29. It also refers to a resolution adopted by the village panchayat in this regard and directed the principals concerned to take action as per the departmental norms and inform the office. When contacted, District Elementary Education Officer Baljit Sahrawat told The Hindu that the directions were issued due to some “misunderstanding” and the official concerned was directed to withdraw them. “As per the Right to Education Act, the boys and girls are free to study in the school of their choice. It seems some misunderstanding led to issuance of directions. The official has been directed to withdraw them,” said Mr. Sahrawat. Village sarpanch Rakesh Panghal denied that any such resolution was ever adopted by the panchayat. “I got to know about it through media reports. Our panchayat never adopted any such resolution. We have sought a meeting with the teachers of the two schools today [on Monday] to resolve the matter as it brings bad name to the whole village,” said Mr. Panghal. Sources, however, said that the teachers of the girls’ school were worried over dwindling number of students in the school and got the directions issued from the block-level office to stop the influx to the co-educational school. “Since the number of admissions to the girls’ school were fast dwindling, the teachers of this school got an applicaton signed by a few locals pleading that girls should not be allowed admission in the co-educational school in the same village. “The letter was then submitted to the BEEO who issued the directions,” said a source in the village. (The Hindu 6/5/14)

108. RTE Can be Kept Alive Only If Govt Intervenes (11)

Summer is the time school students do not worry about classroom and associated woes. But this vacation, the Union Government cannot take it easy as it has an onerous task of taking a re-look at the Right To Education (RTE) Act and sort out some issues that have cropped up with regard to its implementation. A letter shot to the prime minister, Narendra Modi, by Tamil Nadu chief minister, O Pannerselvam, pointed out that some  amendments made to the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), which has deprived the state of `97.03 crore in terms of reimbursement, were in contravention of the provisions of RTE. If the prime minister did not intervene and change the SSA framework before June, the future of 1,36,593 students in private non-aided schools, who were admitted under RTE in the past two years, will be in jeopardy. Besides, with the private schools already raising a banner of protest over their not getting the reimbursement of the fees of the children admitted under RTE, there is a risk of the schools not letting in new students  from economically weaker homes and disadvantaged groups, thus defeating the very purpose of RTE. Even though the RTE was notified in Tamil Nadu in 2011, the enforcement started only in 2013-14 with not all schools abiding by the provisions in letter and spirit. So, now, if the schools that followed the rules have not been paid the fee by the government for two years, how could the schools so far playing truant could be motivated to come around?  Then, as the chief minister pointed out in his letter, it is absurd that the new SSA framework would allow reimbursement of fees only from class one to eight when private schools start admission from pre-kindergarten or kindergarten levels. Under the new framework, the state that made a claim for reimbursement of `71.57 crore has been told that it is eligible to get just `14 lakh. Every state must be facing these and more problems. And, unless the government wakes up before June, many poor children across the country could be out of school. (The Hindu 8/5/14)

109. Edu-friendly turf must to attract children to schools: Experts (11)

Raipur: With a high number of out-of-school children in Chhattisgarh, experts say the thrust should be given to establish an education-friendly environment and ensure basic facilities to attract children to educational institutes in the tribal-dominated state. “It is shocking that even after 67 years of Independence, more than 90,000 children in the state have never been enrolled in any school. The government and citizens should introspect on the issue,” Chhattisgarh’s RTE (Right to Education) Forum convener Gautam Bandopadhyay said. As per a national survey conducted by Social and Rural Research Institute in Delhi for the HRD Ministry on estimation of out-of-school children in the age group of 6-13 years countrywide in 2014, 1,67,072 children out of 44,59,796 were out of schools in Chhattisgarh. About 3.75 per cent children are out of schools in Chhattisgarh, which is higher than the national average of 2.97 per cent), according to the survey. The survey found that 94,317 children in 6-13 age group have never been enrolled in any school, which is 56.45 per cent of the total children out-of-school. Besides, 71,532 children dropped out from school and the maximum dropouts in this age group were after Class II, as per the survey. Earning compulsions, lack of interest, migration, socio-culture reasons, household work, lack of access, failure and non-flexibility in school timing are some of the major reasons cited by the survey for children not being in schools. “Government is running several schemes ranging from mid-day meal, free school uniforms, bicycles, books and many more in its efforts to make success its literacy mission. All these efforts would only yield concrete results if focus is concurrently given to make teachers skilled, particularly in government schools, along with providing basic amenities like drinking water and toilets,” Bandopadhyay said. However, there is also a need to generate awareness among masses so that they realise their duty to create an education-friendly environment for better future of their children, he said. Equally concerned over the findings, State Commission for Protection of Child Rights Chairperson Shatabdi Pandey said a state like Chhattisgarh, where a major chunk of population resides in rural areas, requires literacy programmes not only for children, but for the parents too. (Zee News 9/5/15)

110. Bombay High Court stays new government circular on RTE Act (11)

Mumbai: The Bombay high court has held that the government order of April 30, 2015, fixing the entry level in schools as class I for the 25 per cent quota under the RTE Act is not in the interest of justice and hence impugned the order and said that admissions conducted as per the earlier government circulars are to be followed. The court has further said that there was no question of cancelling the admission made based upon circulars issued earlier and admissions to institutions/schools based on earlier circulars are in no way affected. The division bench of Justice Anoop Mohata and K.R. Shriram was hearing the petition filed by Dr Vikhe Patil Foundation clubbed with petitions filed by other educational institutions regarding the action initiated by the government against them for not complying with the April 30 circular that fixed class I as entry level for admission to 25 per cent reserved quota under RTE Act. The petitioners prayed that though they had admitted students to nursery and junior KG as per the previous circulars they were being penalised for not admitting students to class I this year. The April 30 circular cancelled out the previous circular issued on January 29 based on which schools had admitted students to nursery and junior KG. Based on the revelation by the petitioners, the bench said, “taking overall view of matter and in view of the submissions made by the respective learned counsel appearing for the parties, we are inclined to observe that it is desirable that the State Government not to act further on the basis of this impugned circular dated 30.04.2015 till they file reply and the matter is heard further.” Following assurances by the additional government pleader that the prosecution of institutions would be stopped the court observed, “as admissions are over, it is directed that no further coercive steps be taken by the Government of Maharashtra based upon this impugned circular dated 30.04.2015, including the stated prosecution…. the State Government is directed to maintain status-quo as of today so far as the implementation of the impugned circular dated 30.04.2015 is concerned.” The court also clarified that the order passed by it would not affect the admissions based upon the earlier circulars. “In other words, the effect of this order is that the position/status that prevailed on 29.04.2015 shall prevail and the Government may also continue to act/take actions based on the circulars/policy that was in force and effect on 29.04.2015. There is no question to cancel the admission so made already based upon circulars issued earlier.” This means schools that cancelled admissions given last year will have to readmit the students. (Asian Age 14/5/15)

111. Fiat to admit 25 per cent poor students under RTE Act (11)

TIRUNELVELI: District Collector M. Karunakaran has directed the heads of non-minority private schools to reserve 25 per cent of seats in their institutions for poor students as mandated by the Right to Education Act. Addressing a meeting held at Palayamkottai on Friday with the heads of non-minority private schools, Dr. Karunakaran said these schools should reserve 25 per cent of the total seats in Lower Kindergarten, first standard and sixth standard for poor children and admit them as mandated by the Right to Education Act. The heads of these institutions should cooperate with the district administration in ensuring that this target is achieved cent per cent. “The school administrations should maintain records on the number of applications received and the admissions given under this category. If the schools refuse to receive applications, the applicants can submit their applications in the educational offices concerned for getting admission in the school of their choice. If more number of applications is received, selection of students under RTE Act will be done in the presence of officials from the Department of Education through lots,” Dr. Karunakaran said. He also asked the administrations of these schools to keep flex boards in front of their institution explaining the 25 per cent reservations given under RTE Act and give applications to the aspirants free of cost. Director of Matriculation Schools R. Pitchai, Chief Educational Officer R. Swaminathan, Inspector of Matriculation Schools S. Bala and educational officers from the district participated in the meeting. Meanwhile, a group of Campus Front of India activists staged demonstration in front of the Office of Chief Educational Officer here on Friday evening demanding 25 per cent admission of poor students in the non-minority schools. (The Hindu 16/5/15)

112. Government Releases Rs 97cr, Private Schools Can’t Refuse RTE Intake (11)

CHENNAI: With the State Government issuing an order to reimburse Rs 97.04 crore to private schools under the Right to Education (RTE) Act, the latter can no longer cite reasons for not enrolling students under the RTE Act, from the coming academic year. The private schools had, last month, expressed apprehension in admitting students under the RTE Act from the coming academic year since funds for two academic years – Rs 25.13 crore for 2013-14 and Rs 71.19 crore -  had not been compensated by the government. The Tamil Nadu government had written to the Centre earlier this month, stating that the changes made to the SSA framework had resulted in non-reimbursement of expenditure incurred by schools in Tamil Nadu, amounting to Rs 97.04 crore. On Saturday, the government issued orders sanctioning the amount to be reimbursed to the schools. According to the Act, 25 per cent of the seats in private schools need to be reserved for disadvantaged children – children whose parents’ total yearly income comes to less than Rs 2 lakh or students from SC/ST or other backward classes, and transgenders. However, RTE activists seek more transparency in the admission procedure and calculating expenditure, pointing out that there were no specific allocations or demarcations that were made while disbursing the funds. “The argument is that the schools can enroll whoever they want to without verifying the background and get the amount reimbursed. The question therefore is how the calculation was made and the amount arrived at. Was the procedure transparent?” questioned Prince Gajendra Babu, general secretary, State Platform for Common Schooling System. He added that no clear demarcations with respect to issuing uniform, textbooks and notebooks were made. S Arumainathan, president, Tamil Nadu Student Parent Welfare Association, alleged that there were a few schools which had refused to enroll children under the RTE Act in the past two years citing lack of funds. “There are cases of schools not implementing the Act,” he said. When contacted, an official from the School Education Department said the admissions were actually transparent, with little space for schools to escape the Act. The official added that around 90,000 had enrolled in schools under the RTE Act last academic year. (New Indian Express 18/5/15)

113. Campaign to popularise rights under RTE Act (11)

Tirupur: Popular Front of India (PFI) on Sunday conducted a campaign to popularise certain rights enshrined in the Right to Education Act for children coming from economically weaker sections of the society. District president of PFI Mubarak Basha said the crusade was organised to make the children and parents aware of their rights to move from one private school to another without having to pay any fees and a few other clauses that support the continuation of education of poor children without any hassles.He said that a rally had been planned in the city during the first week of June when the schools reopen for the 2015-16 academic year, so as to draw the attention of the local residents to the Right to Education Act. (The Hindu 19/5/15)

114. On July 4, govt will identify out-of-school kids in Maharashtra (11)

MUMBAI: In a bid to get a headcount of the number of out-of-school children in the state, the school education department has decided to hold a day-long survey to indentify them. The survey will be conducted by the government on July 4. According to a government resolution, on July 4 between 7 am and 7 pm, officials from various government agencies will scan through the state to count the number of children who are not enrolled or attending a school. “Until it is determined which and how many children are out of school, no efforts to turn them towards school will bear fruit,” said the government resolution. Any child who is not enrolled in a school or has not attended school for more than 30 days is considered to be out-of-school. Currently, there is no government data on the number of out-of-school children in the state. The survey will be conducted by teams of government officials at the Municipal Corporation, district, talukas and villages. Officials can also rope in individuals from NGOs and private organisations to help with the survey. The survey will require officials to visit every house, crowded pockets, railway stations, bus stands, slums, footpaths, traffic and railway signals etc with an effort to ensure that none of the out-of-school children are left out of the survey. The teams have been urged to use social media, advertising, celebrities and other means of publicity to ensure that the survey is a success. “The proposed one day survey of out-of-school children is a people’s movement,” said the GR. According to the Right to Education Act, 2009 all children between six and 14 years must receive free and compulsory education. While activists welcomed the government’s decision to count the children, they are unsure if the feat can be achieved within a day. “The RTE act states compulsory education. However, being able to track them in just a day may not be possible. There are also not enough resources to do so,” said Nitin Wadhwani, co-ordinator for Mumbai for Child Rights, which monitors civic schools. Within eight days of the survey, education department officials will have to get the children registered for Aadhar cards. (Times of India 22/5/15)

115. Modi govt pushing RSS agenda in education, Congress says (11)

AHMEDABAD: The Congress on Sunday alleged the country’s education sector has been severely hit due to the influence of RSS and subsequent exit of many educationalists from top institutes since BJP came to power at the Centre. Former Union minister Girija Vyas said the HRD ministry has systematically inducted RSS functionaries into several institutions and had taken many policy level decisions as per diktats of RSS. The Congress leader was speaking here on her party’s take on education during the one-year tenure of BJP-led NDA government. “Instead of strengthening the education sector, HRD minister Smriti Irani has put all her efforts to destroy reputed institutions, insult educationalists and appoint unqualified RSS functionaries on high positions,” Vyas said. She cited example of recent exit of noted nuclear scientist Dr Anil Kakodkar, who resigned as the chairman of IIT-Bombay’s board of governors and few others. READ ALSO: HRD ministry struggles to appoint VCs to 16 central universities”Instead of talking to Kakodkar, the government accepted his resignation. Similarly, director of IIT-Delhi Raghunath K Shevgaonkar too tendered his resignation in protest to the way in which HRD ministry wanted to control the institution,” she said. Vyas alleged that the Modi government was busy appointing functionaries of RSS, the ideological mentor of BJP, at top posts in premier institutes, like appointment of former editor of RSS mouthpiece Panchjanya, Baldev Sharma, as chairman of National Book Trust. “Others include RSS worker Inder Mohan Kapahi, who has been appointed as one of the members in the UGC. Similarly, RSS leader Y Sudershan Rao has been appointed as the chairman of Indian Council for Historical Research,” she said.Vyas questioned the formation of Bhartiya Shiksha Niti Ayog (BSNA) by HRD ministry recently. The senior leader also sought to know Irani’s education qualifications. She accused the Modi government of curtailing budget for education sector. “First time ever, this government has cut down the budget for education to the tune of Rs 14,088 crore,” she said. (Times of India 24/5/15)

116. HC: Don’t Deny Promotion to Wards Until Class VIII (11)

KOCHI: The Kerala High Court on Monday held that the academic performance of a school student in any class could be of no significance as the statutory mandate under the Right to Education (RTE) Act stipulates that a student must be provided compulsory education from Class-II to Class-VIII. The court also observed that the failure of a student in meeting the minimum educational standard in a particular class could only be viewed as an admission by the school of its failure to impart sufficient training to the student. Justice A K Jayasankaran Nambiar made it clear that schools should not deliberately detain students in the same class citing poor performance, during the years between Class-II and Class-VIII. The court passed the order while allowing a petition filed by Kitty Sanil of  Perumbavoor, challenging the stand taken by Vidyodaya School, Thevakkal, that her son would not be promoted to Class-VII in the forthcoming academic year, saying that the student’s academic performance in Class-VI was not satisfactory. The court directed Vidyodaya School authorities to promote the petitioner’s son to the next class, and to do the needful to ensure that he pursues his elementary education in the school in 2015-16, and thereafter until he attains the age of 14. The school authorities submitted that no student was entitled to automatic promotion without attaining academic standards. The court observed that detention of a student in a particular class during the course of elementary education, on the ground that he/she failed to meet the academic standards prescribed by the affiliating board, would amount to ‘holding back’ the student. (New Indian Express 27/5/15)

117. Campaign to provide free education for economically underprivileged children (14)

MANGALURU: Seven-year-old Shailesh and his six-year-old brother Srinidhi from Pachchanady, studying in a Government School visited the Deputy Commissioner’s office with their mother Pushpa, after assurance by activists of Child Rights Activists and Parents Association of free education for Pushpa’s children in a private school in the locality. “We do not have any problem in going to the present school. We have been assured of a seat in private school. Hence we are here,” said Pushpa, who stays in a thatched roof house in Panchchanady. Her elder son Shailesh will be studying in the third standard this year while her younger son Srinidhi will be in the first standard. These two children were among the 15 odd students brought by the Child Rights Activists and Parents Association to the office of the Deputy Commissioner. Dinesh Hegde Ulepady, the President of the Association, said these students should be admitted to private schools that has all facilities as prescribed under the Right to Education Act. “There is lack of awareness of the Act and hence they have not filed applications (seeking admission),” said Mr. Ulepady, who wanted the Government to ensure admission of these children. The children belonging to underprivileged category are entitled for free education in private schools, who have earmarked 25 per cent seats for LKG and first standard. The process of admission has started with as many as 95,139 students getting admission in the two rounds of allocation process held till May 5 through out the state. (The Hindu 29/5/15)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

 

118. Modi govt wants to scrap UPA-era poverty line, move to Aadhaar matrix (21)

New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government is set to scrap the UPA-era system of plotting a poverty line to separate the haves from the have-nots, replacing it with an Aadhaar-based mechanism of measurable deprivation indicators to design flexible welfare schemes for the poor, sources told HT.

A task force constituted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on poverty elimination and headed by vice-chairman of government policy think tank NITI Aayog is likely to recommend this soon, they added.

There was consensus in the 14-member task group, set up in March, that fixing a poverty line for the country and each state based on per capita expenditure has no bearing on policy and the government should scrap the exercise undertaken once in five years, the sources said. Setting a bar for poverty has always been a controversial exercise in India but successive governments continued to toe the line while estimating the number of India’s poor and deciding on social sector spending. The UPA government was ridiculed for stating that a poor person can survive on Rs 33 a day in urban areas and on Rs 27 in rural parts. Though the low poverty threshold helped the UPA assert that its policies helped 138 million people come out of destitution, it was forced to set up a committee under former RBI governor C Rangarajan to revise the computation formula. The NDA government did not agree with the Rangarajan panel’s methodology that fixed an expenditure of Rs 47 for urban areas and Rs 32 for rural parts to determine poverty, and it set up the task force to prepare a road map for poverty elimination. “Why do I want a poverty line…It does not help in policy formulation. It is an academic exercise which the institutions can continue to do,” said economist Bibek Debroy, a NITI Aayog member who is also part of the task force, terming this his personal view.Debroy added that poverty has different dimensions such as access to healthcare facilities, education, housing, etc, which cannot be gauged through one number for a country of 1.2 billion.Another member of the task force said a better approach was to have deprivation indicators for welfare services, such as electricity, health, education and home, which can eventually be linked to government social sector programmes.“This mechanism is easier to measure and will bring in accountability in public spending,” he added. With the new model, for instance, the government would be able to identify based on Aadhaar details of residents if Uttar Pradesh needs more pucca houses compared to other states and allocate funds accordingly as well as keep track of the expenditure.The task force is likely to say that the census for people below the poverty line, done once in 10 years, should create a database of poor people across India and the government’s decision to bring all its schemes under the Aadhaar-based direct benefit transfer programme will determine the impact of its poverty alleviation measures.“A majority of the beneficiaries of different government schemes now have bank accounts issued under Jan Dhan scheme and Aadhaar,” an official with the Unique Identification Authority of India said. By June this year, all beneficiaries will have both. Once that is done, a roadmap to eliminate poverty, as stated by the Prime Minister, could be finalised. That roadmap will be one of the key recommendations of the task force, which has met a few times and will submit its proposals to the government in June after NITI Aayog vice-chairman Arvind Panagariya returns from the United States. (Hindustan Times 3/5/15)

119. Two starvation deaths shake civil society’s conscience (21)

Tirunelveli: When Arumugam, a labourer from Anna Nagar in Alangulam, did not get regular employment, his wife, who was unable to run the family, left her husband and children Antony (27), a physically challenged youth, and Marial (25) a year ago to settle down in an undisclosed destination. Arumugam, with the little earnings he could make on being occasionally hired, continued to feed Antony and Marial at least once a day. Problem started for the family when Arumugam fell ill and died a month ago. Members of a church performed the last rites of Arumugam and gave some money, rice and vegetables to Antony and Marial, which were enough to feed the duo for a few days. After the provisions were exhausted, starvation came to haunt the disabled Antony and his sister, for whom drinking water was the only ‘food’ for several days. When extreme hunger took a toll in Antony’s health, Marial, with the help of neighbours, admitted him to Tirunelveli Medical College Hospital 10 days ago. “As free food is provided to inpatients at the TVMCH, Antony and his sister used to share the food,” says a nurse. When Antony failed to respond to treatment and breathed his last a week ago, Marial’s last hope was shattered. After the body was shifted to the mortuary, Marial confined herself to the visitors’ shed at the TVMCH, where she was lying without food for a week. Though starvation was not something new to the girl, extreme hunger killed her on Sunday night as she refused to drink even water. “A few doctors of the TVMCH agreed to perform the last rites of Antony and we’ve decided to do the same to Marial,” said a policeman attached to the TVMCH police station. (The Hindu 5/5/15)

120. Poverty inspired me to live for others, says Modi (21)

Washington: Recalling the days when he used to sell tea in a railway coach as a child, Prime Minister Narendra Modi says poverty in a way inspired him not to live for himself, but for others. An emotional Modi talks about his life’s influences in an exclusive interview with Time magazine for next week’s cover feature on “Why Modi Matters” with a picture of the prime minister in a light saffron kurta and white churidars. “The world needs India to step up as a global power,” Time says and asks: “One year in can Prime Minister Narendra Modi deliver?” Speaking mostly in Hindi, Modi talked about everything from his ambitions for India to the global war on terrorism to what personally moves him. Asked what influences him, Modi choked and teared up saying: “This touches my deepest core. I was born in a very poor family. I used to sell tea in a railway coach as a child. “My mother used to wash utensils and do lowly household work in the houses of others to earn a livelihood. I have seen poverty very closely. “I have lived in poverty. As a child, my entire childhood was steeped in poverty. For me, poverty, in a way, was the first inspiration of my life. I decided that I would not live for myself but would live for others,” he was quoted as saying. His biggest challenge on becoming the prime minister, Modi said, “was that I was new to the federal government structures. “Different departments tend to work in silos. Each department seems to (be) a government in itself. “My effort has been to break these silos down, (so that) everybody looks at a problem in a collective manner. I see the federal government not as an assembled entity but as an organic entity.” Asked whether he would like to have the kind of authoritarian power that China’s leader has, Modi said: “India is a democracy; it is in our DNA. “So if you were to ask me whether you need a dictatorship to run India, No, you do not. Whether you need a powerful person who believes in concentrating power, No, you do not,” he said. “If you were to ask me to choose between democratic values and wealth, power, prosperity and fame, I will very easily and without any doubt choose democratic values.” Asserting that his “government will not tolerate or accept any discrimination based on caste, creed and religion,” Modi told Time: “So far as the government is concerned, there is only one holy book, which is the constitution of India. “The unity and the integrity of the country are the topmost priorities,” he said. “All religions and all communities have the same rights, and it is my responsibility to ensure their complete and total protection. “My philosophy, the philosophy of my party and the philosophy of my government is ‘Sabka saath, sabka vikas’ – Together with all, progress for all.” (Business Standard 7/5/15)

121. India Needs to Focus on Production, Value Addition, Skill: PM (21)

BURNPUR: India would have to work for increasing production, value addition to mineral resources and developing the skills of youths to fight poverty in the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said today. “India needs to develop on all these three fronts, increased production, increased value addition to the nation’s mineral resources and developing the skills of the youths,” Modi said after the inauguration of modernised IISCO Steel Plant here. “We have iron-ores. We are exporting the mineral and then importing steel from China. Then where is the benefit of having iron-ores?” Modi said. He said if these issues were rightly addressed, the unemployed youths would get jobs and would help the country fight poverty. Commenting on the economic progress after his government came to power, Modi said even one year ago, the world perceived that India had sunk and that it would not revive. “But today, international agencies like the World Bank and IMF were saying that India was among the fastest growing nations in the world,” he said. (New Indian Express 10/5/15)

122. NITI Ayog to tackle poverty problems in NE India (21)

New Delhi: The newly constituted NITI Ayog will examine the nagging problem of poverty in the North Eastern region and submit its recommendations for its elimination next month, the Rajya Sabha Member from Meghalaya Ms Wansuk Syiem was told today. In reply to a question of Wansuk the Minister for Planning Mr Rao Inderjit Singh said that the NITI Ayog has already constituted a task force headed by its Deputy Chairman  in line with that of earlier Planning Commission to go into details of this tricky issue. It will submit the report on poverty along with ways and means of its elimination by middle of next month, he said. Rise of poverty in the Northeastern region despite grand claims by the Centre and the State Governments and the faulty way of determining the social malaise rose heckles in political circles here even leading to adjournments of the Parliament earlier. Then Planning Commission data had showed that poverty in the NE states of Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland has increased during 2009-10 the period of the study. As per the report fixed  that  low national poverty line of Rs. 22.40 per day for an adult in rural areas and Rs. 28.65 per day for an adult in urban areas, in 2009-10 and anyone spending more that this is being categorized as non-poor. As per the report monthly per capita income of a Meghalayan is only Rs.686.9 in rural areas and Rs.989.8 in urban areas in 2009-10. More than four lakh persons in the hill state are below poverty line, it added. (The Shillong Times 12/5/15)

123. Supreme Court accepts panel guidelines to regulate government ads (21)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday accepted the recommendations of an expert panel to regulate government advertisements, particularly on the eve of elections. A bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Pinaki Chandra Ghose said considering the fact that a large percentage of the population of this country were living in below poverty line, such a regulation on government expenditure was necessary. The panel in its report had said that “government advertisements shall not be used at patronising media houses or aimed at receiving favourable reporting for the party or person in power. Advertising campaigns to be related to government responsibilities; advertisement materials should be presented in an objective, fair and accessible manner and be designed to meet the objectives of the campaign and not directed at promoting political interests of ruling party; government advertising shall maintain political neutrality and avoid glorification of political personalities and projecting a positive impression of the party in power or a negative impression of parties critical of the government.” The panel said, “Advertisement materials must not mention the party in government by name; directly attack the views or actions of other in Opposition; include party political symbol or logo or flag; aim to influence public support for a political party, candidate for election; or refer or link to the websites of political parties or politicians.” These guidelines would apply to all the government advertisements other than classified advertisements and would apply to the content of all government advertising till a suitable legislation was enacted by the government. They were intended to prevent misuse of public funds on advertisements to gain political mileage as distinct from legitimate government messaging; would apply to all institutions of government; public sector undertakings; local bodies and other autonomous bodies/organisations established under a Statute. The panel said the issue of multiple advertisements by different departments and public sector undertakings should be avoided in commemorative advertisement and only one advertisement must be issued. As far as possible during the period prior to elections only those advertisements required by law (such as public health and safety advisories or job and contract advertisements alone should be released by government. (Asian Age 14/5/15)

124. Violence, hunger imperil 2,000 trapped in boats off Myanmar: UN (21)

Naypyidaw: At least 2,000 desperate migrants, including women and children, are at risk of violence and food shortages after more than 40 days trapped on boats off Myanmar, the UN refugee agency said Tuesday. The group have been “stranded on at least five boats near the Myanmar-Bangladesh coasts for more than 40 days”, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees spokeswoman Vivian Tan told AFP, adding that unconfirmed reports put the number even higher. It was unclear if the people-smugglers who had organised the voyage were still on board the boats. A recent Thai crackdown on people-smuggling has blocked the southwards route through that country to Malaysia, disrupting the traffic. As a result nearly 3,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants have arrived off Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia in recent days. Thousands of others are feared trapped at sea after being abandoned by people-smugglers. Tan said some migrants on the five boats had paid smugglers around $300 each to return to Myanmar`s Rakhine state, where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims live in abject poverty and suffer discrimination. Those who have returned to land have said passengers still on the boats are short of food and water, while reports of violence are “causing great concern”, Tan added. Myanmar`s government on Monday acknowledged international concerns about waves of boatpeople, many of them Rohingya fleeing Rakhine, but has urged a joint regional response to the crisis. Information Minister Ye Htut said Myanmar`s navy had begun preparing to search for vessels in the country`s waters, but anyone returning would have to prove their nationality. Myanmar does not recognise the estimated 1.3 million Rohingya as an official minority, instead viewing them as mostly illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. (Zee News 19/5/15)

