Posted by admin at 1 August 2016

Category: Uncategorized

( News Collection from 1st July to 31st July 2016)

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

Dalits angry over demolition of Ambedkar Bhavan in Mumbai (2)

BELAGAVI: The demolition of the Ambedkar Bhavan, which housed a printing press in Dadar of Mumbai, has angered various Dalit organisations and sparked a protest in the city and across the district. Activists of the Dalit organisations, including the Belagavi District Dalit Sangarsh Samithi and Jai Bhim Sena, took out a procession and staged an angry protest at the Rani Channamma Circle here on Wednesday. They also burnt an effigy of the Maharashtra government. The activists shouted slogans condemning the demolition and criticised the Maharashtra government for its failure to prevent the demolition. They demanded punitive action against those who hatched “a conspiracy to demolish” the bhavan. Dalit leader Mallesh Chougule said that the demolition of Ambedkar Bhavan and the printing press had come as a tactical assault on Dalits, triggering a nationwide anger among community members. A statue of B.R. Ambedkar was also destroyed in the process. Submitting a memorandum to the Deputy Commissioner, he said that five politicians hatched the conspiracy to demolish the structure and they should be immediately arrested and expatriated from the country. (The Hindu 2/7/16)

Section of Uthapuram Dalits alleges favouritism (2)

MADURAI: Alleging favouritism in distribution of compensation for Dalit families affected in the 2008 clash in Uthapuram in Madurai district, a section of Dalits from the village petitioned the Collector on Monday demanding temporary stoppage of distribution of the balance compensation. “We have recently filed a petition in Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court requesting that all the affected Dalit families should be awarded compensation. So, distribution of the remaining amount should be stopped until the court makes a decision,” said M. Chellapandian, a resident of South Devendirar Nagar in Uthapuram. In a case filed by S.K. Ponnuthai of All India Democratic Women’s Association, affiliated to Communist Party of India (Marxist), the HC Bench awarded a compensation of about Rs. 1.2 crore to 199 victims earlier this year. While a majority of the amount has already been disbursed, work is in progress to distribute the balance amount soon. “The list of 199 people excluded a large number of affected Dalits as the CPI (M), which spearheaded the case, showed partiality in identifying the victims,” alleged N. Palpandi, another resident. He alleged the expenses for the case were met from the common fund of the Dalits in the village. “When everyone had contributed for the case expenses, it is unfair to exclude some while distributing compensation,” he claimed. Mr. Chellapandian also alleged that there were double entries in the list of 199 victims, which meant that the same families got compensation twice. Denying the allegations, T. Chellakannu, district secretary, Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front, who actively took part in the litigation process, said that the group of Dalits who were complaining now did not come forward to register themselves when the case was in progress. “Moreover, the list of victims had been cross-checked by government authorities,” he said. “The complaints of double entries have been rectified. The money taken from the common fund of the Dalits was also paid back by those who received the compensation,” he said. “If they feel they also deserve compensation, they can approach court. But it is not fair to stop the compensation for other victims,” he added. (The Hindu 5/7/16)

Dalits yet to get freedom, says former official (2)

Mysuru: Former Deputy Director of Pre-University Education H M Rudraswamy, on Wednesday, lamented that Dalit leaders in various political parties have turned into adopted sons of their respective parties that are based on caste system and so, Dalits are yet to get freedom. He was delivering a lecture on ‘Dalit Politics in Modern India and Leadership’, organised by University of Mysore (UoM) Babu Jagjivan Ram Studies, Research and Extension Centre, at Manasagangothri, to mark Jagjivan Ram’s 30th death anniversary. Rudraswamy said, though there are more than 125 MPs and nearly 1,000 legislators belonging to the Dalit communities in the country, the deprived classes are still striving for their constitutional rights. “Though Dalits have the right to education and employment and participate in politics, they are not working for the welfare of the deprived communities. Even today, Dalits are not in a position to decide their political leaders. Every political party’s high command decides Dalit leaders. Though Dalits enjoy powers, they are yet to get independence,” he opined. Speaking about Jagjivan Ram, Rudraswamy said, Ram grew up as a national leader by fighting for freedom along with Mahatma Gandhi. There was no difference between B R Ambedkar and Ram pertaining to social thinking and political stand. It is far from the truth that Gandhi tried to suppress Ambedkar using Jagjivan Ram, said Rudraswamy. Member of Central Advisory Committee, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Deepak Doddaiah said, Babuji pioneered the Green Revolution and he was the man behind the Employees State Insurance Scheme (ESI) for labourers. BJP district (rural) president M Shivanna, centre Director K Sadashiva and guest lecturer G S Bhatt were present. .. (Deccn Herald 7/7/16)

Porbandar Dalit murder: Kin claim body after police detain three (2)

Rajkot: FOUR DAYS after Rama Singrakhiya, a Dalit, was allegedly hacked to death by an upper caste mob in Sodhana village of Porbandar, his family members claimed his body and performed last rites on Sunday after police detained village sarpanch Arbham Karavadra and two others, identified as Bhupat Agrowala and Jaymal Mer, who led the attack on Rama, late on Saturday night. The family claimed the body hours after the victim’s two friends, who had been leading a protest demanding they be allowed bury the man on the same pastoral land where he had been attacked, were arrested in another case on Saturday and released on bail on the same day. Raju Singrakhiya, 22-year-old nephew of Rama (42), claimed the victim’s body in the wee hours of Sunday and the family performed his last rites in the afternoon. Rama was buried in the burial ground for Dalits. His friends claimed that the family’s demand of allowing them to take his body to Porbandar was rejected by police. Rama was allegedly assaulted by a mob belonging to the upper caste Mer community on Wednesday when he went to the village to sow caster seeds on a plot of land which, he claimed, he had been cultivating for the last 15 years. Rama died in PDU General Hospital in Rajkot Thursday while the two injured are still in hospital. … (Indian Express 10/7/16)

77 yrs after Madurai victory, temples still shut for dalits (2)

Seventy seven years have passed since that landmark event, but many temples continue to be out of bounds for dalits. The southern state had witnessed many temple-entry movements some 15 years before Vaidyanatha Iyer’s campaign. Followers of rationalist leader Periyar E V Ramasamy organised such agitations as far back as the mid-1920s. Periyar was among the leaders of a much larger and more comprehensive anti-untouchability movement in Vaikom that decade. But as the Dravidian movement consolidated itself and parties claiming the legacy of Periyar rose to power, they also lost their reformist zeal, observers say. “There may be no restrictions in big temples maintained by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment of the state government. But, entry for dalits is not a cakewalk in several temples controlled by dominant castes in some villages,”says P Sampath, president of Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front. Sampath’s front has organised 52 temple-entry agitations from 2008 to 2016. Affiliated with CPM, the front says successive governments have responded to such agitations by locking the temples or banning access to all. “Even in a related case this year, the district administration shut the doors of a Shiva temple in Kuttalam taluk at Nagapattinam district citing law and order problems, after we attempted to take dalits into the temple,” he said. Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi general secretary D Ravi Kumar blames the situation on the lack of political will on the part of AIADMK and DMK regimes, which have ruled the state for nearly 50 years. “They (AIADMK and DMK) have two different yardsticks for temples controlled by brahmins and nonbrahmins during their rule. While they have focused on the temples with brahmins at the helm of affairs to eliminate caste discrimination, the two Dravidian parties do not have the political will to replicate the same in temples in the hands of caste Hindus,” he said. This despite the rather early start to temple entry in the state. Taking a cue from the Vaikom agitation that was led by Periyar against restrictions on dalits from walking through the streets around the Vaikom temple in 1924, leaders of the self-respect movement in Tamil Nadu carried out temple-entry movements across the state between 1926 and 1930. Dravidian ideologue Suba Veerapandian says the agitations were organised at temples in Suchindram at Kanyakumari district, Erode, Mayiladuthurai and Tiruchirappalli in which social reformers Kuthoosi Gurusamy and K A P Viswanatham participated. This was followed by the temple-entry agitation of Vaidyanatha Iyer, who was then president of Tamil Nadu Harijan Sevak Sangh, in 1939 at Madurai. Iyer’s son-in-law and former secretary of Thakkar Bapa Vidyalaya, V K Sthanunathan said Mahatma Gandhi worshipped at Meenakshi temple only after dalits were allowed entry. ….  (Times of India 11/7/16)

4 Dalits stripped, beaten up for skinning dead cow (2)

The victims, who are engaged in skinning in Mota Samadhiyala village near Una town, had brought dead cows. While they were skinning the cows, six persons in an SUV approached them and accused them of cow slaughter. The victims tried convincing them that they had brought the carcass for skinning. However, the assailants did not heed to their pleading and started beating them with iron pipes and sticks. After stripping and thrashing them, they were tied behind the SUV and taken to the village. N U Zala, police inspector, Una town police station, said: ‘They stopped their SUV on the main road and started thrashing them again. Three persons who tried to intervene were also beaten up with iron pipes.”After beating them in the village, the four Dalits were packed into the SUV and taken to Una town, 24 km away. Here, they were again tied to the vehicle and thrashed in full public view and taken to the police station. The photos and video of the incident went viral on social media on Tuesday morning. Una town police said that 23-year-old Vasram Sarvaia of Mota Samadhiyala village has lodged a complaint against Pramodgiri Bavaji, Balvant Dhirubhai, Ramesh Jadav, Nagji Vaniya, Rakesh Joshi and one unidentified person. The accused are from Una town and nearby villages. ‘We have arrested three Jadav, Joshi and Nagji,” Zala said, adding all have been booked under attempt to murder and sections of Prevention of Atrocities against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Act.The seven persons were rushed to a hospital in Una town where condition of one of them identified as Babubhai is said to be critical.No one should be allowed to take law in their hands. The fact that those brutalized were Dalits from poor families makes the offence even more serious.Strictest possible action must be taken against such self-styled cow protectors, who made a complete mockery of the police department by thrashing the four youths in full public view, not once but twice. (Times of India 13/7/16)

UP temple ‘cleansed’ after Dalits perform puja (2)

KANPUR: A priest in Kanpur Dehat district of Uttar Pradesh ‘purified’ a temple with `Gangajal’ soon after a group of Dalit women visited it for worship as part of marriage rituals. Though the group was denied entry into the sanctum sanctorum of the temple in Mangalpur town on Monday , the temple priest and his wife performed the ritual by “cleansing the premises with the sacred water of the Ganga”.”Munni Devi of the Balmiki community visited the village temple along with a dozen women as part of rituals related to her daughter’s marriage that is yet to be solemnized. After the women left, the priest closed the temple for over an hour and washed it with Gangajal,” one of the villagers told TOI.”The priest opposed our entry into the temple and used caste insults against us. When we questioned him, he threatened us. We later performed the puja with the help of some locals,” Devi said. ADM Shiv Shanker Gupta has assured an investigation into the issue. (Times of India 14/7/2016)

5 dalit men attempt suicide in Gujarat (2)

RAJKOT: There is an escalation in protests against the alleged atrocities against dalits in the state. On Monday morning, five dalits consumed poisonous substances in Gondal town of Rajkot district.

They were protesting against an incident near Una town in the Gir-Somnath district in which some dalit youths were thrashed in full public view for skinning dead cows. The five falits reached near Ambedkar statue having threatened self-immolation on July 16. Even as the police had deployed bandobast as precautionary measures, the five protesters – identified as Anil Madhad (35), Jagdish Rathod (32), Bharat Solanki (30), Rajesh Parmar (26 and Ramesh Parghi (34) – attempted suicide. Police rushed all of them to the government hospital for treatment. Brother of Anil Madhad – he is the elected councillor from Congress in Gondal municipality – Dinesh Madhad told TOI that dalits are subjected to inhuman behaviour while the government is not taking any step towards culprits and therefore goons are roaming scot-free. “Police do not take action against such atrocities against dalits and therefore five Dalits decided to take extreme step” Dinesh Madhad said. Earlier on Sunday, Una police arrested two more persons for their involvement in the brutal assault on four dalit youths who were skinning dead cows in Mota Samadhiyala village near Una last week.Meanwhile, Gir-Somnath SP H R Chaudhary has suspended N U Zala, police inspector of Una, and woman constable Kanchan for negligence in discharging their duties in the case. Two other policemen have already been suspended. The outrage over thrashing of Dalits in Una continued in parts of Saurashtra region. On Monday, Dalits carried out a procession and staged dharna with carrying three vehicles of dead animals to collector’s office and demanded swift actions against the accused involved in Dalit atrocities. They also threatened to stop taking dead animals from villages and towns which they are traditionally doing it. (Times of India 18/7/16)

Violent protests in Saurashtra over Una incident (2)

AHMEDABAD: The Dalit unrest in Gujarat has claimed two lives. While police constable died after being injured in stone pelting by Dalit mob in Amreli, another person, who consumed pesticide to protest atrocities on Scheduled Caste (SC) also died on Tuesday. Up in arms against brutal assault on Dalit community members in a village near Una on July 11, the Dalits intensified its protest with eight persons attempting suicide on Tuesday in addition to those seven who attempted on Monday. Over a dozen buses were torched and highways were blocked, forcing the state authorities to suspend bus services in Porbandar, Jamnagar and Junagadh while State Reserved Police (SRP) teams have been deployed in Rajkot, Jamnagar and other places in Saurashtra region. In Amreli, a rally held by the Dalits turned violent as clashes between cops and protesters led to stone pelting in wich one head constable Pankaj Amrelia was critically injured and was taken to Rajkot where he died during treatment. “Around 15 persons including protesters and policemen were injured in clashes in Amreli. One constable has died while others are under treatment at various hospitals,” said a senior police official from Amreli. Meanwhile, Hemant Solanki had consumed pesticide in Bhesan town and during treatment, he died. In entire Saurashtra, situation was volatile with protests rallies planned by the enraged community member, who have given a bandh call in Junagadh and Gondal on Wednesday. The Dalit unrest and subsequent violence triggered by hooliganism of local cow protection group in Saurashtra has caught the Anandiben Patel administration off guard, which woke up to its gravity only on Monday when the matter was raised by BSP in Rajya Sabha. On Tuesday, Chief Minister Anandiben Patel appealed to the people of Gujarat and particularly the Dalit community members to maintain peace while assuring that the guilty would be punished. “What has happened in inhuman and condemnable. The state government has ordered a CID (crime) probe and 16 persons have already been arrested,” she said in a statement issued by the state government. Chief Minister will be visiting the victims and their family members in Una on Wednesday. The government has also enhanced compensation to the victims from Rs one lakh to Rs four lakh. Top Congress leader Ahmed Patel demanded judicial probe in the issue and lambasted the state authorities to “protest Dalits in Gujarat.” “Failure of authorities to protect Dalits in Gujarat is absolutely shocking. It is the Gujarat Model? Independent probe is the need of the hour,” Mr Patel, who is Rajya Sabha member from the state, tweeted while reacting on the Dalit unrest in the state. Besides Congress, Aam Admi Party (AAP), which has been trying to set up its base in the state ahead of the next year’s assembly polls, announced that Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kajriwal would visit the victims of violence by cow protection group on Friday. Gujarat Congress has requested party vice president Rahul Gandhi to visit the state to meet the victims and also members of the Dalit community. (The Hindu 20/7/16)

For cow vigilantes, Dalits are soft target: Fact-finding team after Una visit (2)

Ahmedabad: A fact-finding team which visited Gujarat’s Una town in connection with the brutal assault of Dalits, has claimed to have found a new trend among ‘cow vigilantes’ to show bravado by making a particular Dalit community as their “soft target”.The incident of beating up of seven Dalit youths in Mota Samadhilya village of Gir-Somnath district last week has triggered large scale protests across the state. The protests worsened yesterday as seven youths attempted suicide with violence and arson spreading to various places in the state. An eight-member fact finding team, comprising Dalits from various city-based NGOs including Dalit Adhikar Manch, which went to the village from here a few days back, found out that the incident was brutal as the alleged beating of youths started from 9.30 AM and continued unabated till 1.30 PM, and inspite of the victims’ kin repeatedly calling police, the latter allegedly did not act. The team members said that Dalits are “soft targets” for these vigilante groups. Dalits are actually not involved in slaughter of cows, but are only doing their traditional business of leather, while they (vigilante groups) refrain from confronting those involved in slaughter, they said. There is a particular Dalit community that deals in the trade of leather. In Gir-Somnath and surrounding districts of Gujarat these self-appointed cow protection committees have come up in the name of saving cows, said Kaushik Parmar, who led the fact finding team to the village. “We have found out that this inhuman incident of beating Dalit youths was not one off. From last many months these particular community members have become target of these cow protection groups,” Parmar said. “There have been at least three such incidents in the past two months in the area when the Dalit community members were beaten up by these so-called cow vigilante groups. All those are related to skinning of dead cows,” he said. “Earlier, such cow vigilantes used to target those who are involved in cow slaughter. But since last seven to eight months, they have started targeting Dalit community members who are involved in leather business and are soft targets, to show off their bravado. It has been noticed that these groups in the past few months attacked Dalits when they were involved in skinning of dead cows,” he said. (Zee News 21/7/16)

Old enmity behind flogging of Dalit youths in Una: Fact-finding team (2)

Ahmedabad: The real reason behind the brutal thrashing of four Dalit youths in Una of Gir-Somnath district that triggered massive protests across Gujarat and even reverberated in Parliament could be previous enmity, a fact-finding team of the Ahmedabad-based Dalit Adhikar Manch has said on Thursday. The eight-member team that visited Mota Samadhiyala village near Una town told HT that the father of one of the assaulted youths had been threatened by the upper-caste sarpanch of the village of dire consequences if he didn’t stop trading in cow hide. “Whatever business you are doing, stop it right now. Else, your dead cows will come alive and for that you have to pay heavily,” the sarpanch is reported to have told Balubhai Sarvaiya six months ago. The sarpanch had also threatened to demolish his house. The four youths were on July 11 publicly flogged, a video of which went viral and triggered nationwide outrage. Angry Dalits have taken to the streets, torching buses and putting up road blockades. Normal life was also hit in Gujarat on Wednesday in response to a bandh call by several Dalit organisations. An Indian Dalit woman waits for a relative’s release from a police station after protestors were detained by police for damaging vehicles and disturbing peace, at Dholka town, some 40 kms from Ahmedabad on Thursday. (AFP)Balubhai told the fact-finding team that on the request of residents of two villages he had sent his son and three others to haul the dead cows from there. The youths were attacked after they had brought back the carcasses and were skinning them. The assailants came in two vehicles and were armed with sticks and iron pipes. One of the vehicles had “President – Shiv Sena – Gir Somath” written boldly on its rear windscreen. Its registration number was stated to be DD 03 F 1294. The men also used casteist abuses while flogging the youths, despite the four victims pleading repeatedly that they were only skinning dead cattle. When Balubhai and his wife came to know about it and rushed to the spot, they were also abused and beaten up. Piecing together evidence from witnesses, the fact-finding committee said the police did precious little to rescue the youths. While they were being forcibly driven to Una after being brutally beaten, the vehicle was stopped by a police team. The assailants spoke to the policemen and were allowed to proceed. The police said visiting the spot was a priority for them. .. (Hindustan Times 22/7/16)

U.P., Bihar lead in crimes against Dalits (2)

NEW DELHI: Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar lead the country in the number of cases registered of crimes against the Scheduled Castes, official data pertaining to 2013, 2014 and 2015 show. The National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) counts these States among those deserving special attention. While U.P. has witnessed a political war of words over an expelled BJP leader’s insulting remarks on BSP leader Mayawati, it is Rajasthan that leads in number of crimes against Dalits. Fifty-two to 65 per cent of all crimes in Rajasthan have a Dalit as the victim. This is despite the fact that the State’s SC (Dalit) population is just 17.8 per cent of its total population. With six per cent of India’s Dalit population, the State accounts for up to 17 per cent of the crimes against them across India. With 20 per cent of India’s Dalit population, U.P. accounts for 17 per cent of the crimes against them. The numbers — ranging from 7078 to 8946 from 2013 to 2015 — are high, but so is the population of Dalits in the State. Bihar too has a poor track record, with 6721 to 7893 cases of atrocities in the same period, contributing 16-17 per cent of the all India crimes against Dalits with just eight per cent of the country’s SC population. While Dalits form 15.9 per cent of the State’s population, 40-47 per cent of all crimes registered there are against Dalits.Gujarat on its part has shared corrected figures of crimes against Dalits with the NCSC after an abnormal increase in the figures pertaining to crimes against Dalits in the State. “The anamoly and sudden increase in respect to Gujarat and Chhattisgarh are abnormal and are being highlighted so that these States can provide actual data in case there was a mistake in reporting,” said the agenda note for the NCSC review meeting with the States last week. Gujarat’s numbers of crimes against Dalits had jumped to 6655 in 2015 from 1130 in 2014, which made NCSC officials suspicious. There was also a statistical impossibility in the data — the crimes against Dalits were 163 per cent of the total number of crimes reported. “Gujarat officials corrected the data in the meeting, and these are like previous years,” an official present at the meet said. “Chhattisgarh officials have done the same.” Gujarat’s officials, sources said, were worried that “inflated” data would further damage the State’s record on Dalit atrocities when at a time it is in the eye of storm over the Una incident of public beating of Dalits and the subsequent suicide attempts by Dalits in the state. In an attempt at damage control, the Gujarat government has also released figures claiming crimes against Dalits in the State have “gone down” under the BJP. The corrected figure for 2015 in this data set is 1052, which is lower than figure for 2014. The data also claim that while there were on an average 1669 crimes against Dalits per year in the State from 1991 to 2000, the number declined to 1098 between 2011 and 2015. (The Hindu 25/7/16)

Attack on Dalits: district BJP chief defends Bajrang Dal activists (2)

Chikkamagaluru: The Chikkamagaluru district BJP president and Sringeri MLA D.N. Jeevaraj has defended Bajrang Dal activists who have been accused of assaulting Dalits in the name of protecting cows. The leader said the Dalits were not assaulted and false case was filed against the seven people. Addressing a press conference in Chikkamagaluru on Tuesday, Mr. Jeevaraj described it as a conspiracy by the Congress. He said the five Dalits, allegedly beaten up, had “stolen a cow and slaughtered it.” The Hindutva activists, he said, had only informed the police and not assaulted anyone. He went on to say that Balaraj, one of those allegedly assaulted by the Bajrang Dal youths, had not suffered any injury. Nagesh Angirasa, a member of Praja Prabhutva Ulisi Horata Vedike, in a separate press meet, accused Komu Souharda Vedike that brought the incident to light, of “spreading wrong information about the issue.” (The Hindu 27/7/16)

We cannot be discriminated against any longer: Dalits (2)

NAGAPATTINAM: Head of Pazhag Kallimedu Dalit hamlet, N. Pakkirisamy, said the claim of tradition put forth by caste Hindus in holding mandagapadi during annual Aadi festival of Sri Badrakaliamman Temple at Kallimedu could not be accepted as the temple was originally located in their hamlet. They had every right to stake claim to hold mandagapadi when caste Hindus had been sponsoring the festival for three days. He pointed out that the Dalits were humiliated in 2014 when the procession route of utsavar (processional deity) was cut short. “The temple was shifted from Pazha Kallimedu to Kallimedu sometime back. Hence, it is natural for us to claim the right to hold the ritual. We have been fighting for several years to get our rights. However, our rights are denied as we belong to the oppressed class. We cannot be discriminated against any longer,” Mr. Pakkirisamy said. However, representatives of caste Hindus argued that the agama rules and practices could not be altered under any circumstance. Moreover, a case filed by Dalits on the issue was pending before the Madras High Court. They were ready to abide by the court verdict. “We need to preserve age-old customs and practices. It should not be diluted. We should not be compelled when the matter is before the court,” contended A. Sivasubramanian, a leader of Pillaimar group. As the two sides refused to reach an agreement, Collector S. Palanisamy announced that it has been decided to ban the festival, scheduled to begin on August 8, as the two groups did not reach an agreement. When asked about the Dalits’ threat to embrace Islam, Mr. Palanisamy said their intention was essentially to draw the attention of the officials to the issue. No Dalit in the hamlet has converted to other religions, he said. (The Hindu 31/7/16)

TRIBALS

Shutdown called by Congress hits normal life in Odisha (6)

Bhubaneswar: Normal life was paralysed on Saturday in eight KBK districts of Odisha by a dawn-to-dusk shutdown called by the Congress party to push for “proper implementation” of the Forest Rights Act 2006. The party also protested against the arrest of former Nabarangapur MP Pradeep Majhi and his associates. Shops and business establishments remained closed in eight undivided KBK districts: Kalahandi, Bolangir, Koraput, Sonepur, Nuapada, Nabarangpur, Malkangiri and Rayagada. The Congress workers blocked roads by burning tyres and picketed many places, bringing traffic to a halt. “The state government is taking credit by distributing land pattas to more than three lakh tribals. But in reality, the government has not executed the Forest Rights Act properly,” Congress leader and former Kalahandi MP Bhakta Das said. The state government has betrayed the tribal people by giving only pattas while there was no identification of land, he said. Das said the state government sent the Congress demonstrators to jail to suppress their voice. Former Nabarangpur MP Pradeep Majhi and 18 other Congress workers were arrested on June 25 for allegedly ransacking a range office of the forest department during a demonstration demanding land pattas for tribals. They were released on conditional bail on Saturday. Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee President Prasad Harichandan claimed that the shutdown was successful. He said people spontaneously participated in the movement to show their support for the cause. Rabi Narayan Nanda, a leader of the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD), said the Congress party is shedding crocodile tears. He said the shutdown call given by the opposition party has had no effect in KBK districts as the tribals are always with the government led by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. (Business Standard 2/7/16)

 ‘Upholding tribal rights best tribute to Alluri’ (6)

VISAKHAPATNAM: Members of various organisations, leaders of various political parties and the general public paid rich tributes to the revolutionary freedom fighter Alluri Seetharama Raju on his 119{+t}{+h}birth anniversary at various places in the city and district on Monday. Alluri Walker’s Association, Seethammadhara: Chief advisor of the association Ch. Narasinga Rao recalled the contribution of Alluri in safeguarding the rights of the tribal people and in protecting them from the British rulers. He ridiculed the State government for observing the birth anniversary of the revolutionary leader as a ‘State festival’ while depriving the tribal people of their livelihood by deciding to allow bauxite mining in the Agency areas of the district, ignoring their interests. Honorary president T. Shantaram sought the naming of the Alluri statue road at Seethammadhara as ‘Alluri Seetharama Raju Walker’s Zone Road’. Kshatriya Youth Association: A blood donation camp was organized by the association in association with the Rotary club Visakha Port City at Kshatriya Kalyana Mandapam at Seethamadhara. Inaugurating the camp, Visakhapatnam North MLA P Vishnu Kumar Raju appreciated the organisers for initiating the noble cause of donating blood, which could saves lives.Visakhapatnam Steel Plant: Director (Commercial) P Raychaudhury garlanded the statue of Alluri Seetharama Raju and paid tributes to the great freedom fighter. He recalled the sacrifices of Alluri in protecting the tribal rights in the Agency area and his crusade against the British rule. Trade union leaders, representatives of Ukkunagaram Kshatriya Association, SC and ST Association and a large number of employees participated. City Congress secretary K. Gopala Reddy paid tributes to Alluri at a programme organised at KNM Girls High School. Competitions were organised for school children on the occasion. Anakapalle MP Muttamsetti Srinivasa Rao, former Vice Chancellor of Andhra University GSN Raju and Joint Collector J. Nivas paid their tributes at the Alluri Memorial at K.D. Peta in the Agency area of the district. In the evening, at a State-level function organised by the Tribal Welfare Department at the Kalavani auditorium of VPT, Minister for SC and ST Welfare Ravela Kishore Babu presented merit awards and felicitated tribal youth and students for excelling in their respective fields. Panchayati Raj Minister Ch. Ayyanna Patrudu and Minister for I and PR Palle Raghunadha Reddy, Chairperson of ZPP Lalam Bhavani, former Minister P. Mani Kumari, former ZPP Chairperson V. Kanthamma, MP M. Srinivasa Rao, several other people’s representatives, and district officials participated. Cultural programmes were presented by Girijan artistes. (The Hindu 5/7/16)

Innocent tribals become victims of ganja trade: Sarpanches (6)