125. Niti Aayog might use poverty lines only for analytical purposes (21)

New Delhi: In the wake of the various controversies surrounding poverty lines at the erstwhile Planning Commission, its successor National Institution for Transforming India (Niti) Aayog feels this barometer should be used only for analytical purposes. Specific indicators be used for social welfare schemes. At a recent meeting, an Aayog task force said defining a poverty line was a controversial issue. It could be based on calorie intake or minimum norms of some other items of consumption such as clothing, shelter, education, health and transport or a combination of all these, sources told Business Standard. The task force — of Aayog Vice-Chairman Arvind Panagariya, member Bibek Debroy and experts like Rathin Roy, Surjit Bhalla and the government’s chief statistician, T C A Anant — recently discussed the issue of using the poverty ratio as a yardstick for indentification of beneficiaries. Its members felt this was better used as an indicator for analytical exercises to assess the change in the level of living. Data on sector-specific indicators could be used for targeting beneficiaries from schemes on that segment. The Socio-Economic and Caste Census, 2011, will be one of the sources. Also, the purchasing power parity (PPP) concept can be considered for allocation of resources among states for various schemes. PPP among states can be derived from the National Sample Survey consumption expenditure data or state-wise poverty lines. “Poverty estimation is as important as GDP (gross domestic product). It gives an idea on the programmes, which groups are falling apart. Even if you have a foolproof identification system, it won’t give you a picture of people who are falling apart. You need to have a statistical barometer to know that,” said Himanshu, an assistant professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University here. The Planning Commission had got into a big controversy on these issues, with its calculations on the basis of national consumption and expenditure surveys. Earlier, the Rangarajan panel had found 29.5 per cent of India’s population was poor in 2011-12, against 21.9 per cent estimated under the previous methodology, which had drawn sharp criticism from various quarters. In absolute terms, 363 million people were below the poverty line that year, higher by about 93 million over the 269.8 million estimated earlier. However, the poverty rate — the number of poor as a proportion of the population — came down swifter in the estimates of the Rangarajan panel than calculated earlier on the Suresh Tendulkar methodology. A greater number of people were classified under poverty in 2011-12 as the Rangarajan committee raised the poverty line compared to that fixed earlier. It had said anyone spending up to Rs 47 a day in urban areas and Rs 32 in villages would be considered poor as of 2011-12. The Tendulkar methodology had pegged these levels at Rs 33 in urban areas and Rs 27 in villages. By either method, poverty was reduced during 2009-10 to 2011-12 (the first three years of the second UPA government). For 2009-10, the Tendulkar methodology had pegged the poverty line at Rs 22 in villages and Rs 29 in urban areas. These were raised to Rs 27 and Rs 40, respectively, by the Rangarajan committee. All these numbers had stirred controversies, with political parties and social activists poking fun at the Planning Commission over these numbers. The task force notes as most government programmes are either universal or based on programme-specific indicators, data for which is separately calculated and used in a programme-specific manner. The National Rural Livelihood Mission, India Awes Yolanda, National Old Age Pension Scheme, are the three programmes that remain target group-oriented (for the poor only) but these programmes have other criteria for selection of beneficiaries, the members said. (Business Standard 22/5/17)

126. Surguja child’s death puts spotlight on ration card policy (21)

BILASPUR: Death of a five-year-old child caused by hunger and exhaustion, after he lost his way in forests along with his sibling in Sitapur in North Chhattisgarh, has sparked off a controversy with Congress alleging that family’s ration card was cancelled after their mother died due to illness and administration did not issue it in the name of male member. Leader of opposition TS Singhdeo told TOI that the fact that deceased’s mother had died a couple of months ago, following which the family’s ration card was cancelled, indicates insensitivity on part of the administration. “There is no rule that says that if there is no women above 18 years in the family, ration card will not me made in the name of a male of the house. Since the woman in this case had died and there was no other woman in the family, the administration should have taken steps to transfer the ration card in the name of the man of the house,” he added. Sarguja district collector Ritu Sen admitted that the family’s ration card was cancelled after the woman member of the family died due to illness. “However, we conduct regular drive for adding names, but none from the family concerned came forward with the request to issue ration card in the name of male member,” she claimed. Sen said that there is ample work available under MNREGA and other schemes in the area. In this regard, it would be wrong to assume that the family did not have any work and was forced to leave the village in search of work. “The man, along with his children, had come to Sitapur by a bus. From Sitapur, he had left to visit some of his relatives in another village on foot, when he got separated from two of his children, one of who died,” she claimed. The collector said the postmortem report did mention that the child died due to starvation as no grain was found in his intestines, but that was because after being separated from his father, the deceased along with one of his elder brothers was lost in forest and spent a long time trying to find their way out. Meanwhile, eldest of the three children, Rajaram, who had been missing, was found alive near Sitapur, the collector said. The child has been admitted to the hospital where his condition is said to be stable, she added. Leader of opposition TS Singhdeo told TOI that the fact that deceased’s mother had died a couple of months ago, following which the family’s ration card was cancelled, indicates insensitivity on part of the administration. (Times of Indi 24/5/15)

127. When hunger doesn’t go on vacation (21)

AGRA: The Uttar Pradesh mid-day meal authority’s decision to extend the vital service to students of 58 drought-hit districts even during the summer vacation has hit an unlikely roadblock: teachers. This in essence jeopardizes the well-being of lakhs of school-going children in districts declared ‘drought-hit’ in 2014. Many of these regions also bore the brunt of unseasonal rains in March, sparking a spate of suicides. The opposition, if successful, will likely affect a large number of poor students. There are some 60 lakh students in UP schools. Even the smaller districts have at least 50,000 students enrolled in primary and upper primary schools.On their part, teachers have said that they work throughout the year and are also assigned additional jobs during elections. And to expect them to work even during the summer break is “a bit too much”.The UP Primary Teachers’ Association and Junior High School Teachers’ Association on Friday submitted a memorandum with the district magistrate and the Basic Shikhsa Adhikari, Lucknow, requesting officials to exclude teachers from the initiative. Similar demonstrations were staged in Mathura, Mainpuri, Firozabad, Etah and various other cities and towns across the state. READ ALSO: ‘We need summer break’ , UP teachers oppose spl midday meal scheme Akhilesh Sharma of the Junior High School Teachers’ Association said the ruling government was exploiting teachers. “Meal distribution during the summer break will only add to the woes of government teachers who are already struggling to fulfill additional tasks such as Samajwadi Pension distribution duty and doubling up as block-level officers ahead of elections,” he said on Friday. Sharma also doubted if children would make it to school in the sweltering heat for a meal. “No student showed up on Friday when the temperature touched 45 degrees. But teachers were forced to come at 7.30 in the morning to prepare the meal and wait for the children till 12. Government should make policies that work, this one looks like it will only ruin the holidays for teachers,” he added. Sudhanshu Mohan, the head of Junior High School Teachers’ Association, Lucknow, said he would boycott the plan. Pradeep Singh from UP Primary Teacher’s Association, Lucknow, agreed. “Sarkar ko itni hi daya hai gareebo pe to poore gaon ko bhojan de. Sirf bachchon ko kyun? Hum taiyyar hain desh ke hit mein kaam karne ke liye, magar zyaadti ke liye nahi (If the government is so concerned about the poor, it should provide food to entire villages, why just children? We are willing to work for the country but we can’t tolerate highhandedness),” Singh said. RP Mishra, state secretary and spokesperson of Uttar Pradesh Madhyamik Shikshak Sangh, said that government should make separate arrangements and allow teachers to go on leave. “The food and other responsibilities can be shouldered by village headmen,” he said. (Times of India 24/5/15)

128. A World Bank project in Odisha has changed lives of 9 lakh families (21)

Puri: Life has changed for more than 900,000 families across 10 Odisha districts since they signed up for a credit scheme under a poverty reduction programme started in 2009 with the World Bank funding of $82.4 million. The World Bank-funded project — Targeted Rural Initiative for Poverty Termination and Infrastructure (Tripti) – started in 2009 and will be merged with the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) in June but may well end up as the guiding light for the central scheme. Tripti has touched mostly Dalit and tribal women, who form 17% and 23%, respectively, of Odisha’s population and are among the most impoverished of the 17 million people in the state below the poverty line. Most of the women utilised the loan mainly on agriculture, horticulture, poultry, fishery, health and education. They even repaid previous outstanding amounts to avail bigger loans for scaling up their enterprises. The scheme covers 78,460 self-help groups across 10 districts in the state and has led to a spurt in the average amount of a loan sanctioned by banks to such outfits, which has jumped to over Rs. 100,000 from Rs. 80,000 in the beginning of the year. “This implies that 25% of the state’s bank linkage has occurred in the 10 districts covered under the project,” said Pranab Jyoti Nath, state mission director of the Odisha Rural Livelhood Mission, responsible for Tripti’s implementation. This socio-economic empowerment has made women self-reliant and enabled them to intervene in social and political issues including domestic violence issues, anti-liquor campaign, education of the girl child and rural sanitation. Such an initiative also helped 23-year-old Jhili Mondal in Jagatsinghpur district who had suffered repeated physical torture at the hands of her husband and in-laws. They forced her to abort twice and allegedly tried to sell her off to a trafficker in Andhra Pradesh. Help came from hundreds of women from nearby villages, who formed 90 self-help groups and took Mondal under their wing. The SHGs forced her in-laws to part with a patch of their family land for her subsistence and gave her Rs. 5000 and a livelihood linkage to start her life afresh. “I would have been dead by now but for them. With their help, I have been able to overcome the trauma and trying to stand on my own feet,” said Mondal. (Hindustan Times 26/5/15)

129. India tops hunger list, says UN report (21)

Rome, May 28 (PTI): India is home to the highest number of hungry people in the world, at 194 million, surpassing China, according to a UN annual hunger report. At the global level, the corresponding figure dropped to 795 million in 2014-15, from one billion in 1990-92, with East Asia led by China accounting for most of the reductions, UN body Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said in its report titled The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015. India, too, saw a reduction between 1990 and 2015, it added. In 1990-92, those who were starved of food in India numbered 210.1 million, which came down to 194.6 million in 2014-15. “India has made great strides in reducing the proportion of food insecure persons in the overall population, but according to the FAO, it still has over 194 million hungry persons,” the report said. However, China stood out as the reduction in the number of hungry people was much higher than in India. The number came down to 133.8 million in 2014-15 from 289 million in 1990-92. “A majority – 72 out of 129 – of the countries monitored by the FAO have achieved the Millennium Development Goal target of halving the prevalence of undernourishment by 2015, with developing regions as a whole missing the target by a small margin,” the report said. Some 29 countries have managed to meet the more ambitious goal of the World Food Summit in 1996 where governments had committed to halving the absolute number of undernourished people by 2015. Talking of noticeable progress, the report made a specific mention of Latin America and the Caribbean countries, southeast and central Asia, as well as some parts of Africa. (The Telegraph 29/5/15)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

 

130. Aadhaar not mandatory for seeking job under MGNREGS, says Collector (14)

RAMANATHAPURAM: The district administration has clarified that Aadhaar card was not mandatory for the rural poor to seek employment under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). In a press release here on Thursday, Collector K. Nanthakumar has said a disinformation campaign was going on that Aadhaar card was mandatory to get 100 days guaranteed employment under the scheme and it was totally false. The process of linking Aadhaar card number with the bank accounts was going on but Aadhaar number was not necessary for getting employment under the scheme, the Collector clarified. The employees, however, should have bank account in one of the banks in their area as the weekly wages would be credited into their bank accounts, the Collector said. Those who seek employment under the scheme should apply to the local Panchayat president and obtain the employment card. They would be paid based on their day’s work and at the end of the week, the salary would be credited into the individual’s bank account, the Collector said adding the daily wage has been increased from Rs. 167 to Rs. 183. (The Hindu 1/5/15)

131. Workers demand their rights (14)

New Delhi: Domestic workers lead by National Union of Informal Workers staged a demonstration, demanding entitlement to minimum wages, outside the house of the Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in Civil Lines on the occasion of Labour Day on Friday. Over 500 domestic workers gathered from different parts of Delhi and demonstrated outside the CM’s house demanding adequate wages, entitlement to holidays, maternity leave and disability insurance. The workers wanted to hand over a list of the demands to the Chief Minister, but he refused to meet them, said a member of National Union of Informal Workers (NUIW). After CM refused to meet the domestic workers, they intensified their protest and shouted slogans against him. “Why the so-called CM of aam admi refused to even meet them, let alone hear about their plight,” they said. “However, the list of demand was handed over to the officials present there,” said the member. “Later, it was decided that if the government does not pay heed to their demands and take necessary action, a protest of much larger scale will be staged to highlight the plight of informal sector,” he added. On the day, the National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI) has also written to the Prime Minister and Chief Minister of Delhi appealing them to take steps to stop the harassment faced by hawkers from police and municipal officials in the city. Arbind Singh, the co-ordinator of NASVI said there are many Supreme Court judgements in favour of street vendors but these are rarely implemented. The letter of NASVI mentions “The situation of street vendors in Delhi has been deteriorating drastically despite the enactment of Street Vendors Livelihood Protection Act 2014. However even after a year, not a single certificate of vending has been issued in the entire country,” said Singh. He added that the vendors toil hard to make a living still they face harassment. “They work for 14 to 16 hours but are treated like criminals. They are put behind bars on frivolous reasons. They are beaten up and their goods are seized and destroyed,” Singh said. “This inhuman treatment should be immediately stopped.” (Deccan Herald 2/5/15)

132. Cabinet Gives Approval to Pension, Insurance Schemes (14)

NEW DELHI: The union cabinet on Wednesday gave its approval to operationalising three social sector schemes – Atal Pension Yojna (APY), Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana (PMJJBY) and the Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana (PMSBY). The decisions, aimed at “creating a universal social security system for all Indians”, were taken at meeting of the cabinet presided over by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Approval of the cabinet was given to extend funding support for implementing the APY and apprise the cabinet on operationalisation of the PMJJBY and the PMSBY. Approval was also given to provide Rs.50 crore per annum for the next 5 years as the government contribution for publicity related expenditure for PMJJBY and PMSBY,” an official release said. Under the APY, subscribers would receive a fixed minimum pension of Rs.1,000-5,000 per month at the age of 60 years, depending on their contributions, which itself would vary on their age of joining. The central government would also co-contribute 50 percent of the total contribution or Rs.1,000 per annum, whichever is lower, to each eligible subscriber account, for a period of five years – from 2015-16 to 2019-20 – to those who join the national pension scheme before December 31, 2015 and who are not members of any statutory social security scheme and are not income tax payers. The pension would also be available to the spouse on the death of the subscriber and thereafter, the pension corpus would be returned to the nominee. The minimum age of joining APY is 18 years and maximum age is 40 years. The benefit of fixed minimum pension would be guaranteed by the government. Under PMJJBY, annual life insurance of Rs.2 lakh would be available on the payment of a premium of Rs.330 per annum by the subscribers. The PMJJBY will be made available to people in the age group of 18 to 50 years having a bank account from where the premium would be collected through the facility of “auto-debit”.Under PMSBY, risk coverage will be Rs.2 lakh for accidental death and full disability and Rs.1 lakh for partial disability. The scheme will be available to people in the age group 18 to 70 years with a bank account, from where the premium would be collected through the facility of “auto-debit”.The release said government expenditure was expected to range between Rs.2,520 crore and Rs.10,000 crore on account of its co-contribution to subscribers of APY over a period of five years. An expenditure of Rs.2,000 crore for promotional activities for enrolment and contribution collection under APY and Rs.250 crore for publicity and awareness building for PMJJBY and PMSBY was envisaged by the government over five years. It is expected that around two crore subscribers would be enrolled during the current financial year under APY. The release said a large proportion of India’s population was without insurance of any kind. “Therefore, the government has decided to work towards creating a universal social security system for all Indians, specially the poor and the under-privileged, to address longevity risks among workers in the unorganised sector and to encourage workers in the unorganised sector to voluntarily save for their retirement,” it said. It said unorganised sector workers constitute 88 percent of the total labour force of 47.29 crore, according to the 66th Round of National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) Survey of 2011-12. (New Indian Express 6/5/14)

133. PM Narendra Modi launches 3 social security schemes (14)

Kolkata: After providing bank accounts to 15 crore unbanked people, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today launched three social security schemes, including a Re 1 per day insurance cover, and said that the poor need empowerment, not aid. Modi said Rs 15,800 crore has been deposited in the 15 crore Jan Dhan accounts opened in four months and the scheme to provide cooking gas subsidy directly into bank accounts of beneficiaries has helped stop pilferages and leakages worth hundreds of crores of rupees. “I told the poor, this nation, this government and our banks are for you… poor do not want ‘sahara’. We need to change how we think. The poor need ‘shakti’,” he said at the event, also attended by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. PM Narendra Modi said 80-90 per cent people in the country neither have insurance cover nor any possibility of pension. PM Narendra Modi said 80-90 per cent people in the country neither have insurance cover nor any possibility of pension. (PTI) While the three schemes will come into force from June 1, the Prime Minister said that in the first seven days of the trail-run, banks have enrolled 5.05 crore people, including 42 lakh from West Bengal. The schemes — Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana (PMJJBY), Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana (PMSBY) and Atal Pension Yojana (APY) — were simultaneously launched at 115 locations throughout the country. Stating that it is a misconception that large industrial houses provide more jobs, Modi said about 5.5 crore small and medium entrepreneurs provide employment to more than 14 crore people. “We can achieve whatever but if the fruits do not reach the poor, our development journey is incomplete… we are calling the world to make in India and at the same time we are opening bank accounts for the poor,” he said. The Prime Minister also urged people to pay small premiums towards insurance schemes for their domestic helps, drivers, and liftmen, among others…..  (The Financial Express 10/5/15)

134. Demand for more workdays, better pay (14)

KOCHI: Enhancing working days under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) from the present 100 to 200 days and minimum wages to Rs. 350 was among the many demands that came up at a validation workshop on the scheme held at the collectorate on Tuesday. The workshop was organised by the district poverty alleviation unit in association with the State Institute of Rural Development (SIRD) in the wake of an evaluation report prepared on the implementation of the scheme in the district by M.G. University’s School of International Relations and Politics. N. Vinodini, Joint Programme Coordinator (JPC), MGNREGS, and project director, Poverty Alleviation Unit, emphasised on the need for JPCs with the sole responsibility of MGNREGS to do justice to the game changing scheme. She also pointed out the need to implement the scheme this financial year. Ms. Vinodini talked about the lack of interest shown by majority of grama panchayats towards the scheme and exhorted workers’ unions to educate workers about their many rights and facilities under the scheme. Umman John, faculty member, SIRD, said that grama panchayats defaulting on conducting social audit of the scheme should be taken to task. K.M. Seethi, director, School of International Relations and Politics, the study could have reflected the economic empowerment aspect if researchers had been given the mandate thereof. He said that conducting a survey with a sample size of 20 out of 84 panchayats had its own limitations. Officials engaged in the implementation of the scheme complained of the many hurdles in front of them from accessibility to problems faced by them on delayed payment to worker. A woman worker under the scheme lamented the difficulty in identifying enough works to provide job for 100 days. (The Hindu 13/5/15)

135. Changes in child labour law not ideal (14)

The Union Cabinet’s approval of proposed legislative amendments prohibiting the employment of children below the age of 14, but letting them work in family businesses and the entertainment sector as long as their schooling is not affected, seems unrealistic, if not morally unjustifiable. With one stroke of the pen the government wants to tackle both the amendments to the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012, and the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, but in both these it has done hardly any service either to children or to their parents. It is well known that the working of the Right to Education exists mostly on paper, especially in remote villages and smaller cities and towns. While it is true that impoverished families send their little children to work as they have no choice as their own incomes are inadequate to feed every mouth, the government, which needs to tackle this impoverishment, is evading this responsibility despite all the talk of providing “achche din” to everybody. One can see the government trying to tackle this issue in a positive manner, but it is only legalising the exploitation of children by paying lip service to both these laws. As it says, it is trying to strike a balance between the realities of the socio-economic conditions of the families as well as the child’s right to education. But in doing so it is not really helping either the family or the children. How can a child who puts in several hours of school then go to work for another five to six hours? Forget about play, when does he study? Besides, who is going to ensure that the children are not exploited? Nowhere in the media reports is there any word about monitoring. No parent would send a child to work except out of necessity. So the solution lies in providing the parents with adequate jobs or providing them and the children skills. With skills they can be self-employed; this is the only way to save them from exploitation. It is also well known that despite all the labour laws, exploitation of workers is already rampant. One cannot even imagine the situation in areas for which there are no laws nor any monitoring. Fortunately the Cabinet decision has to go to Parliament where it is hoped that the parties come up with more enlightened solutions. There must be several solutions, but these cannot be expected from the bureaucracy. For this the legislators must be more imaginative and modern in their thinking. (Asian Age 15/5/15)

136. Construction Workers Threaten Stir on May 25 (14)

BHUBANESWAR:The Trade Union Centre of India (TUCI) and Odisha Nirman Shramik Union (ONSU) has threatened to gherao the Labour Commissioner and Odisha Building and Other Construction Board’s office on May 25 protesting its decision to debar ONSU from certifying building and other construction workers for registration. Registration with the welfare board is mandatory for construction workers for eligibility of the social security schemes. The union said it was not served any showcause notice before the Board took such a drastic step and no hearing was held on the matter. Although the order has not yet been sent to the union, all 32 District Labour Officers and Collectors have received the same, president of ONSU, Sivaram said here. Terming the order as illegal and undemocratic which is against the interests of workers, the TUCI’s State committee and ONSU will gherao the welfare board demanding its withdrawal. The two bodies have also demanded that building and other construction workers be provided labour cards within 30 days and all registered beneficiaries must receive benefits within 45 days. TUCI State committee secretary Sabyasachi Mohapatra said the State Government must fill up vacancies in District Labour Offices and stop loot of funds in the name of training. (New Indian Express 16/5/15)

137. Wage arrears, denial of work haunt women (14)

RAMANATHAPURAM: More than 60 women, who were employed under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), thronged the Collectorate here on Monday, alleging that they have not received their wages for nearly a year. Led by village head S. Kesavan, the women from Kottakudi panchayat in Nainarkoil block said they had not only received the wages but had been denied work by the authorities. As the local Block Development Officer (BDO) could not give a convincing reply, they decided to bring it to the notice of the Collector. For many women, especially aged widows, the 100 days of guaranteed employment in a year provided economic independence. As most of them were living on their own after abandoned by their children, they depended on the wages for the livelihood, they said. S. Rakku (75), mother of five daughters and a son, is living separately and prefers to live independently without being a burden to the children. Her son refused to take care of her after her husband’s death and she could not trouble her daughters after they were married. “How could I sit and eat at my ‘sambandi’s’ home,” she asks. Similar is the case of M. Soundaram (70), a widow. After the marriage of her two daughters, she is living alone with her income from the 100-day employment. For both the aged women, widow pension comes in handy. “But for the monthly pension, we will really struggle,” they say. Official sources attributed an ‘online error’ for the delay in wage disbursal. All the beneficiaries had been registered online and the wages were yet to be credited into their bank accounts, the sources said. The beneficiaries have their accounts in Pandyan Grama Bank. (The Hindu 19/5/15)

138. Qatar hits back at Amnesty labour claims (14)

DOHA: Qatar insisted on Thursday it was “committed” to improving conditions for its huge number of migrant labourers following an Amnesty report accusing Doha of failing to deliver on promised reforms. The 2022 football World Cup host defend itself after Amnesty said Doha was still “failing migrant workers” in key areas such as pay, the “kafala” system that blocks workers from leaving the country and curbs on changing employers, despite promising wholesale change more than 12 months ago. It was the latest criticism against Qatar over labour practices in the country but Doha hit back in a statement from the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, insisting that reforms had been put in place. “Significant changes have been made over the last year to improve the rights and conditions of expatriate workers,” read the statement. “No one should be in any doubt that we are committed to effective and sustainable change.” Adding that “we disagree with a number of its (Amnesty’s) claims”, the ministry said reforms in the past 12 months included the introduction of an electronic wage protection system to ensure workers get paid on time and promised accommodation improvements for more than 250,000 workers. The ministry added the number of labour inspectors — 294 — would be increased to 400 by the end of the year. In addition more than 51,000 site visits were carried out in 2014, said the ministry. It also said that “the promotion and protection of human rights, including the rights of expatriate workers” was at the heart of Qatar’s economic and social policies. Pointing to the money earned by labourers, the ministry said that more than $12 billion (10 billion euros) had been sent home by labourers in 2014, “considerably more than they would earn at home”. Qatar is expected to more than double the number of migrant labourers in the country to 2.5 million by 2020 ahead of hosting the World Cup. The Qatari response did not specifically address the kafala issue but earlier this month Abdullah bin Saleh al-Khulaifi, the minister of labour and social affairs, told AFP he was “90 percent” certain it would be replaced by the end of 2015. (Times of India 21/5/15)

139. MGNREGS boosted financial inclusion, but hitches remain: study (14)

KOCHI: Though the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) had helped in making good progress in financial inclusion in the district, it was not free of several hurdles that prevented the working class from enjoying the resultant benefits fully. A study on the implementation of the scheme in the district conducted by MG University’s School of International Relations and Politics pegged financial inclusion at 67.50 per cent in 20 out of the 84 grama panchayats, which were taken as sampling units. The conclusion was reached based on a cumulative analysis of 14 demand and supply side variables. While the number of bank account holders had increased significantly since 2008, there were widespread complaints about the transaction environment due to indifference on the part of banking officials. Workers who responded to the opinion survey felt that bank officials were not comfortable about their collective visit to banks for withdrawal. This had thrown up an idea of separate counter for MGNREGS-related transactions in banks. Access to banking institutions and the cost of transportation were other major hurdles. About 52 per cent workers had to travel miles to reach the bank that often led to additional burden in terms of transportation cost, besides loss of work for the day. While 97.67 per cent had no access to cheque facility, only 22 per cent had access to ATMs. Only 1.83 per cent visited banks once in a month. This made periodical checks of whether wages had been credited and verification of balance in accounts difficult. Notwithstanding that, payment of wages through banks had been found to be beneficial and rewarding. It took banking services to the masses, provided incentives for saving and among other things helped to buy household items. Despite the indifference on the part of banking officials, 99.67 per cent hardly had any problem in opening bank accounts while 99.17 per cent personally withdrew money form their accounts. Besides, financial inclusion instilled among the workforce awareness about the banking and its various services, problems associated with withdrawal and investments, provisions of loans and problems of repayments etc. (The Hindu 26/5/15)

140. Construction workers denied benefits: AITUC (14)

ERODE: The All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) representatives on Tuesday submitted a memorandum to the authorities demanding justice to members of Construction Workers Welfare Board. Benefits mandated in the Tamil Nadu Construction Workers Welfare Board were being denied to the members, AITUC district secretary S. Chinnasamy complained. Construction workers took exception to what they described as failure on the part of the State Government to hold periodic meetings of the Board, and discrepancies in nominating members to the Board. Despite the membership exceeding Rs. 20 lakh and a corpus of Rs. 900 crore, the construction workers were denied entitled benefits, the AITUC representatives complained, demanding Rs. 10 lakh as compensation payment for accident death, Rs. 5 lakh for natural death, Rs. 25,000 for conduct of last rites, Rs. 60,000 as maternity benefit, Rs. 1 lakh for marriage assistance, and Rs. 5,000 as pension. Pension must be paid to women above the age of 50 years and men over 55 years, he said. They sought five cents of land to each member, and a free house, besides meeting of educational expenses of children. (The Hindu 27/5/15)

141. 107 bonded labourers rescued  (14)

Bengaluru: Over 100 persons, including five children, were rescued from “jail-like” conditions in an agarbatti factory at Kaggalipura, close to Kanakapura, on the outskirts of the city on Thursday. Based on a tip-off, the district administration and police raided Balaji Agarbatti factory. However, on enquiry, they found that 107 workers – mainly from West Bengal, Assam, Jharkhand and Nepal – were forced to work there without proper payment. “They were hired through an agency. Once they arrived at the factory, they were not allowed to go out or even talk to relatives,” said Dayanand, Tahsildar of Bengaluru South taluk. The administration is yet to ascertain if the children had been employed or had merely come along with their families, he said. According to International Justice Mission, which assisted in the operation, the workers were forced to work daily between 6 a.m. and 2 a.m.; some had not been paid for two years. A case has been filed against the factory owner, Balaji, contractor as well as the tout who brought them under sections for bonded labour (Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976), child labour (Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986), illegal confinement (Section 340 of the IPC), and human trafficking (Section 370). (The Hindu 29/5/15)

RESERVATION

 

142. Panel urges new criteria for SC/ST applicants in technical jobs (25)

NEW DELHI: The Committee on the Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, in its latest report on action taken by the government, has recommended that eligibility criteria be amended to facilitate influx of meritorious SC/ST candidates in the scientific and technical field. The Committee’s report on action taken by the government on its recommendations in the 26th report was on Thursday laid in Parliament. It had in the earlier report on the review of representation of SCs and STs in senior government positions noted that even today the community is not considered qualified enough for scientific and technical posts. “The absence of reservation clause in the scientific and technical posts is just another tactic to rob them of their opportunity to get a foothold in the field of scientific and technical expertise,” the committee noted. In its reply, the government said only those scientific and technical posts which are required for conducting research or for organising, guiding and directing research and also fulfilling the certain stipulated requirements are exempt from the purview of reservation orders. However, the conditions do not apply to posts in the Department of Space and in the Department of Electronics and in regard to the recruitment of trainees at the training school under the Department of Atomic Energy. Commenting on the government’s reply, the Committee has said the absence of reservation in the scientific/technical posts and also posts meant for conducting or guiding research has rather deterred SC/ST candidates from venturing into these fields. Accordingly, it has suggested that the eligibility criteria need to be amended to encourage meritorious candidates. The Committee had also expressed dismay over the backlog in Group ‘A’ posts, to which the DoPT submitted that special recruitment drives had been launched to fill up the backlog. The overall success rate of the drive was 74.85 per cent. (The Hindu 1/5/15)