Visakhapatnam: Officials of the prohibition and excise department should nab the main culprits behind the ganja trade right from the cultivation stage to smuggling in the Visakha Agency, said panelists at a workshop on ‘Prevent Ganja Cultivation and Save Youth from Ganja Addiction’ here on Thursday. Speaking at the workshop organised by the directorate of prohibition and excise department, tribal youths and various panchayat sarpanches said transportation of the contraband has become a major source of income for the forest, excise and police officials. The ganja farmers, most of them tribals, have become victims of the trade as well as kingpins of the business in some cases. They have been supplying seeds and fertilisers and earning crores of rupees through smuggling. “Arresting the ganja growers and transporters and registering cases against them will not serve the purpose. The enforcement department should focus on the kingpins,” Lammasingi sarpanch M Raghunath said, adding that ganja growers are illiterates and were unaware of many legal acts. CID wing inspector general PV Sunil Kumar said uprooting ganja from the Agency was not one department’s job. All the responsible departments such as revenue, forest, excise and police should form a task force and work in coordination, he said. (Times of India 8/7/16)

Tribal girl kidnapped, sold, raped, kept hostage; flees, one held (6)

Jaipur: A 15-year-old tribal girl from Pratapgarh went through a horrifying ordeal for 25 days. She was kidnapped by a woman who took her to Madhya Pradesh and kept her hostage for days. She then sold the girl to a man in Kota’s Sultanpur area for Rs 1.25 lakh. He brought the girl to Sultanpur and raped her repeatedly. She was kept hostage in a house. On Wednesday, she managed to escape. Some people who saw her stranded took her to the police following which her buyer was arrested on Friday. The case is yet another instance of growing trend of human trafficking in the state. The girl belongs to Bagwasa village in Pratapgarh. She was on her way to her maternal grandparents’ house in nearby Banswara district when a woman, belonging to a village near Pratapgarh, ran into her. “The woman befriended the girl and then coaxed her into coming with her to a place. She took the girl to Khetakheda village in Madhya Pradesh and kept her hostage there. She then sold her to one Dharmaraj Bairawa, a resident of Surela area in Kota’s Sultanpur,” said a police officer. The officer said that Dharmaraj brought her to the house of his brother-in-law and kept her hostage there. He raped her several times. Twenty-five-year-old Dharmaraj was forcing the girl to marry him. On Wednesday, the girl managed to flee from the house. “The girl was clueless as to where she should go after escaping from the house. Some people saw her stranded and brought her to Udhyog Nagar police station in Kota. We informed the child welfare committee members so that she could get a shelter,” said the officer. The girl narrated her ordeal since she was kidnapped to the child welfare committee members on Thursday. Police have registered an FIR against the woman who kidnapped her and Dharmaraj. The man has been arrested. A team was being rushed to Pratapgarh and Madhya Pradesh for further investigation, the officer said. (Times of India 9/7/16)

Kandhamal row: HRPC SIT to investigate death of tribals in police firing (6)

BHUBANESWAR: Under fire from the opposition political parties for the killings of innocent tribals in a police-Maoist crossfire in Kandhamal on Friday night, the state government today formed a special investigation team (SIT) of the State Human Rights Protection Cell (SHRPC) to inquire into the case. Announcing the decision after a review of the Kandhamal incident at the secretariat here, the chief minister said he has directed that the investigation of the case will be done by a SIT of the SHRPC to be monitored and supervised by an officer of the rank of additional DG. “If anyone is found negligent in his duty after the probe, we will take stringent action,” he said. The chief minister also directed the director general of police KB Singh to have a detailed review of the incident and apply required correctives so that such incident is not repeated in future in anti-naxalite operations. The SIT will take over the case registered at Baliguda police station in connection with the incident. Describing the Kandhamal incident as most unfortunate, the chief minister said the government has taken it seriously. Besides the DGP police, chief secretary AP Padhi, home secretary Asit Tripathy and director, intelligence Sunil Roy attended the meeting. The chief minister had ordered a judicial probe into the incident on Saturday. He had also announced an exgratia of Rs 5 lakh each for the next of the kin of the deceased and asked the district administration to ensure that the families of the deceased will be covered under different social sector schemes including housing. He had also announced job for a member of each of the family. Meanwhile, the Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) today demanded that National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) should probe into the incident. OPCC president Prasad Harichandan said the chief minister should visit the village to assuage the feelings of the tribals whose family members have been killed in police firing. A team from BJP headed by state president Basant Panda will visit Kandhamal tomorrow to take stock of the situation. (New Indian Express 11/7/16)

All Adivasi Association of Assam demands ST status (6)

BARPETA, July 13 – The All Adivasi Association of Assam has reiterated its demand to accord Scheduled Tribe status to the Adivasis and warned the government that it will face massive agitation if the demand is not fulfilled within one month. In a memorandum to the Chief Minister, signed by the leaders of the Baksa district committee and the central executive committee, the association stated that lakhs of people living in the State bear all the characteristics of tribals. They stated that their counterparts living in West Bengal, Jharkhand and Odisha are regarded as STs. But it is a matter of regret that the same people with similar ethnicity have been deprived of the ST status here, they said. (The Assam Tribune 13/7/16)

NHRC takes up tribals’ cause, seeks reports (6)

BHUBANESWAR: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has sought reports from Union Home Ministry as well as the State Government on the killing of five innocent tribals in police firing in Kandhamal district last week even as opposition political parties accused the State Government of trying to cover up the incident. Secretary general of the NHRC Satyanarayan Mohanty told mediapersons here that both the Home Ministry and the State have been asked to submit reports within two weeks. Meanwhile, the opposition Congress and BJP have raised questions about impartiality of the probe by the SIT formed by the State Government. The SIT is headed by Additional DG, Human Rights Protection Cell Mahendra Pratap. How can the investigation be fair and impartial, when it will be supervised and monitored by an officer who was suspended by the Government, Leader of the Opposition Narasingh Mishra asked. Mahendra Pratap was Gajapati SP when R Udaygiri incident took place on December 8,1998, Mishra said and added that Naveen Patnaik had then demanded action against the officer. Why the Chief Minister has now entrusted the responsibility to the same officer to monitor and supervise the investigation of such a sensitive case, he asked. The Leader of Opposition demanded that investigation by the SIT should be monitored by the High Court. Senior BJP leader Bijoy Mohapatra also criticised the Chief Minister for trying to cover up the incident by entrusting Mahendra Pratap to supervise the investigation of the case. The Chief Minister had demanded action against the officer after the R Udaygiri jailbreak incident. The CM is trying to cover up the incident by doing so, he said. Meanwhile, a three-member team of BJP MPs will visit Kandhamal on Friday to make an on the spot assessment of the situation. The team comprises Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, Jyoti Dhurve and Ramvichar Netam. Former MLAs Pratap Sarangi and Siddharth Sekhar Singh Mardraj, state BJP secretary Sisir Gamang and state executive member Sukanta Panigrahy will accompany the Central team. A team of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) headed by Narasingh Mishra will also visit Kandhamal on Friday. (New Indian Express 15/7/16)

Tribals dying of hunger (6)

Bhubaneswar: The infant deaths (18 in three months), at Nagada village is a case of chronic hunger of primitive Juang tribals leading to acute malnutrition of their children and subsequent death due to lack of medical treatment. “ It reflects a bizarre case of how malnourished children are dying unattended in the chromite ore rich area where mining giants and big companies are minting money and claiming to have undertaken a lot of social activities as part of their corporate social responsibility,” observed a team of civil rights activists who returned from Nagada on Tuesday. Claims of ‘”inclusive growth’, innumerable anti-poverty schemes , nutrition programme, free food etc fall flat at Nagada as no officer ever visits the village which remains inaccessible calling for a hardous trek – climb the hill, they remarked . The village still suffers from hunger, malnutrition, drinking water crisis etc. the tribals area leading subhuman life without drinking water, electricity, food and lack of road connectivity. The government is squarely responsible for failing to provide basic amenities to the tribals. Many families have not been provided ration card under National Food Security Act due to irregularities in survey conducted to identify eligible households. Secondly, as per guideline of Antodaya Anna Yojana, all Juang families deserve to get each 35 kg rice per month.” Most of Juang families have not been covered till date,” said the rights activists led by Mr Pradip Pradhan, member of the advisory group of NHRC on right to food, Sudhir Mohanty, advocate, Odisha High Court, Mr Kalandi Mallik, Mr Sanjay Sahu, Mr Debenbdra Kumar Rout, who formed the fact finding team. The tribals walk for over 10 km to get any service or benefit under any scheme, they are unable to carry their sick children to hospital for treatment. They spend one day ( Rs.200 labour wage per day) to get Rs.300 pension amount under Old Age Pension Scheme. Almost all development programme and food security programme like ICDS, MDM, PDS, NREGA, Indira Awas Yojana, Biju Pucca Ghara Yojana, forest development programme, agricultural and horticultural programme etc. are not implemented in the area. (The Statewsman 20/7/16)

Nutrition for tribals stuck in Odisha government slow lane (6)

BHUBANESWAR: The shocking spate of deaths among  Juang infants in mineral-rich Jajpur’s Nagada has exposed the slow progress achieved by the State in ensuring appropriate nutrition for its tribal populace which is reflected in the level of stunting,  wasting and weight among children. Over the last 10 years, there has been  tardy progress as shown by the Rapid Survey on Children (RSoC) 2013-14. The RSoC, released late last year, is the first such dataset which was available after the National  Family Health Survey (NFHS)-III (2005-06).It revealed that stunting among the  Scheduled Tribe (ST) children (in the age group of zero to five years) is now at 46.1 per cent level whereas severe stunting is 22.1 per cent, both considered very high. The NFHS-III had recorded stunting and severe stunting at 57.2 per cent and 28.4  per cent respectively. Similarly, wasting levels have also shown a slow decline – from 27.6 per cent in 2005-06 to 22 per cent in 2013-14. Severe wasting among children  has marginally dropped from 8.2 per cent to 5.8 per cent in the last 10 years. The underweight status among tribal  children remains high despite a bountifulof schemes – both Central and State  – targeted at the indigenous population. The RSoC shows that 46.8 per cent ST children are underweight while 17 per cent are severely underweight. In NFHS-III, it was 54.4 per cent and 22.9 per cent  respectively. With the issue grabbing headlines, the Odisha Human Rights Commission  (OHRC) on Wednesday asked the Chief Secretary to submit a report on the matter within three weeks. Hearing a petition filed by advocate  Nishikanta Mishra, the Commission considered the enormity of the problem faced by residents of Nagada. To mitigate their woes on a war-footing, the OHRC felt it imperative to provide  immediate medical attention by deputing a dedicated medical team to the village. Besides, safe drinking water, free ration and essential medicines should be provided to the villagers on a regular basis. Opening of anganwadi centres  for benefit of tribal children is of paramount importance, it observed. The petitioner had alleged that death of 19 infants from Juang tribe in Nagada has exposed the Government’s apathy to the problems of the indigenous population. While malnutrition is primarily responsible for loss of lives, welfare schemes, which are in  implementation for targeted groups in the State, have not covered Nagada so far, he added. The inaccessible nature of the terrain has been a main hindrance for villagers  to avail medical services and have access to other benefits, the petitioner added. The rights panel asked the Chief Secretary to look into the matter and submit an action taken report within three weeks.   (New Indian Express 21/7/16)

‘Huts of tribals burnt in presence of officials’ (6)

Raipur: Huts of tribals at four villages of Nagri block in Dhamtari district were burnt during anti-encroachment drive, Congress leaders alleged here on Thursday. A delegation comprising State Forest Minister, Mahesh Gagda, Chhattisgarh Congress Chief Bhupesh Baghel, Leader of Congress Legislature Party (CLP) TS Singhdeo along with others had reached Kusum Bharri and Batan Harra villages in Dhamtari. Notably, Baghel had raised the issue of alleged –‘tyranny and injustice’ at the hands of district administration while vacating the villages- during the recently concluded Monsoon session of State Legislative Assembly. The Forest Minister in his reply while refusing the charges had assured the Chhattisgarh Assembly that appropriate action was taken by the administration and he would personally take the Congress leaders to the villages for taking stock of the ground situation.

State Congress Chief Bhupesh Baghel while talking to The Pioneer said that it was clear that the huts were burnt. He informed that people in those villages were living there since 1978. “Former Chief Secretary Sunil Kumar who was the district collector in 1987 had assured the villagers in written that he would try to solve their problem,” Baghel informed. Meanwhile, Congress Legislature Party Leader TS Singhdeo said that there is video record which shows that the huts are being burnt in presence of forest guards, members of ‘Van Adhikar Samiti’ and police personnel. “It was clearly seen on the spot that farming was done and about 4-5 huts were burnt,” Singhdeo said while adding that Congress party is with the villagers.Meanwhile,  Forest Minister Mahesh Gagda could not be   reached for his comments on the issue. (The Pioneer 22/7/16)

Tribal women accuse forest officials of putting them through strip-search (6)

THENI: A group of tribal women from Kadamalaikundu has demanded action against officials of Forest Department, who allegedly forced them to remove their saris in Cumbum reserve forests. In a petition submitted to Superintendent of Police V. Baskaran here on Monday, S. Paputhai, of Paliyar Colony, Kadamalaikundu, said she and five other tribal families were returning home after collecting forest produce from Cumbum reserve forests on July 16 when a four-member team of forest officials, led by Ranger Sekar, intercepted them and seized the produce, including honey, and frisked them. “They ordered my husband and other men to remove their shirts and dhotis in the name of checking. “Later, they forced us to remove our saris in public. A sum of Rs. 2,000 and a mobile phone were seized from us,” she alleged.On July 17, the Forest Department officials arrested five persons, who went to Varushanadu forest office, to question their atrocity against women. “Now they are in Madurai prison,” said Dhanalakshmi, another tribal woman. Forest officials said that a section of tribal people threw stones at Varushanadu forest office on July 17 and five persons were arrested and remanded in judicial custody in this connection.The women appealed to the Superintendent of Police to take action against Forest Rangers Sekar and Karnan and other officials. A similar petition was submitted to Collector N. Venkatachalam. The Collector said that the petition had been forwarded to Uthamapalayam police for investigation. (The Hindu 26/7/16)

Tribals demand strict action against cops (6)