143. Housing plan: BPL out, caste census in (25)

New Delhi, May 3: The Centre plans to change the criteria for selecting the beneficiaries of its rural housing scheme for the poor, dropping the earlier poverty-list-based method for one that uses a points system based on the ongoing caste census. The government believes the proposed reform will achieve better targeting by including deserving families left out of the below-poverty-line (BPL) list, but critics feel it would leave a huge number of households tied on points in every village, spawning controversy. It’s the Union rural development ministry that has drafted the list of 10 proposed criteria, carrying 15 points in all, for the Indira Awaas Yojana. The ministry wants to build 25 lakh houses in 2015-16 under the scheme, with Bengal set the highest target of 4.32 lakh houses because of its high number of homeless and poor. However, the cabinet is expected to change the 75:25 ratio of central and state spending under the scheme to 50:50, which could make it more challenging for some states to meet their target. Till now, the states used to select the beneficiaries from their BPL lists, prepared after the last BPL census in 2002, which ruling parties found easy to manipulate because the lists were thin on specifics. In 2011, the BPL census was renamed as the Socio-Economic Caste Census, with the government deciding to collect caste data along with more wide-ranging and detailed economic data. The caste census, the first since 1931, was meant not just to enable necessary revisions to reservation lists and volumes but also to better target the welfare schemes. So, the caste census data would have replaced BPL data anyway – the government has decided it will be from this year for the rural housing scheme and has drafted the criteria. Sources said that although the re-verification of caste census data wasn’t yet complete across India, there was enough material to make the revised criteria a success. Rajeev Sadanandan, a joint secretary in the ministry, wrote to all the states last month seeking their comments on the draft criteria by April 30. The ministry is likely to finalise the criteria in May so that the states can identify the beneficiaries by June. There has been a general feeling that the BPL data had outlasted their utility. For instance, the Yojana guidelines say at least 60 per cent of the houses must go to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and 15 per cent to minority groups. But many states have complained that the 60 per cent quota was no longer feasible because virtually all their BPL Dalit and tribal families had already been covered…. (The  Telegraph 4/5/15)

144. MPs, MLAs fall in OBC ‘creamy layer’, panel says (25)

NEW DELHI: Children of past and present members of Parliament and state legislators should not be eligible for OBC reservations, the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) has recommended. The OBC panel has argued that election to “high offices” like Parliament and state legislatures shows that the said individuals have achieved “social elevation” and “should logically come within the category of creamy layer”. The unambiguous verdict comes in response to an outpouring of complaints that children of elected representatives are getting “non-creamy layer” certificates. The panel has also recommended that wards of a ‘Class I’ officers in state government or Centre should be excluded from reservation benefits, irrespective of the officer being a “direct recruit” or a “promotee”. Presently, only the “direct recruits” are considered part of the “creamy layer”. “Any Class I officer achieves a higher social status the moment he becomes a Class I officer whether by direct recruitment or through promotion. Promotee Class I officer draws much more salary than the direct recruit,” the NCBC has argued. While legislators in popular understanding constitute advanced sections of backward communities, the schedule of “creamy layer” for Mandal quotas does not mention them under the category of “constitutional posts”. In the absence of a specific mention of “elected offices” in “creamy layer” schedule, experts say ‘salary criterion’ determines if the child of an MP/MLA deserves reservation benefits. As part of revision of “creamy layer” undertaken every three years, the Commission has proposed a new draft in a letter to the ministry of social justice. It has also recommended, as reported by TOI, that annual salary for exclusion from quota benefits should be raised from Rs 6 lakh to Rs 10.50 lakh. The proposal poses a tricky question for the Centre unless elected representatives voluntarily give up claim on 27% quotas in job and education. While NCBC’s advice is not binding on government, the reality appears a bit different after the Supreme Court recently struck down the inclusion of Jats in the OBC list. One of the reasons cited was that the Centre had ignored the advice of the panel. (Times of India 6/5/14)

145. “Implement BC panel recommendations” (25)

CHENNAI: DMK leader M. Karunanidhi on Wednesday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to implement the recommendations of the National Commission for Backward Classes for increasing the “creamy layer” criterion for OBCs from the present annual salary of Rs. 6 lakh to Rs. 10.50 lakh. In a statement here, he said while the DMK was for dispensing with the creamy layer, it wanted implementation of the recommendations of the commission as it alone would ensure the benefits of reservation for the OBCs. “The recommendation will pave way for crores of OBCs to get employment opportunities and education,” he said. (The Hindu 7/5/15)

146. Bainsla begins ‘Nyay Yatra’ for SBC quota (25)

JAIPUR: Gujjar leader Kirori Singh Bainsla on Monday launched a ‘Nyay Yatra’ (journey for justice) with a revised demand to have an increased quota for the Specially Backward Classes (SBC) within the overall reservation limit of 50%. Bainsla and his supporters started the Yatra from Peepalkheda-Patoli, the place of first major Gujjar agitation for reservation in May 2007, and travelled through Abhaneri and Sikandra in Dausa district to reach Kaimri in Karauli district for a night halt on day one. The Kaimri region’s dominant Khatana Gujjars, who had moved away from Bainsla’s leadership in 2008, returned to his camp on Monday. The Yatra would conclude at Pilukapura, the place of Gujjars agitations in 2008, 2009 and 2010, on May 21. “If, by May 21, the state government fails to take concrete steps to bring in a new bill to give us (increased) reservation within the 50% limit, we will once again embark on the path of agitation and the government will be responsible for the consequences,” Himmat Singh said quoting Bainsla. Singh is spokesperson of the Bainsla-led Rajasthan Gujjar Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti that organised widespread quota agitations in May 2007 and May 2008 when 72 people were killed in police firing and almost the entire eastern Rajasthan remained paralysed for months as Gujjars sat on the railway tracks and the national highways blocking the passage of traffic. “The BJP election manifestos of 2013 and 2014 promised a resolution of our demand but the Vasundhara Raje-government has been fooling us for a year now,” Singh said, accusing the state government of double-speak. “Minister Rajendra Rathore promised us during the Katara-Ajij agitation to get the Attorney General to argue our case before the Rajasthan high court, but nothing happened for a year,” he said. Singh highlighted, “As the Jat reservation got stuck recently, the Raje-government not only brought the AG (Mukul Rohatgi) from Delhi in a charter plane to appear before the high court here, but also made a strong statement through him that granting reservation was the government’s exclusive domain.” He emphasized, “The government never showed such resoluteness for the SBC reservation and always expressed its helplessness in granting us our right citing legal hurdles. It shows the government’s double-speak for different communities.” The Nyay Yatra was started to mobilize the Gujjar community in the light of the Supreme Court judgment to strike down Jat reservation in eight states, including Rajasthan’s Bharatpur and Dholpur districts. The non-Jat communities within the Other Backward Classes (OBC), too, recently held demonstrations to demand exclusion of Jats from the OBC category for entire Rajasthan. (Times of India 12/5/15)

147. Challenge to court’s quota repeal (25)

Patna, May 13: An appeal was filed in the high court on Wednesday, challenging its May 4 order quashing the government’s decision to provide reservation benefits to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in promotions. One Narendra Kumar, the general secretary of SC/ST organisation, had filed a letter patents appeal (LPA) in the court. He has challenged the high court’s earlier order, setting aside reservation in promotions. An LPA is an appeal from a decision of a single judge to a division bench of the same court. The government had issued a notification in August 2012, ensuring reservation in promotion for SC/ST employees in government services. The decision was taken at a cabinet meeting presided over by chief minister Nitish Kumar. The single bench of Justice Vijayendra Nath on May 4 quashed the decision. The court stated that the government did not take into consideration the overall backwardness of the castes. The appeal filed by Narendra stated that the judgment delivered by the single bench was based on misinterpretation of M. Nagaraj vs Union of India (October 2006) case. In the M. Nagaraj case, the Supreme Court had held that there should be only three criteria before deciding reservation in promotions – backwardness, inadequate representation and overall efficiency. Upholding a petition filed by an aggrieved general category employee, Sushil Kumar Singh, and others challenging the reservation in promotions, the high court on May 4 said the state had failed to contemplate on the impact of the reservation policy in promotion on the overall administrative efficiency. The petitioner’s lawyer, Dinu Kumar, said Bihar has quantifiable data, which is sufficient for satisfying the requirement as laid down by the Supreme Court in the case of M. Nagaraj that speaks of the three criteria. He added: “The government, while providing reservation in promotion to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, had clearly stated that both castes have less than 16 per cent and 1 per cent representation, respectively, in government services. Providing reservation to them had not violated the Reservation Act as the 50 per cent ceiling limit has not been crossed.” The appeal, expected to be heard next week, further stated that in the case of Rohtas Bhankhar vs Union of India last year, the apex court had ruled that there should be only two compelling reasons for providing reservation in promotions – backwardness and inadequate representation. So far overall efficiency was concerned, the court has held that the government has domain to relax the criteria of efficiency or merit with respect to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The appeal challenged the single bench ruling that reservation benefits to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in promotions in government services was done without any sufficient data and conducting proper survey. It also challenged the high court’s consideration of the creamy layer, as the appeal filed said in both cases of Ashok Kumar Thakur and Indra Sawhney, the Supreme Court had held that the concept of creamy layer will not apply to the case of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. (The Telegraph 14/5/15)

148. Leading the Transgender People’s Battle for Rights (25)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:A banner at the entrance of Hassan Marikkar Memorial, Palayam, on Friday, read ‘Welcome Tiruchi Siva MP, the warrior for transgender people’. Superlatives, comical and rarely true, often find a place on banners for politicians. This time, though, the description was no exaggeration. For the person in question had moved the Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, which in April became the first private member Bill to be passed in the Rajya Sabha in 45 years. On Friday, he was in the city to inaugurate ‘The Dale View TG Fest 2015’. The state he hails from, Tamil Nadu, treats transgender people with greater respect than in Kerala, according to the transgender participants of the fest. Still they fail to mention that in all Indian states, a transgender person often ends up as a commercial sex worker or turns to begging. It hardly occurs to them that a respectable life free of discrimination is not a privilege, but a right. “They are tax payers, but they are not enjoying the rights and privileges which the Constitution guarantees to other citizens of the country. That’s what provoked me to think why a law should not be in place, for the protection of their rights,” says the MP. The number of private Bills, Bills introduced by a legislator not acting on behalf of the executive, which met their happy ending are very few in the history of Indian legislature. There were many detractors, who predicted that the Transgender Bill will be thrown to the bin. Siva equates the debates that happened in the Upper House to a “football match”. But, eventually, the Bill was passed by a unanimous voice vote. He has four decades of political career. In 2012, Siva had moved another private Bill to include 22 languages as the official languages of India.  However, now he is identified as a spokesperson for transgender people. “I am happy that you call me a transgender spokesperson. I have many responsibilities and one among them is this,” he says. Siva does not remember any incident which acted as the trigger for his movement. “I don’t need a personal experience. We are brought up with the principles of social justice. Every man must be treated equal to the other person in every aspect,” he says. He says that the principles he follows were forged by his party, DMK. As 49.5 per cent of seats in government institutions have been reserved for Scheduled Castes (15 per cent), Scheduled Tribes (7.5 per cent) and Other Backward Classes (27 per cent), it was not possible to set aside seats exclusively for transgender people. So, the Bill proposes a 2 per cent reservation for transgenders in each of these categories. Transgenders who don’t belong to these categories do not have reservation. To this, Siva says, “Reservation for OBCs came in the nineties. The fight for it went on for decades and we waited for so many years after Independence. We waited till then. This Bill too is a first step.” He exhorted the participants of the TG Fest to garner support for the Bill, when it gets presented in the Lok Sabha. “Let us wait till it gets passed in the Lok Sabha. It will then be a ray of hope in the life of transgender persons. The discrimination that they have been suffering all these years will come to an end. This is not the end of it. This is the beginning,” he says. (New Indian Express 16/5/15)

149. Bihar to challenge single bench order on quota in promotion (25)

Patna: The state government will file an appeal before a division bench of Patna high court within two days against the May 4 order of a single bench setting aside the provisions for reservation with consequential seniority in promotions to government employees belonging to Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST). Justice V Nath had allowed the writ petition filed by Sunil Kumar Singh and others who challenged the state government’s resolution of August 21, 2012. The petition alleged flaws in the data on the basis of which the government decided to give reservation in promotions to the SC and ST employees. The data is not scientific and is vague in nature, they claimed. Talking to reporters here on Sunday, principal additional advocate general, Bihar, Lalit Kishore Prasad said, “On the perusal of the single bench order, in my opinion, there are various legal infirmities.” Prasad also said the government would also seek an opinion from the Solicitor General of India before taking any decision in this regard. The state government is also looking for a senior counsel from Supreme Court to appear on its behalf, he said. Prasad also said granting the benefit of reservation in promotion to the government employees belonging to SC/ST had always been of paramount consideration for the state government. The said benefit had been extended by the state of Bihar even before 77th Constitution amendment. “After 85th constitutional amendment by which the benefit of reservation with consequential seniority was introduced, Bihar came out with notification dated June 7, 2002, for grant of benefit of reservation with consequential seniority to SC/ST,” Prasad told reporters. He further said after the apex court decision in Nagraj case in October 2006, the then state government headed by CM Nitish Kumar had issued circular on February 5, 2008 granting the said benefit. “When the said circular of February 2008 was quashed by the high court, CM Nitish again instructed the nodal department – SC/ST welfare department – for collection of data for assessing objectively the backwardness, inadequacy of representation to SC/ST members,” he said and added that another notification was issued on August 21, 2012, for grant of benefit of reservation which was challenged in HC. Again, the state government contested the matter seriously. The decision was taken at the level of the then CM Jitan Ram Manjhi to engage senior counsel of the SC to appear on behalf of the state government and, accordingly, P S Patwalia, senior Supreme Court advocate, appeared on behalf of the state. (Times of India 18/5/15)

150. Plea to earmark quota for Dalits (25)

MADURAI: The Dalit Liberation Movement has appealed to the government to quantify the percentage of posts reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the recruitment of 4,396 Laboratory Assistants for government schools in the State. In a memorandum submitted to the Collector here on Wednesday, S. Karuppiah, State joint general secretary of the Movement, pointed out that there was no reference to reservation for SCs and STs in the advertisement released on May 31 for recruitment of Laboratory Assistants. The memorandum said that candidates with PG qualification and above had applied for the post, which required only SSLC qualification. It wanted the government to quantify the reservation for SCs and STs and Arunthathiyars and also reconsider participation of candidates with PG qualification and above in selection process. (The Hindu 21/5/15)

151. Come to Bayana with concrete proposal: Gujjars to government (25)

Jaipur: Membedrs of the Gujjar community, staging a protest to seek five percent reservation in government jobs under OBC category in Rajasthan, on Monday said if the state government wanted to hold talks it should come to Bayana town with concrete proposals. The protestors, meanwhile, continued to sit on railway tracks in Bharatpur district affecting movement of trains for the fifth day on the important Delhi-Mumbai sector. Gujjar leaders refused to meet the state government delegation in Jaipur, as was requested by the three-member ministerial committee that met them (the Gujjar leaders) in Bayana on Saturday. “We are not going to meet the government in Jaipur. If they want they will have to come to Bayana to meet us and that too with a concrete proposal,” Himmat Singh, spokesperson of the Gujjar Arakshan Sangarsh Samiti told IANS. “We are going to jam the state if our demand for providing five percent reservation under SBC (special backward class) category is not met. Though the police with the help of local BJP workers have opened the Jaipur-Agra national highway, but we will block it once again,” Singh said. Kirori Singh Bainsla, convener of the Gujjar Arakshan Sangarsh Samiti, said: “Treason charges and negotiations cannot go together, so the government should decide what it wants.” On Sunday, cases were registered against Bainsla and 12 others for treason, blocking rail and road traffic, and damaging public property and railway tracks. On Saturday, talks were held between a three-member ministerial committee and a six-member delegation of the Gujjars in the premises of a college in Bayana town, a few kilometers from the place where the protestors are squatting on railway tracks. However, the talks failed to make any headway. The ministerial team that held talks on Saturday comprised Medical and Health Minister Rajendra Rathore, Social Welfare Minister Arun Chaturvedi and Food and Civil Supplies Minister Hem Singh Bhadana. The Gujjars have been protesting in Bharatpur for reservation in government jobs and educational institutes. The sit-in by Gujjars in Pilu Ka Pura area of the district has affected the movement of at least 100 trains so far, including those on the Delhi-Mumbai section, officials said. Gujjars had staged violent protests earlier in 2006-2008, in which 67 people had lost their lives. (Business Standard 25/5/15)

152. Gujjars hold talks with Rajasthan government (25)

Jaipur: Accepting Vasundhara Raje government’s offer to come to Jaipur to hold talks on reservation issue, Gujjar leaders on Tuesday decided to hold meeting with the committee of ministers in the state capital. The Delhi-Mumbai rail track in Bharatpur, Agra-Jaipur national highway in Dausa and a state highway in Sawaimadhopur are still blocked. A delegation of 11-Gujjar members has left for Jaipur from Pilukapura in Bharatpur and the meeting is scheduled to take place late in the evening. “The agitation leader Kirori Singh Bainsla accepted the government’s proposal and formed an 11 member delegation to hold talks with the committee of ministers in Jaipur today (Tuesday). The delegation will reach Jaipur late in the evening,” Himmat Singh, spokesperson of the Gujjar Arakshan Sangharsh Samiti said. Mr Bainsla is not the part of the delegation. “Our demand is five per cent reservation within the legal limit of 50 per cent. We will accept only fresh and a concrete proposal if offered by the government.” “The outcome of the meeting will be discussed with Bainsla and any decision about the future course of action will be taken thereafter and this all will depend on the outcome of the meeting,” he said. Earlier in the day, Mr Bainsla was adamant for calling the committee of ministers at Bayana in Bharatpur for next round of the talks. (Asian Age 27/5/15)

153. CPI (M) plans rallies seeking quota in private sector (25)

WARANGAL: The Communist Party of India (Marxist) proposes to take out rallies all over the district on June 8 and 9 demanding reservations in private sector. On June 10, the party is planning a massive demonstration at the district Collectorate, said district secretary S Vasudeva Reddy here on Thursday. He urged all political parties and peoples’ organisations to join and support the cause. The Chief Minister should take note of the demand and bring out suitable legislation providing reservations in private companies to dalits and BCs. The party had been organising awareness programmes since May 10 across the district and also demanding implementation of BC sub plan. Mr Vasudeva Reddy alleged that the policies of State and Central governments have been designed to promote the corporate houses. Since there was no employment opportunity in government sector majority of educated youth were finding it difficult to get jobs. They were depending on private sector. The State and Central governments should act to provide reservations in private sector, Vasudeva Reddy and the CPI (M) state committee member Mettu Srinivas demanded. They said the children of as many as 35 BC communities don’t have access to school education. The leaders have released a poster related to the party agitation programme. (The Hindu 29/5/15)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

154. US seeks clarification from India on suspension of licences of NGOs (1)

Washington: The US is seeking clarification from India on suspension of licences of several thousands non-governmental organisations (NGO), a State Department spokesperson said. “We know the reports that the Ministry of Home Affairs suspended the licences of several thousand NGOs. I don’t know if we have a precise number,” the State Department Acting Spokesperson, Marie Harf, told reporters at her daily news conference. “We are seeking a clarification on this issue with the appropriate Indian authorities. I don’t have any response to that yet,” she said when asked about news reports that the Indian government has suspended licences of several thousand NGOs. The Indian government had on Tuesday decided to scrap licences of more than 9,000 NGOs for allegedly violating Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), accusing it of being “revengeful” and targeting selectively. (Zee News 1/5/15)

155. SHRC helps four get due benefits (1)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The intervention of the State Human Rights Commission has helped four persons receive the benefits due to them from the government, which were being withheld because of various administrative hurdles, an official release said here. Lalithakumari, the widow of a dairy farmer and a BPL card holder, was allowed Rs. 10,560 by the government under the Ksheera Suraksha scheme following SHRC’s intervention. Though she had applied for the said benefit in April 2012, the Dairy Development department had not released the money saying that the number of applications for the said benefit had exceeded the limit. Kunnathukaal native, K. Gopi, who sustained serious injuries after falling from a tree, had been denied the aid which was due to him from the Chief Minister’s relief fund after the Revenue department claimed that they had not received the District Collector’s report on the same. Following an order passed by the SHRC, the Revenue Secretary informed the Commission that the complainant had been allowed Rs. 1,20,000. The SHRC directed that the amount be given to the complainant within a week. K. Indira of Pattoor’s complaint before SHRC was regarding the pension that was due to her from 2006. She had retired in 2006 as sweeper in the SC/ST Development Cooperative Federation. She was denied pension as the Federation had not remitted the amount on time to the Cooperative pension fund. Following SHRC’s directive, the Federation paid the appropriate amount into the pension fund so that the complainant may receive pension henceforth. Mercy Verghese of Thiruvalla, who used to receive her Air Force family pension from Syndicate Bank in Thiruvalla, had approached SHRC as she stopped receiving the pension after she shifted residence to Thiruvananthapuram in July 2014. After SHRC intervened, the Defence Pension Disbursing Officer informed the Commission that the pension amount of Rs.1,04,069, due from 2014 August to February 2015, had been issued through Kowdiar SBT. (The Hindu 4/5/15)

156. Crackdown on non-governmental organisations worries U.S. (1)

NEW DELHI: Accusing the government’s actions to regulate non-governmental organisations including the Ford Foundation and Greenpeace International of having a “chilling effect” on civil society, U.S. ambassador to India Richard Verma, said that India and the U.S. must find an understanding over the issue. “I read with some concern the recent press reports on challenges faced by NGOs operating in India,” Mr. Verma told an audience at the Delhi-based think-tank Ananta Aspen Centre. “Because a vibrant civil society is so important to both of our [Indian and U.S.) democratic traditions, I do worry about the potentially chilling effects of these regulatory steps focused on NGOs.” Mr. Verma’s remarks were from a prepared text, but he repeated them in a question and answer session that followed, adding that India and the U.S. cannot avoid “hard questions” because of “political expediency.” This is the fourth time the U.S. government is taking up the issue of strictures against NGOs in the past weeks, ever since the Ministry of Home Affairs froze accounts of Greenpeace and directed Ford Foundation to submit all its funding for MHA clearance.  In April, the U.S. State Department had criticised the decisions against the NGOs in a public statement, saying that it “was seeking clarifications from the government” over the actions against Ford foundation and Greenpeace. Last week Mr. Verma had met his counterpart in the Ministry of External Affairs to express his concern, and subsequently visiting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Wendy Sherman raised the issue with Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar during her meetings with him in Delhi. Mr. Verma’s remarks on Wednesday, once again expressing “deep concern” indicate that the U.S. is not satisfied with the answers to the clarifications it had sought. In his speech, Mr. Verma also seemed to defend the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is reportedly under the government’s scanner for funding a health NGO, in India. An MHA spokesperson denied the latest reports of action against the Gates Foundation on Wednesday, but this isn’t the first time such reports have appeared. Speaking at the event, Mr. Verma praised the Gates Foundation’s project in India to promote the ‘rotavirus vaccine’ that prevents diarrhoea amongst children as a “model of research collaboration.” The Ministry of External Affairs declined to comment on Mr. Verma’s remarks on action against NGOs, whose views the government might found “objectionable.” Last week, it issued a stern statement rejecting another body, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s 2015 report that had been particularly critical of India’s record on protecting minorities in the past year. (The Hindu 7/5/15)

157. NGOs urge PM Modi to end 'arbitrary, selective intimidation' (1)

NEW DELHI: Seeking an end to "coercive action" against non-government organizations, a collective of close to 200 NGOs on Friday slammed the government for "arbitrary, non-transparent and selective intimidation". In an open letter to PM Narendra Modi, they demanded urgent revocation of punitive actions against NGOs, saying grounds of such measures were "vague, subjective or flimsy" and sought dialogue between the NGO sector and government to address the issues. The move comes following a crackdown on nearly 9,000 NGOs whose licences have been suspended for violation of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). "We are not against government demanding transparency and accountability but are questioning the arbitrary manner in which the government is targeting NGOs who are raising issues that it is uncomfortable with," Anjali Bharadwaj from the National Campaign for People's Right to Information said. "We are extremely uncomfortable to say the least about the messaging the government is putting about civil society organizations," Enakshi Ganguly from HAQ: Centre for Child Rights said. Wada Na Todo Abhiyan's Paul Divakar said it was organizations working for the most marginalized and excluded communities that were suffering from this "crackdown". "Put an end to coercive actions against NGOs and donors, without reasonable cause or due process, or seek to cripple the ability of these organizations to carry on their legitimate and sanctioned work," they said in the letter which was released at a press briefing. The US-based Ford Foundation has also been put on the 'watch list' by the home ministry, which directed that funds coming from the international donor should not be released by any bank to any Indian NGO without mandatory permission from it. The government had also barred Greenpeace India from receiving foreign funds with immediate effect. Accusing the government of adopting "double-standards" in acting against NGOs, the civil society groups particularly questioned regulatory measures against INSAF, Peoples Watch, Sabrang Trust, Greenpeace India, Ford Foundation among others. "Funds are being frozen, intelligence reports are being selectively released to paint NGOs in poor light, disbursal of funds are being subjected to case-by-case clearance, and their activities are reportedly being placed on 'watch lists'. As a result, several NGO projects have shut down, donors are unable to support work, and there is an overall atmosphere of state coercion and intimidation in India's civil society space," they said. Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai questioned why the government was not trying to regulate foreign funding of corporate houses. "Why are they asking transparency only from NGOs? Corporates can bring as much foreign money as they want through a private limited company. We want regulations for government, corporates and everybody in this country," Pillai said. (Times of India 9/5/15)

158. Terror case acquittals NHRC issues notice to 5 states (1)

New Delhi: Taking suo motu cognizance of The Indian Express report, the National Human Rights Commission acting chairperson Justice Cyriac Joseph on Wednesday issued notices to five state governments — Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi — calling for a detailed factual report in the cases pertaining to Maulana Naseeruddin and his family in Hyderabad. On May 4, The Indian Express had reported how Naseeruddin and his three sons were arrested and acquitted in the last ten years. “The facts that emerged from the news report are indeed disturbing and compel the commission to take suo motu cognizance,’’ Justice Joseph observed. “If there is any element of truth in the insinuations made against the police machinery, it is a shocking and sorry state of affairs and would amount to gross violation of human rights of the victims which cannot be overlooked,” he said. It was Justice Joseph’s first day as the acting chairperson of the NHRC. Naseeruddin was acquitted and released after spending five years in a Gujarat jail, and his sons Maqeemuddin Yasir and Baleeguddin Jabir were acquitted and released after spending over three years in a jail in Madhya Pradesh. However, his youngest son, Raziyuddin Nasir, who was among the 17 suspected SIMI members acquitted by a Hubli court recently, is still in Sabarmati jail, where he is facing charges for his alleged involvement in the 2008 Ahmedabad blasts case. (Indian Express 14/5/15)

159. CBI probe sought after four killed in R'than clashes (1)

Jaipur: As police arrest a man in connection with the Rajasthan group clash, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) alleged atrocities against the dalits and demanded CBI probe into the incident. The man was arrested on Saturday after the clash that left 4 persons dead and seven others injured in Rajasthan’s Nagaur district. “One of the accused identified as Ramkumar was arrested on Saturday while others are being searched,” SP Nagaur Raghvendra Suhasa said. The dead include three Dalits and one Jat.  The two communities clashed on Thursday over a long pending land-related dispute in Dangawas village of Merta town. Supporters of Kanaram Jat and Ratna Ram Meghwal attacked each other with sharp edged weapons and guns, Station House Officer (SHO) Merta City Nagaram said. While Rampal died of a bullet shot, three others—Ratna Ram, Pokar Ram and Pancha Ram received injuries by other weapons and died, he said. “Investigation reveals that Rampal was first shot dead by a member of the Dalit community when he went to hand the summons of a community panchayat convened to resolve the dispute,” the SHO said. He said the murder angered the Jats, triggering the group clash that left two others dead on the spot and eight injured. One of the severely injured later died in a hospital in Ajmer. Ratna Ram Meghwal, among the men killed in the clash, owned the disputed land to which the Jats also laid claim, the station house officer said. A panchayat was convened on Thursday in the presence of the villagers to solve the dispute. More than 200 persons have been accused in the incident. Meanwhile, Rajasthan Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria said the police have no magic want to arrest the accused. “We do not have a magical want,” Kataria told reporters in Udaipur when asked about the development in the case. In a statement here, People’s Union for Civil Liberties said:  “The village panchayat wanted to grab Dalit land. The Dalit women were also targeted and we demand from the police to add section of rape.” (Deccan Herald 16/5/15)