BERHAMPUR: Tribals, Dalits and social activists at a memorial meeting held at Gumudumaha village on Tuesday demanded immediate strict action against police personnel of the Special Operation Group (SOG) who had killed five innocents on July 8 during an anti-Maoist operation. Over 2000 tribals and Dalits from Gumudumaha village as well as other parts of Kandhamal and Kalahandi districts participated in the meeting despite a bandh call by Maoists in protest against the killings. The meeting coincided with a post-funeral tribal ritual, ‘mada thipei’, held for three Kui tribals of Gumudumaha killed in the incident. Mass prayer was also held in memory of two persons of the Christian community. President of the tribal organisation Kui Samaj Samanwaya Samity (KSSS) Lambodar Kanhar, president of the Odisha Krushak Sabha (OKS) Abhiram Behera, convener of Campaign Against Fabricated Cases (CAFC), spokesperson of CPI-ML (New Democracy) B.C.Sarangi, former MP Nakul Nayak, former State minister Bhajaman Behera, Congress leader Klesha Pradhan as well as BJD MLA who represents the area, Rajib Patra ,attended the memorial meeting. Various tribal and Dalit village heads also spoke on the occasion. Memorial constructed in memory of the five deceased, erected at the spot of the shoot-out, was also unveiled. The activists demanded murder cases to be filed against those policemen as early as possible. They also felt that the seven-lakh compensation declared by government was not adequate and demanded that it be enhancedIt was decided that on August 1 another mass rally would be held at Baliguda in Kandhamal district for demand of strict legal action against the ‘erring’ policemen. Meanwhile, the second day of the two-day bandh had little impact in Kandhamal district that included the Daringbadi, Baliguda region where Gumudumaha is located. (Times of India 27/7/16)

Govt. has declared war on tribals: Left (6)

BHUBANESWAR: The Naveen Patnaik government has declared a war on tribal communities with every tribal being branded as sympathiser of the Left Wing Extremists (LWEs), allege five Left parties here on Saturday. Drawing attention of Governor S. C. Jamir about deaths of innocent tribals, who were killed by security forces in alleged anti-Naxal operation at Gumudumaha village in Kandhamal district, these parties said the incident was highly deplorable and instead of addressing their livelihood plights, the State machinery had almost declared war on them. “Tribal pockets of Odisha have been fortified with Central and State security forces. They are denied entry inside the forest they have been depending on. Innocent tribals have been caught between the Maoist violence and repression by the State,” said Suresh Panigrahi, member of State secretariat of CPI(M) here. Left parties said five innocent tribals and Dalits were killed from a close distance of 50 to 60 feet on the fateful night of July 8 last when they were returning home in an auto-rickshaw from Baliguda after withdrawing their MGNREGA wage dues. “Gumudumaha incident is not an isolated case. Last year, two such incidents of killing had taken place. First it was under Kotagada Police Station limits of Kandhamal district and the second one took place at Karlapat forest in Kalahandi district. Since, no action had been initiated against the security personnel responsible for the killings, such incidents are on the rise,” said Dibakar Nayak, CPI State secretary. The Left parties have warned the State government that excessive force would further alienate the tribals. They also drew attention on the pitiable condition of Juanga tribes in Nagada, a hilltop village in Jajpur district. It is alleged that 19 children, who have been suffering from chronic malnutrition, died of different diseases in the past few months. “Worst sufferers of poverty and backwardness in Odisha are tribals and Dalits. The government is paying scant attention to address their basic needs. The fund being allotted under Tribal Sub Plan head is being diverted to non-tribal areas,” they said. The Left parties demanded that the family members of victims of fake encounters be paid Rs 50 lakh in compensation and criminal proceedings be initiated against guilty officials. They also demanded provisioning of housing and drinking water facilities for all households in Nagada village. Leaders of CPI (M-L) Liberation, SUCI (C) and AIFB had also joined the delegation, which also apprised the Governor of the situation of tribals. (The Hindu 31/7/16)

WOMEN

Sexual harassment case against Delhi’s ex-chief secretary (8)

New Delhi: A case of sexual harassment was registered against former Chief Secretary Omesh Saigal on Saturday after a complaint of a 52-year-old woman was forwarded to the Delhi Police by the Delhi Commission for Women. Saigal has termed the charge “false”.”We have registered a case against Omesh Saigal under Section 354 (Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) of the Indian Penal Code,” Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police (South), Nupur Prasad told IANS. She said that the alleged incident took place on June 18, when the women went for swimming in pool of the Panchshila club, of which Saigal is also president, in south Delhi. In her complaint, she mentioned that the accused blocked her way while she was swimming. The complainant, who approached the DCW on June 23, claimed that he had on earlier occasions also deliberately blocked her way while swimming which led her into arguments with him. DCW chief Swati Maliwal took strong note of the suspension of complainant and her husband’s club membership. “Instead of forwarding the complaint to the Local Complaints Committee under the Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Work Place Act, 2013, the complaint was heard by a sub-committee set up by the management committee of the club. Also, subsequently, in blatant disregard of the act, the club membership of the complainant and her husband was suspended,” the DCW said in a notice to the club. Saigal meanwhile told IANS: “Charges against me are absolutely false.” “I have also filed a defamation case against the woman in Saket court and a notice was served to her on June 22,” he added. (Business Standard 2/7/16)

Anti-female foeticide law not effective enough? (8)

Imphal, July 03 2016: The Govern-ment of Manipur is still unable to implement the Pre-Con-ception and the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Pro-hibition of Sex Selection) Act 1994 effectively in the State. It has been reported that the most common device used in committing female foeticide is ultrasound machine although it is intended to serve as a pre-natal diagnostic technique. An ultrasound machine can determine whether a foetus is a male or a female. RIMS Department of Gynaecology, Head Dr Ranjit said that sex of a foetus can be determined 18 months after conception. Majority of the medical professionals have by and large accepted that ultrasound machine is most widely used in committing female foeticide. The Pre-Conception and the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act 1994 lays special emphasis on use of ultrasound machines by gynaecologists, particularly in private clinics and hospitals. Under the Act, all Government hospitals, private hos- pitals and clinics should get themselves registered with the Family Welfare Department for using ultrasound machines and they should send reports for every case. The reports should be in the format prescribed by Family Welfare Department and they should be accompanied with a declaration from patients that they have no intention to determine sex of foetuses and another declaration from consultant doctors that they never disclose the sexes of foetuses to their patients. To look into this matter, one PNDT cell has been opened at Family Welfare Department. After receiving certificate for installing ultrasound machines, the same machines should be used by doctors/medical professionals who have completed MD in Radio Diagnostics or Diploma in Radio Diagnostics or three to nine months course on Radio Diagnostics and Gynaecologists who possess ultrasound experience certificate of registration. All hospitals/clinics should display sign boards/banner clearly embossed with the words ‘Sex determination is not done here’. Altogether 107 private hospitals, clinics and Government hospitals including RIMS and JNIMS have been registered at the PNDT Cell for using ultrasound machines. Dr Arun of PNDT Cell told The Sangai Express that maximum efforts are being invested to get all ultrasound machine users registered. However, not all registered hospitals/clinics send reports of using ultrasound machines. Efforts are also on to make all ultrasound machines immobile, rather than being portable, Dr Arun said. Non-compliance with the Pre-Conception and the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act 1994 entails a jail term of three years and a fine of Rs 10,000 .(E-Pao 3/7/16)

Khap bans mobile use by minor girls to protect them from sexual exploitation (8)

Agra: After a video showing a 15-year-old girl being forced to strip by her school director was widely circulated on WhatsApp, a khap panchayat in Etah district has banned the use of mobile phones by girls below 18 years of age. The diktat was issued in a gathering of around 4,000 people by a Lodhi Rajput community panchayat in Bhilaipur village and was seen as a precautionary measure to protect girls from sexual abuse or exploitation. “It was a unanimous decision by Lodhi Rajputs. There will be a complete ban on mobile use by minor girls as these devices are corrupting them. Our girls are often trapped and exploited by men from a particular community which has the backing of a powerful political party in the state,” Ramsewak Pehelwan, one of the community leaders, told TOI. On June 30, Jitendar Singh Yadav, director of Sri Krishna Higher Senior Secondary School, allegedly leaked an explicit video of one of his girl students after she refused to have sex with him anymore. In the video, Yadav is seen forcing the minor to strip. “After last week’s incident, the panchayat has also decided to ensure that no child from the community will be studying in Yadav’s school. We are making list of schools where such incidents have taken place but have not been reported. There are at least 20 girls from our community who have been sexually exploited by their school teachers and administrators,” Pehelwan said. Meanwhile, Jitendar Singh Yadav, who was reported to be absconding after the incident, has been arrested by Etah police and has been booked under IPC’s Section 376 (punishment for rape), 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation) and under the POCSO Act. “We haven’t received any complaint about the khap panchayat’s dictate and will look into the matter if we are approached by members of the community,” station officer, Baghwala police station, Anup Bharti told TOI. (Times of India 4/7/16)

47-year-old law can help distressed women in NRI marriages: Law Ministry (8)

NEW DELHI: A law enacted in 1969 offers a ray of hope for distressed women facing harassment in NRI marriages, a Parliamentary panel has been told. The Rajya Sabha Committee of Petitions was on Friday told by the Law Ministry that the Foreign Marriage Act, 1969 has provisions to help women married to NRIs facing problems abroad, a panel member said. In most of the cases reported in media, the husband is already married and marries again in India. In certain cases, the husband marries another woman abroad and abandons his first wife. Abuse for dowry is another problem Indian women face after marrying NRIs. The committee had met to hear top officials of the Home Ministry and the Law Ministry on a petition “praying for solution of the problems arising out of marriage of Indian women with Non-Resident Indians”.Members who attended the meeting said most people are not aware of existence of such a law. The law was enacted “to make provision relating to marriages of citizens of India outside India.” One of the key clauses is Section 14 which states that whenever a marriage is solemnized under the law, the marriage officer will have to certify it in the Marriage Certificate Book which will be signed by the parties to the marriage and three witnesses. The certificate will be “deemed to be the conclusive evidence of the fact that a marriage under this Act has been solemnized, and that all formalities respecting the residence of the party concurred previous to the marriage and the signature of witnesses have been complied with.” The law also provides for ‘matrimonial relief’ for spouse. Sources said while various personal laws in the country can also apply, marriages solemnised under the Foreign Marriage Act will be governed by that law. The government, meanwhile, has decided to set up a committee to formulate a standard operating procedure (SOP) to be followed while dealing with cases of NRI men abandoning their wives, after the Women and Child Development Ministry received several such complaints.Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi had recently met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and requested her to constitute a joint committee to develop an SOP. Once the SOP has been prepared, it will be shared with various Indian diplomatic missions abroad. (Times of India 10/7/16)

Centre lays down new rules, bans dress code for women in varsities (8)

New Delhi: The Centre has banned imposition of “discriminatory rules” against women students, like dress code, on the pretext of their safety in higher educational institutions. In a new set of regulations for dealing with cases of sexual harassment of women students and employees on campuses, the Centre has also restricted all higher educational institutions from imposing two different sets of hostel rules for men and women students. The provisions, recently notified by the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), separately, are binding on the universities and colleges affiliated to the two regulatory bodies. Any violation of the regulations may lead to withdrawal of recognition granted by the two bodies. “Concern for the safety of women students must not be cited to impose discriminatory rules for women in hostels as compared to male students. Campus safety policies should not result in securitisation, such as over monitoring or policing or curtailing the freedom of movement, especially for women employees and students (sic),” stipulates UGC and AICTE regulations. The regulations providing restriction on over monitoring and policing of women students and employees in university and college campuses assumes significance as several higher educational institutions have imposed discriminatory rules against women in absence of such clear cut provisions. A few months ago, the Hindu College–affiliated to the Delhi University–imposed a dress code for women students, asking them to wear clothes as per the “normal norm of society” in common areas of the campus. The college administration, however, had to withdraw the dress code as it stoked a huge controversy leading to protest by students. A UGC official said: “The regulations have been formulated keeping in view the trends in the higher educational institutions. There are often reports about universities over imposing discriminatory rules for women. It is the responsibility of the institutions to ensure safety of women in the campus. But this does not mean you curtail their freedom.” (Deccan Herald 11/7/16)

World Population Day: Women’s college girls call for gender equality (8)

Patna: Eco Task Force, the green wing of Patna Women’s College, on Monday organised a poster exhibition based on themes like population control and gender equality, role of women in population control and problems of teenage girls. The exhibition, organised to mark the World Population Day, had posters showcasing the problems faced by fairer sex like depression and eve teasing. The programme was inaugurated by Dr Sister M Reema AC, assistant professor at the psychology department. T Divya of BCom third year won the first prize followed by her classmate Rikoo Srivastav who bagged the second prize and Pallavi Kumari and Anamika, who jointly won the third prize. Consolation prizes were given to Arti Kumari, Jagriti Singh and Apoorva Shishodia. Lecture on family planning: Population Research Centre of Patna University’s statistics department organised a lecture to mark the World Population Day on Monday. The theme of the lecture was “Issues of the world population and the present family planning scenario in India”. Citing research works around the globe, joint director of the centre Dr Dilip Kumar said the religious profile of the world was changing rapidly. He also spoke on major issues affecting the implementation of family planning programme in India.NIOS extends admission date: National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) has extended the dates of admission in stream two for the last time on the request of students. Regional director of NIOS Sanjay Kumar Sinha said the last date for enrolment has been extended up to July 15 by the chairman of NIOS. Earlier, the admission process was to be over by June 30. PMCH function: PMCH’s department of orthopaedics in association with Bihar Orthopaedic Association on Monday decided to observe 2016-17 as year of knee. Dr Vishwendra Kumar Sinha, head of orthopaedic department, PMCH, said five seminars on knee will be organised during the year. (Times of India 12/7/16)

Sexual harassment victim can take three months’ leave (8)