160. Human rights groups, NCHC chief visit Dangawas (1)

AJMER: Nagaur's Dangawas village where a land dispute claimed four lives on Thursday saw members of human rights groups and National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) making a beeline on Saturday for fact finding reports. The leaders of opposition parties are also not leaving any stone unturned to take on the state government over this incident. A team of People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) visited the village and claimed that had the police arrived on time, the bloodshed could have been averted. It took Nagaur police an hour to reach Dangawas village which is just three kilometres away from the police station," said Kavita Srivastava, national general secretary of PUCL. Another team of Centre for Dalit Rights (CDR) met the injured persons admitted at JLN Hospital of Ajmer. They expressed shock on finding that most of the injured were not given beds even two days after being admitted. "Injured women were kept on floor for treatment and the hospital was not providing free medicines to them. We have registered our protest with the hospital authorities," said Ramesh Chand Bansal, a member of CDR team. The team members claimed to have received complaints of sexual and physical abuse by the attackers and demanded medical examination of all the six women injured in the clash. "Even a separate FIR of sexual abuse and attempt to rape should be registered but the police have done nothing in this matter," said Bansal. National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) chairman PL Punia also reached Dangawas on Saturday. He said that district administration has to be sensitive on the issues of Dalit atrocities. Punia reached the village and talked to the families and enquired about the incident. He also talked to the media and said the commission would find out if the situation spiralled out of control due to negligence on the part of any official. Congress leader RPN Singh demanded the resignation of state home minster Gulab Chand Kataria. "If he can't get the accused arrested, he has no right to continue as the home minister. I request the governor to take cognisance of his irresponsible statements," he said. Meanwhile, PCC chief Sachin Pilot said the government was behaving like a mute spectator in the matter. "The government must step in and ensure that the law breakers are arrested," said Pilot. He said the incident could have been averted if the administration hadn't acted so late. (Times of India 17/5/15)

161. Greepeace says it was a ‘humiliating year’ (1)

New Delhi: With its accounts frozen and forced to scale down operations, Greenpeace India on Thursday said it has been a “humiliating” year for the organisation and it is not expected from a elected government to treat “legitimate NGOs” like it in such a manner. Days after it announced “imminent” shutdown due to government’s crackdown, the environment NGO said it will continue to run basic functions for another month by scaling back the extent of the campaign to “bare minimum” as it has seen a “surge” in support from civil society, donors and the staff, which has offered to work without pay. The environment NGO also hoped for a “positive outcome” from the Delhi high court, which will hear its writ petition challenging the suspension of its FCRA licence on May 26. While the organisation has urged supporters to sign a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to support free speech in India, it said that more than 200 of its staff have written to its executive director Samit Aich promising to work without pay in June while other civil societies have offered logistical support. “Over the past few weeks we have seen an incredible surge in support for Greenpeace India,” Mr Aich said. (Asian Age 22/5/15)

162. Nagaur clash death toll rises to five (1)

The death toll in a clash between two groups at Dangawas village of Nagaur has risen to five with a Dalit man, who was injured, dying of injuries in an Ajmer hospital on Saturday. Ganpat Ram, who had sustained serious injuries in the clash over a land dispute on May 14, was in a critical condition. His family members refused to take the body home since their demand of ordering a CBI investigation was not met. “His family members have refused to take the body. They are staging a dharna outside the mortuary demanding a CBI probe into the incident,” Jitendra Gangwani, station house office, Ajmer Kotwali police station, said. Superintendent of Police Nagaur Raghvendra Suhasa said the case was handed over to CID on Friday. The People’s Union for Civil Liberties has demanded a CBI investigation. “The government is yet to take any step in this regard. Local police station staff have not been suspended,” PUCL general secretary Kavita Srivastava said. Four persons — three from the Dalit community and one from the Jat community — were killed in the clash. The supporters of Kanaram Jat and Ratna Ram Meghwal, armed with sharp-edged weapons and guns, had clashed. While Rampal had died of a bullet injures, Ratna Ram, Pokar Ram and Pancha Ram had succumbed to injuries inflicted with other weapons. (The Hindu 23/5/15)

163. Hashimpura massacre: HC seeks UP govt response on NHRC plea (1)

New Delhi: Delhi High Court on Monday sought the response of Uttar Pradesh government on a plea by NHRC challenging a trial court's decision to acquit 16 policemen of charges of murder and other crimes in the 1987 Hashimpura massacre case, in which 42 people were killed in Meerut city. A bench of justices G S Sistani and Sangita Dhingra Sehgal issued notice to the state government and sought its reply by July 21 on the plea of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) which has sought ordering of a further probe into the massacre in the Hashimpura locality of Meerut. NHRC in its plea has sought that "registers, duty register, attendance registers, log-books and other documents relating to the names, duty roster, posting and connected relevant details of PAC personnel" of the platoon which was operating in that area on that day be placed before the court. It has also sought that the report of the CB-CID inquiry and the findings of the Commission of Inquiry headed by Justice (retd) Gyan Prakash which probed the massacre be also placed before the bench. The Commission has sought a number of other directions, including "initiation of disciplinary proceedings against all the concerned police officials".It has prayed for laying down of guidelines to be followed by investigating agencies in cases of custodial killings and violence as well as a direction that "in cases of custodial violence, a presumption of guilt be made against the accused police officer that the injury and/or death was caused by the police officer having custody of the victim".NHRC has also sought "separation of the investigative work of the police from the law and order functions" as well as carrying out of a judicial inquiry "immediately and mandatorily" in all cases of custodial death. Prior to NHRC, the Uttar Pradesh government as well as survivors and kin of the victims of the massacre have moved the court challenging the acquittal of the 16 policemen. On March 21, a trial court gave the benefit of doubt and acquitted 16 former Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) personnel accused of killing 42 people in Meerut, saying lack of evidence has failed to establish their identification. Those acquitted in the case were Suresh Chand Sharma, Niranjan Lal, Kamal Singh, Budhi Singh, Basant Ballab, Kunwar Pal Singh, Budha Singh, Rambir Singh, Leela Dhar, Hambir Singh, Mokam Singh, Shami Ullaha, Sarwan Kumar, Jaipal Singh, Mahesh Prasad and Ram Dhayan. According to the prosecution, the PAC personnel had come to Hashimpura on May 22, 1987, and picked up about 50 Muslims as a congregation of 500 had gathered outside a mosque there. The victims were shot by the accused personnel and their bodies thrown into a canal, it had said, adding that 42 persons were declared to have perished in the massacre. The charge sheet was filed before the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM), Ghaziabad, in 1996. 19 people were named as accused and charges for offences of murder, attempt to murder, tampering with evidence and conspiracy were framed against 17 of them by the court here in 2006, after the case was transferred to Delhi on a Supreme Court direction in September 2002. The 16 accused acquitted in the case are the ones still alive. Three other accused died during the trial.   (Zee News 25/5/15)

164. Muslim woman asked to vacate Mumbai home, says 'broker demanded NOC' (1)

Mumbai: Twenty-five-year-old Misbah Quadri, who has alleged that she was forced to vacate her rented home in a Mumbai building because she was a Muslim, said Wednesday that the broker involved in the rental agreement process, had asked her for a No Objection Certificate to safeguard himself, the owner of the flat and the builder from harassment charges. "I was living in Sanghvi Heights building at Wadala East and I was asked to leave after a week. They told me Sanghvi Heights does not allow Muslim tenants. Just before I moved in, I was told by the broker that Muslim tenants won't be allowed. Then, I said, that I am willing to give in writing that I won't cook certain food and other such things," Quadri told ANI here. Quadri, who has been living in Mumbai for the past five years, further claimed that the broker then asked her to give a No Objection Certificate, saying that he, the owner and the builder would not be held responsible should she face harassment because of her religion. " I was looking for a PG, the broker asked me if I wear Muslim clothes like burqa. When I said no, then, he said it was fine and he won't tell others that I am a Muslim," she added.  Quadri said that she was planning to file a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission.  "Most of my friends are Hindus and when they saw me facing a problem like this, they came out to support me. They have told me to go to the NHRC and file a complaint. It is in process right now," said Quadri. Meanwhile, Sanghvi Heights supervisor Rajesh has rubbished Quadri's charges and said that Muslims are allowed to stay in the building.  "We allow Muslim people to stay here. The broker should be asked about the matter. The problem seems to be between the girl and the broker. I don't have any idea about this," he said. Recently, a young job applicant from Mumbai was rejected by a jewellery exports company in the city on grounds that he was a Muslim and was told that it hired 'only non-Muslim candidates'. The applicant, Zeeshan Khan, later filed a police complaint against the company, which issued a clarification saying the episode was an error and not their policy. (New Kerala 28/5/15)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

 

165. Bill to deal with plaints against judges deferred (19)

NEW DELHI: The government has deferred the Judicial Standards and Accountability bill that seeks to deal with complaints against judges. Law minister Sadananda Gowda said the proposal which seeks to change the present system of probing complaints of misbehaviour and incapacity against Supreme Court and high court judges needs "further consultation". "The matter requires further consultation with various stakeholders," Gowda said in a written reply in Lok Sabha on Thursday. The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill was moved by the erstwhile UPA government and passed by Lok Sabha in March 2012 but lapsed after the dissolution of 15th Lok Sabha. The bill was amended in Rajya Sabha following protests by the judiciary and jurists who had questioned some of its provisions. The lapsed bill provided for a comprehensive mechanism for handling complaints made by citizens on grounds of alleged misbehaviour and incapacity against judges of apex court and HCs. It also provided for a mechanism to take action against those found guilty after investigation and laid down judicial standards and made it incumbent on the judges to declare their assets and liabilities. At present all complaints against judges are dealt as per the 'in-house mechanism'. According to the present mechanism, the Chief Justice of India is competent to receive complaints against the conduct of the judges of the apex court. Similar powers are vested with chief justices of high courts. (Times of India 1/5/15)

166. High courts not listening to us, why will people? Supreme Court rues (19)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court is a worried institution today as it finds much to its dismay that its writ does not run over some of the high courts. "We do not know whether an ordinary citizen would think of complying with the orders and directions issued by this court," said the court in an anguished and worried tone. It was reacting after being pointed out that the Karnataka high court was dragging its feet over recruitment of judges even after SC directions to all high courts and states to quickly fill up over 2,000 vacancies to clear a monstrous backlog of nearly 3 crore cases in lower courts in the country. A livid SC bench, headed by Chief Justice HL Dattu, minced no words in criticizing the HC's approach towards its orders. "In our view, the attitude of the HC appears to be contrary to what has been said by this court. We do not approve of the snail's pace at which the HC has acted in filling up the vacancies in so far as the district judges (direct recruitment) are concerned," it said. "If the high courts do not comply with the request made by this court by a judicial order, we do not know whether an ordinary citizen would think of complying with the orders and directions issued by this court," the bench said in its April 28 order. It then issued a stern warning: "We hope and expect the HC to seriously consider the observations made by this court and comply with the same as early as possible. If needed, the HC should not hesitate to change the registrar general and bring in a registrar general who can really help and assist the HC in complying with the orders issued by the Supreme Court from time to time." The amicus and advocate Sneha Kalita informed the SC that the state governments have not complied with its November 13, 2014 order directing them to consider and pass appropriate orders for reservation in the cadre of civil judges (junior division).The bench of Justices Dattu and Arun Mishra said: "This, in our opinion, is nothing but a deliberate and willful disobedience of the orders and directions issued by this court. If we do not get an appropriate reply/affidavit from the state governments, we will not hesitate to initiate appropriate contempt proceedings against the officers/authorities concerned." The Supreme Court reacted with anger after amicus curiae and senior advocate Vijay Hansaria informed the bench that Karnataka HC had issued an advertisement to fill 17 vacancies of district judges on November 17, 2012. The examination was held two years later on December 11, 2014 and evaluation was completed on January 3 this year. The HC selected only five candidates but has not yet written to the government, more than two and half years after issuing the advertisement, for appointing them as judges. (Times of India 3/5/15)

167. PIL in High Court against Delhi govt ‘glorifying suicide’ (19)

New Delhi: The decision of the Delhi government to launch a farmers’ compensation scheme named after Gajendra Singh, who died during a recent AAP rally, has been challenged in a PIL filed before the Delhi High Court. The PIL, which is scheduled to be heard on Wednesday, alleges that the action of the AAP government to label Gajendra Singh as a “martyr” and name the compensation scheme after him amounted to abetment of suicide. “After the suicide of Gajendra Singh Kalyanwat, the government of NCT of Delhi has decided not only to declared him a ‘martyr’ but also launch a farmers’ compensation scheme after his name apart from promising a government job to one of his kin on compassionate ground. This act of respondent no. 1 (Delhi government) is nothing but an effort to glorify, justify, praise, support and consecrate the act of suicide; attempt thereof itself is an offence under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860,” the PIL said. The plea — filed through advocate Avadh Kaushik — further said, “Thus, nobody, let alone the Delhi government, can support and glorify such an act of cowardice. ” (Indian Express 6/5/15)

168. AIBA wants presidential reference in NJAC case (19)

CHENNAI: Appointment of at least 125 judges for various high courts is hanging fire due to a constitutional vacuum created by the abolition of the erstwhile collegium system and the delay in the creation of National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC), All India Bar Association (AIBA) has complained to President Pranab Mukherjee. In a representation to the President, AIBA chairman and senior advocate Adish C Aggarwala the President's intervention to ensure that the ongoing hearing of the NJAC case before the Supreme Court has referred to a 11-judge bench for a comprehensive settlement of the raging debate. Drawing the President's attention to the ongoing proceedings, Aggarwala said that during hearing the Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi had made a fervent plea for reconsidering the 1993 and 1998 judgments pronounced by the apex court which paved the way for collegium system of appointments. The AG has requested the bench to refer the matter to a larger bench of 11 judges so that the issue could be settled once and for all. The Bench is yet to take a final decision on the issue. Aggarwala said: "With the notification of the NJAC, the collegiums system is no more in existence. The government has already stopped consideration of over 125 names recommended by various high courts for appointment of judges. Further, some additional judges initially appointed for a period of two years are to be confirmed as permanent judges shortly. The present judicial stalemate does not augur well for the country." The AIBA strongly feels that vesting absolute power on the chief justice of India and the collegium in the matter of appointments for all times to come needs reconsideration to restore the equilibrium in the Constitution…. (Times of India 19/5/15)

169. Wealthy women not entitled to maintenance in divorce cases: Bombay HC (19)

Mumbai: The Bombay high court has ruled that a woman is not entitled to claim maintenance in divorce cases if she is wealthy herself and is able to maintain her lifestyle despite the estrangement. The recent judgment was awarded by a division bench comprising justice AK Menon and justice AS Oka, while rejecting an application filed by a resident of Nariman Point, seeking enhancement of the alimony granted to her by a family court. The 47-year-old woman and her husband, both residents of south Mumbai, were granted a divorce by the Bandra family court in 2002, after nine years of marriage. The court directed the husband to pay a monthly alimony of Rs 25,000 to the woman, and another Rs 25,000 each month towards the expenses of their daughter. The woman, however, approached the Bombay high court, seeking that her alimony be enhanced to at least Rs 75,000 per month, considering her ex-husband was “extremely wealthy.” However, in course of court proceedings, it was revealed that the woman herself was the managing director of businesses in Singapore, and enjoyed a stable income. It was also revealed she lived in her parents’ flat at Nariman Point and possessed several assets. The high court ruled that even after her divorce, there was no visible change in the woman’s lifestyle and she “continued to go on regular holidays abroad.” The division bench said this made her “ineligible for seeking any alimony, let alone an enhancement.” However, the bench decided not to interfere with the family court’s decision of awarding her the alimony of Rs25,000 each month. “The woman is self-sufficient, wealthy and financially independent. She had deliberately suppressed her assets and income from her businesses...keeping her financial status in mind, we do not find there is any ground for her to seek an enhancement,” the bench said, while directing the husband to ensure he continues to share the education expenses of their daughter. (Hindustan Times 12/5/15)

170. Supreme Court slaps death sentence on woman (19)

New Delhi: In a new twist to sentencing policy, the Supreme Court on Friday held that no leniency can be shown by courts in awarding death sentence only on the ground that the accused in a brutal killing is a woman. The sentencing policy must be proportionate to the crime committed and the sentence must be the same for man and woman, held a three-judge bench of Chief Justice H.L. Dattu and Justices S.A. Bobde and Arun Mishra, while confirming a death sentence awarded to a woman and her paramour for killing seven members of a family (the case was briefly reported on April 30 when the bench reserved orders). Writing the judgement, the CJI said, “The Indian legal system today does not differentiate between a son and a daughter — they have equal rights and duties. Indian culture has been witness to for centuries, that daughters dutifully bear the burden of being the care-givers for her parents, even more than a son. Our experience has reflected that an adult daughter places greater emphasis on their relationships with their parents, and when those relationships go awry, it takes a worse toll on the adult daughters than the adult sons.” The bench said, “The principle that when the offence is gruesome and was committed in a calculated and diabolical manner, the age of the accused may not be a relevant factor. Death penalty is not proportional if the law’s most severe penalty is imposed on one whose culpability or blameworthiness is diminished, to a substantial degree, by reason of youth and immaturity. This, however, does not seem to be the case herein. The appellant-accused persons’ preparedness, active involvement. It said “Here is a case where the daughter, appellant-accused Shabnam, who has been brought up in an educated and independent environment by her family and was respectfully employed as a Shikshamitra (teacher) at the school, influenced by the love and lust of her paramour has committed this brutal parricide exterminating seven lives including that of an innocent child.” It said “Of all the crimes that shock the souls of men, none has ever been held in greater abhorrence than parricide, which is by all odds the most complete and terrible inversion, not alone of human nature but of brute instinct. Such a deed would be sufficiently appalling were the perpetrator and the victims are uneducated and backward, but it gains a ghastly illumination from the descent, moral upbringing, and elegant respectful living of the educated family where the father and daughter are both teachers. Dismissing the appeals against a Allahabad High Court verdict confirming a trial court’s order, the bench said “the crime is committed in the most cruel and inhuman manner which is extremely brutal, grotesque, diabolical and revolting. Therefore, as the instant case requires us to award a punishment that is graduated and proportioned to the crime, we have reached the inescapable conclusion that the extreme culpability of both the appellants-accused makes them the most deserving for death penalty.” (Asian Age 16/5/15)

171. Government plans amendments in dowry harassment law to prevent misuse of its provisions

New Delhi: There have been allegations that husbands and in-laws are often charged with false dowry harassment when some marital problems arise.With an average 10,000 false dowry harassment cases being registered every year, government plans to amend the criminal law to prevent frequent misuse of its legal provisions. Under the proposal, Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code will be made a compoundable offence with the permission of the courts as suggested by the Law Commission and Justice Malimath Committee. Provisions will be kept to allow compromise and settlement between husband and wife at the onset of trial in dowry harassment cases, a Home Ministry official said. The offence at present is non-compoundable and non- bailable, which provides for immediate arrest of the accused. Conciliatory efforts between the hostile parties are virtually impossible. A husband or his family members are presumed guilty till they prove their innocence in court. The offence is punishable with a jail term of up to three years. There have been allegations that husbands and in-laws are often charged with false dowry harassment when some marital problems arise. As per data provided by the National Crime Records Bureau, a total number of 99,135, 1,06,527 and 1,18,866 cases, respectively, were registered in 2011, 2012 and 2013 in the country under Section 498A for cruelty by husband or his relatives. After police investigation, 10,193 in 2011, 10,235 in 2012 and 10,864 cases in 2013 were found to be false or suffering from mistake of fact or law. If the offence is made compoundable, misuse of the law may come down hugely as there would be scope for initiating conciliation proceedings and out -of-court settlement. Permission from a court will be a guarantee against attempts where a wife may be compelled into a compromise by her husband or in-laws, the Home Ministry official said. Under the existing rules, if a dowry harassment case is proved wrong or it is proved that the law was misused, a penalty of only Rs 1,000 is imposed. The amendment, however, provides for a Rs 15,000 fine. Another new section is expected to be inserted to allow an accused to escape jail by paying a penalty. The Supreme Court had in a 2010 judgement said that, as it stood now, the law had become a "weapon in the hands of disgruntled women". It had also observed that a serious re-look of the entire provision is warranted by the legislature. "It is a matter of common knowledge that exaggerated versions of the incident are reflected in a large number of complaints. "The tendency of over-implication is also reflected in a very large number of cases," the apex court had said. Section 498A was introduced in the early 80s to protect married women from being subjected to cruelty by the husband or his relatives. A spate of dowry deaths in Delhi and elsewhere led to a campaign by some leading women members of Parliament, prompting the government to bring the amendment. The expression 'cruelty' has been defined in wide terms so as to include infliction of physical or mental harm to the body or health of the woman and indulging in acts of harassment with a view to coerce her or her relations to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuables. The Law Commission recommended that the offence under Section 498A should be made a compoundable offence with the permission of court. Justice Malimath Committee on Criminal Justice Reform, too, recommended that it be made compoundable as well as bailable. The Home Ministry has also asked all state governments to be judicious in slapping Section 498A in matrimonial disputes as the provision may be used as "weapons rather than shields by disgruntled wives". DNA 17/5/15)

172. Hate speech: Subramanian Swamy plea in Supreme Court (19)

New Delhi: BJP leader Subramanian Swamy has moved the Supreme Court challenging certain provisions in the IPC relating to hate speech and seeking a declaration that they are unconstitutional as they violated freedom of speech and expression. A vacation of bench of Justices A.K. Sikri and U.U. Lalit directed the matter to be listed before another bench as Justice Lalit recused from hearing the writ petition. In his petition, Mr Swami said during a speech in Assam in March, he had said “Islam permits one to demolish a mosque for purposes like road building, apartment construction etc. or simply to reconstruct it elsewhere. On March 15, the petitioner made a speech to a group of intellectuals at Kaziranga University, wherein among other concerns, he stated simply that Islam permits such demolition and indeed such demolition do take place in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Pakistan.” He said for making this speech FIRs had been filed against him and the court had issued summons for his appearance. Hence the urgency for filing this writ petition challenging the vires of Sections 153, 153A, 153B, 295A, 298 and 505 of the Indian Penal Code, all of which deal with the offences popularly labelled as “hate speech”. (In law, hate speech is any speech, gesture or conduct, writing or display which is forbidden because it “may” incite violence or prejudicial action against or by a protected individual or group or because it intimidates a protected individual or group). He said he was concerned that in the past few years, the impugned sections had been invoked against him by authorities politically inimical to him. In particular, the petitioner is concerned with at least five such recent FIRs/summons reported to be issued against him, from at least five states from Delhi, Mumbai in Maharashtra, Karimganj in Assam, Mohali in Punjab and Thrissur in Kerala, for presumed “hate speech”. He also prayed for quashing of these FIRs/summons filed against him and an interim stay of summons and all further proceedings. (Asian Age 22/5/15)

173. Law panel proposes joint custody of kids in divorce cases (19)

NEW DELHI: For the first time in India, the concept of shared parenting has been proposed to give joint custody rights of a child to both parents in case of divorce -- equal legal status with respect to guardianship and custody. The Law Commission on Friday submitted a draft law to the government proposing amendments to the existing guardianship and custody laws. The draft law provides for welfare of children as paramount consideration while deciding custody. Law Commission chairman Justice A P Shah said: "Currently there is disparity in the relevance accorded to the principle of welfare of children by different legislations regulating custody and guardianship." The commission has proposed statutory guidelines to judges on determining child welfare rights in cases of joint custody. At present there is uncertainty and lack of judicial consensus on what exactly constitutes welfare of the child. "As a result, in fiercely fought custody battles, there are no ways to ensure that the interests of the child are actually protected," Justice Shah said. The draft law has proposed that courts should be empowered to fix an amount specifically for child support which could be continued up to the age of 18 years and may be extended till 25 years, and lifetime in case of a child with mental or physical disability. Rights of children to have access to grandparents and to decision-making are some of the other issues which were deliberated. Currently, the Guardians and Wards Act of 1890, which regulates custody of children irrespective of their religion, continues with the supremacy of the paternal right in guardianship and custody. Even the other law that regulates custody, the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act of 1956, does not treat the mother on an equal footing with the father as the natural guardian of her child. The disparity is such that Section 19 of the Guardians and Wards Act offers "a preferential right to the husband (of a minor girl), or the father (in all other cases) to be guardian, if neither were unfit to be appointed guardian".The Guardians and Wards Act, in section 25, even provides for the "arrest of a ward if the ward leaves or is removed from the custody of his guardian, if such arrest is for the welfare of the ward".In its recommendations, the law panel has listed the legal framework required to address how custody issues should be handled, what factors should be relevant in decision-making, and what should be the process of dispute resolution between parents over children, among others. At present there are no codified rules governing custody. Decision-making in this area is based on the presumption that welfare of the child essentially lies in custody being awarded to any one of the parents. The Law panel report has reviewed all the current laws dealing with custody and guardianship, and recommended legislative amendments to the Guardians and Wards Act and the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act. "These amendments are necessary in order to bring these laws in tune with modern social considerations," the commission has said. (Times of India 23/5/15)

174. PIL in high court against notification (19)

NEW DELHI: A day after the high court restored powers of Delhi's anti-corruption branch, a PIL was filed before it seeking quashing of the Centre's notification empowering the lieutenant governor and increasing the Centre's control. The PIL is likely to be heard on Wednesday after it was mentioned before a bench headed by Justice B D Ahmed on Tuesday. It questions the absolute power of the LG to appoint bureaucrats. Filed by law student Vibhor Anand, it says that the Centre's notification violates the Constitution of India as well as Section 41 of GNCT Act. "As per notification, LG would have jurisdiction over matters connected with services, public orders, police and land, and...services of bureaucrats...allowing him discretionary powers to seek the opinion of the CM," it says. (Times of India 27/5/15)

175. Govt welcomes lifting of AFSPA in Tripura but J&K has to wait (19)

NEW DELHI: Tripura government's decision to lift Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from the state has been welcomed by the Centre. It is, however, not yet ready to extend the same courtesy to Jammu and Kashmir, where the issue is being debated for several years now. While MoS home Kiren Rijiju welcomed the decision to lift AFSPA in Tripura, indicating that the Centre was on the same page as the Manik Sarkar's government in the state, defence minister Manohar Parrikar has steadfastly maintained that Army cannot operate in the Kashmir Valley unless AFSPA is in force. Rijiju said on Thursday, "I would like to welcome the very important decision of Tripura government to lift AFSPA. I hope that lifting of AFSPA from Tripura will also have positive impact on other states of north-eastern region. I am confident that in the days to come... the state government and Centre can work together and secure peace in the north-eastern region." Earlier this week, Parrikar had hinted that it was not the right time to remove AFSPA from the Valley. In an interview to an agency, Parrikar had said, "Army's job is not internal security. Let me be very clear on that. It is not my job to maintain internal security but if I am given a task for internal security, then there have to be appropriate powers. Those powers come to me through AFSPA." Rijiju said that in the past one year, the situation in Tripura had improved a lot and the home ministry had already appointed an interlocutor to negotiate with the state's militant group, National Liberation Front of Tripura. Though similar arguments of violence abating in the Valley over the years have been made, there has been no political consensus for removal of AFSPA from Kashmir. Those in the Valley, however, have expressed hope. Moderate Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umer Farooq said the government's decision to withdraw AFSPA from Tripura should serve as an "eye opener" for the Jammu and Kashmir government too. "The Tripura government's decision to withdraw AFSPA from the state after remaining enforced for 18 years is a bold decision," a Hurriyat spokesman said. "Many governments came and pledged to revoke AFSPA from the state but all these pledges and claims proved to be blatant lies made just for public consumption," the spokesman said. Even former home minister P Chidambaram welcomed the decision, tweeting, "My plea to repeal AFSPA heard in Tripura. AFSPA withdrawn. Victory for sanity and humanity." The Act was implemented in 40 police station areas of the state in February 1997. With declining insurgency, the administration, in June 2013, had earlier withdrawn the Act from nine police stations. (The Temes of India 29/5/15)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

 

176. Abuse under AFSPA should not be tolerated: ATSUM (1)

Kangpokpi, May 02 2015 : The All Tribal Students' Union Manipur (ATSUM) slammed the 25 Assam Rifles personnel who allegedly harassed a Custom Officer under the command of Major Vinod on April 27 morning and termed the incident as 'another Dark Chapter' for the men in uniform in Manipur. ATSUM alleged that Major Vinod and his personnel intentionally abused and harassed Gaikhonlung Panmei, IRS, Assistant Commissioner of Customs, Department of Revenue who was on official duty at a check post manned by the AR at Thonglang Akutpa along Imphal-Tamenglong road despite the Customs officer showed his official identity card and name plate on his vehicle at around 10 am on April 27 . ATSUM's Rights and Reservation Secretary, Simthar Jajo alleged that the IRS officer on official duty was travelling in an official vehicle with flag post and name plate. Terming the incident another 'Dark Chapter' for the men in uniform Simthar Jajo lamented that such unruly behaviour the whole security apparatus is seen in a bad light. The friends of the hill people must not act as foes while adding that sometimes there might be misunderstanding but intentional abusing of power under the garb of AFSPA by the men in uniform should not be tolerated under any circumstances. Despite submitting a complaint to the Commandant of 25 AR, Lairouching by the IRS officer no positive steps were initiated by the AR authority so far, alleged Simthar Jajo who on behalf of the student body. (E-Pao 2/5/15)

177. Tamil Nadu Police Arbitrarily Closed 23 Per Cent FIRs in 3 Years' (1)

MADURAI:The Tamil Nadu police have closed  over 20 per cent of the cases filed by them in 190 police stations across the State in 39 months till March 2013, a data collected by an NGO has shown. This otherwise means the police citing their investigation have recommended that no further action is required. Based on the data obtained through the Right To Information (RTI) Act, Evidence, the Madurai-based NGO working on Dalit issues, has claimed that 23 per cent of First Information Reports (FIRs) filed at 190 police stations across 10 districts from 2010 to March 2013 have been closed by the police themselves without filing chargesheets or beginning the trial process. These cases have been closed under four categories — Mistake of Fact (MF), Mistake of Law (ML), Undetected (UD) and Action Dropped (AD). Among them, cases closed under AD category tops the list with over 90 per cent. The details have been collected from police stations in 10 districts covering all belts — Namakkal, Dharmapuri, Coimbatore, Ramanathapuram, Thanjavur, Thiruvarur, Kancheepuram, Karur, Nagapattinam and Tiruvannamalai. The data also show a gradual increase in the per centage of closed FIRs over three and a quarter years. In 2010, 20.3 per cent of 96,075 cases; in 2011, 22 per cent of 93,971 cases; in 2012, 25.3 per cent of 86,214 cases; and 30 per cent of 25,676 cases in the first three months of 2013 have seen closure. Evidence executive director A Kathir alleged  that in a vast majority of cases, the police failed to give a proper reason to the complainants for closing the cases. “Political influence apart, influence by dominant communities and money power play a role. Some retired police officers told us that the statements are recorded during the registration of FIRs in such a way that it would weaken the case,” he alleged. Claiming that the trend was worrisome, Kathir alleged that it was worse in cases filed under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, and the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act. “Though we could not obtain information through RTI on this, our experience in handling such cases shows that around 40 per cent under the SC/ST Act and 35 per cent under the Women Harassment Act have been closed,” he alleged. Reacting to the allegations, a senior police officer, on condition of anonymity, said, “As per the law, we are bound to file FIRs. Only a probe can bring the truth out. A large number of false complaints do get registered and the police cannot file chargesheets in such cases.” Pointing out that adequate safety measures were in place, he said, “The entire process involves the judiciary. If the cases are to be closed under MF, ML, AD or UD categories, we have to file an  FIR copy along with the probe findings before the magistrate who would serve an RC (Referred Case) notice to the complainant detailing the reason. The complainant can raise concerns if any and the cases can be reopened anytime.” (New Indian express 4/5/15)

178. Aapsu leaders meet Rijiju, demand AFSPA rollback (1)

Itanagar: A team of All Arunachal Pradesh Students' Union (Aapsu), led by its president Kamta Lapung and NESO adviser Pritam Sonam, met Union minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju in New Delhi on Sunday. During the meeting, both Lapung and Sonam reviewed the 15-day of ultimatum submitted to Rijiju earlier on complete withdrawal of the Arms Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from Arunachal Pradesh and discussed various perspectives of the Act and the Centre's attitude on its immediate rollback, said a press release. Rijiju has reportedly accepted Aspsu's demands and informed the students' body that the Act was imposed in the state for a specified purpose and time. While considering Aapsu's demands, the Union minister said that he has already rolled back the extension of AFSPA to nine districts. However, it would remain in the state as it was in the 90s, but with a reduced radius of operation. Rijiju further informed the students' body that AFSPA will be active in the state with the assistance of 16 police stations in the border areas. Instructions have also been given to the paramilitary forces that even at the time of operation they cannot enter the house of any tribal person without consulting or taking help from the local gaon bura (village headman), panchayat member or any prominent citizen in the suspected areas, the release added. (Times of India 7/5/14)

179. India points out areas of 'concern' in US' rights record (1)

New Delhi: As violence continues in Baltimore in the US following the custodial death of a black man, India has pointed out areas of "concern" regarding the US' human rights record, including "deficiencies in law enforcement procedures and disproportionate use of force".In a statement, India's Permanent Representative to the UN at Geneva Ajit Kumar acknowledged the "openness of the US delegation in accepting areas of continuing concern such as racial bias in the criminal justice system, incidents of bias-motivated crimes, including those committed against Hindus and Sikhs, and need for safety and living conditions at confinement facilities".India made a few recommendations, including that the US "may consider establishing a national human rights institution"."We encourage the US Government to take adequate steps towards gender parity at workplace, protect women from all forms of violence and enhance opportunities in education and health for children from ethnic minorities." "We note efforts towards maintaining respect for privacy and civil liberties while addressing dangers to national security. We request the US delegation to share more information in this connection." India also welcomed the developments towards better protection of the rights of indigenous peoples by the US. "We recommend that the US consider early ratification of International Conventions relating to the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), Rights of the Child (CRC) and Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)." Speaking before the United Nations Human Rights Council, State Department's acting legal adviser Mary McLeod highlighted steps taken by the US to battle against all forms of discrimination. "Torture and cruel and inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment are absolutely prohibited at all times and in all places under both international law and US domestic law with no exception," she said. McLeod was speaking at the US' Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the UN Human Rights Council. The UPR is a process which involves a periodic review of the human rights records of all 193 UN member states. Baltimore has witnessed a spate of violence following the death in police custody of Freddie Gray, 25, earlier this month. Gray's death is the latest in a line of deaths of unarmed black teens/men due to use of excessive use of force or shooting by the police in the US. India last week, during a statement on the UPR of the Maldives' human rights record, called upon the Indian Ocean nation of islands to safeguard space for legitimate political dissent. "We have seen reports by UN agencies that press freedom is being abridged. The Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers has also reported their increased politicization. Maintaining public trust requires strong adherence to due process. The space for legitimate political dissent must be safeguarded," India has said. (Business Standard 12/5/15)

180. Woman hurled abuses, attacked with brick first: Delhi Traffic policeman (1)

New Delhi: Two days after a Delhi traffic policeman was accused of attacking a young mother of three with a brick, an audio conversation has surfaced on Wednesday which gives a new twist to the whole episode. In the audio clip, the woman, Ramandeep Kaur, can be heard abusing Head Constable Satish Chandra and refusing to show her scooter's registration papers and driver license to him. The audio reveals the head constable initially telling the woman that she has jumped the red signal for which she has to pay a penalty. When Kaur refused to pay the fine, Chandra warns her that the a 'challan' will be issued to her from court if she doesn't pay the fine. Following the argument, the lady lost her cool and started hurling abuses at the traffic cop calling him a loser (tucchha). The policeman is also heard shouting at the lady. Meanwhile, Zee Media today spoke to the head constable, who defended himself by saying that his side of the story is still unheard. The traffic cop told Zee Media that the lady used abusive language against him and tried to hit him with a brick. He claimed that Kaur was the first to throw a stone at him. The cop also alleged that his bike's mudguard broke and he got hit on his leg when she threw brick at him. The Delhi Police head constable was on Monday dismissed after the news spread. He was booked under relatively lighter sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). According to police, a case was registered against accused cop Satish Chandra under Section 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), Section 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint) and Section 427 (mischief causing damage to the amount of fifty rupees) of the IPC. The incident occurred in the posh Golf Link area of central Delhi, following which he was arrested and dismissed from service as the incident triggered widespread outrage. The matter came to light after a video surfaced on Monday showing a scuffle breaking out between the woman and Chandra. The mobile clip shows the lady hurling a stone at the policeman's bike, while the errant cop is seen attacking back the woman with a brick. The video clip clearly showed the lady getting hit on her back. At the time of incident, the women's three daughters including her four-month infant were with her. (Zee News 13/5/15)

181. AFSPA will be lifted if situation improves: Rijiju (1)

IMPHAL: Union minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju has said that the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) would be withdrawn from Manipur if law and order improves. The Act was partially withdrawn in Arunachal Pradesh after the situation there improved considerably, the home minister said, while talking to reporters minutes after he landed at Imphal airport on Sunday afternoon for a a two-day Manipur visit. "We don't decide on lifting AFSPA on our own. If the ground situation is conducive, the Act will be withdrawn. We want peace to prevail in the northeast so that this kind of law is not necessary at all," Rijiju said. Rijiju will hold meetings with chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh and top officials of the state police and central forces to review law and order in Manipur, official sources said. Activist Irom Sharmila Chanu has been on a fast for the last 14 years in protest against AFSPA, which gives sweeping powers to the armed forces. On the violation of ground rules by militant groups, which are signatories of the Suspension of Operation with the government in the state, the Union minister said the home ministry has got the information on this. No specific decision has been taken yet against the ground rule violators, but the security forces should tackle them, he said, adding that the state and Union governments and security forces should work together on the matter. Insurgency-hit Manipur has witnessed sporadic violent incidents triggered by SOO signatories particularly in the hill districts, the latest being the killing of two labourers by cadres of the Kuki Revolutionary Front (KRF) at their camp in Senapati district on Tuesday. Protests against the killing turned violent with mobs torching a church, five vehicles and lynching a tribal truck driver in Imphal West district even as police arrested eight KRF cadres. (Times of India 18/5/15)

182. Undertrials languishing in jails can be released on personal bonds (1)

New Delhi: Undertrials can be released on bail on personal bonds if they have spent in jail half the maximum period of punishment for the offence they are charged with. The objective of the Undertrial Review Committee in every district in the country is to implement Section 436A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which allows this concession. The idea of forming the committees, each comprising the District Judge, the Superintendent of Police and the District Magistrate, came in an advisory issued by the Home Ministry on January 17, 2013. A Social Justice Bench of the Supreme Court has ordered that the committees be revived in one month. Quoting figures supplied by the Home Ministry, the Bench noted in its recent order: “We find there are a large number of prisoners who are continuing in custody only because of their poverty. This is certainly not in the spirit of the law and poverty cannot be a ground for incarcerating a person.” The court referred to the prisoners’ management system used in the Tihar Central Jail here, and asked the Union Home Ministry to “study” this application software and suggest modifications for its deployment in prisons throughout the country. The Home Ministry was asked to direct the Bureau of Police Research and Development to review within three months a model prison manual which was circulated in 2003, keeping in mind the “huge change in circumstances and availability of technology”. (The Hindu 18/5/15)

183. Alleged custodial torture; youth commits suicide (1)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Putting city cops in the dock, a youth, on the eve of his 21st birthday, leapt to death from the fourth floor of a Kerala Cooperative Society headquarters here, alleging custodial torture by the police. The deceased was identified as Jeethu of Rajaji Nagar (Chenkal Choola Colony). The incident took place on Sunday night around 10.30pm. The youth allegedly committed suicide minutes after he was released on bail after being arrested on charges of drunken brawl. He jumped the wall of the State Cooperative Society's office located near Rajaji Nagar and climbed to the fourth floor of the building, despite being pursued by friends, who were trying to dissuade him. He then leaped off from the balcony on the fourth floor, landing straight on to the road outside the compound. Though he was rushed to the General Hospital, the doctors could not save him. The agitated residents of Rajaji Nagar created a ruckus outside the hospital in the night and even tried to manhandle a few cops, who were present there, following the confirmation of his death. Jeethu, who worked as a mason's helper, and his friend Jomon were taken into custody by the police from Hotel Triveni near Bakery Junction for starting a drunken brawl. They were taken to the Cantonment Police station, where they were allegedly roughed up by the cops, according to the residents of Rajaji Nagar. Jomon is still admitted in the General Hospital. It is learnt that the brawl broke out when Jeethu went to buy liquor for his birthday party. He was already under the influence of alcohol. On Monday, a postmortem examination was conducted on Jeethu's body in the presence of the revenue divisional officer Karthikeyan. The funeral was conducted by evening. The local residents alleged that it was a habit for the cops at Cantonment station to rough up youths of the colony whenever they got an opportunity. City police commissioner H Venkatesh said that it could be ascertained if the deceased had faced custodial torture only after getting the postmortem report, which could take a couple of days. Jeethu was the elder son of Sunil Kumar and Bindhu. He leaves behind brother Seenu and sister Subi. (Times of India 19/5/15)

184. AFSPA removal figures in Parrikar-Mufti meeting (1)

Srinagar: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had an extensive review of the security situation in the border state of Jammu and Kashmir grappling with infiltration and recruitment of youth into ranks of militant groups. Parrikar, who is on a two-day visit to the state, met Governor NN Vohra, Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Corps Commanders of 14 and 15 Corps. Parrikar also visited the Siachen base camp, his first visit to the world’s highest battlefield. He was accompanied by Army Chief General Dalbir Singh and General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Northern Command Lt Gen D S Hooda. The controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) was also discussed during the meeting between Mufti and Parrikar, sources said. Prior to meeting Mufti, the Defence Minister also met the Governor. “The Governor and Parrikar discussed various important matters relating to effective management of internal and external security, particularly in the backdrop of infiltrations from across the International Border in the past one-and-a-half years and more recent encounters in the Valley,” an official spokesman said. Parrikar later met Mufti Sayeed and the two leaders discussed the political and security issues as mentioned in the Common Minimum Programme (CMP) which works as roadmap for the PDP- BJP alliance. “All the issues of the CMP, including AFSPA, were on the table during the meeting between the two leaders,” said a PDP minister. In the programme, the PDP and the BJP had suggested a way forward on the controversial AFSPA by denotifying the Disturbed Areas Act in phases. While the PDP was in favour of the removal of AFSPA, the BJP was against any such move. An official spokesman said the Chief Minister also requested the Defence Minister that Tatoo Ground in Srinagar be vacated by the Army so that civic facilities could be developed there. Parrikar began his tour by visiting the Siachen base camp in Ladakh . "The minister was briefed by General Officer Commanding, 14 Corps Lt Gen B S Negi, on the overall security situation in Ladakh region along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) on the Chinese side and Line of Control (LoC) on the Pakistani side,” sources said. (Chandigarh Tribune 23/5/15)

185. Hashimpura Massacre: HC Seeks UP Government Response on NHRC Plea (1)

NEW DELHI: Delhi High Court today sought the response of Uttar Pradesh government on a plea by NHRC challenging a trial court's decision to acquit 16 policemen of charges of murder and other crimes in the 1987 Hashimpura massacre case, in which 42 people were killed in Meerut city. A bench of justices G S Sistani and Sangita Dhingra Sehgal issued notice to the state government and sought its reply by July 21 on the plea of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) which has sought ordering of a further probe into the massacre in the Hashimpura locality of Meerut. NHRC in its plea has sought that "registers, duty register, attendance registers, log-books and other documents relating to the names, duty roster, posting and connected relevant details of PAC personnel" of the platoon which was operating in that area on that day be placed before the court. It has also sought that the report of the CB-CID inquiry and the findings of the Commission of Inquiry headed by Justice (retd) Gyan Prakash which probed the massacre be also placed before the bench. The Commission has sought a number of other directions, including "initiation of disciplinary proceedings against all the concerned police officials".It has prayed for laying down of guidelines to be followed by investigating agencies in cases of custodial killings and violence as well as a direction that "in cases of custodial violence, a presumption of guilt be made against the accused police officer that the injury and/or death was caused by the police officer having custody of the victim".NHRC has also sought "separation of the investigative work of the police from the law and order functions" as well as carrying out of a judicial inquiry "immediately and mandatorily" in all cases of custodial death. Prior to NHRC, the Uttar Pradesh government as well as survivors and kin of the victims of the massacre have moved the court challenging the acquittal of the 16 policemen. On March 21, a trial court gave the benefit of doubt and acquitted 16 former Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) personnel accused of killing 42 people in Meerut, saying lack of evidence has failed to establish their identification. Those acquitted in the case were Suresh Chand Sharma, Niranjan Lal, Kamal Singh, Budhi Singh, Basant Ballab, Kunwar Pal Singh, Budha Singh, Rambir Singh, Leela Dhar, Hambir Singh, Mokam Singh, Shami Ullaha, Sarwan Kumar, Jaipal Singh, Mahesh Prasad and Ram Dhayan. According to the prosecution, the PAC personnel had come to Hashimpura on May 22, 1987, and picked up about 50 Muslims as a congregation of 500 had gathered outside a mosque there. The victims were shot by the accused personnel and their bodies thrown into a canal, it had said, adding that 42 persons were declared to have perished in the massacre. The charge sheet was filed before the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM), Ghaziabad, in 1996. 19 people were named as accused and charges for offences of murder, attempt to murder, tampering with evidence and conspiracy were framed against 17 of them by the court here in 2006, after the case was transferred to Delhi on a Supreme Court direction in September 2002. The 16 accused acquitted in the case are the ones still alive. Three other accused died during the trial. (New Indian Express 26/5/15)

186. Tripura withdraws AFSPA, says insurgency on the wane (1)

Agartala: The Tripura government has revoked the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) as insurgency is on the wane in the State. Chief Minister Manik Sarkar announced the decision after a meeting with his Council of Ministers here on Wednesday. The repeal of the Act, which has been in force in the State since February 1997, came less than a month after the election to the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council. The CPI(M)-led Left Front won the election, though it lost a nine per cent vote share to a tribal party. Tribal parties such as the Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura and the Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura had been demanding the withdrawal of the Act, saying it was aimed at suppressing the State’s 33 per cent tribal population. The Chief Minister told presspersons that the Left front government had earlier tried to repeal the AFSPA, but did not get the consent of the security establishment. “The situation has changed to a great extent now,” Mr. Sarkar said. He said the State government had reviewed security matters and the Council of Ministers approved the decision to withdraw the AFSPA. The meeting decided to allow movement of traffic on the Assam-Agartala National Highway till midnight. Last November, the Act, which confers sweeping powers on the armed forces, was extended for six months in the State. The AFSPA had been in force in the State’s 26 police station areas. In four police station limits, the Act was partially enforced. (The Hindu 28/5/15)

187. Govt welcomes lifting of AFSPA in Tripura but J&K has to wait (19)

NEW DELHI: Tripura government's decision to lift Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from the state has been welcomed by the Centre. It is, however, not yet ready to extend the same courtesy to Jammu and Kashmir, where the issue is being debated for several years now. While MoS home Kiren Rijiju welcomed the decision to lift AFSPA in Tripura, indicating that the Centre was on the same page as the Manik Sarkar's government in the state, defence minister Manohar Parrikar has steadfastly maintained that Army cannot operate in the Kashmir Valley unless AFSPA is in force. Rijiju said on Thursday, "I would like to welcome the very important decision of Tripura government to lift AFSPA. I hope that lifting of AFSPA from Tripura will also have positive impact on other states of north-eastern region. I am confident that in the days to come... the state government and Centre can work together and secure peace in the north-eastern region." Earlier this week, Parrikar had hinted that it was not the right time to remove AFSPA from the Valley. In an interview to an agency, Parrikar had said, "Army's job is not internal security. Let me be very clear on that. It is not my job to maintain internal security but if I am given a task for internal security, then there have to be appropriate powers. Those powers come to me through AFSPA." Rijiju said that in the past one year, the situation in Tripura had improved a lot and the home ministry had already appointed an interlocutor to negotiate with the state's militant group, National Liberation Front of Tripura. Though similar arguments of violence abating in the Valley over the years have been made, there has been no political consensus for removal of AFSPA from Kashmir. Those in the Valley, however, have expressed hope. Moderate Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umer Farooq said the government's decision to withdraw AFSPA from Tripura should serve as an "eye opener" for the Jammu and Kashmir government too. "The Tripura government's decision to withdraw AFSPA from the state after remaining enforced for 18 years is a bold decision," a Hurriyat spokesman said. "Many governments came and pledged to revoke AFSPA from the state but all these pledges and claims proved to be blatant lies made just for public consumption," the spokesman said. Even former home minister P Chidambaram welcomed the decision, tweeting, "My plea to repeal AFSPA heard in Tripura. AFSPA withdrawn. Victory for sanity and humanity." The Act was implemented in 40 police station areas of the state in February 1997. With declining insurgency, the administration, in June 2013, had earlier withdrawn the Act from nine police stations. (The Temes of India 29/5/15)

 

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

 

188. World Press Freedom Day: 1,123 journalists killed since 1992, 34 from India

New Delhi: India has been ranked 136 among 180 countries worldwride in terms of press freedom in 2015. As the United Nations observes World Press Freedom Day on May 3, HT assesses the state of press freedom across the world and pays tribute to journalists who lost their lives in the line of duty. Two sets of data - the world press freedom index and journalist killings around the world - are necessary to throw light on the state of the freedom of the press. Reporters without borders (RWB), a non-profit organisation that tracks attacks on press freedom, has ranked every country according to its press freedom index. The Scandinavian countries - Finland, Norway and Denmark - topped the list. China, Sri Lanka and Saudi Arabia were placed at the end of the list with many Asian and African countries where press freedom is dwindling.   However, there has been a worrying decline in general when compared to last year's index due to information suppression because of various conflicts in 2014 such as the ones in the Middle East, Syria and Iraq.India's ranking on the World Press Freedom Index has not improved over the years. It has always scored a three-digit ranking its inception. According to RWB, the following attacks on media last year were identified as the major issues for India's low score. 1. Indian government's ban on Al-Jazeera for five days for displaying maps in which India’s border with Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir did not correspond to its territorial claims. 2. Indian authorities’ search aimed at members of the Karen community in the Andaman Islands, for those who helped two French documentarians gain access to the prohibited lands of the Jarawa tribe. 3. Attacks on journalists in Jammu and Kashmir during coverage of the 2014 parliamentary election. 4. Arrest of Jitendra Prasad Das, a subeditor with the Oriya-language daily Samaj in Cuttack, Odisha, for publishing a picture of the Prophet Mohammed. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an independent non-profit organisation that promotes press freedom worldwide, has ranked every country according to the number of journalists killed in the line of duty till May 2015. CPJ has been publishing the list since 1992. Twenty-one journalists were killed this year. France tops the list because of the killing of eight journalists from Charlie Hebodo in a terror attack. Since 1992, 1,123 journalists have been killed in the line of duty. While Iraq tops the list with 166 journalist killings, India is at 9th position with 34 deaths… The Hindustan Times 3/5/15)

189. Go home Indian media, Nepal Twitterati says (1)

NEW DELHI: If the Indian media has devoted wall-to-wall coverage of the Nepal earthquake, they were shown their place on social media on Sunday, the top trending hashtag being #GoHomeIndianMedia, which until evening had collected about 144,000 tweets. The online outrage is connected to the accusation that Indian TV channels have engaged in "insensitive" reporting of the aftermath of the earthquake. The TV channels, with their penchant for shoving microphones at suffering victims, have been accused of gross misconduct, in some situations even confronting security forces at the site of the devastation. They have intruded into family cremations, questioned grieving relatives, and generally shown a picture that many have found to be cringe-worthy. The Indian media, and here a distinction would have to be made between the TV channels and the print media, have also been accused of showing the efforts of the Indian Army, and Indian disaster-relief personnel at work in Nepal, in a glowing light. (Times of India 4/5/15)

190. Rahul Gandhi moves SC for decriminalizing defamation law (1)

NEW DELHI: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday joined his bitter critics — BJP's Subramanian Swamy and AAP's Arvind Kejriwal — in challenging the constitutional validity of Sections 499 and 500 of Indian Penal Code which make defamation a criminal offence punishable with up to two years in jail. The Congress scion moved the Supreme Court saying the penal provisions had a "chilling effect" on citizens' fundamental right to free speech and it must be scrapped. He called the provisions a legacy of the colonial era meant to oppress the media and stifle free speech, which was abhorrent to a democratic country. Seeking decriminalization of the defamation law, Rahul said criminalization of free speech in a sovereign democratic republic was not permissible. Petitions filed by Swamy and Kejriwal have already been entertained by the SC, which had stayed trial court proceedings in defamation cases pending against them. Senior advocates P P Rao and Mahalakshmi Pavani, appearing for Rahul, mentioned the case before a bench headed by Justice T S Thakur and sought urgent hearing as the Amethi MP has been summoned by a Bhiwandi court in Maharashtra to appear before it on May 8 in a defamation case. The complainant, an RSS member, had accused Rahul of making defamatory statements against RSS during the last general election campaign. He had alleged that Rahul had insinuated that an RSS member had killed Mahatma Gandhi in 1948. Both the senior advocates were reluctant to divulge the name of the petitioner when they sought an urgent hearing. Justice Thakur repeatedly asked for the petitioner's name. Rao attempted to side-step the question by saying he was a politician. When the bench kept insisting, Rao finally revealed that petitioner was Rahul Gandhi. The bench also asked how criminal defamation law could be scrapped as reputation was a valuable property of a person which must not be damaged through baseless allegation. But it agreed to hear Rahul's plea on Thursday. The court posted Rahul's petition for hearing before a bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra. "Criminal defamation laws are inherently harsh and have a disproportionate chilling effect on free expression. Individuals face the constant threat of being arrested, held in pre-trial detention, subjected to expensive criminal trials, and then in the event of conviction, saddled with a criminal record, fines and imprisonment, and the social stigma associated with this," Rahul said in his petition. "Sections 499 and 500 of the IPC violate the right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India. These provisions results in curbs on the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression beyond the limits of restrictions under Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India," Rahul said in his petition. He said criminal defamation laws violated international norms on freedom of speech and people felt threatened by the penal provision. "The internet could serve as a great medium for public discourse, but bloggers and citizen journalists could feel threatened by the criminal provisions related to defamation and this could cause a chilling effect," the Congress leader said. "Whatever be the position prior to the independence of India, Sections 499 and 500 of IPC have ceased to be reasonable restrictions after the Constitution came into force guaranteeing the right to equality in Article 14, the right to freedom of speech and expression in Article 19 (1) (a) and the right to personal liberty in Article 21 which constitute an integral part of the basic structure of the Constitution," he said. Rahul said offences like murder and theft affected society and therefore freedom could be curtailed but the act of defamation posed no discernible threat to society at large. "Its scope of impact is primarily restricted to the alleged victim and persons close to him who always have the option of responding to the defamatory allegations and setting the record straight. Thus, treating acts of defamation in a similar manner as grave offences against the public is patently arbitrary," he said. (Times of India 7/5/15)

191. Tushar Gandhi booked for 'criticizing' Bhagat Singh (1)

JALANDHAR: It's an ironical tale. Jalandhar police have registered a case of "hurting religious sentiments" against Mahtma Gandhi's great-grandson Tushar Gandhi after a local BJP functionary objected to his remarks about iconic freedom fighter Bhagat Singh, who was a known atheist. Speaking in Jaipur recently, Tushar had reportedly said that Bhagat Singh was "guilty of British rule, due to which Mahatma Gandhi had not asked for suspension of his sentence" and Bapu did not approve his violent acts. The case has been registered under section 295 A of IPC which pertained to "deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs". The FIR against Tushar said that other nationalist organizations had also submitted complaints to commissioner of police and now a case was being registered. Local BJP leader Krishan lal Sharma, who is chairman of Jan Jagriti Manch and is also state convenor of the party's cultural cell, in his complaint to the police on Sunday, claimed that Tushar Gandhi termed Bhagat Singh a criminal (apradhi) as per a newspaper report and this had hurt his personal sentiments and religious sentiments of people in general. Sharma claimed that they were organizing programmes in the memory of Bhagat Singh and this remark hurt the religious feelings of members of his organization too. He specifically demanded that a case be registered for hurting religious sentiments. When asked that how could it be a case of hurting religious sentiments as defined by section 295 A of IPC especially when Bhagat Singh himself claimed to be an atheist, ACP north Amneet Kaundal said that they had registered the case as per the complaint received by the police which said that the remarks hurt "religious feelings". "We have not gone into the religion of Bhagat Singh," she said. "Why I am an Atheist," is a popular article penned by Bhagat Singh. It may be mentioned here that Tushar Gandhi, while speaking in Jaipur, was quoted as saying that the Mahatama did not intervene to get Bhagat Singh's death sentence commuted as he was a criminal for the British rulers and Gandhi's critical views about the revolutionary line of line of Bhagat Singh and his associates were well known. Notably there have been numerous instances when Bhagat Singh's followers in Punjab have condemned Gandhi in strongest words both in writings and speeches but never any complaint for "hurting religious sentiments" has been filed. (Times of India 11/5/15)

192. AAP slams media for ‘defamatory’ news (1)

Indore: Continuing its tirade against media, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) alleged that a section of media is working against the party and chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. "Certain media houses, backed by industrialists, are trying to defame AAP leaders and Delhi government," said party chief spokesperson Sanjay Singh in Indore on Monday. Supporting the Kejriwal government's circular, directing ministers and officials to start filing defamation cases against media, Singh said, "Role of certain media houses needs to be analyzed as they are running false and defamatory stories." He went on to slam Delhi police for working against the party. "Delhi police on directions of home ministry is implicating AAP leaders and MLAs in false cases," said Singh. (Times of India 12/5/15)