New Delhi: A woman employee who has faced sexual harassment at the workplace can take leave up to three months during the pendency of the inquiry into the complaint. DH file photo. For representation purpose A woman employee who has faced sexual harassment at the workplace can take leave up to three months during the pendency of the inquiry into the complaint, the government said on Thursday. This special leave is in addition to the leave she is otherwise entitled to. “The leave so granted to the aggrieved woman under this rule shall not be debited against the leave account,” the latest office memorandum said. The Department of Personnel and Training has issued the office memorandum to announce the insertion of the new rule on the special leave connected with inquiry on sexual harassment in the Central Civil Services (Leave) Rules, 1972. “Leave up to a maximum of 90 days may be granted to an aggrieved female government servant on the recommendation of the internal committee or local committee, as the case may be, during the pendency of inquiry under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013,” the rule said. A senior official said this would give the victim time to come to terms with the trauma following the incident. It will also give the employee an option not to encounter the accused in office. Earlier the problem  was that the employee had to take leave if she wanted to skip office after filing the complaint. The official said this is part of the pro-women initiatives of the government. “We need to help them come out of the trauma. Such initiatives will send a message to women employees that the government is serious and they need not fear anything,” the official added. (Deccan Herald 14/7/16)

Violence against women on the rise in state (8)

Guwahati: The latest official figures from Assam Police on violence against women in the state are alarming. An average of 20 cases of ‘cruelty by husband’ were registered daily in the first three months of this year. The period saw 1,855 cases of cruelty by husband registered in all, according to Assam Police records. The number of cases of domestic violence is the highest among all categories of cases of crime against women in the state since 2005. “From 2005 to March 2016, at least 56,896 cases of cruelty by husbands were registered in the state,” records stated. The number of cases in the category has been on the rise. “Around 2,200 cases of cruelty by husbands were registered in 2005. By 2015, this had risen to 9,553. Growing awareness about women’s rights has also encouraged more women to come out and file cases against atrocities by their husbands,” a state police official said, citing the records. A recent study by a local NGO, North East Networks (NEN), working for women’s rights had also drawn attention to the horrifying situation in the state’s rural areas. It found that 83.7% women were physically abused by family members, husbands or employers. The study also found that 34.1% women were forced into sexual intercourse. Besides undergoing physical abuse, women in rural Assam have been found to be facing verbal abuse by their husbands or in-laws for not bearing a child, especially a male child. “The pathetic reality is that women are just not safe and secure anywhere,” said a domestic violence victim. Most cases were reportedly registered in the districts of Golaghat, Jorhat, Sivasagar, Tinsukia, Darrang, Udalguri, Kokrajhar and Sonitpur. An average of 20 cases of ‘cruelty by husband’ were registered daily in the first three months of this yearThe period saw 1,855 cases of cruelty by husband registered in all, according to Assam Police records (Times of India 19/7/16)

86 sexual assault cases reported every month (8)

CHANDIGARH: At a time when there is massive outrage against the recent gang rape of a dalit girl in Rohtak, it has come to the fore that Haryana has witnessed 520 cases of sexual assault against women in just six months, that comes out to be 86 cases every month and almost three cases every day. This is the same number of rape cases in 2016 as reported in the first six months of 2015. Significantly, such cases had increased at the rate of 7% annually in the past 10 years from 2006 to 2015. Not only the figures are alarming, rape of minor girls and gang rapes have increased the worries of women activists in the state. “Five-year-old and 13-year-old girls have been sexually abused in the past few days in Rohtak district. The criminals just see the kids and dalits as easy targets,” says Savita Berwal, a Rohtak-based woman activist of Haryana. Recently, a dalit college girl was again gang-raped in Rohtak within three years allegedly by the same five youths. Berwal said the criminals want to shatter girls especially those who show courage. An MPhil in mathematics, Berwal is state unit joint secretary of All-India Democratic Women Association (AIDWA) and fighting for the rights of women in the state for the past 10 years. “In the absence of jobs and creative works, the growing army of bachelors is indulging in crimes and drugs. Easily available pornography and poor literature is also contributing to this tendency,” she said. Taking on the political leadership, the woman activist says that increasing curbs on girls especially diktats regarding their dresses is an attempt to demoralize them and encourage the criminals. “What do they want to achieve by asking girls not to wear jeans. Why this ‘Lakhsman Rekha’ for women only,” she said. Haryana State Women Commission chairperson Suman Dahiya pointed out a new aspect of the rape cases, which are reported by the girls after live-in-relationships. “Such complaints are even made after staying together for two to three years. There should be clear guidelines for such cases,” said Dahiya, a lawyer by profession. Haryana DGP K P Singh said the women police stations set up in 2015 have helped reduce the cases of crime against women. In support of his plea, Singh shared comparative figures between January 1 to June 30 in 2015 and from January 1 to June 30 this year. He said during the last 10 years, the rape cases had increased at a rate of 7% per year but these figures have remained static during the last two years. He said similarly, the cases of kidnapping have reduced by 3% whereas these cases had increased at the rate of 32% per year in the past 10 years. He said this year from January 1 to June 30, as many as 801 cases of kidnapping were registered as compared to 825 cases registered during the corresponding period last year.He said that this year from January 1 to June 30, as many as 863 cases of eve-teasing have been registered as compared to 953 cases registered during the corresponding period last year. (Times of India 21/7/16)

 ‘Most women suffer online abuse in silence’ (8)

Kochi: 89% of abuse survivors refused to seek police help in bringing the attackers to book, finds survey. A year ago, a young woman engineer at Technopark, found herself being bombarded by someone with abusive, vulgar messages on Facebook and on the phone. When she threatened him with legal action, he laughed it off, and dared her. At her wit’s end, the woman wanted to file a police complaint, but her parents disapproved. It would tarnish her reputation, they thought, and advised her to bail herself out of social media. “They were eager to blame the platform rather than address the issue of abuse. Any legal recourse, for them, would be a blot on their daughter’s marital prospects. It’s just a miniscule percentage of online abuse survivors who steadfastly file complaints and see them to their logical conclusion. An astonishing 89 per cent of respondents refused to seek police help in bringing the attackers to book,” maintains Nandakishore Harikumar, chief operating officer of reputation management and data mining firm GOIS Software Labs, which has recently held a survey on online abuse faced by women across Kerala. The Kochi-based firm obtained responses from 100 dynamic women online users across professions (doctors, engineers, teachers, etc) and in the 25-35 age group over the past four months for the survey. In its wake, informal parleys were held by the survey team members with male online users aged between 15 and 21 — as most abusers were found to be from this age group — to gauge what they thought of active women online users.The survey revealed that 56 per cent of women face sexist remarks online. While just about 12 per cent of women online users are well-versed with legal recourses, 22 per cent are moderately aware of the provisions and another 22 per cent somewhat aware. A good 16 per cent do not have any inkling of the legal provisions against online abuse of women. “But the fact is that, even among those that are acutely aware of the legal channels, hardly a percentage takes the legal route. Lack of support from family and discouragement on the part of law enforcing agencies also dissuade them from seeking legal recourse,” says Mr. Harikumar.Facebook (89 per cent), mobile phone (83 per cent) and Whatsapp (50 per cent) are the most common channels of abuse, stalking and harassment and nearly 46 per cent of women have uneasy memories of being stalked online. Most attackers (64 per cent) are absolute strangers who target women at random, but a fairly large number of attacks (18 per cent) have emanated from strained relationships in personal life and at workplace. If it was pure sexual harassment (55 per cent) in most cases, 49 per cent of attacks came from men whose love interest was unreciprocated. .. (The Hindu 22/7/16)

Sexual harassment: Paid leave major relief to victims, say activists (8)

VISAKHAPATNAM: The 90-day paid leave granted to a victim of sexual harassment at workplace comes as a major relief to many women employees in the government. Though this provision has been framed under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013, it came into force recently as the Department of Personnel and Training incorporated it in the Central Civil Services (leave) Rules, 1972. Women activists term the paid leave as a welcome move aimed at providing solace to victims to a certain extent and help them recoup before they restart their professional life. “However, the absence of the victim should not be misused to dilute the case or protect the offender. Though the 90-day leave helps a victim to stay away from the workplace for a while and overcome the trauma, enough care should be taken to ensure that the accused does not get away with the offence,” points out M. Kameswari from the Working Women Coordination Committee of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions. Working women feel that the key objective of the significant move should be to prevent atrocities against them and provide a safe environment at workplace. “In most cases, the molester is hardly getting punished and the victim is often treated to a hostile work environment. This is attributed to varied reasons including influence of political parties and abuse of power,” laments R.N. Madhavi, city secretary of All India Democratic Women’s Association. Terming the 12-week leave as much-needed relief, psychologists say that this period will be instrumental in addressing the trauma that one has gone through. “Staying away from office will help the victim to erase emotional stress to a substantial extent. But it gravely depends on one’s emotional and physical wellbeing and severity of the abuse experienced,” says S. Radha Rani, Superintendent of the Government Hospital for Mental Care. (The Hindu 26/7/16)

Four forest officials booked for harassing tribal women (8)

Uthamapalayam/Theni:  After an enquiry conducted by Uthamapalayam Deputy Superintendent of Police Annamalai in the Surulipatti tribal women harassment case at Royappanpatti police station on Thursday, Uthamapalayam police registered cases against four forest officials – Cumbum Forest Range Ranger Sekar, Forester Prince and two unnamed staff. Cases were filed against them under Sections 342, 294 (B), 354 and 379 of Indian Penal Code and Sections 3 (1) (E), 3 (1) (R), 3 (1) (S), 3 (1) (W1), 3 (2) (5A), 3 (2) (7) of SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, according to police sources. Earlier, when Mr. Annamalai, along with women police officers, was conducting an enquiry with the five affected women and a child, members of various voluntary and human rights organisations staged a demonstration in front of Royappanpatti police station, demanding registration of cases against forest officials and their immediate arrest. Periyakulam Revenue Divisional Officer Jamuna conducted her first round of enquiry with the affected women at Kadamalaigundu on Wednesday. More than 15 tribal women had thronged the office of Theni Superintendent of Police on Monday, demanding action against the forest officials, who reportedly harassed the tribal women on July 16. On Wednesday, all India vice-president of All India Democratic Women’s Association U. Vasuki demanded an inquiry by a DSP-level police officer into the charges and the immediate arrest of the forest officials. Speaking to reporters near Theni, she said the affected women told her that the forest officials harassed a group of women and removed their dress – a 13-year-old girl was also among them – on the pretext of frisking them. The forest officials seized their cash and mobile phones, and the tribal women, along with the girl, had to trek 40 km to reach home in the night. Their husbands were arrested and remanded in judicial custody, they claimed. Ms. Vasuki demanded the police register cases under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and Child Harassment Act. She also criticised the district administration for constituting an RDO enquiry without registering a case. (The Hindu 29/7/16)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

10 child workers rescued in Surat (14)

Surat: Ten child labourers were rescued by a task force of the labour department from two textile markets located on city’s Ring Road on Wednesday. Official sources said the child labourers were rescued from the textile shops, where they were employed for organizing and packing saris in boxes on job work. All the rescued children hail from Rajasthan and are below 14 years of age. Official sources said the labour department’s task force personnel led by assistant labour commissioner Ashish Gandhi were on a routine survey operation in the textile market. During the operation, the task force team found child labourers at New T.T Market and Shiv Shakti Textile Market on Ring Road. The child workers were made to sit on the floor, beside the sari stacks and boxes and organize and pack saris in the boxes. “The child labourers were caught during the routine operation by the department. Due to frequent raids in the textile markets, the contractors and traders had shifted their illegal activity of employing child labourers to the residential societies in the surrounding areas. The contractors take the residential houses on rent for running the packaging unit employing the child labourers,” said assistant labour commissioner Ashish Gandhi. (Times of India 1/7/16)

Child rights commission to rehabilitate tortured boys (14)

Bengaluru: Three boys – all under 14 years – who were accused of shop-lifting in Hoskote and brutally assaulted by a shopkeeper and his associates on June 30 will be admitted to a boarding school by the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR) even as the police arrested three more persons in connection with the incident. After meeting the victims and their parents on Monday, Commission Chairperson Kripa Amar Alva told The Hindu that the parents have consented to the idea of admitting the children to a boarding school. “I have counselled the boys. Two of the boys are labourers while one is studying in 8 standard,” Ms. Alva said, adding that the commission will rehabilitate them. The victims narrated their ordeal and showed bruises and injury marks on their hands due to electric shocks administered to them. Unable to bear the beatings, they fell unconscious , but the accused sprinkled water to wake them and beat them again. They were allegedly tortured for over four hours. The commission has summoned the Hoskote police and submit a detailed report based on which necessary action would be taken. On Sunday night, the Hoskote police arrested Nooruddin, Asif and Abdul in connection with the incident. The total number of arrests has gone up to seven. The police said the accused abducted the three boys, took them to their shop and administered electric shocks. The three minors were later taken in a car to an isolated place where they were stripped and beaten up mercilessly. The accused had recorded the torture on their mobile phones and circulated the same as a warning against shop-lifting. (The Hindu 5/7/16)

Children turn policy makers, draft Guwahati Declaration (14)

PUDUCHERRY: Policy decisions relating to protection of children are no more an expertise of adults. Children are taking active part in deciding the strategies to protect themselves. For the first time, four children from Puducherry were part of a historical consultative meeting that drafted the Guwahati Declaration of Children. The children, from 11 states after having a ‘National level Consultation on Ending Violence against Children’ in Guwahati on June 21 and 22, discussed various issues of violence affecting the well-being of children and arrived at various demands. Nearly 35 children attended this meet. Two children from Anbalayam Trust for socio-economic empowerment of rural women and children and two special children from Satya Special School participated in the meeting. Fifteen-year-old Kavya from Anbalayam Trust said that they discussed five different issues including child labour, child trafficking, child marriage, child sexual abuse and corporal punishment. She added that they discussed how a child is affected and what action should be taken by the parents or government. Eighteen-year-old Subramani Anil added that the participants wanted a Children’s Group to be formed to raise awareness to stop child labour and motivate them to go to school. Fourteen-year-old Gautam added that people should be aware that corporal punishment is an offence. Thirteen-year-old Srinivasan from Satya Special School also took part. All the four children talked about the different issues affecting children and the demands they have put together in the Guwahati Declaration of Children. Besides categorising the issues where intervention was required, the children identified the stakeholders and explained their roles in each of the five issues faced by children. The stakeholders include children, their family, society, non-governmental organisations and government. The National Consultation on Ending Violence against Children was organised by the National Action and Coordinating Group . “National Action and Coordinating Group (NACG) is a parallel body to ‘South Asia Initiative for Ending Violence against Children’ (SAIEVAC). SAIEVAC is the apex body of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) created with a vision that all children, girls and boys, throughout South Asia enjoy their right to an environment free from all forms of violence, abuse, exploitation, neglect and discrimination,” said P. Joseph Victor Raj, Director, HOPE Puducherry. The purpose of NACG is to strengthen inter-agency work including the governments and children groups to end violence against children. NACG is composed of UN agencies, multi-lateral and bi-lateral agencies, NGOs, civil society organisations, children and young people’s group. P. Joseph Victor Raj, Director, HOPE Puducherry, is one of the 12 National Executive Members of NACG India. (The Hindu 6/7/16)

Child marriage rampant in district (14)

Nashik: The district stands fourth in the list of the maximum number of child marriages reported in the state, according to the data procured from Childline, an NGO that works towards the rights and welfare of needy children. In 2015-16, Childline recorded the maximum number of child marriages, 42, in Ahmednagar, followed by 26 in Beed, 17 in Pune and 16 in Nashik. To rein in the widespread illegal practice, commissioner for woman and child welfare department K M Nagargoje recently held a video conference with the departments and ordered them to work relentlessly to make the state free of child marriage. The commissioner asked the department heads to set up prabhag and gram samitis at city and village levels with extensive awareness campaigns. Child marriage is a human rights violation. Despite laws against it, the practice remains widespread, in part because of persistent poverty and gender inequality. Pravin Aher, coordinator of Childline, Nashik, said that the NGO had been successful in preventing 12 child marriages in the district last one year. “On an average, we get 12-14 tip-offs on child marriages every year. We have put up boards in every community hall and lawn informing people about the disadvantages of child marriage, taking permission from the district collector for the purpose. We had undertaken this activity even before the commissioner directed the departments to initiate such an awareness campaign,” said Aher. In April alone, the peak of wedding season, Childline prevented seven child marriages within a fortnight. Besides, village child protection committees have been established in 1,138 of the 1,161 villages across the district to help curb child marriages. As many as 1,000 anganwadi sevikas have also been trained to handle such situations. District women and child development officer Devendra Raut said, “Following the directions of the women and child development commissioner to make the state completely free of child marriages, we instructed Childline and the district child protection officer to keep a check on the illegal practice. We also asked the gram sevak, protection officer and anganwadi sevikas to inform us if they came across any child marriage case.” … (Times of India 10/7/16)

Rights group: Afghan government fails to protect children (14)

KABUL: A leading international rights group said Thursday that an estimated quarter of all Afghan children work for a living yet the government fails to protect them from injury, death or exploitation. Human Rights Watch said children in Afghanistan work long hours for little or no pay, in labor-intensive industries, including carpet-weaving, brick-making, mining, metal work and farming. Many are forced to leave school early and are driven to hazardous work by extreme poverty, according to a report released by the New York-based group. HRW noted that Afghanistan’s labor law bans children under 14 from work and that Afghanistan has ratified international treaties on child labor. Still, Afghan authorities are failing to protect “tens of thousands of children, some as young as 5, from hazardous conditions,” the report said. HRW said 25 percent of Afghan children aged between 5 and 14 years work, as do 22 percent of those aged between 12 and 14 years. The report also cited a 2013 survey by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission that puts “the number of children working ‘in one way or another’ at 52 percent.” “Thousands of Afghan children risk their health and safety every day to put food on the family table,” said Phelim Kine, the HRW deputy Asia director. In 2014, the Afghan government listed 19 hazardous occupations banned for children but has “failed to enforce its labor laws through penalties for violators” and has had no strategy for ending exploitative labor practices, HRW said. It called on Kabul to abide by its legal obligations to end child labor, and on the country’s foreign backers “to take urgent steps to protect children” in Afghanistan from dangerous working conditions. (New Indian Exprexss 14/7/16)

Report: link between child marriage and dropouts (14)

BENGALURU: A report on child marriage brought out by the NGO, Samajika Parivarthana Janandolana, showed that 49 per cent of child brides interviewed did not have access to high school, and as a result were forced to discontinue their education. It showed that 91 per cent of the respondents, who had dropped out of school before the tenth standard, were married by the age of 16. Only 3 per cent of respondents continued their studies after marriage. The preliminary report on child marriage, conducted in association with the NGO Child Rights and You, examines socio-economic causes and effects of child marriage in Karnataka, based on interviews with 130 child brides. The report infers that poverty, endorsement of child marriage by religious authorities, and patriarchal traditions such as dowry demands are primarily to blame for early marriages. The child marriage report also points to education as the “key to breaking this vicious cycle”, suggesting a correlation between teenage dropout rates and child marriage. The report recommends that Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2009 be revised to cater to girls between the ages of 15 and 18. (The Hindu 15/7/16)

RS passes bill prohibiting employment of children below 14 (14)

New Delhi, Jul 19 () Rajya Sabha today passed a bill which prohibits employment of children below 14 years in all occupations or processes except where the child helps his family, with the provision for imprisonment up to two years for any violation. ‘The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill’ makes employment of children below 14 years as cognizable offence for employers and provides for penalty for parents. The Bill, which was almost unanimously passed by voice vote, defines children between 14-18 years as adolescents and lays down that they should not be employed in any hazardous occupations and processes. It provides for enhanced punishment for violators. The penalty for employing a child has been increased to imprisonment between 6 months and two years (from 3 months to one year) or a fine of Rs 20,000 to Rs 50,000 (from Rs 10,000-20,000) or both. The second time offence will attract imprisonment of one year to three years from the earlier 6 months and two years. According to provisions of the Bill, no child should be employed in any occupation or process except where he or she helps his family after school hours or helps his family in fields, home based work, forest gathering or attends technical institutions during vacations for the purpose of learning. Hailing the development as a “historic” step, Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya said it is aimed at “total abolition of child labour”.Explaining the exception, Dattatreya said that ‘family’ has been exempted as the relationship between employer and employee does not exist and that a law should be framed keeping in mind the ground realities as well as ensuring that it is implementable. (Times of India 19/7/16)

Child Rights Commission against Saturday classes in CBSE schools (14)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The State Child Rights Commission on Tuesday directed the CBSE schools against conducting classes on Saturdays for students of Standard I to V. Commission chairperson Sobha Koshy and member J Sandhya directed the CBSE Regional Officer to issue a strict order in this regard. The Commission’s directive was in response to the complaint that a school in the Pathanamthitta district was conducting regular classes for standard I students on Saturdays. “As per the Right to Education Act, students up to the  standard  V should  have 200 working days. Students of standard VI to VIII should have 220 working days. In view of this, the Central schools and state government schools have  already made arrangements limiting the classes to the stipulated days,” the Commission observed.  It said that it was in view of the various physical and mental needs that the school working days were stipulated according to the Rights to Education Act. The  panel also pointed out that the schools cannot ignore such directives. It has asked the CBSE to file an action taken report by August 30. (New Indian Express 20/7/16)

Kids working as child labourers rescued

New Delhi: A total of 37 children, who were found making bindis and wedding cards in two factories in North East Delhi, were rescued by an NGO on Wednesday.The children, as young as ten, were involved in bindi making in a unit in the narrow lanes of Usmanpur and wedding cards in a unit in Pushta in the capital’s North East area. In one unit, the children were using large sheet cutters and printers with chemical inks to make the cards and in the other they were adding glitter and colour to bindis of all shapes and sizes. Most of the children rescued by Bachpan Bachao Aandolan (BBA) NGO had been trafficked from various districts in Bihar by the local village men in a few cases and relatives in the others. Some of these minors had been working in this unit for more than a year, with little or no money being paid for their labour. According to information by the NGO, the children used to sit, eat, and sleep in the same room and were tutored that if someone comes and takes them they will be sent to jail. The elder ones used to get a small amount like Rs 100 once in two weeks or more than that and the minors didn’t get any money at all. This comes a day after the Rajya Sabha passed the Child Labour Bill (CLPRA) which restricts the employment of children below 14 years in all occupations and enterprises, except those run by his or her own family. Several NGOs and activists have said that the amendments do not protect children from the menace of child labour. “The new act is based on the premise that education and work for children can go hand in hand,” said NGO Child Rights and You (CRY). The children have been produced before the Dilshad Garden Child Welfare Committee and they will now be taken to the BBA’s rehabilitation centre Mukti Ashram in Burari. “Hundreds of children in the age group of 14-18 are employed in abusive and unhealthy circumstances like these. If the amendments to the CLPRA as passed by the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday are also cleared by the Lok Sabha, these children will not be rescued because bindi making is not considered hazardous. In this way, the children will continue to be exploited legally,” said RS Chaurasia, Chairperson, BBA.BBA activists were accompanied by the local police, labour officials and civil defense personnels under the leadership of the SDM Seelampur. The BBA team will facilitate in receipt of their back wages and release certificates, along with completion of other legal formalities. FIRs will be lodged against the owners under relevant sections of the law. (Deccan Herald 21/7/16)

Ready reckoner for cops handling child abuse cases (14)

Panaji: Stop child abuse now (SCAN), a Goa-based NGO working on issues of child abuse, released a ready reckoner/guide for the Goa police with vital information on offences against children covered under various child specific Acts and sections under the Indian penal code (IPC) to guarantee greater safety for children, while dealing with child abuse complaints. The pocket-sized guide lists the offences against children, including sexual abuse, physical abuse, assault, corporal punishment, child labour, commercial sexual exploitation, kidnapping, child marriage, Internet related crimes, abandoning a child, begging, giving intoxicating substance and using children to supply intoxicating substances, along with their relevant sections under the Goa Children’s Act (GCA) 2003, Juvenile Justice Act 2015 that came into effect on January 1, 2016 and the IPC. Under the Juvenile Justice Act, offences have been classified into petty, serious and heinous offences. A separate section has been devoted to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) 2012, where the offences listed include penetrative sexual assault, sexual assault, sexual harassment, use of a child for pornographic purpose, storage of pornographic material involving a child, abetment of an offence and attempt to commit an offence where punishments go up to life imprisonment. The reckoner specifies that the GCA 2003 overrides POSCO 2012 as it entails greeter punishment. Other laws protecting the interest of children like the Guardianship and Ward Act 1890, The Factories Act, 1948, The Young Person (Harmful publication) Act 1956, the Orphanages and Other Charitable Homes (Supervision and Control) Act 1960 etc are also mentioned. …  (Times of India 22/7/16)

Implications of the new Child Labour Bill (14)

This week, Rajya Sabha debated and passed a legislative proposal, which has a significant impact on minors below 18 years of age.  The intent of the Child Labour (Amendment) Bill, 2012 is to completely ban ‘children’ (i.e. those below 14 years) from working in any occupation or industry.  The Census data shows that, as of 2011, 4% of the child population was employed in the workforce.  This is about 1 crore children.  The Bill also prohibits ‘adolescents’ (i.e. those between 14-18 years) from working in hazardous jobs.  The Bill is expected to be debated in Lok Sabha in the coming few days. Currently, child labour is regulated under the Child Labour Act, 1986.  When this law was enacted, it intended to cover children below 14 years of age.  This law bans their working in hazardous industries.  From the provisions of the Bill, it seems that its thrust is to bring the 1986 Act in line with the Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009, that makes education up to 14 years free and compulsory.  This is because the Bill seeks to create an enabling environment for children to be in school, and not in any workplace.The Bill also complies with international norms that require the minimum age for entry into the workforce to be at least 14 years, and prohibits anyone below 18 years from being engaged in hazardous work. While the Bill intends to cover all children, it does allow them to work in two circumstances.  Firstly, it allows children to help out their family and family enterprisesoutside school hours.  This will includeany manufacturing activity, business or work done by family (i.e. parents, parents’ siblings and own siblings).  Secondly, it permits children to be employed in the audiovisual entertainment industry and sports, as long as the work does not affect their school education. On the one hand, the focus of the Bill is to provide an enabling environment where a child can go to school, and not have to earn.  But this may be constrained by challenges related to implementation of the law.  The Census data of 2001 showed that 12% of the working children were employed in hazardous industries, even after 15 years of implementation of the 1986 Act.  This indicates that it has been difficult to enforce the child labour law over the years.  More recent data on children employed in hazardous industries is not available, so it is not known whether implementation has improved since 2001.  While the Bill makes the law more stringent, it may face implementation-related challenges as well.Let us consider a scenario, where a child is engaged in agricultural activities.  To check whether this is prohibited under the Bill, one will have to inquire into whether the child is assisting his family or not.  If it is found that the child is helping out a family member, it will have to further checked if the child’s schooling is affected or not.  These aspects may be difficult to estimate, and may throw up more challenges….  (Business Standard 25/7/16)

 ‘High number of girls married before they turn 18’ (14)

HYDERABAD: Telangana has a long way forward to ensure welfare of children in difficult circumstances, noted child rights activists during a State-level meeting organised here on Monday. “The State ranks high in the country in the number of children, particularly young girls, married off before they turn 18,” said Ramesh Sekhar Reddy, referring to data from the country’s National Family Health Survey. According to the survey, around a quarter of the women aged between 20 and 24 surveyed last year were married before they turned 18, while nearly 11 per cent of the girls aged under 19 at the time of the survey were already mothers or were pregnant. The State-level consultation with NGOs working for children in Telangana was organised by Academy of Gadhian Studies at the behest of PLAN India, as part a countrywide exercise. The consultation saw representatives of nearly 15 NGOs from the city share problems and successes with the gathering. Activists said that the issue of child labour is persistent, as the State does not have adequate facilitates to rehabilitate them. They pointed out that child labour rescued in the city cannot even be housed temporarily, as the two State homes cater to children in conflict with the law. (The Hindu 26/7/16)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

Centre asks Law Commission to examine uniform civil code issue (7)

New Delhi: Indicating need for wider consultation before taking a call on a uniform civil code, the government has asked the Law Commission to examine the issue. The Law Ministry’s Department of Legal Affairs has also asked the Commission to submit a report regarding the issue. Law Minister D V Sadananda Gowda had earlier said that the issue could be referred to the Law Commission for examination. Gowda had said “wider consultations” will be held with various personal law boards and other stakeholders to evolve a consensus and the process may take some time. “Even the Preamble of our Constitution and Article 44 of the Constitution do say that there should be a Uniform Civil Code. It needs to have a wider consultation,” he had said. A decision “cannot be done in a day or two. It will take its own time”, Gowda had said. Implementation of a common code is part of the BJP’s election manifesto. The move asking the law panel to examine the issue assumes significance as the Supreme Court had recently said it would prefer a wider debate, in public as well as in court, before taking a decision on the constitutional validity of ‘triple talaq’, which many complain is abused by Muslim men to arbitrarily divorce their wives. (Asian Age 1/7/16)