193. RSS slams Kejriwal govt over 'draconian' defamation circular (1)

NEW DELHI: Terming its May 6 defamation circular against media as being "draconian", an article in RSS mouthpiece 'Organiser' has attacked the Arvind Kejriwal government for attempting to take away the freedom of speech and expression and for giving the message that "both sides of a coin are mine".The article, 'Draconian Circular', written by a Supreme Court advocate in the latest edition of 'Organiser', said that through the circular, Kejriwal and his Cabinet showed that they love the "suitability factor" most and to have both sides of a coin without caring that such an attack on media is "anti-democratic and unconstitutional"."The circular issued by Arvind Kejriwal against media is a clear attempt to take away the Freedom of Speech and Expression. Though the Supreme Court stayed the Draconian Circular, the question over Kejriwal's intention to use and then abuse media needs to be interrogated," the article said. It also said the circular has raised a burning and sensational topic for discussion by providing a mechanism for registering complaints of defamatory news or actions of the Fourth Estate in order to cover the Chief Minister, Cabinet and various other Delhi government functionaries. "By attacking on it politically some say its anti- democratic, an un-announced emergency or an attempt to strangle the democracy or more specifically an attack on media both print and visual as well. But, I feel that his government is trying to give a message 'Both sides of a coin are mine'," the article said. The article further stated that Kejriwal throughout his campaign used defamatory words or news against political leaders and business scions for which he is facing trial at various places. It alleged that the Delhi chief minister propagates himself as a victim of such complaints but moved Supreme Court to de-criminalise Section 499/500 of IPC and still enjoying the stay granted by court. This, it said, is one side of the coin, while on the other he gets through the very "Draconian Circular" on May 6 by attacking the Fourth Pillar and using the same weapon against it which he himself has attacked and is pioneering to de-criminalise. "This circular is a clear attempt to take away the Freedom of Speech and Expression," said the article. "Thus, he (Kejriwal) and his Cabinet loves the suitability factor most and to have the both sides of a coin without caring that such attacks are anti-democratic, un-constitutional and even when the matter is sub-judice before the Supreme Court," the article added. (Times of India 17/5/15)

194. TV channels flout rules under garb of media freedom: activist (1)

NEW DELHI: The Electronic Media Monitoring Centre (EMMC) of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry has reported 13,000 instances of violations of regulatory norms by television channels in 2013-14. These violations came to light after Guntur-based Edara Gopi Chand, an activist with Media-Watch India, waged a three-year battle to expose the poor regulation of content on India’s TV channels. Using the RTI Act, Mr. Chand succeeded in getting the EMMC to disclose information on TV channels violating programming and advertising codes after the Central Information Commission issued an order in March. After the EMMC disclosure in May, many violations in 2014-15 have been exposed. EMMC data show 5,566 violations pertaining to distracting ‘part-screen’ and ‘scrolling’ ads that interfere with the programme and ‘paid promotional programmes’ telecast in the garb of news/interviews. By Rule 7(10) of the Cable Networks Rules, 1994, all advertisements should be clearly distinguishable from the programme and should not in any manner interfere with the programme such as using the lower part of the screen to carry captions, static or moving messages alongside the programme. The EMMC reports 2,965 instances of surrogate advisements of liquor/tobacco products. It found 1,245 instances of misleading advertisements, which include superstitious and deceptive ads of kavachas, yantras, medicines, creams and so on, claiming to possess miraculous powers which are otherwise serious offences under the Drugs and Magic Remedies(Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1955. “Merely publishing statistics of violations is meaningless unless the names of the violating channels and the nature or gravity of each of these violations is revealed. It is an open secret that the I&B Ministry sits on these reports without taking any action. It issues occasional ‘advisories’ to which no channel pays heed,” Mr. Chand said. According to information on the EMMC website, 37 per cent of the violations in 2014 pertained to vulgarity or obscenity and 11 per cent related to representation of women. But National Commission for Women chairperson Lalitha Kumaramangalam told The Hindu that no complaints pertaining to TV channels were received by her office, although complaints about social media often reach her. “Even if complaints against TV channels do come to us, there is so much hoo-ha over freedom of speech these days, I wonder what concrete action we could initiate against them,” she said. Mr. Chand says that when the Ministry enforces the regulations by prohibiting telecast of the offending channel for a few days, TV channels scream government regulation and approach the courts for relief, thus preventing any action. (The Hindu 18/5/15)

195. Shashi Tharoor loses cool, slams media (1)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Shashi Tharoor lost his cool and abused media for asking questions on the polygraph test on the aides of his late wife Sunanda Pushkar. He later slammed the media through Twitter for "exploiting the tragedy".Tharoor, who reached the Thiruvananthapuram airport on Wednesday night around 10.30pm was received with some straight questions from the Times Now channel reporter on the polygraph test which irritated him. When asked whether he is worried over the polygraph test and how come all the aides narrated the same story by concealing the same fact, Tharoor shouted by asking "Aren't you ashamed? This is disgusting." When he evaded further questions and tried to get into the car, he said, "I will speak to the police, not to self appointed liars and scums".Later on Twitter he wrote, "It suits gutter journalists 2 pretend I attacked their entire fraternity. I attacked only those who put exploitation of tragedy above justice.''He blamed the media by tweeting that one channel ran a witch hunt yesterday all evening, lied and distorted facts, aired innuendo, ran a survey on purported guilt. Tharoor, who has been evading the media after the death of his wife was not ready to take any questions on the tragedy. In his tweet Tharoor wrote, "amused to see my comment to the one channel that stalked me at home and at Thiruvananthapuram airport is being twisted as an attack on all media.'' (Times of India 21/5/15)

196. AMWJU highlights plights of state scribes at IJU`s Plenary Session (1)

IMPHAL, May 23: A two-day 8th Plenary Session of National Council Member of Indian Journalists`™ Union (IJU) was inaugurated today at the Convention Centre, KIIT University, Bhubaneswar by Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak, Minister of Health & Family Welfare and Information & Public Relations Department, Government of Odissha attending as chief guest. According to a release of All Manipur Working Journalist Union, the inauguration function was presided over by president of IJU, SN Sinha and was attended by 500 journalists from 27 states including Manipur represented by Ratan Luwangcha, vice-president of AMWJU; general secretary Jit Ningomba and convener of Gender Cell Sonia Sorensangbam. Addressing the gathering, Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak said that a resolution has been adopted to implement the recommendations of Majithia Wage Board in Odisha for which a tripartite committee has been formed. He further said that health insurance is also included under the welfare scheme of working journalists while adding that journalists`™ welfare fund has been also incorporated for well-being of journalists. Along with adoption certain national resolutions meant for welfare of journalists, representatives of the states placed detailed reports on plights and grievances being faced by media persons in the respective states during the session. During the concluding day of the session, new office bearers of IJU including three vice-presidents, six national secretaries, one treasurer and 15 national executive members will be elected. Prior to the inauguration of the 8th Plenary Session of IJU, a meeting of National Executive Committee of the union was held at the KIIT campus on May 22 during which the AMWJU team highlighted arrays of problems being faced by journalists in Manipur (Kangla Online 24/5/15)

197. Neutral Media and Narendra Modi's 365 Days in Office (1)

Arun Jaitley goes gaga over Narendra Modi’s first year performance”  screamed a media headline. “Congress brings scathing report on Modi’s one year”  yelled another. The BJP or the Congress will never claim theirs as neutral view. But media, Indian and foreign, have assessed Modi’s one year for almost a fortnight -- as no government has ever been before. That is presumed as neutral. No one questions the media’s neutrality. In the media world, there are editors and owners who are openly Congressmen. Some are subtly Communists and of other leanings. Foreign media have their geo-political agenda. Yet all media stand together to ensure that the neutrality of none is questioned. And no one dares them. But precisely because the media is unquestioningly holding high moral ground, time is ripe for a plain comment on the media’s alleged neutrality. The media’s alleged neutral comment on the first year rule of Modi, with whom it shared the most hostile relations definitely till last year, provides the ideal context for that. Ramnath Goenka, the most independent newspaper owner-- and therefore most feared by wrongdoers -- never celebrated neutrality as a virtue. He would say the neutrals fall between two stools-- between the right and the wrong! He declared it was better to take a view than have no view against wrongdoers to look neutral. He fearlessly took on the delinquents whether it was a public authority or a buccaneer in business. He equated freedom of press with one’s guts to take on the high and mighty and not the privilege of pretending to be neutral. His campaigns against corruption would hardly qualify as neutral. He would chase the most powerful delinquent alone-- whether it was any Indira Gandhi or Rajiv Gandhi or Ambani-- whom the rest of the media would fear. He would refuse to join a mass chase as it needed no courage to be in a crowd. Today’s media is a pale version of those in his time. The media that was lured by ads to compromise with news did exist then also. But even they would not sell news for money. Today some big media houses prostitute their soul for cash and shares. But they too claim neutrality! But in Modi’s case the media did not even claim to be neutral to him till it was clear during the election campaign last year that he was almost running into to No 6 Race Course Road. Hounding him itself was its explicit mission for over a decade. Modi survived in Gujarat, rose on the national scene and acquired national and international stature-- all against a determined national and global media bid to stop him, even politically finish him off, at every stage. ‘Godhra victims died accidentally.’ ‘Not killed by any terror gang.’ ‘Modi instigated the riots that killed thousands of Muslims.’ ‘Modi got Sohrabuddin killed.’ ‘Modi conspired to kill Jiffri’-- This was how the media tsunami targeted Modi, with deadly impact on his image and legitimacy outside India. Foreign media echoed the Indian media’s hate campaign against Modi, multiplied and spread it world over, and recycled it back to India as foreign media view on Modi! Media in and outside India worked in partnership with dubiously funded NGOs that targeted Modi. Anti-Modi groups outside India networked and campaigned as Coalition Against Genocide [CAG] against Modi. It openly claimed in May 2005 that it got the US “to deny visa to Modi”  for allowing the massacre of 2,000 Muslims [?]. The media stories were repudiated by the highest judiciary in India. But the media couldn’t care less. The short-sighted US visa denial– believed to be a foolish idea by most experts after Modi won — had placed Modi in the company of Slobodan Milosevic, a war criminal, and made him a hate figure….  (New Indian Express 29/5/15)

 

COMMUNAL RIOTS

 

198. US Report Slams BJP for Communal Remarks, Praises PM Modi (7)

WASHINGTON: A new US report has slammed politicians linked to India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for making derogatory comments against religious minority communities, but praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his statement in support of religious freedom. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), at whose recommendation the State Department had revoked Modi’s visa in 2005 for his alleged complicity in the 2002 Gujarat riots, on Thursday described Modi’s statement as a “positive development”.”This statement is notable given longstanding allegations that, as chief minister of Gujarat in 2002, Modi was complicit in anti-Muslim riots in that state,” it said referring to his remarks at an event honouring Indian Catholic saints in mid-February. Modi’s visa was revoked under a provision in the Immigration and Nationality Act that makes any foreign government official who “was responsible for or directly carried out, at any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedom” ineligible for a US visa. “Prime Minister Modi remains the only person known to have been denied a visa based on this provision,” USCRIF noted. However, saying that “incidents of religiously-motivated and communal violence reportedly have increased for three consecutive years”, USCIRF its 2015 annual report has again placed India on its Tier 2 list of countries, where it has been since 2009. USCRIF lists Tier 2 nations as those countries whose governments engages in or tolerates at least one of the elements of the systematic, ongoing, and egregious standard, but do not fully meet the countries of particular concern (CPC) standard. The commission, which makes recommendations to the US State Secretary of State and the US Congress, has placed Pakistan and seven other countries in its CPC list. These are defined as countries where particularly severe violations of religious freedom are tolerated or perpetrated. “Since the election, religious minority communities have been subject to derogatory comments by politicians linked to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and numerous violent attacks and forced conversions by Hindu nationalist groups, such as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Vishva Hindu Parishad,” the report said. Christian NGOs and leaders report that their community is particularly at risk in states that have adopted “Freedom of Religion Act(s)”, commonly referred to as anti-conversion laws, it said. “Based on these concerns, USCIRF again places India on its Tier 2 list of countries, where it has been since 2009,” the report said. (New Indian Express 1/5/15)

199. 2000 booked for Saturday’s violence in Shamli (7)

MUZAFFARNAGAR: Ruling Samajwadi Party MLA Nahid Hasan is among two thousand people booked by Railway Protection Force (RPF) for allegedly damaging rail property and disrupting services during a violent protest on Saturday at Kandhla railway station in neighbouring Shamli district. The protest was against the alleged assault on five members of the Tablighi Jamaat by some youths on board a Delhi-Kandhla train on May 1. The mob had also laid a siege to a police station, pelted stones and set afire vehicles. 16 policemen were injured in the violence. Assistant Commissioner of RPF P.K. Pandey told reporters on Monday that two thousand people have been booked under Section 174 of Railway Act for the violence while 12 persons have been named including SP legislator Nahid Hasan and chairman of Kandhla nagar panchayat Haji Balu Hasan. He said the protesters had turned violent, disrupting train services and damaging railway property at Kandhla railway station. Meanwhile, in view of the alleged assault on the members of the community onboard a train on Delhi-Saharanpur rout, security has been tightened on the trains. Inspector General of Government Railway Police Dawa Sherpa told reporters that police and RPF personnel in plain clothes have been deployed following the incident. Meanwhile, a delegation of Jamiat Ulema-I-Hind met senior railway officials and sought adequate security on trains on the route and immediate arrest of culprits in the assault case. He was assured that the accused will be arrested soon. The incidents had triggered tension in the district. Muzaffarnagar and surrounding districts including Shamli in western Uttar Pradesh were rocked by communal riots in September 2013 which had left over 60 people dead and displaced thousands of others. (The Hindu 4/5/15)

200. Muzaffarnagar: Fear of setting riot-torn town on fire again drives Hindu boy and Muslim girl to take their own lives (7)

Lucknow: Love does not come easy in Muzaffarnagar. Especially when lovers come from different religions. Imrana Bano (18) and Rajneesh Kumar (21) knew this. But they fell almost helplessly in love and started stealing time to meet each other. They hoped their relatives and society would accept them some day, even if grudgingly. But the tinderbox that Muzaffarnagar is currently convinced them otherwise. The Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013 left 59 dead and more than 50,000 homeless. Fearing their love would make their communally-sensitive town burn again, this Harijan boy and Muslim girl took the extreme step. Their bodies were found hanging from a Neem tree, united in death by the same dupatta, in Bhaura-Khurd village on Monday.   Inspector Singh, Circle Officer of Phugana, said: “They were in love with each other. It appears that they entered into a suicide pact because society was not willing to accept their relationship.” Imrana’s family members said the lovers were missing since Saturday. The tree is in a compound owned by the girl’s family that is on the outskirts of the village. Huge police force was deployed in the village after large number of people from both communities gathered in the area. There was palpable tension in the air. The administration said it taken measures have been taken to thwart any attempt to stoke communal fire. The police have recovered vermillion (sindoor) and some other cosmetics from the spot. Sindoor was also found on the forehead of the girl. A sachet of poison was recovered from the spot. “They committed suicide because the two families were not ready toaccept their marriage,” said Mohammad Idris, Imrana’s uncle. Indicating there could be more than meets the eye, the boy’s father Ram Kumar told newspersons that he was not willing to buy the suicide theory. “They were found hanging from a Neem tree that is situated on a compound owned by the father of the girl,” he stressed. According to the villagers, Imrana’s parents had come to know about the affair five years ago and had sent her to a relative’s house. The father of the boy had also sent him to Rohtak to work in a factory. Imrana’s parents had recently caught her talking to Rajneesh from a mobile phone and beaten her up. They had fixed her marriage with a youth from Kandhla area of Shamli district and had forced her to agree to get engaged on Friday. Rajneesh, who was pursuing a graduation degree as a private student from a college in Kandhla, had returned on May 2 to appear in his B.A. first year examination. He managed to meet Imrana on Saturday. And decided perhaps that death was the only recourse. The alleged molestation of a Hindu Jat girl by some Muslim youths in the Kawal area had triggered the Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013. A few villagers, speaking on condition of anonymity, told newspersons they are not willing to believe that it was a case of suicide because the couple could have easily eloped to Rohtak instead of taking this extreme step. In the restive parts of UP, it doesn’t take much to start communal violence. In Agra, some clerics have convened a meeting on May 14 to force the victims of the infamous conversion of December 8, 2014, to undergo fresh nikah with their wives to protect their marriages. In Saharanpur, Muslims are accusing the police of protecting driver of a state transport bus that ran over a seven-year-old on Saturday. In Aligarh, there is an order from the local administration to stop the expansion of a mosque around Jama Masjid as there is a Ramleela ground next to it. Some are bent on defying that order. (India Today 5/5/15)

201. US panel proved wrong, communal incidents actually dipped in 2014 (7)

NEW DELHI: Contrary to an assessment by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) that communal incidents in India witnessed a rising trend in 2014, official data released by the home ministry showed that such attacks were down to 644 from 823 in 2013. Also, the US panel’s claim in its 2015 report that religiously-motivated and communal violence in India had increased over three consecutive years was proved wrong with the number of incidents in 2014 being the lowest in the past three years. The USCIRF had, in its report on international religious freedom released last week, noted that religious minorities in India were exposed to “derogatory” comments by leaders of the ruling BJP as well as “violent attacks and forced conversions by the RSS/VHP since the Narendra Modi government took over last year”. It also slammed the “ghar wapsi” campaign and accused “Hindu nationalist groups” of offering monetary inducements not only to Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism but also to Hindus carrying out such “forced” conversions. According to figures for communal incidents in the first two months of 2015, while 72 incidents were recorded in January, they fell to 47 in February. Maharashtra continued to account for the highest incidence of communal violence with 21 attacks in January and 10 in February, while the corresponding figures for Rajasthan were three and six respectively. Bihar also remains a cause for concern with 61 incidents in 2014, 12 in January 2015 and six in February 2015. The US panel, which makes policy recommendations to the US president and Congress, was also proved wrong on its assessment regarding trends of communal violence in many Indian states through 2012, 2013 and 2014. According to the panel, the states that tend to have the greatest number of incidents were Andhra Pradesh, UP, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Odisha, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. However, as per home ministry data, Chhattisgarh recorded no incident, while Andhra Pradesh witnessed five incidents and Odisha just three. Though incidents were the highest in UP at 133, this was a big fall from the 247 incidents recorded in 2013. Communal violence in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra, however, witnessed a rise in 2014 as compared to 2013. (Times of India 7/5/15)

202. Communal tension in Gujarat after priest kills one of the mob that attacked temple (7)

Vadodara: Nadiad town was tense after a former councillor of its muncipality succumbed to bullet injuries allegedly fired from the licenced weapon of a priest of a temple situated in a Muslim dominated locality. The bullet hit his chest and he died on Saturday. Ashok Bhuria, the priest of the temple to Dalaram Bapa, a patron saint of local Dalit community, fired upon Sajid Vora, the ex-councillor using his licenced .12 bore gun at around 2 am on Saturday alleging that Vora led a mob that tried to storm the temple by pelting stones, police said. Bhuria lived in the temple premises along with his family.Members of both the sides filed FIRs at Nadiad police station. As per FIR filed by one Mohammad Imran, Vora and Bhuria had fought over parking of his two-wheeler after which Bhuria took out his gun and fired at him. A cross-FIR filed by one Girish Giri stated that a mob armed with sharp weapons attacked the ashram of Dalaram Bapa with the intention to damage the temple property. People in the mob rushed towards the ashram pelting stones. Threatened by the mob, the accused fired from his .12 bore licenced gun in self-defence, police said. The bullet hit Vora in the chest. He was rushed to a hospital in Anand town where he died during treatment on later Saturday.

Kheda SP Sachin Badshah said the police being deployed in the locality to maintain law and order as the body of the victim was being brought to his house from Anand hospital where he died. So far, nobody has been arrested. Badshah said people of two communities clashed over an old matter, with the accused firing from his licenced gun in self-defence when a mob of around fifty persons started pelting stones at the temple where he lived. “The incident took place in a Muslim dominated locality following some altercation over a motorcycle. We are yet to get the exact detail about the reason behind the attack on the temple. But the locals in the area, which is Muslim-dominated, had in the past fought with the priest and their family members who live in the temple. The gun was fired in self-defence,” Badshah said. (Indian Express 10/5/15)

203. 9 injured in communal clash in Begampura (7)

SURAT: Nine persons suffered minor injuries when groups of two communities clashed in Setranji Wad locality of Begampura area on Sunday afternoon. Police said that some scuffle over playing cricket led to stone-pelting by mobs from both communities. The injured were admitted to the New Civil Hospital and Burhani Hospital for treatment. They suffered injuries in stone-pelting. Police resorted to mild lathicarge to disperse the rioters and the situation was brought under control immediately. “It was a small clash between the communities which was controlled and the situation is peaceful now. People from one community were playing cricket while others objected to it and that led to the tussle,” said S M Patel, police inspector, Salabatpura police station. A group of youngsters had gathered at a house in the area for some function. They started playing cricket to while away time, sources informed. The ball hit a person from another community and people asked them to stop playing. Police have deployed bandobast in the area to avert any escalation. “We are registering a complaint and those responsible for the disturbance will be booked,” said Patel. Recently, city police commissioner Rakesh Asthana revived a 24-year old notification banning cricket on the roads as they led to communal clashes many times. (Times of India 18/5/15)

204. Eight injured in Himmatnagar communal clash (7)

PALANPUR: Eight persons were injured following a communal clash in Himmatnagar town of Sabarkantha district over a trivial issue late Tuesday night. The skirmish occurred in the Parbda locality of Himmatnagar when some people objected to a youth Anand Chauhan from smoking at a pan store. An angry Chauhan left the place and returned with his supporters carrying pipes and sharp weapons and bricks. The other group was also equipped with weapons and bricks which was used during the clash. K D Brhambhatt, police sub-inspector of the A-Division police station said at least eight persons sustained injuries in the clash. More police force was deployed in the area following the clash. Police have registered cross complaints from both the groups against a dozen people under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code. Since the accused are in the hospital no arrest could be made, said Brhambhatt, adding that the situation was well under control. Top police officials including superintendent of police Pravin Mal reached the spot and took stock of the situation, said sources. All eight injured are recuperating at the civil Hospital in Himmatnagar. (Times of India 21/5/15)

205. Ratlam: 3 Muslim youths held for assault on Hindu activist (7)

Bhopal: Nearly two years after a murderous assault on a Ratlam-based Hindu activist, the police have arrested three Muslim youths, including Rizwan Sherani, who was already in jail in connection with the murder of Bajrang Dal leader Kapil Rathod, who was shot dead in September 2014. Rizwan was a member of Ahl al-Suffah, a Ratlam-based Islamic proselytising and charity group that became active after Muzaffarnagar riots. A breakaway faction of this group was recently busted in the communally sensitive town for its members’ alleged affiliation to an Islamic State-linked Jihad cell planning strikes in India. Rajesh Kataria, who was then convener of Hindu Chetna Manch, was shot by motorbike-borne youths in Salakhedi on July 29, 2013. In his 40s, the right-wing activist survived the attempt on his life though he was hit by one bullet.Rizwan, who allegedly fired the shots while riding pillion, Sameer, alias Raja Barik Hanif Khan, 25, and Shahid Farid Khan, 32, were remanded in a day’s police custody by a court Thursday. Sameer, a resident of Kazipura, and Shahid, a resident of Sheranipura, had already been arrested. Their three-day remand ended on Thursday and they were remanded in further custody for a day. Rathod was involved in cow protection campaign. He and his employee were shot dead on September 27, 2013, a couple of hours after an attempt was made on the life of a Muslim Congress councillor. The town was brought under curfew that day after arson and rioting. Kataria had not named any suspects and the Station Road police had filed an FIR against unknown persons. The police said they got a clue about attack on Kataria from some people who are in jail in connection with the riots. (Indian Express 22/5/15)

206. Muzaffarnagar Riots: Hadoli Case Shifted to Sessions Court (7)

MUZAFFARNAGAR: A local court here has shifted to sessions court the Hadoli killing case of 2013 communal riots in which 25 people are facing trial.  Chief Judicial Magistrate Narender Kumar has directed the 25 accused to appear in Sessions court on June 3, the prosecution said.  One person was killed and several injured as rioters damaged property at Hadoli village under Bhorakala police station in the district on September 8, 2013. Police had filed charge sheet against 25 people in this case.  The case is related to the communal riots that rocked Muzaffarnagar and neighbouring districts, leaving 60 people dead while thousands of others were displaced.  (New Indian Express 23/5/15)

207. Nagaur clash death toll rises to five (7)

The death toll in a clash between two groups at Dangawas village of Nagaur has risen to five with a Dalit man, who was injured, dying of injuries in an Ajmer hospital on Saturday. Ganpat Ram, who had sustained serious injuries in the clash over a land dispute on May 14, was in a critical condition. His family members refused to take the body home since their demand of ordering a CBI investigation was not met. “His family members have refused to take the body. They are staging a dharna outside the mortuary demanding a CBI probe into the incident,” Jitendra Gangwani, station house office, Ajmer Kotwali police station, said. Superintendent of Police Nagaur Raghvendra Suhasa said the case was handed over to CID on Friday. The People’s Union for Civil Liberties has demanded a CBI investigation. “The government is yet to take any step in this regard. Local police station staff have not been suspended,” PUCL general secretary Kavita Srivastava said. Four persons — three from the Dalit community and one from the Jat community — were killed in the clash. The supporters of Kanaram Jat and Ratna Ram Meghwal, armed with sharp-edged weapons and guns, had clashed. While Rampal had died of a bullet injures, Ratna Ram, Pokar Ram and Pancha Ram had succumbed to injuries inflicted with other weapons. (The Hindu 23/5/15)

208. Hashimpura massacre: HC seeks UP govt response on NHRC plea (7)

New Delhi: Delhi High Court on Monday sought the response of Uttar Pradesh government on a plea by NHRC challenging a trial court’s decision to acquit 16 policemen of charges of murder and other crimes in the 1987 Hashimpura massacre case, in which 42 people were killed in Meerut city. A bench of justices G S Sistani and Sangita Dhingra Sehgal issued notice to the state government and sought its reply by July 21 on the plea of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) which has sought ordering of a further probe into the massacre in the Hashimpura locality of Meerut. NHRC in its plea has sought that “registers, duty register, attendance registers, log-books and other documents relating to the names, duty roster, posting and connected relevant details of PAC personnel” of the platoon which was operating in that area on that day be placed before the court. It has also sought that the report of the CB-CID inquiry and the findings of the Commission of Inquiry headed by Justice (retd) Gyan Prakash which probed the massacre be also placed before the bench. The Commission has sought a number of other directions, including “initiation of disciplinary proceedings against all the concerned police officials”.It has prayed for laying down of guidelines to be followed by investigating agencies in cases of custodial killings and violence as well as a direction that “in cases of custodial violence, a presumption of guilt be made against the accused police officer that the injury and/or death was caused by the police officer having custody of the victim”.NHRC has also sought “separation of the investigative work of the police from the law and order functions” as well as carrying out of a judicial inquiry “immediately and mandatorily” in all cases of custodial death. Prior to NHRC, the Uttar Pradesh government as well as survivors and kin of the victims of the massacre have moved the court challenging the acquittal of the 16 policemen. On March 21, a trial court gave the benefit of doubt and acquitted 16 former Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) personnel accused of killing 42 people in Meerut, saying lack of evidence has failed to establish their identification. Those acquitted in the case were Suresh Chand Sharma, Niranjan Lal, Kamal Singh, Budhi Singh, Basant Ballab, Kunwar Pal Singh, Budha Singh, Rambir Singh, Leela Dhar, Hambir Singh, Mokam Singh, Shami Ullaha, Sarwan Kumar, Jaipal Singh, Mahesh Prasad and Ram Dhayan. According to the prosecution, the PAC personnel had come to Hashimpura on May 22, 1987, and picked up about 50 Muslims as a congregation of 500 had gathered outside a mosque there. The victims were shot by the accused personnel and their bodies thrown into a canal, it had said, adding that 42 persons were declared to have perished in the massacre. The charge sheet was filed before the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM), Ghaziabad, in 1996. 19 people were named as accused and charges for offences of murder, attempt to murder, tampering with evidence and conspiracy were framed against 17 of them by the court here in 2006, after the case was transferred to Delhi on a Supreme Court direction in September 2002. The 16 accused acquitted in the case are the ones still alive. Three other accused died during the trial.   (Zee News 25/5/15)