Reform must be logic for UCC, not bigotry (7)

About eight months after the Supreme Court sought the Modi government’s view on whether it proposed to make any moves in the direction of having a uniform civil code (UCC), the government has asked the Law Commission of India to present a report on the issue. With the crucial Uttar Pradesh Assembly election looming large, the communal angle has been underlined by some since the BJP and its precursor, the Jana Sangh, were always insistent on opening up the Muslim personal law space under the guise of common laws for all. But there is not a little hypocrisy here. Social and political groups inclined toward the play of Hindu religion in today’s politics, and Hindu traditionalists, had strongly resisted the Hindu Code Bill (enshrining many aspects of UCC) which sought to give Hindu women a fair and equal deal. President Rajendra Prasad was opposed while Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was a strong proponent, as was law minister B.R. Ambedkar. The ruling Congress Party was divided. Eventually only a diluted version could be passed in Parliament. Seeing this state of affairs, the Nehru government, in spite of energetic pro-Hindu women recommendations of the B.N. Rau Committee coming down from before 1947, could do little more than put UCC in the Directive Principles of State Policy chapter of the Constitution, which contains some pie-in-the-sky goals — such as making all people equal and the like, although the then PM was a UCC votary as he was moved by the condition of women in society. In today’s context the social battles in the UCC context concern Muslim personal laws in light of discussions on obnoxious notions such as “triple talaq” and several other practices in some Muslim communities that put down women. Hindu communalists of all political shades are delighted to be pointing a finger at the Muslims. While opposing them, liberal and Left opinion strongly values gender parity and laws to raise women’s status. Many leading gender-conscious voices among Muslims want this goal attained, but not within the UCC construct as this has lately become tainted by association with strident anti-Muslim demands of Hindu communalists. We certainly need a wider debate if we are to maintain the logic of secular politics in a very diverse land, rather than incline toward pandering to perceived religious sentiments and associated politics. There should also be recognition that many aspects of Muslim personal law are indeed progressive and equality-oriented. Perhaps the aim for now could be something parallel to the Hindu Code Bill for Muslim women (although Hindu women still labour under inequalities) with the support not just of Muslim women but other enlightened elements, while also looking to block adherence to the backward customs and practices of all communities across the territory of India. (Asian Age 2/7/16)

Government will stand firm: Madhav on Kashmir situation (7)

New Delhi: BJP leader Ram Madhav on Saturday asserted that an “uncompromising” fight against terrorism is important for Jammu and Kashmir’s development and government will stand firm “eruption or no eruption”, as violence broke out in the Valley after the killing of militant Burhan Wani.”We will always try, be it the state government or the central government, to work for peace and security of the common man of the Valley and also to create atmosphere for development of the state. An uncompromising fight against terrorism is part of it and important,” he later said. Madhav, a party general secretary, is the organisation’s pointsman for the state. Union Minister Jitendra Singh, who is MP from Udhampur, praised the security forces and appealed for peace saying all sections of society must come together in the fight against terrorism, regardless of their political ideology. “We are proud of our security forces. They have achieved a major success on the counter terrorism front”, Singh told reporters in Jammu. “The fight against terrorism is universal and it has to be fought collectively and all sections of society regardless of their ideology must come together and unitedly fight it,” he said. “We appeal for maintenance of peace. The fight against terrorism is collective and requires a united effort of all stake holders in J&K,” he added. On providing security at living places for minorities, including colonies of Kashmiri Pandit employees in the Valley, he said, “The protection and safety of these places is responsibility of the Government and society. They should be provided full security.” (Asian Age 9/7/16)

Najma Heptullah resigns, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi gets charge of minority affairs ministry (7)

NEW DELHI: Union ministers Najma Heptullah and Gowdara Mallikarjunappa Siddeshwara on Tuesday resigned from the Union council of ministers. Their resignations were accepted by the President. Minister of state Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi has been given independent charge of ministry of minority affairs.Babul Supriyo has now been given the charge of the ministry of heavy industries and public enterprises. Supriyo has been relieved of the charge of minister of state in the ministry of urban development, and minister of state in the ministry of housing and urban poverty alleviation. The resignations come a week after PM Modi carried out a major expansion and reshuffle of his Cabinet on July 5. The exercise saw induction of 19 new faces in the ministry and changes in key portfolios of several ministers. (Times of India 12/7/16)

 ‘Minorities denied benefits’ (7)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir government to respond to a plea alleging that benefits for minority communities are being channelled to the Muslim majority in the State. A Bench led by Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur issued notice to the Ministry of Minority Affairs of Jammu and Kashmir, National Minority Commission among others on the petition seeking the setting up of a State Minority Commission. The court, however, refused to restrain authorities from disbursing benefits to any community in the State and asked the parties to respond to the issue within four weeks. The apex court was hearing a PIL plea by Jammu-based advocate Ankur Sharma who alleged that the rights of religious and linguistic ‘minorities’ in the State are being “siphoned off illegally and arbitrarily” due to extension of benefits to unqualified sections of the population. “Communities which are eligible to be notified as minorities, were not awarded their due share of scholarship owing to their non-identification as minorities,” the petition said. (The Hindu 13/7/16)

Minorities should feel environment of trust, development:Naqvi (7)

New Delhi, Jul 14 () Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi today said there was a need to ensure that minority communities also feel the “environment of trust and development” created by the Modi government and asked officials to reach the benefits of development. “There is a need to ensure minority communities also feel environment of trust and development created by the Narendra Modi government in all sectors. “Along with framing development policies on paper and computer, the officials should also reach out to ground-level to fulfil government’s commitment towards empowerment of the poor,” the Minority Affairs Minister was quoted as saying in a statement during a meeting of senior officials of his ministry. Naqvi said he will take stock of how the schemes aimed at socio-economic-educational empowerment of minorities are being executed on ground after conclusion of forthcoming monsoon session of Parliament. “The Prime Minister has provided a blueprint for this and we have to construct a strong structure so that environment of prosperity and safety among the poor can be ensured and the poor can be made a part of the mainstream development process,” he added. Naqvi also asked officials to implement Centre’s schemes in coordination with states. He asserted that there is no shortage of funds for welfare of minorities, but insisted the money should be spent “with honesty” so that last person in the society gets the benefits of development. “We will keep a close eye on implementation of all welfare schemes to ensure their proper implementation at grassroots level. Officials have a crucial role to play in this regard,” he said. Naqvi said providing better education and employment opportunities to minorities, particularly youths, figures high on his agenda. “We will have to treat the issue of uplift of minorities as a duty and not a formality,” he added. Without naming any party, Naqvi said minorities were left behind as “only formalities were completed in the name of their development” over several decades and stressed on the need for empowering them with “complete honesty”. (Times of India 14/7/16)

Minorities Welfare Department amends Shaadi Mubarak rules (7)

HYDERABAD: To deal with lacunae and plug holes in the implementation of one its flagship schemes, the Minorities Welfare Department has amended certain procedures with regards the Shaadi Mubarak scheme. The department has now made it clear that only tahsildars will verify and process applications. In the past, it was the executive directors of the Telangana State Minorities Finance Corporation. The list of beneficiaries will now be approved or countersigned by the concerned legislator. This list will then be sent district minorities welfare officer after which pre-printed cheques will be handed over by the legislator. The department has made clear that these cheques should be disbursed at the mandal or taluq headquarters.The department has done away with the previous system of online transfer of money into the bank account of the beneficiary. Instead, a crossed cheque in the name of the bride’s mother will be issued. (Times of India 18/7/16)

Forum slams Centre for tinkering with citizenship act (7)

Guwahati: The Prabhajan Virodhi Manch (PVM), an anti-immigrant forum led by Supreme Court advocate Upamanyu Hazarika, has objected to the Centre’s move to amend the citizenship act to make Hindus and Sikhs, who have fled from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan out of fear of religious persecution, eligible for Indian citizenship. The Centre on Tuesday tabled the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, in the Lok Sabha, which, PVM said, would pose a serious threat to the existence of the indigenous people of Assam. Thousands of illegal Hindu immigrants have already taken refuge in the state fearing religious persecution in neighbouring Bangladesh. “The priority of any government should be to protect its citizens. Recent studies based on the population growth till 2001 said indigenous population of Assam would become a minority by 2040 or 2047. Due to illegal immigration from the neighbouring countries, natives of at least 18 out of 32 districts will be a minority,” said Hazarika, convener of the forum. Criticizing the state government, PVM alleged that while all the other NE states strongly acted against illegal migrants, regardless of their political affiliation, the Assam government had remained silent on them. He added, “The people of the state gave their mandate to the new government on the assurance of jati, mati, bheti and suraksha kobos (protective shield). Has the influx threat disappeared because the election was won?” Referring to the battle of Saraighat that BJP often evoked during the election campaign this year, the forum said, “After winning the battle of Saraighat, Lachit Borphukan never joined hands with the Mughals. Today, the silence of the elected representatives and the state government means that this is a battle they never intended to fight.” The Citizenship Bill is meant to prevent these religiously persecuted minorities of the neighbouring countries from being treated as illegal migrants here. They will be granted citizenship after completing six years’ stay in India. (Times of India 22/7/16)

‘Rights of minorities will be protected in education policy’ (7)

CHENNAI: Parliamentarians who participated in the seminar on the draft of the National Education Policy assured the Christian missionaries that they would ensure protection to the rights of the minorities. Participants expressed concern over how the government did not consider opinions from grassroots workers such as teachers to develop a comprehensive policy. At a seminar organised by the Consortium of Christian Minority Higher Educational Institutions and Stella Maris College, Ernakulam MP K.V. Thomas and Rajya Sabha members T.K. Rangarajan (CPI-M) and Tiruchi N. Siva (DMK) assured the consortium that the policy would be discussed threadbare in the House before being approved. Mr. Thomas recalled his days as teacher and said colleges were forced to seek donations as government funding was inadequate. Schools had collected donations for noon meal scheme to ensure that children did not drop out of school. Participants should draft a new policy and forward it for discussion, said Mr. Rangarajan. The present government was attempting to promote “fascistic Hindu Rashtra by replacing Indian history with mythology and Indian philosophy with Hindu theology,” he said. Mr. Siva said his leader M. Karunanidhi had issued a detailed statement on the party’s stand on the policy.Mr. Siva said the government should constitute a committee that includes academics, representatives from marginalised sections, minorities, and the people with disabilities to draft a new education policy. The thrust on regulations and absence of academicians’ view points were a cause for concern, said Joshua Mar Ignathios, chairman of Catholic Bishop’s Conference of India said. The policy had ignored the poor and dealt marginally with education of women and girl children. The focus was on use of technology and mathematics and science. There was an absence of attention to social sciences, he said. The seminar was held invite suggestions on the policy and forward them to the Ministry of Human Resource Development. (The Hindu 25/7/16)

Lok Sabha discusses atrocities on Dalits, TMC slams PM Modi’s ‘silence’ (7)

New Delhi: Cutting across party lines, members in the Lok Sabha Monday highlighted the cases of atrocities on Dalits in various parts of the country and demanded steps to prevent them. In the Rajya Sabha, members belonging to the Trinamool Congress staged a walkout to press for a statement from Prime Minister Narendra Modi on attacks on Dalits. LJP member Chirag Paswan, son of Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan, wondered “who could the 20 crore Dalits of the country look up to for justice”. He raised the issue of two Dalit youths being allegedly thrashed and urinated upon in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district. He claimed that a number of cases of atrocities on Dalits had been reported in Darbhanga and Kishanganj because the state government had not acted “against such crimes”. Pappu Yadav, dissident RJD member, charged the Uttar Pradesh government with an attempt to create a rift among different castes. Meenakshi Lekhi of the BJP saw “a lot of politics” in atrocities on Dalits. She cited a number of derogatory expressions used for different denominations of Dalits, and claimed that while they had all been banned, some of them had come back in usage since the assumption of power by the new government in Delhi (implying AAP). “Usage of such words should be stopped,” she said. Mullapally Ramchandran of the Congress referred to the arrest of two sisters on a complaint made by a CPM worker in Kerala and claimed that, as they were daughters of a Dalit leader, they were harassed by police at the instance of Left activists. While his party colleagues K C Venugopal and Anto Antony backed him, CPM members M B Rajesh and P K Biju continued to interrupt him throughout. Thokchom Meinya of the Congress flagged the alleged racial harassment of a Manipuri woman by an immigration officer. He said that people from the Northeast had been facing such treatment even 70 years after Independence, which was reflective of the “failure of nation-building”. He sought to know why the Northeast did not find mention in the National Anthem and why textbooks didn’t teach history of that region. He sought a strong anti-racial law in India. In the Rajya Sabha, Trinamool member Derek O’Brien said he had given a notice under Rule 267 seeking adjournment of business to take up a discussion on the “trend of disregarding the Constitution” and on the “rising protests across the country over attacks of Dalits and minorities”. His party colleague Sukhendu Sekhar Roy claimed that the rights of Dalits and minorities were being curtailed. “The Prime Minister has to come and make a statement on growing atrocities on SCs and STs,” he demanded. Deputy Chairman P J Kurien said while the subject was important, the notice under Rule 267 had been disallowed. TMC members then started shouting slogans, calling for the PM to make a statement, before trooping out of the Rajya Sabha. (Indian Express 26/7/16)

Congress questions Modi’s silence on ‘gau goondagardi’ (7)

NEW DELHI: Congress on Wednesday said Sangh outfits have launched “goondagardi” in the name of “gauraksha”, asking why was Prime Minister Narendra Modi silent on repeated attacks on Dalits and Muslims. Attacking BJP for the assault on two women from the minority community for allegedly carrying beef, AICC spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi asked if the spurt in such aggression was a result of the government’s support for “parivar outfits” with an understanding that authorities would ignore their crimes. Congress general secretary and Rajya Sabha MP Digvijaya Singh said anti-social elements, with saffron bands around their neck, were extorting money from trucks (carrying cattle) in the name of “gauraksha” across India. He asked why wasn’t police acting against them. Singhvi asked if Modi had decided that from “poor to Dalits to minorities, all would be tortured and the government would close its eyes”. “This was not happening a few years ago. It has only started in last two-three years,” he noted.Singhvi said, “The PM’s silence on these issues has made us speechless. Do we have to transpose him to a rally for his eloquence to return? Is his eloquence only for the haves and not for poor, Dalits and minorities.” Singhvi said it has now been established that the cow for which Dalits were assaulted in Gujarat was killed by a lion.”The so-called forward class will not touch its carcass. The Dalits are forced to clear the carcass and when they do so, they are mercilessly beaten up,” he said. (Times of India 29/7/16)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