209. Delhi cops on high alert to combat communal flare-up (7)

NEW DELHI: Delhi Police officials are on their toes and have put sensitive areas on high alert to avoid any fallout of the Faridabad riots. Learning from past mistakes of not being able to handle communal tension, cops are now better prepared to avoid incidents like Trilokpuri or Bawana. A ‘Communal Riot Scheme’ has been prepared to handle riot-like situations. The plan highlights sensitive and communal areas, number of pickets deployed and anti-riot equipment in police stations, among other things. “Monday’s communal violence in Faridabad took place for around an hour. However, with Shab-e-barat approaching, border areas and sensitive places have been put on high alert and cops briefed accordingly,” a senior police officer said. Delhi Police said they will extend help to Faridabad police, if needed. The Communal Riot Scheme is divided into three stages — prevention, operational and post-riot. The first stage involves handling the situation at the micro level, including arranging meetings with peace committees, RWAs, mohalla committees and community liaison groups. Cops in plainclothes would be deployed at various places to keep a watch on rumours or exaggerated versions of real incidents. Apart from increased foot and mobile patrolling, new pickets would be set up in riot-prone areas. The operational stage would be put into operation when communal violence has flared up. This involves setting up of a special control room and mobile communication unit near the riot spot. Senior police officers would take stock of the situation and send forces to trouble spots. An ACP rank officer and an inspector would rush to the spot with anti-riot equipment to control law & order, manage the crowd and help in rescue operations. “This stage would also include arresting rumour mongers and criminals who try to exploit the situation. Cops will be deployed to keep surveillance over kerosene, petrol and chemical storage depots so that bombs aren’t made. Drones with cameras would be used to identify rooftops with bricks and stones. All police stations will keep a reserve force ready with riot gear, arms and ammunition,” said a senior police officer. In the final post-riot stage, the focus would be on cleaning up of the area, removal of the dead and maintaining peace. Peace committees would be formed and inter-religious activities would be held, like Hindus volunteering in a Muslim festival and vice versa. Supply of essential commodities, such as milk, vegetables and medical van, would be made available. (Times of India 29/5/15)

COMMUNALISM

 210. VHP slams US report on minorities (26)

New Delhi: Rejecting the findings of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom that slammed the treatment of religious minorities in India, VHP Saturday said the report was a reaction to India’s attempts to curb conversion as well as illegal activities of Christian missionaries. “Interestingly US raises its voices only when Christian missionaries faced some trouble. They are now worried about the reaction to the conversion and the illegal activities of missionaries. They want missionaries to get a free hand here,” VHP joint general secretary Surendrakumar Jain said. The Commission in its 2015 report said that religious minorities in India have been subjected to derogatory comments by politicians of BJP since Narendra Modi government took over. According to Jain, the organisation never expressed any concern on Kashmiri Hindus or when Christian missionaries burnt Buddhist monasteries in Tripura. “They were silent on the issue of link between the Church and terrorist organisations. They want everyone to encourage the false campaign by the missionaries” Jain said. The VHP leader questioned the US organisation’s right to comment on India. “The US is not the darogar (headconstable). It should set its own house in order. What about the racial attacks and the assaults on Hindu temples in the US?” Jain said. (Indian Express 3/5/15)

211. VHP accuses officials for bovine smuggling (26)

Jammu: The Vishav Hindu Parishad (VHP) today accused several government officials and doctors of working hand in glove with cattle smugglers in Jammu-Kashmir. “It has come to our knowledge that some officials at the office of district and additional district magistrate Jammu and some doctors of animal husbandry department are in league with some professional and notorious cattle smugglers who are engaged in the illegal trade of cattle smuggling” a statement issued by VHP’s state unit said. “Repeated smuggling of bovine animals from Jammu region to Kashmir Valley for slaughtering which besides being violation of the existing laws on slaughtering of such animals, was also severely hurting religious sentiments of the Hindu community,”it said. (Business Standard 7/5/15)

212. Hindu group made to remove Tory support letter in UK polls (26)

London: A representative body of British Hindus was forced to remove from its website an open letter in support of Prime Minister David Cameron led Conservative party in today’s general election after the UK’s charity regulator found that the post went against its guidance. The National Council of Hindu Temples (NCHT-UK), which claims to be the oldest umbrella organisation for an estimated 565,000 Hindus in Britain, had issued the letter on its website encouraging Hindus across the country to exercise their vote and implied that Tories, as the Conservatives are referred to, should be their preferred choice. The Charity Commission, which regulates the conduct of charitable groups in Britain, stressed that the regulator’s guidance “makes clear that a charity must not give its support to any political party or candidate”. A spokesperson said: “We are aware of the notice posted on the National Council of Hindu Temples’ website and we contacted the charity to establish the facts of this matter and ask them to remove the post as a matter of urgency. “We are aware that the post has subsequently been removed, and the trustees have responded to us. We are assessing the response to decide what action, if any, is required.” The letter undersigned by NCHT-UK general secretary Satish Sharma had made a reference to the Labour party’s attempts at introducing anti-caste legislation in Parliament as the defining factor behind the choice of whom Hindus based in the country should vote for. The group is opposed to the inclusion of caste within the criteria of discrimination in the UK’s Equality Act, claiming the issue is not applicable in Britain and would “effectively introduce a caste system here in the UK”.Sharma’s letter had pointed out that both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have pledged that if elected they would immediately introduce the legislation. “This is NOT a recommendation for members of the dharmic communities to vote for a particular party, but it would be unfair not to recognise that the Conservative Party is the only principal party which has rejected the process whereby this legislation was forced through, and the Conservative Party is the only party which has consistently listened to us and voted against this legislation and whose members are committed to repealing the caste amendment if re-elected,” read the letter, which has since been removed. It also had a line which said that the group understands the sentiment expressed by a young volunteer that “British Hindus, Sikhs and Jains voting for Labour is now like Turkeys voting for Christmas.” (Deccan Herald 7/5/15)

213. RSS begins ‘gaon wapsi’ in Uttarakhand (26)

Dehradun: RSS wants people to return to their roots at least once a year.It seems the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has launched a ‘gaon wapsi’ programme to exhort migrants from Uttarakhand villages to return to their roots at least once in a year. The ‘Mere Gaon Mere Teerth’ (my villagemy pilgrimage) programme of RSS aims to appeal to the migrants from Uttarakhand to return to the state once in a year. Uttarakhand unit of RSS will conduct this programme under the banner of its social organisation, Uttaranchal Utthan Parishad. Migration from the state has been a major political issue here. Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat has been referring to the issue of migration for quite some time. Several parties too have raised the issue over the years. The RSS has now joined the bandwagon. Uttarakhand RSS chief Harish Rautela said, “We hosted the first meeting with Uttarakhandis living in Delhi on May 3. Similar programmes will be held in Mumbai, Lucknow, Moradabad, Bareilly and other parts of India. We are approaching the organisations operated by Uttarakhandi people across India for this programme. Uttarakhand villageSangh hopes to save villages from turning desolate with the move. By reconnecting people with their villages we will be able to save many villages from turning desolate.” The new programme comes a year after Uttarakhand RSS launched the village festival Gramya Utsav. According to Uttarakhand statistical department, out of 15,745 villages in the state there are about 1,000 villages where hardly anyone lives. Residents of these villages have migrated to bigger towns and cities across India. According to the 2001 census, 15.22 lakh people migrated from Uttarakhand in search of jobs. Large numbers of Uttarakhandis live in cities like Delhi and Mumbai. Meanwhile, the RSS programme has attracted criticism. Communist Party of India national council member Samar Bhandari said, “RSS’s move is purely political. They want to divert the attention from neglect of the villages and give it an emotional colour. The main motive is to make political gains by playing the migration card.” According to the Rashtryiya Swayamsevak Sangh, there are about 1,200 social organisations formed by people of Uttarakhand in other parts of India. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh will be approaching these organisation to conduct the ‘connect to your village’ programme. (India Today 10/5/15)

214. Hindutva groups angry over move to shift Agra crematorium (26)

Agra: Agra Divisional Commissioner Pradip Bhatnagar has ordered shifting of a centuries-old crematorium from the proximity of the iconic Taj Mahal here, outraging Hindutva organisations which threatened a mass movement. Environmentalists claimed that the timeless beauty of the the 17th century monument of love is being threatened by smoke and soot from the cremation ground. A parliamentary committee, headed by Congress member of the Rajya Sabha Ashwini Kumar, visited Agra last month. It expressed its concern and asked the government to investigate fears expressed by the anti-pollution activists. “It was a matter of faith and religion,” a member of a Hindutva groups said while objecting to the relocation of the crematorium. On Tuesday, all major voluntary organisations of the city will meet and discuss a strategy to stall the shifting of the crematorium.  The Shiv Sena, meanwhile, staged a protest at the divisional commissioner`s office on Monday. (Zee News 11/5/15)

215. Fears about Modi government coming true: Yechury (26)

NEW DELHI: CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury on Sunday said three fears about the Narendra Modi government had come true in the very first year. Speaking to reporters at the end of the two-day meeting of CPM’s politburo, the first after he took over, Yechury said, “The aggressive pursuit of neo-liberal policies of economic reforms, the relentless onslaught on secular democratic foundations of the Indian republic by the sharpening of communal polarization, and the movement towards an authoritarian rule through the erosion of democratic institutions are all getting aggravated.” He specifically mentioned overhauling of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) where internationally reputed Indian historians were forced to quit from the advisory body. As for revamp of the CPM organization and work allocation among members of politburo and central committee, Yechury said discussions had taken place and the matter would be put before the Central committee for approval early next month. Though he refused to say which politburo member will get what work, sources said it was likely that former general secretary Prakash Karat will now edit party weekly ‘People’s Democracy’ and will be in charge of international affairs. Yechury only said that as general secretary, he would have far more responsibilities and could not edit the party weekly. Another likely change, a break from the past, is that more than one politburo or central committee member will be asked to look after one state. This could happen in case of heartland states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and even states where the party is losing ground. Yechury also objected to Tathagata Roy being appointed governor of Tripura. He said there were “apprehensions” that Roy may try to destabilize the only Left government in the country. He said, “BJP-RSS leaders are being appointed as governors. One such leader has been appointed as Tripura governor who has publicly stated his encouragement to hardcore Hindutva. This is a complete violation of the constitutional spirit.” Yechury said in case Roy followed “decorum of the post”, there would be no problem. “If it is violated we will oppose,” he said. (Times of India 18/5/15)

216. DEO ban on use of ‘Father’ in schools rolled back (26)

Raipur: Hours after The Indian Express reported that educational institutions run by Christian missionaries in some districts of Chhattisgarh had been asked by the administration to “ban the use of Father” in their schools, one district has withdrawn the order. On Thursday, The Indian Express had reported that the district education officer of Mahasamund had, in a circular issued on May 11, asked 14 missionary schools in the area to “immediately stop the use of Father for the head of the institution” and follow “pracharya” or “sir”. The letter was approved by the collector and a copy of the letter was marked to Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP). But Mahasamund collector Umesh Agrawal claimed the “order was issued by mistake”. “When it came to my notice, I asked the education officer to withdraw it,” he said. Incidentally, Agrawal had defended the order Thursday: “There have been complaints about students being compelled to address teachers as Father. No one can compel anyone in this way.” Reacting to the order, Chhattisgarh Christian Forum president Arun Pannalal had said: “They are using the administration to destroy our institutions.” In February, Kanker district administration had issued a similar order and a copy of that order was sent to the district’s VHP offices as well. Last November, Catholic educational institutions in Bastar, reportedly under intense pressure from the VHP, had agreed that principals of their schools would be addressed as “pracharya”, or “up-pracharya”, or “sir”. (Indian Express 16/5/15)

217. If You Are Dying Without Eating Beef, Go to Pakistan: Naqvi (26)

NEW DELHI: Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Thursday justified ban on cow slaughter and asked all those who want to eat beef to go to Pakistan. “It is not about loss or profit… it is an issue of faith and belief. It is a sensitive issue for the Hindus,” Naqvi said at ‘Manthan’ conclave organised by TV channel Aaj Tak. “Those who are dying without eating beef, can go to Pakistan or Arab countries or any other part of world where it is available,” he said. “Even Muslims are against it…” he contended. Naqvi was countered by AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi who asked whether the central government would impose blanket ban on beef across India, especially in states like Goa, Jammu and Kashmir and Kerala where a large number of people eat this kind of meat. On the issue of backwardness among Muslims, Naqvi said the Narendra Modi government was taking steps to eradicate poverty among the minorities. “It is a fact that Muslims have remained away from development. Various social security schemes started by our government would help Muslims in a big way,” he added. (The New Indian Express 22/5/17)

218. Ram Temple will be Completed During this Government’s Tenure: VHP leader Sadhvi Prachi

Jalandhar:  Construction work for Ram Temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya would start “soon” and be “completed during this tenure” of the present NDA government, controversial VHP leader Sadhvi Prachi  said on Friday. “The construction work for Ram Mandir at Ayodhya would start soon. It would be completed during the tenure of the current NDA government,” she told reporters at the sidelines of BJP Dalit Morcha National Executive meet. She said the final decision in this regard would be taken in the two-day meeting of the VHP’s Kendriya Margdarshak Mandal.”The two-day Kendriya Margdarshak Mandal meet starts on 25th of this month at Haridwar. Final decision about Ram Mandir’s construction would be taken in this meeting,” Ms Sadhvi said. Asked about her controversial remarks over Salman Khan’s bail in hit-and-run-case, Ms Sadhvi insisted, “Malegaon blasts accused Sadhvi Pragya was denied bail, rape victim nurse Aruna did not get justice for 42 years and she died, how come Salman got the bail so easily.” Ms Sadhvi had earlier allegedly said that Salman was granted bail as he was a “Khan”.Ms Sadhvi said she was not rapped by her organisation for the remarks. She also criticised the BJP-SAD government in Punjab for “discriminating against” Dalits. “The SAD-BJP government in Punjab discriminates against Dalits. This discrimination is not restricted to common man only but it’s meted out to ministers as well,” she claimed. “Sarwan Singh Phillaur, a Dalit minister, was asked to resign after his name appeared in the Enforcement Directorate investigation in the drug smuggling case. But another minister Bikram Singh Majithia was given ‘clean chit’ despite being summoned by the agency for interrogation in the case,” Ms Sadhvi said. (NDTV 23/5/15)

219. HC notices to Rajasthan govt over surya namaskar (26)

JAIPUR: The Rajasthan High Court on Monday issued notices to the state education department on the issue of compulsory ‘surya namaskar’ introduced in schools by the Raje government. The division bench of Justice Ajit Singh and J K Ranka issued notices on a petition by Ajmat – a- Rasool Foundation challenging the diktat of the education department of making surya namaskar, yoga, singing Vande Mataram compulsory in schools during the assembly. Earlier, the single bench of Justice Mohammad Rafiqe had transferred the petition to a double bench. The petition said the education department through a notification on February 15 this year had made yoga and Vande Mataram compulsory in all schools in the state. Accordingly the 20 minutes assembly time has been divided into three segments. Under which five minutes have been allotted for singing the national anthem and national song Vande Mataram, 10 minutes have been allotted for yoga, including surya namaskar and the last five minutes for news in Hindi and English. The petition said making the singing of Vande Mataram and making surya namaskar compulsory in schools is untenable in a secular country like India with its diversity of religious faith and believes. It militates against the tenants of some religions and needs to be struck down.The notice is returnable by May 28. (Times of India 26/5/15)

220. PM Narendra Modi pays tribute to Veer Savarkar on his 132nd birth anniversary (26)

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday paid tribute to freedom activist Vinayak Damodar Savarkar on his birth anniversary.  Born in 1883, Savarkar is credited for coining the term Hindutva. He was said to have openly endorsed the idea of Hindu Rashtra and opposed the Quit India moment. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Rajdeep Sardesai and many others have taken it to Twitter to pay homage to Veer Savarkar on his 132nd birth anniversary, making #VeerSavarkar trend in India. (Indian Express 28/5/15)

TERRORISM

 

221. 17 Suspected SIMI Activists Acquitted (12)

HUBBALLI:All 17 accused in connection with various terror-related activities in Hubballi in 2008 were acquitted by a local court as the prosecution failed to prove charges against them. Elated parents claimed ‘truth prevailed’ despite their sufferings for years. However, according to defence lawyer K M Shiralli, only three of the 17 — Yahya Kammakutti, Allabhaksha Yadwad and Sayyad Sadiq Sameer — would get the release order. Others are still facing various terror charges in other states and would be handed over to the respective states.After a prolonged hearing for around seven years, the case was posted for verdict on Thursday. Nine out of 17 accused were brought to the court hall. On benefit of doubt, Judge Gopalkrishna Kolli of the First Additional Sessions and District Court of Hubballi passed the order of their acquittal in his 595-page judgment. The prosecution had filed charges of them having links with the banned outfit Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), illegal possession of arms and explosives and involvement in unlawful activities, besides under several sections of the Indian Penal Code. But it failed to prove any of these charges despite submitting voluminous evidence. Those acquitted are — Mohammad Asif, Raiazuddin Naseer, Asadulla Abubakar, Hafiz Hussein, Shakil Ahemad Mali, Allabhakha Yadwad, Mirza Ahemad Baig, Sabit Shibli, Yahya Kammakutti, Safdar Hussein Nagori, Sayyad Sadiq Sameer, Kamaruddin, Mohammad Yassin, Mohammad Ansar, Manroz Jaman, P A Shadooli and Akbar Ali Mulla. Sameer was already out on bail for the last four years. Reacting to the verdict, defence lawyer Shiralli said the prosecution had no point to prove any charge made against his clients. “The court was convinced about their innocence and they were acquitted. It is a remarkable verdict,” he said. Public prosecutor B A Bandekar said only after going through the entire judgment copy could he react on why the court failed to take cognisance of his arguments. “Despite submitting voluminous evidence to prove their involvement in terror acts, the court is not convinced by my points. All my efforts went in vain,” Bandekar said. After studying the judgment copy and the court’s observation, he would give his opinion to the government on whether the lower court verdict could be challenged in the High Court.As the judge pronounced the verdict, a sense of jubilation was palpable among the parents and other relatives. Coming out of the court hall they exchanged greetings and expressed gratitude to their lawyers. Tears of joy rolled down their cheeks. Kutubuddin Manroz, father of Manroz Jaman, said: “Finally, truth has prevailed. Of course we suffered all these years. We are happy our children are free now.” (New Indian Express 1/5/15)

222. Acquitted prisoner calls for fight against UAPA (12)

KOZHIKODE: Yahya Kammukutty, who was released from Hubli jail where he spent seven years in a terror case, said people should unitedly fight against black laws such as the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). Yahya, who arrived in his town near Mukkam here on Sunday, told reporters that his release was the result of prayers and intervention of people from all walks of life. “I am not the only victim of UAPA. There are many others still languishing in jail and there should be a joint fight to get them released. I thank all those who stood by me. I consider my jail term as the test of God,” he said. A public reception planned for Yahya at Gothambu Road near Mukkam was cancelled in the last minute as organizers felt it could create a communal polarization in the area. A computer engineering graduate from the National Institute of Technology-Calicut, Yahya had worked at Tata Infotech and GE Healthcare before starting his own venture. He was detained in 2008 along with 16 others on charges that he was a member of the sleeper cell of Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). He was booked for waging war against the country and sedition. The Hubbali court acquitted all the 17 accused after the prosecution failed to prove the charges against them. (Times of India 4/5/15)

223. No fresh peace talks with militants groups: Assam DGP (12)

Guwahati: There would be no fresh peace talks with any militant groups in Assam but those willing to come forward for parleys could join the talks already under progress with the ULFA and NDFB, Assam Director General of Police Khagen Sarma said on Wednesday. “Talks are on with the ULFA and NDFB. Those wanting to come for discussions can join the ongoing talks. But there will be no fresh talks with anybody,” Sarma said on the sidelines of a meeting here. Responding to queries on whereabouts of National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) faction’s leader Ingti Kathar Songbijit, the top cop said, “He is outside India and has now become the advisor of the outfit.” G Bidai alias Bishnu Goyari, Vice-President of the outfit, was stated to have carried out the plan for the attacks on December 23 last which killed nearly 100 Adivasis. “He is criss-crossing between India and Bhutan,” the DGP said. On a question of regrouping by the cadres of the extremist outfit, he said, “New councils may be formed and new posts may be given out to its cadres. We will keep a watch on how things progress and arrest them.” The security forces are keeping a vigil on the anti-national elements and “Operations against the NDFB(S) is on and would continue”, Sarma said. “The security forces have eliminated several of the NDFB(S) top leaders, including platoon commanders, in encounters and arrested over 300 of its cadres,” the DGP added. (Zee News 6/5/15)

224. Islamic State, Taliban pairing up in northern Afghanistan: Official (12)

Kunduz: Foreign fighters allied with the Islamic State group are training Taliban insurgents in a restive Afghan province, an official said on Friday, the first such claim as the government raises the alarm over an emerging IS threat. President Ashraf Ghani has repeatedly raised fears that IS — notorious for their brutal reign of terror in Syria and Iraq — are making steady inroads into Afghanistan, which is already in the grip of a fierce Taliban insurgency. But the governor of Kunduz, the scene of intense fighting for two weeks that has displaced thousands, has gone further by claiming that the two groups are joining forces in the northern Afghan province. IS fighters are “supporting the Taliban, training the Taliban, trying to build the capacity of the Taliban for a bigger fight”, provincial governor Mohammed Omar Safi told the BBC. Local observers have viewed claims of IS`s rise in Afghanistan with caution. The Middle Eastern group has never formally acknowledged a presence in Afghanistan and most self-styled IS insurgents in the country are believed to be Taliban turncoats rebranding themselves to appear as a more lethal force. The two groups, which espouse different ideological strains of Sunni Islam, are believed to be arrayed against each other in Afghanistan`s restive south, with clashes frequently reported. But the governor insisted that the fight is different in the once-tranquil north, which has recently seen a huge influx of foreign fighters from countries such as Chechnya, Pakistan and Tajikistan. “In the worst affected Imam Sahib district, (IS) fighters are training and supporting local Taliban fighters to raise their capacity… in their fight against the Afghan government,” the governor`s spokesman Abdul Wadood Wahidi told AFP. Last month, hundreds of militants came within six kilometres (3.7 miles) of Kunduz city just hours after the Taliban launched their annual spring offensive, in the most serious threat to any provincial capital since the US-led 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. The insurgents have since been pushed back after Afghan reinforcements were brought in from other frontlines, but the fighting still continues to rage on the fringes of the city. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced due to the clashes, with aid agencies warning of dire living conditions for those who have fled their homes and moved to the city centre. “Around 14,000 families have been displaced in two weeks of ongoing fighting in Kunduz,” Ghulam Sakhi, an administrator in the Kunduz refugees department, told AFP. “Our teams have surveyed 600 families and have distributed food items and blankets, mattresses and kitchen kits.” Afghan government forces are preparing for a fresh offensive to flush out insurgents from the outlying areas of the city, officials said. President Ghani has warned that IS poses a serious threat to regional security, warning that the group was more than lethal than Al-Qaeda. “With all apologies to Microsoft, if Al-Qaeda was Windows One, Daesh is Windows Five,” he told reporters recently, alluding to the Arabic acronym for IS. But some local observers accuse him of grabbing world attention by playing up the IS threat in the face of dwindling foreign aid and as international troops depart. “Daesh have a limited number of fighters in Afghanistan,” Mia Gul Waseeq, Afghan political and security analyst, told AFP. “But they are trying to grow their influence in Afghanistan, training and supporting the Afghan Taliban in their ranks who swore allegiance to them.” (Zee News 8/5/15)

225. Modi government to continue with tradition of anti-terrorism day on Rajiv Gandhi’s death anniversary

NEW DELHI: The Modi government may have chosen to observe October 31 last year as the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel rather than as a solemn occasion in view of Indira Gandhi’s death anniversary, but on Rajiv Gandhi’s death anniversary this May 21, it will continue the tradition of observing it as anti-terrorism day. The Union home ministry on Monday wrote to the secretaries of all Central ministries/departments and chief secretaries of all states, directing that May 21, like every year, be observed as anti-terrorism day by organizing various activities, including an anti-terror pledge taking ceremony in all government offices, PSUs and public institutions. “The objective behind observance of this day is to wean away the youth from terrorism and the cult of violence by highlighting the sufferings of common people and showing as to how it is prejudicial to the national interest,” joint secretary (administration) in the home ministry said in his letter to the Central ministries and states. Detailing the activities that could be observed, he suggested organising of debates and discussions in schools and colleges; holding of seminars and lectures on dangers of terrorism and violence; and a drive to bring about a mass awakening against terrorism through appropriate projection in the media. This is the first anti-terrorism day to be observed since the Modi government took power. Last year, it remained a low-key event limited to the bureaucracy as the new government was yet to be sworn in. Former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated on May 21, 1991, by a suicide squad of Liberation of Tamil Tigers Eelam (LTTE), while attending a rally in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu. (Time of India 12/5/15)

226. Gunmen on bikes attack bus in Karachi, kill 47 Shia Muslims (12)

KARACHI: Gunmen donning police uniforms killed at least 47 people from minority Shia Ismaili community in an attack on a bus in Pakistan’s southern city of Karachi on Wednesday, police officials said. “Six to eight armed men on motorcycles opened fire on a bus at Safoora Chorangi, Gulistan-e-Johar area of Karachi, killing at least 43 passengers,” a police official said. A senior police official said the attackers entered the bus and shot the passengers in the head. “It was a targeted attack,” Sindh police inspector general Ghulam Haider Jamali told reporters. Television channels carried pictures of a pink bus covered in bullet holes and lines of waiting ambulances. The death toll could further rise as about 20 others are seriously injured. The injured and dead were shifted to various hospitals by rescue workers. Taliban have claimed responsibility of the attack, Times Now reported. Police and Rangers arrived at the scene and started manhunt. More than 60 people were on the board the bus which was carrying the people of Ismaili community from Al-Azhar Garden area of the city to their place of worship near Aysha Manzil, police said. Ismaili community is a branch of Shia Muslims and they are considered very peaceful people. The attack came a day after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited Kabul and declared that enemies of Afghanistan are also enemies of Pakistan. Pakistan has seen a rise in sectarian violence in recent years particularly against minority Shias who represent around 20 per cent of the country’s Muslim population. Taliban splinter groups have bombed several mosques belonging to religious minorities this year. (Times of India 14/5/15)

227. Pakistan, Afghan intelligence sign landmark deal (12)

Islamabad: Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Afghan intelligence outfit National Directorate of Security (NDS) have signed a landmark deal for cooperation aimed at curbing terrorism. The agreement signed in Kabul some time last week, was officially announced by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) late Monday night on Twitter, Dawn online reported on Tuesday. “MoU signed by ISI and NDS includes intelligence sharing, complementary and coordinated intel operations on respective sides,” the ISPR tweeted. The first-of-its-kind deal between the two intelligence agencies followed a landmark visit by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif along with Army Chief General Raheel Sharif and ISI Chief Lt General Rizwan Akhtar to Kabul on May 12 during which the Pakistan government denounced Taliban and said that future violence by the militant group would be treated as terrorism. Under the agreement, the two intelligence agencies would cooperate in counter-terrorism operations. An essential element of the accord is a provision for joint probe of the terrorism suspects. The signing of the ISI-NDS agreement is the latest in a series of steps that Pakistan and Afghanistan have taken since the installation of the National Unity government in Kabul. (Business Standard 19/5/15)

228. Pak anti-terrorism court indicts 106 for Christian couple lynching (12)

Lahore: An Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) indicted 106 suspects on Thursday in connection with their alleged role in the lynching of a Christian couple in Kot Radha Kishan last year. Kot Radha Kishan is located some 60 kilometres southwest of Lahore. The court, according to the Dawn, has also issued summons to witnesses to appear on Friday to record their statements against the suspects involved in the lynching case of Shama and Shahzad. The indictment came after police submitted a charge sheet against the suspects before the ATC in Lahore today. The charge sheet states that Maulvi Mohammad Hussain, Maulvi Arshad Baloch and Maulvi Noorul Hassan were involved in persistent provocative speech against the couple which led to the assembly of 400 people who then burnt Shama and Shahzad alive. The court has also held Yousaf Gujjar, the owner of a brick kiln where the couple was beaten to death, responsible. The enraged mob beat the Christian couple to death in November last year for allegedly desecrating a copy of the Holy Quran and burnt their bodies in the brick kiln where they worked. (ANI with inputs) (New Kerala 21/5/15)

229. ISIS terrorists planned to attack India, says NIA (12)

NEW DELHI: For the first time an Indian agency has said on record that the Islamic State (ISIS) has designs on India and that its four recruits from Mumbai’s suburb Kalyan planned to carry out attacks in the country as well. It has also hinted that the self-appointed Caliphate may have developed links with anti-India terror outfits. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) which filed a chargesheet against ISIS recruit Kalyan youth Areeb Majeed on Wednesday has said in the documents filed with the court that the terrorist outfit with help from some other terror organisations planned to recruit from India and among NRIs to carry out attacks not just in Iraq and Syria but also in India and other countries. The chargesheet, while detailing how the four youths travelled to Iraq on the pretext of pilgrimage and then disappeared to join ISIS in Syria, says: “After joining ISIL (ISIS), all four persons underwent the basic training for handling of weapons and fire arms and were actively involved in terrorist acts in Iraq and Syria. The input received further indicated that ISIL, in conspiracy with certain other terrorist organisations, was keen not only on resident Indian citizens joining the outfit but was also trying to recruit non-resident Indians settled abroad for participating in the so-called holy Jihad not only in Iraq and Syria but also in India and other countries.” Until now both the government, including home minister Rajnath Singh, and intelligence agencies played down the threat from ISIS saying India was not on its immediate target and that there was no traction for its ideology in the country. Hardnosed intelligence analysts felt that the confidence was rooted more in political correctness. NIA chargesheet appears to validate their worst fears. The chargesheet goes on to mention the threat twice. Naming the four—Majeed, Fahad Sheikh, Aman Tandel and Shaheem Tanki—the chargesheet says, “(The four) entered into a criminal conspiracy between January 2014 to November 2014 with the common objective and intention to join Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), a banned International Terrorist Organization and participate in terrorist acts not only in Iraq and Syria but also in India amongst other countries.” Detailing how a full-fledged network existed to help willing Muslim youths reach Syria to join ISIS, the chargesheet details various names, including that of two women Tahira Bhatt and Abu Fatima, who helped the youths at various stages to reach Syria. “In this connection (to join ISIS), Majeed tried to contact people from different countries like Australia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, America, who all guided him to reach Turkey and contact them thereafter. Prominent amongst them were Abu Rami from Iraq and Abu Falluja from Turkey,” the chargesheet says. Other prominent names that the chargesheet mentions as part of the network that helps recruits reach Syria are that of Afghan national Rahman Dawlaty and one Kuwati national, Abdulla Hadi Abdul Rehman Alenezi, who gave $1000 to the four youths in Iraq to help them reach Syria. One Ali, sympathiser of ISIL, ferried them to Mosul. It was Rahman Dawlaty, Tahirah Bhatt and Abu Fatima that the youths contacted for arranging “Tazkiya” (recommendation for joining ISIL). After ISIL captured Iraq-Syria border, the youths were taken by Abu Muhammed Iraqi, the then Aameer of Iraq and Syria to Hudood Centre (registration centre of ISIL where persons joining from outside Syria have to be registered) in Raqqah City of Syria. It was from here that the youths began their terror activities. (Times of India 22/5/15)

230. Bangladesh bans Islamist group linked to blogger killings (12)

Dhaka: Bangladesh today banned an Islamist militant outfit that is believed to be behind the gruesome hacking deaths of three secular bloggers in recent months that have evoked outrage in the country and across the globe. The Bangladesh government banned Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) for its militant and anti-state activities with the home ministry publishing a gazette notification in this regard. It is the sixth such organisation to be outlawed for militant activities. We had taken the decision to ban the outfit earlier this week on the basis of a police report…we are implementing this decision today,” State Minister for Home Affairs Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told reporters. The ban comes at a time when three bloggers and writers have been killed in less than three months and the Ansarullah Bangla Team is suspected to be behind the killings. Earlier this month, machete-wielding masked men hacked to death 33-year-old Ananta Bijoy Das, a secular blogger, in Sylhet city. Assailants in February had killed 45-year old Avijit Roy, a Bangladeshi-born US national, here while his wife narrowly escaped the attack. A month after Roy’s killing, another blogger Washiqur Rahman was murdered in similar fashion in Dhaka but people in the neighbourhood nabbed two suspected killers from the scene and handed them over to police. Police has so far arrested several activists of ABT in connection with the murders. Investigators earlier said they suspected that the outfit was closely linked to al-Qaeda. Das’ murder was claimed by Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS). The terror group made the claim in a post on justpaste.it and ABT tweeted a link to the post. Ten prominent Bangladeshis, including Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s adviser H T Imam and Vice Chancellor of Dhaka University Professor Arefin Siddique, recently received death threats and police suspected the ABT send the threat letters in the name of al-Qaeda. Ansarullah Bangla Team is the sixth organisation to be outlawed in Bangladesh with the other five being, Hizb ut-Tahrir, Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), Harkatul Jihad Bangladesh (Huji), Jagrata Muslim Janata of Bangladesh and Shahadat-e Al-Hikma. Four members of ABT outfit have given confessional statements in blogger Rajib Haider murder case. Haider was the first victim of the suspected Islamists who killed him in 2013…. (Deccan Herald 26/5/15)

231. Pakistan ‘haven’ for several Islamist terror groups: US report (12)

Washington: Pakistan is a “haven” for several Islamist terror groups and successive Pakistani governments are widely believed to have supported some outfits as proxies in the country’s conflicts with its neighbours including India, a US Congressional research report has said. The report, dated May 14, notes that Pakistan’s security services are seen by many independent analysts to be too willing to make distinctions between what they consider to be “good” and “bad” Islamist extremist groups, maintaining supportive relations with Afghan insurgents and anti-India militant groups operating from Pakistani territory. “Pakistan is a haven for numerous Islamist extremist and terrorist groups, and successive Pakistani governments are widely believed to have tolerated and even supported some of these as proxies in Islamabad’s historical tensions and conflicts with neighbours,” said the latest report by the independent Congressional Research Service (CRS) on Pakistan. The periodic CRS report on Pakistan is not an official report of the United States Congress, but prepared by noted experts on the issue to keep the lawmakers informed about the current state of affairs in Pakistan, the bilateral relationship and ties with its neighbours. Noting the key steps taken by the Narendra Modi-led government in the last one year, including the decision to invite Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for his swearing-in ceremony and sending Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar to Islamabad on a SAARC Yatra, the report states that “serious tension” remains between the two South Asian neighbours. “Serious tensions between Pakistan and India persist, and many observers see the Pakistani Army obstructing the efforts of Pakistani business interests to deepen commercial trade and other engagement with India, seeking resolution of territorial disputes as a prerequisite,” said the CRS report, authored by K Alan Kronstadt, specialist in South Asian Affairs. According to the report, Pakistan’s more recent and apparently energetic development of short-range, nuclear-armed missiles — ostensibly in response to India’s purported “cold start” doctrine of rapid preemptive strikes with conventional forces — has raised fears about negative effects on crisis stability in the event of open warfare between Pakistan and India. “The security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, materials, and technologies continues to be a top-tier US concern, especially as Islamist militants have expanded their geographic influence there,” the report said. Pakistan, it said, is among the leading recipients of US foreign assistance in the post-9/11 period, with Congress appropriating more than USD 18 billion in such assistance during 2002-2015. This includes USD 10.5 billion in economic, development and humanitarian aid, and over USD 7.6 billion in security-related aid, it said. (DNA 28/5/15)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

 

232. Maoist Threat: Proposal for Police Stations at Vilangad, Kakkayam (12)

KOZHIKODE:  In the wake of perceived Maoist threat in the rural belt of the district, the police are planning to set up more police stations in the forest areas where the presence of the extremists has been reported. According to an official with Nadapuram sub-division of police, a proposal has been mooted seeking government nod to set up stations at Vilangad bordering Kozhikode, Wayanad and Kannur districts and at Kakkayam. Currently, Vilangad comes under the jurisdiction of Valayam station in the Circle of Nadapuram sub-division of police, almost 25 km from Nadapuram police Sub-Division Office. Vilangad is also a major tribal hamlet in the district which has been cited as one of the reasons for Maoists focusing on the region. It was more than 10 years ago that a police station was set up at Valayam considering the increasing incidents of arson in the area. However, the police team comprising two Sub- Inspectors, two Additional Sub-Inspectors, five senior civil police officers and 24 civil police officers failed to combat the increasing number of crimes. In view of the recent reports of Maoist presence, the police have come up with the plan to upgrade the Kakkayam police out-post to a station. An official with the Nadapuram police said the proposal was part of the department’s efforts to establish effective policing in the politically-sensitive region., he said. The police have decided to strengthen vigil in areas bordering forests. As part of the move, the proposal has been put forward, he added. “The proposed Vilangad police station will cover Vanimel and Narippatta panchayats. As per the proposal, Vilangad, Karukulam, Kommiyode, Paloor wards of Vanimel panchayat and Naduthara, Thavullakkolly, Valook wards of Narippatta panchayat will be in the limits of the new station. The Kakkayam out-post will be upgraded to a station. Both stations will have a minimum staff strength of 25 including one Sub-Inspector,” said the officer. “A detailed plan has been prepared and it will be submitted to the State government this week,” the officer added. According to police sources, the Kozhikode rural police have recorded the highest number of incidents of riots in the state for the past few years. But the rural stations are facing acute shortage of staff and other facilities. “Worsening the situation, Maoist presence has also become a threat. If the proposed station becomes a reality, it would be a relief to the rural police,” the officer added. (New Indian Express 4/5/15)

233. Top Maoist leader, four others held in Coimbatore (12)

CHENNAI: Security agencies achieved a significant breakthrough on Wednesday night, with the arrest of senior Maoist leader Rupesh alias Jogi, who heads the recently formed Western Ghats Special Zonal Committee, police sources said. The arrest is seen as a severe blow to the Maoist movement’s efforts to regain its stronghold in the tri-junction of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. Acting on a tip-off from the Special Intelligence Branch (SIB) of the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh police, the ‘Q’ Branch CID of the Tamil Nadu police arrested Rupesh, his wife Shyna, Anoop, Eswaran and Kannan at Karumathampatti near Coimbatore. The formation of a special zone usually indicates that the Maoists have scaled up their activities from the organisational phase to guerrilla warfare as they did earlier in Telangana, the sources said. After months of tracking intelligence inputs, the SIB on Wednesday alerted the Intelligence Bureau and the Tamil Nadu police about the presence of Rupesh and others near Coimbatore. An armed police party surrounded the Maoist cadres at a bakery. Police did not say whether any arms or ammunition were recovered, the sources said. Rupesh, a law graduate from Thrissur, was allegedly involved in about 30 cases in Kerala. Police said he was among the most wanted Maoists leaders in the country. “It is a big catch. Rupesh was leading Maoist operations in the tri-junction and involved in the attacks on forest establishments in Kerala and also on some MNC retail outlets. His wife Shyna was working as clerk in the Kerala High Court and later joined the Maoists,” a police official told The Hindu . Asked if the Maoists were targeting any establishment in Tamil Nadu, the official said: “They may have been here to organise logistics for movement of cadres or supplies. Tamil Nadu is sometimes seen as a place to rest and recuperate.” (The Hindu 5/5/15)

234. Naxals hold 500 villagers hostage ahead of PM’s Ch’garh visit (12)

Raipur: Around 500 villagers have been held hostage by Naxals, who were apparently angered over their support to the construction of a bridge in Tongpal area of Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district, police said. The Naxal action comes ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to insurgency-hit Bastar region today. “Large number of armed cadres stormed into Marenga and adjoining villages under restive Tongpal police station limits late last night and took away 400-500 villagers, including women and children, along with them,” Sukma Additional Superintendent of Police, Harish Rathore told PTI. Maoists were opposing the construction of a bridge on a local river near Marenga village and were apparently angered over the villagers’ support to the development work following which rebels held them captive, Rathore said. Some workers involved in construction of the bridge are also among those held captive, he said. After getting information about the incident security personnel were mobilised in the dense forests of Tongpal for search operations, he said, adding efforts are on to trace their location. Meanwhile, R P Kalluri, I G Bastar Range, said, “The hostage situation is a fiction created by the media….Yesterday, some Maoists came to the village where bridge construction is underway and they have taken five-six labourers who were working on the bridge. “As a usual practice, some villagers of Marenga and nearby villagers have gone to the jungle to speak to the Maoists, negotiate and bring these five-six labourers back…But reports of 500-600 villagers held by Maoists is total fiction,” he said. The PM during his day-long visit in Naxal-hit Dantewada in South Bastar will attend a slew of programmes. Two mega projects for setting up of ultra mega steel plant and second phase of Rowghat-Jagdalpur railway line will be inaugurated by Modi during his visit. Also, he is scheduled to visit an education city, aimed at providing education to under-privileged children living in the area and will be interacting with students there. A MoU for setting up ultra-mega steel plant at Dilmili village in Dantewada, with a capacity of three million tonne every year, will be signed during Modi’s visit. Over 10,000 people in the region are expected to get direct and indirect employment opportunities through this project. The 140-km rail link, to be constructed at a cost of Rs 24,000 crore, will connect Bastar region with important cities of the state like Raipur, Bilaspur and Durg. The rail link will also help in easy and cheaper transportation of iron ore for industries. (Pioneer 9/5/15)

235. With third Maoist arrest, Pune comes under police scanner (12)

Pune: With the arrest of a top Maoist leader, the third such case in Pune, police are probing if the city and its surrounding areas, home to a considerable student population, cultural and industrial activities, have been a favourite destination for the left-wing extremists. The two top alleged Maoists arrested on Friday — Ajith and Ismail — were residing in plush Lotus Villa in New Anand Nagar, Talegaon Dabhade, located in the jurisdiction of Pune rural police. The two-storey building is new and comprises eight apartments. The alleged Maoists staying here for the last few months did not have much interaction with neighbours. Investigation is now underway to find out what activities Ajith and Ismail were carrying out from this house. It may be recalled that Arun Bhelke and his wife Kanchan Nanaware, alleged operatives of Golden Corridor Committee of CPI Maoists who were arrested from Pune by the ATS, were residing in a small house in Kanhe Phata in Maval taluka, also under the jurisdiction of Pune rural police. However, before their arrest, the couple lived in different rural as well as urban areas of Thane, Raigad and Mumbai. They had managed to get PAN and Aadhar cards under different names. Arun was allegedly trying to indoctrinate youths from city slums. So, even though he lived at Kanhe Phata, he used to travel to cities frequently. Similarly, Angelo Sontakke, the alleged secretary of the Golden Corridor Committee of CPI Maoists, who was arrested along with her aides by the Thane ATS, was operating from a small house in Paud, located in Pune rural. ATS had later arrested some artists of the Pune-based cultural group Kabir Kala Manch for alleged Maoist links. Investigation agencies are looking into the possibility of whether the Maoists are finding it easy and safe to live in rural areas and operate in urban belts. (Indian Express 10/5/15)

236. Chhattisgarh wants Naga jungle warriors to counter Bastar Maoists (12)

RAIPUR: While Chhattisgarh government is using the development route to counter Naxal insurgency in the state, it wants some hard task masters in the jungle as well. The state government has written to ministry of home affairs seeking battalions of Nagaland’s Indian Reserve Battalions, especially for the worst-hit Bastar region. Naga fighters are considered the very best in jungle warfare for their no-nonsense fighting skills, survival tactics and toughness. The move comes as the state government, along with Modi government in the Centre, spends thousands of crores for the development and education of the region. Modi, on a short visit on Saturday, kick-started schemes worth Rs 24,000 crore in Bastar region. According to a rough estimate by the state officials, there are more than 5,000 Naxalites in Bastar region alone, where CRPF, state’s STF, district force and local police are deployed. In total across the state, there are close to 40,000 central paramilitary forces personnel posted. Chief minister Raman Singh said that ministry of home affairs has been approached to deploy Naga armed police force personnel and ministry will take up the matter with Nagaland government. “Experience shows that Nagaland battalions were very useful in fighting the Naxalites. They are very good at jungle warfare,” said Singh. Inspector general of police (Bastar region), S R P Kalluri, talking to TOI, said “The Naga forces, militarily, are far superior than any police force in the jungle. For fighting Naxal insurgency, they are the best”.Brigadier (retd) B K Ponwar, who runs the Counter-Terrorism and Jungle Warfare College in Kanker and has trained over 30,000 men, also agrees that Naga fighters would be very useful for the state. “They (Naga armed police forces men) are very quick in the jungle. They are good trackers, they can live off the land, are hardy, can eat anything and walk on the toughest terrain for long hours.” Last time, from 2006 to 2008, when Naga battalions were posted in Chhattisgarh, there complaints of human rights violations from several NGOs and organizations sympathetic to Maoists after which the Nagaland government withdrew the fighters from the BJP-ruled state. “I presume they will be better disciplined this time,” said Ponwar. There are several challenges in front of Chhattisgarh government including construction of dams, railway lines, electrification of remote villages and construction of roads in the most disturbed regions. For constructing roads in most disturbed areas, sometimes the state has to deploy a huge force. Raman Singh said that the Bastar region is bigger in size than Kerala and shares borders with other Maoist violence-affected states like Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Maharashtra. “Forces took 40 years to catch one Veerappan (dreaded sandalwood smuggler who was killed by security forces in 2004). There are thousands of Veerappans in the state. But we will catch each one of them,” he said. (Times of India 12/5/15)

237. Treat arrested Maoists as political prisoners: CPI (12)

KOCHI: Communist Party of India (CPI) State unit secretary Kanam Rajendran has said that the government should find solutions to the social issues raised by Maoists instead of meting out inhuman treatment to them. Addressing a meet-the-press programme here on Tuesday, he said the CPI was opposed to the ways adopted by Maoists but the issues were relevant. The arrested Maoists should be treated as political prisoners, he said. Mr. Rajendran cautioned the government against any attempt to suppress the issues by unleashing combing operations against the activists who were highlighting reality. He said the government had failed to tackle health problems faced by tribal people. Though there were 16 or 17 deaths reported in the tribal belt due to diseases, the government failed to take steps to contain it. He demanded that a mobile virology lab be set up in Wayanad to provide medical care. He said incidents involving Maoists were being blown out of proportion. The government could have made a spot study as most of the Cabinet members were present two days ago in Wayanad in connection with the wedding of a Minister. (The Hindu 13/5/15)

238. Court extends custody of Maoist leader, aide till May 21 (12)

PUNE: Senior leader of the banned CPI (Maoist) outfit, Murali Kannambally, and his aide C P Ismail will remain in custody of the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), Pune till May 21. A sessions court here on Friday extended their police custody remand by six days, primarily to facilitate the ongoing investigations by the ATS into the network and activities of the arrested duo under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and other penal provisions. Kannambally and Ismail were arrested by the ATS on May 8 from Talegaon Dabhade, around 33km from here. On May 9, the court of additional sessions judge S V Mane had ordered their remand in ATS custody for seven days. In-charge of additional sessions court judge D M Deshmukh observed in his order, “Considering the nature and gravity of offence, more particularly, prima facie it appears that the accused are office bearers of the Communist Party (Maoist) i.e. Naxalite group banned by the Government of India. It appears from remand report that accused no 1 (Kannambally) is posing himself by different names. His activities are serious ones.” The court further observed, “Prima facie, it appears that accused are involved in anti-national activities. Considering the area, more particularly, various states in which the said organization (CPI-Maoist) is working, it is necessary to remand the accused to police custody because if sufficient police custody is not granted, it will be difficult for the investigating officer to bust the network of the accused and their organization. Accused are remanded to police custody till May 21.” (Times of India 16/5/15)

239. Three police jawans, 2 Naxals killed in Bastar encounter (12)

Raipur: Three jawans and two Maoists were on Sunday killed in an encounter between security forces and rebels in a forest in Chhattisgarh’s south Bastar district of Bijapur. “Acting on a tip off on presence of large number of ultras in Mirtur area, a joint search party comprising special task force (STF) and district force (DF) personnel was dispatched to the spot for combing operation. A gun battle ensued between them when the rebels opened indiscriminate fire on the search party,” additional director general of police (ADG) (Naxal operation) R.K. Vij said. While a DF jawan and a STF trooper were killed on the spot, one DF personnel succumbed to his injuries due to alleged delay in arranging proper treatment, a senior district police officer told this newspaper. “A helicopter was sent to the area to airlift the injured jawan Payku Ram Poyam of DF. However, the helicopter returned without being able to airlift the injured and the dead due to lack of landing facilities in the area,” the police officer said requesting anonymity. Besides Payku, two others jawans, identified as Moti Ram of DF and Sita Ram Kunjam of STF, were also killed in the encounter. Mr Vij said bodies of two rebels were also recovered at the encounter site. The police claimed that several Naxals were also injured in the face-off, but were rescued by their colleagues, who fled into the jungle after the encounter. (Asian Age 18/5/15)

240. Maoist couple remanded to judicial custody till June 10 (12)

Kochi: A court in Ernakulam on Wednesday remanded Maoist couple Roopesh and Shyna, accused of providing shelter to Maoist leader Mallaraja Reddy and his wife Suguna, to judicial custody till June 10. Roopesh and Shyna were remanded by Additional Sessions Judge M Nandakumar and sent to district jail in Kakkanad here, police said adding the proceedings were held incamera. They were brought here from the Central Prison in Coimbatore where they had been lodged after their arrest there in a joint operation by police of southern states earlier this month. While producing them, Kerala Police sought custody of the two Maoists, slapped with offences under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The court will hear the police’s plea on May 22, police said. The judge allowed the couple, who had gone underground following Reddy’s arrest in 2007, to meet their children briefly in the court premises. The children later alleged that the Kerala police had threatened to eliminate their parents while taking them to the forests for collecting evidences. Earlier, the Maoist couple raised slogans for protection of Western Ghats and tribal rights when they were being taken to the court amidst tight security. Roopesh, wanted in at least 20 cases in Kerala, along with Shyna, Anup, Veeramani and Kannan were arrested on May 4 at Karumathampatti near Coimbatore by a joint team of Andhra, Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu police. (Zee News 21/5/15)

241. Salwa Judum re-launch fizzles out, prayer meeting on May 25 (12)

RAIPUR: Amid opposition from political parties, the move to revive a ‘Salwa Judum’ like people’s movement against Maoists in tribal Bastar region of Chhattisgarh has fizzled out with organisers now saying that they would organise a meeting on May 25 to pay homage to victims of Naxalite attack in Jheeram Ghati in May 2013. Slain Congress leader Mahendra Karma’s son Chhavindra Karma and other leaders had announced on May 5 that they would convene a meeting at Faraspal in Dantewada district on May 25- the third anniversary of Bastar massacre- to chalk out strategies to re-launch a people’s movement against Maoist rebels. Leaders of erstwhile Salwa Judum had also supported the move. While Maoists threatened a bloody backlash against all those trying to revive any movement against them, mainstream political parties did not come out in open to support the proposed campaign fearing violence and bloodshed in the tribal region. Late Mahendra Karma’s son and two former Salwa Judum leaders Chaitram Atami and Sukhdev Tati formed a ‘Vikas sangharsh samiti’ to fight for the development of Bastar. In the process, they sought to project the proposed movement as the second phase of salwa judum. “We are organising a meeting at Faraspal on May 25 to pay homage to Mahendra karma and others who were killed in Maoist attack in 2013,” said Chavindra Karma. The May 5 announcement to re-launch a salwa judum triggered protests in Bastar. Maoists began organising meetings to mobilize people against the proposed campaign while political parties including local BJP, Congress, Communist party of india (CPI) and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) went public against the call to revive it. Slain Congress leader Mahendra karma’s spouse Devki Karma is a Congress legislator while his sons are also active members of the opposition Congress. After the announcement came, AICC general secretary BK Hariprasad announced that his party has nothing to with the campaign and it was not in favour any such campaign. (Times of India 23/5/15)

242. Kerala Government to Challenge HC on ‘Being Maoist Not a Crime’ Ruling (12)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Government of Kerala has said that it will approach a division bench of the state high court to withdraw the ruling of a single judge bench that has said that being a Maoist is not a crime. On Friday, a single bench of the Kerala High Court had criticized the state police for arresting a person for being a Maoist. The court had then ordered the police to pay compensation to the individual for harassing him. According to reports, Kerala’s Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala said the state government would appeal against the verdict on grounds that it would be difficult to enforce the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act under the circumstances. The state government is also likely to challenge the Rs. 1 lakh compensation to be paid to the arrested individual as ordered by the court. Meanwhile, the Ernakulam additional sessions court has approved a request of an internal security investigation team to interrogate arrested Maoist activists Roopesh and his wife Shyna. (New Indian Express 25/5/15)

243. Area domination passe, forces to mount intel-backed ops to counter Naxals (12)

NEW DELHI: Widespread combing operations and troop-intensive area domination are out and intelligence-based operations in, according to the new tactical policy being adopted by security forces to counter Maoist guerillas. Having suffered several reverses in the past six months while conducting area domination exercises, forces engaged in anti-Naxal operations have been asked not to move in large groups. In fact, there is a debate in the security establishment whether area domination exercises serve any purpose at all given the kind of war the forces are engaged in. “A conscious decision has been taken that forces will now make precision strikes in small packs rather than go across a wide area in large numbers. It merely exposes the forces to attacks by Maoists and there is always the danger of walking into an ambush as large movements are easily spotted,” said a senior officer from CRPF, the largest force engaged in anti-Naxal operations in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar and Odisha. In December last year, CRPF suffered its worst casualty in four years when 14 of its men were killed in an ambush near Kasalpada village in Sukma, Chhattisgarh. After the ambush, CRPF tactics were questioned. A 2,000-strong team derived from six battalions had ventured out in Maoist strongholds in Sukma on a search and destroy operation covering several square kilometers over 15 days. On the 16th day, a team of 200 soldiers was ambushed by Maoists in an open field. “Such massive movements over a long period are hard to miss. Moreover, in their strongholds, Maoists have great intelligence network. Every movement of soldiers is reported to them. Also, such exercises do not achieve any purpose. When you move in large numbers in a Maoist stronghold, they retreat. When you pull out, they come back. That’s no area domination,” said another CRPF officer. Sources asserted that area domination could happen only when administration in the form of roads, schools and hospitals moved in. “Where there is no state, there can be no area domination. We can’t populate such widely spread areas with soldiers. It’s a futile exercise unless there is a road network that can be used to move fast and converge to clear areas,” said the officer. (Times of India 28/5/15)

TRAFFICKING

 

244. Chandigarh-based NGO plans to check human trafficking in Nepal (1)

CHANDIGARH: When the entire nation is participating to provide help to earthquake-hit Nepal by providing medical aid, food, water, clothes and sanitary items, a city-based NGO, Salaam Zindagi, has shifted its focus to something that a common man will hardly imagine — saving homeless children of the neighbouring country from human trafficking. According to the NGO heads, disaster-hit areas become open grounds for traffickers as children are easy targets. “No security checks exist in such areas. People have easy reasons for not having documents to prove identity and relationships. In Nepal, trafficking is easier through India as the country has seven border entries with hardly any checks. We have got to know that after the disaster many Nepalese families are planning to relocate and this will offer a chance to traffickers,” said Amrinder Singh, founder of Salaam Zindagi. The plan of the team is to stop trafficking at the initial stage. “In Uttarakhand, we listed 450-500 missing children but no action could be taken as police were not making any headway. This time we have started early to stop the traffickers,” Singh said. A team of seven volunteers will be leaving for Nepal on Monday. “We have conducted events with Nepal-based NGO but after the earthquake we are not able to contact them. Our seven-member team will be reaching there soon. It will set up base on all seven borders to check trafficking,” he said. The team will be gathering data on how many children have gone missing. The NGO members will also send relief material in the second half of the month. “Till May 15, we will be gathering funds and by then we will get to know about the needs. We are not sending relief material immediately as everyone does so in the initial days. We are still providing relief material to Jammu and Kashmir flood victims.” (Times of India 1/5/15)

245. Airport police, Immigration department on alert for fear of human trafficking from quake-hit Nepal (1)

With death toll in thousands and as many believed to be buried under the rubble, Nepal will take a long time before it is able to stand erect. Even as hundreds are still searching for their loved ones there is fear among the security agencies in India that women and children in Nepal could fall prey to traffickers. Nepal has been the hub for human trafficking for a very long time. Fear is that the unscrupulous elements could well take advantage of this situation. While strict vigil is being kept at the various border posts there is a lot of preparedness at the Indira Gandhi International International Airport as well. The Immigration Department and the Airport Police are on a state of high alert at the IGI Airport. Sources tell Headlines Today that an expert team is already in place looking into the profiling of the passengers. ”Immigration Department has to see whether the passenger is genuine or not. Our expert team has mastery to check the suspicious movements or gestures of the passengers. CISF intelligence is also there. We are always in touch with the police and if there is any suspicion on any passenger we refer the matter to the Delhi Police ” revealed a source in the Immigration Department on condition of anonymity. Sources say that special attention is being placed on those passengers who are first time flyers. There is a thorough check for the documents as well. When asked on the human trafficking issue another official in the Immigration Department added,”It’s a challenge. It has been there in the past as well. If the documents are all fine there is nothing much you can do about it. If someone is going by will what can you say. It is only when someone complains then you make a move. But we are sensitive to this and are making all efforts to remain vigilant. The inflow of people from Nepal is on and the CISF intelligence is also aware that there are many taking connecting flights as well. There are additional checks in place for passengers using them. Vigil is also being kept on local flights….  (India Today 3/5/15)

246. Child trafficking: 11 children rescued in Ludhiana (1)

Chandigarh: 11 minors were rescued after Special Investigation Team of Labour department raided a textile unit in Ludhiana and busted an interstate racket of child trafficking. The children were rescued from a textile manufacturing unit at Guru Vihar Rahon Road in Ludhiana last night, an official spokesperson said, adding, all the rescued were minors and aged between 8-14. The team found the children, brought by the gang from Bihar, living in a pitiable condition and being forced to work as bonded labour at Rs 50-100 per week, he said. The children were made to work in pathetic and unhygenic conditions and were not being provided with proper clothing, food and medical facilities, he said. The children were victims of human trafficking and hailed from Bihar. Meanwhile, the Punjab Labour Department on Thursday alerted its counterpart in Bihar so that complete module of the trafficking gang could be busted, he said. The rescued children were presented before the District Child Welfare Committee and afterwards sent to a children’s home in Kurali, he said. (Hindustan Times 7/5/15)

247.  Campaigners warn of rise in trafficking after Nepal quake (1)

Kathmandu: Human traffickers could try to target vulnerable women and children displaced by a devastating earthquake in Nepal, campaigners warned on Wednesday. The deadly earthquake that struck on April 25 killed thousands of pe