Muslim women campaign to end triple talaq curse in India (7)

MUMBAI: Just hours after Shagufta Sayyd was married, her new husband told her he was having a relationship with another woman. He was clear the two would have no future, the 21-year-old Sayyd said. He was only marrying her to please his mother. “He said, ‘no, I don’t want to keep you,’” she said. “So he said, divorce, divorce, divorce, three times, and that was it.” Sayyd still insists on using her husband’s surname, until she can end the marriage officially in a court. But like many other women from India’s large Sunni Muslim minority, her fate and status are governed by Muslim Personal Law that follows the tenets of the Islamic faith, as interpreted by local imams and religious schools across the country. The so-called triple talaq, or instant divorce, has been banned in more than 20 Muslim countries, including neighboring Pakistan and Bangladesh. But in India, the practice is allowed thanks to the country’s rules protecting Muslim, Christian and Hindu communities following religious law. Most of the 170 million Muslims in India are Sunnis governed by Muslim Personal Law for family matters and disputes. Those laws include allowing men to divorce their wives by simply uttering the word “talaq,” or divorce in Urdu, three times — and not necessarily consecutively, but at any time, and by any medium including telephone, text message or social media post.Some women are fed up with what they say is an archaic and patriarchal rule that too often leaves them destitute. Muslim women do not have the same right, and those left by their husbands have no claim to alimony though they can collect a small payment for three months after divorce. “They have been divorced by speed post, by sending out letters. Some have just simply said “talaq” three times and the divorce has happened,” Noorjehan Safia Niaz, co-founder of Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, or the Indian Muslim Women’s Movement. The movement has been fighting for equal laws for Muslim women for six years. “There are cases where women don’t even know that they’ve been divorced,” Niaz said. “The children are without any support. So, it has become very convenient for Muslim men to just say talaq thrice and it is just so easy for him to get the woman out of his life.” Legal experts say the practice is unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court has been pushing for uniformity in laws. In 1985, the top court ruled ordered a man to pay alimony to his elderly wife, after verbally divorcing and abandoning her. … (The Economic Times 3/7/16)

IUML opposes move for uniform civil code (7)

Expressing protest against the move of the Union government to implement a uniform civil code, the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) on Saturday made it clear that it would soon team up with like-minded organisations and personalities in the country to project their apprehensions on the plan and win a favourable action. IUML secretary E.T. Mohammed Basheer, who explained the party’s stance on the issue at a press conference here, alleged that it was part of a communal agenda endorsed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Even the educational sector in the country was severely communalised with odd reforms and actions, he said. According to Mr. Basheer, the Union government was even reluctant to discuss the findings of the T.S.R. Subramanian committee on new education policy. “The BJP wanted to play communal card in all sectors with the hope that it will fetch them political gains,” he said. The IUML leader said a two-day national executive committee meeting of his party scheduled to commence in New Delhi on July 20 would discuss the concerns of all religious minorities on the uniform civil code and formulate a common opinion for joint action. “The IUML has already submitted a memorandum to the President with signatures of thousands of citizens demanding the removal of Article 44 (secure a uniform civil code) from the Directive Principles of the State policy to ensure justice for religious minorities,” he said. (The Hindu 3/7/16)

IS anti-Islamic, they are not Muslims, says Lucknow Imam (7)

Lucknow: Maulana Khalid Rashid Farangi Mahli, Imam of Aishbagh Eidgah in Lucknow, called the Islamic State (IS) as “anti-islamic” on the occasion of Eid on Thursday. He claimed that those who attack pious places like Madina in the month of Ramzan cannot call themselves “Islamic”. “The acts of IS are in no way in accordance to the preaching of Islam. They are anti-Islamic. They are not Muslims,” the Imam told The Indian Express. Condemning attacks in Bangladesh, including the one at the biggest Eid gathering in Sholakia on Thursday, Farangi Mahli said: “Attacks (happening) in the month of Ramzan, including one in the pious city of Medina. In most of these attacks, 90 per cent of the victims are Muslims. This does raise a serious question mark and requires an investigation.”He said: “Ramzan is the most pious month for Muslims and Mecca-Medina are considered the most pious cities… Kharab se kharab Musalman bhi kabhi aisa nahi karega (Even bad Muslims won’t do such a thing)… (Certain elements) are at work to defame Muslims and Islam, which should be investigated.” Farangi has appealed to the United Nations to identify those behind such conspiracies. The Aishbagh Eidgah, meanwhile, for the first time made arrangements for women to offer namaz on Eid. “This year, several controversies have surfaced concerning Muslims. First, there was a controversy regarding talaq… then on other issues, it was projected that ulemas were hurdles in the way of progress of Muslim women… The idea is to give a rest to all controversies,” said the Imam. (Indian Express 8/7/16)

BSP to field 100 Muslims in 2017 UP elections – Times of India (7)

BIJNOR: The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) on Saturday announced its decision to field five Muslim candidates out of eight assembly seats in Bijnor. Mayawati’s apparent attempt at combining Dalit-Muslim votes has sent the ruling Samajwadi Party into a tizzy. The SP, on the other hand, has only fielded four Muslim candidates for the district’s eight seats. Notably, BSP has tentatively decided to field over 100 Muslim candidates, its highest ever, in the 2017 polls – majority of them in the western Uttar Pradesh. Bijnor has a significant Muslim population. Many assembly segments here have more than a lakh Muslims and over 50,000 Dalit votes. In the last assembly elections, BSP had won four seats in the district while BJP and SP got two each.BSP’s Moradabad mandal coordinator Jitendra Sagar said, “The decision to field five Muslim candidates here was taken by party supremo Mayawati. It will surely benefit our party’s prospects in the 2017 polls.” According to a recent report, BSP has tentatively decided to field over 100 Muslim candidates, its highest ever, in the 2017 polls – majority of them in the western Uttar Pradesh.SP’s district president Anil Yadav, however, said, “BSP’s strategy will not impact our party. Our foundation is solid. Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav is working very well. Our party will retain power in the next polls.” (Times of India 10/7/16)

Muslim groups, NGOs rally around Zakir Naik (7)

Pune: Several Muslim groups, NGOs and citizens from the city have joined hands to support Dr Zakir Naik, whose speech reportedly inspired one of the five Bangladeshi militants involved in the July 1 terror attack in Dhaka. The Maharashtra Action Committee (MAC) and Kul Jamaat E Tanzeem held two separate meetings on Sunday in Kondhwa and Camp area of Pune, in which members of at least 25 organisations participated. On Tuesday evening, a joint meeting of members of all these organisations was conducted for deciding an action plan to raise support for Naik.Azar Tamboli, general secretary of the MAC, said, “We do have differences on certain issues with Zakir Naik, but the way he is being targeted now is wrong. There is no evidence about his involvement in any terror activities. Putting a ban on him is against the freedom of speech and expression. So we have decided to support him.”“The NSA says Wahhabi Islam is not good for India. This is a wrong statement. Majority of the Muslims follow Wahhabism, which does not promote terrorism. Comparing Sufism and Wahhabism is an attempt to create a divide between the Muslim community, which is already facing major problems, particularly on issues like terrorism. Many innocent Muslims were arrested by investigation agencies in terror cases. In such a scenario, we have decided during the meeting to run a campaign for uniting all Muslims,” he said. “We would also be gathering support from more NGOs and individuals, including the progressive socialist groups. We have spoken to retired Justice B G Kolse Patil for seeking his support. We are likely to stage a protest coming Friday against the media trial and false campaign against Naik. We would launch a massive campaign on social media too and awareness would be created in this regard within the Muslim community and even among non-Muslims,” he added. ….  (Indian Express 14/7/16)

Muslims facing worst ever challenge by ISIS, says Maulana Mahmood Madani (7)

NEW DELHI: Declaring that terrorism will not be tolerated, Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind (JUH) general secretary Maulana Mahmood Madani on Thursday said that the ISIS was inflicting massive harm upon Islam and the Muslim ummah. He was speaking at the Eid Milan reception which was attended by Vice-President M Hamid Ansari, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Ajit Doval NSA among other dignitaries. Madani said, “Although Eid Milan was an occasion to share our jubilation with each other, the current national and international scenario compelled us to share some concerns about the growing menace of terrorism that needs urgent response. Killing innocent people and spreading anarchy is against Islam. Jamiat representing the true spirit of Islam cannot tolerate any kind of terrorism and barbarism.” “Committing oppression in the name of Islam is a double crime which cannot be condoned,” Madani added while naming ISIS which is according to him “inflicting massive harm upon Islam and Muslim ummah, worst ever within the fourteen centuries of Islamic history”.Madani also expressed his resolve that he and his organisation will never allow ISIS to get its foothold in India and will launch all possible struggles against it. (Times of India 14/7/16)

100 Muslims detained in Jharkhand for rallying in Zakir Naik’s support (7)

RANCHI: Around 100 people, mostly men, who organized a peaceful demonstration on Saturday at Patan in Sahebganj district, 530km from here, to back controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik who is at the center of a brewing controversy after Bangladesh asked India to probe his speeches which reportedly inspired a militant in Bangladesh, were detained by police. It was the second such demonstration for Zakir Naik, the last one was organized in Pakur on Wednesday. The participants of the demonstration were mostly locals who raised slogans in support of Naik and protested against the “media trials” of the Islamic fundamentalist. Organized by Hafiz Abdul Salim, the local representative of Popular Front of India, the march was passing through the local marketplace when police detained all the participants. Sahebganj SP P Murugan said the march was organized without district administration permission. “The demonstration had the potential to cause the breakdown of law and order and create tension. In a preventive move the demonstrators were detained,” said Murugan. Besides Zakir Naik slogans were also raised in support of AIMIM chief Assasuddin Owaisi. The protestors claimed that the central government was anti-Muslim and was trying to suppress country’s Muslim leaders. Situated in the north-east of Jharkhand Sahebganj and Pakur have a sizeable population of Muslims. The demonstrations in Pakur like Sahebganj’s were spontaneous. The demonstrators held a banner of the Popular Front of India emblazoned with the photograph of Zakir Naik. A senior police official claimed a possible clash between the pro Naik demonstrators and activists of ABVP was averted by the police’s timely intervention. “A group of ABVP activists arrived at the same spot where the Muslims were demonstrating but there was no clash because the demonstrators were detained and taken away,” SP said. … (Times of India 16/7/16)

Indian Muslim women defy tradition – and men – to be judges (7)

Mumbai: Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), an Indian Muslim women’s rights organisation, is training women to be qazis, or judges, a role traditionally reserved for men, amid growing demand for more representation for women. The organisation is training its first intake of 30 women in Quranic law, constitutional law and gender rights. The year-long programme aims to produce a steady stream of female qazis across India, its co-founder said.The Indian constitution allows Muslims, the country’s biggest religious minority, to regulate matters such as marriage, divorce and inheritance through their own civil code. The qazi, usually a hereditary title, plays an important role by solemnising marriage and finalising divorce and settlements. “Traditionally, qazis have all been men, and their judgment has never been questioned, even if many are unfair to women,” said Zakia Soman, a co-founder of BMMA in Mumbai. “But it’s important to have women hear and represent women who are in a vulnerable position. Besides, there is no bar on women qazis as per the Quran,” she said. The move comes at a time of growing dissent against laws that activists say discriminate against Muslim women. A survey by BMMA last year showed more than 90 percent of Muslim women want to end the “triple talaq” divorce tradition and polygamy. Last month, the Supreme Court said it would examine how far it could interfere in Muslim laws, as it heard a plea to end the practice allowing Muslim men to divorce their wives by saying “talaq” three times. Muslims make up 13 percent of India’s 1.2 billion population, yet government data show they are among some of the most excluded and marginalised communities. The women being trained to be qazis are largely community workers and activists from states including Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Bihar, Soman said. There are some female qazis in Muslim-majority Malaysia and Indonesia. Women qazis in India can help prevent child marriage, ensure that a woman marries willingly, and that a divorce is only granted after a period of reconciliation, and with fair terms for the woman, Soman said. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board, a non-governmental institution that oversees the application of Muslim personal law in the country, has criticised the female qazis. “Women don’t have the right to be a qazi,” said Maulana Khalid Rashid Farangi Mahali, secretary of AIMPLB. “Besides, there is no need – there are enough men who are qazis. So it’s completely unnecessary,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. But female trainee Safia Akhtar said there was a need for women qazis. “There are many grave injustices against Muslim women, and we deserve a say in matters that concern us,” said Akhtar in the city of Bhopal. “If women can be prime ministers and pilots in this country, then why can’t we also be qazis?” (Indian Express 20/7/16)

Pro-Naik protests worry MHA, but it can do little (7)

New Delhi/Kochi/Jaipur: Central security agencies are watching with concern the recent protests organised by Popular Front of India (PFI) in Bihar and Rajasthan in support of Mumbai-based Salafist preacher Zakir Naik, who is under the lens for his alleged pro-terror rants. Sources in the intelligence agencies say PFI has decided to throw its weight behind Naik, who it feels has done no wrong and is being “targeted” by the government. Not only this, it has decided to take up Naik’s cause and mobilize Muslims for protests and rallies across various centres against the government’s plans to go after the televangelist as well as his NGO Islamic Research Foundation (IRF). The home ministry realises that even as it keeps tabs on these pro-Naik protests, it can do little to stop PFI unless a prima facie terror case is made out against the preacher, who is now out of the country. The ministry has already sought the law ministry’s opinion on whether Naik could be booked under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act for the pro-terror content identified in some of his speeches. “Only after Naik is charged with instigating his followers to take up terrorism can we act against PFI,” said an officer. Incidentally, PFI has been under the scanner of security agencies ever since it was involved in chopping of the palm of a college professor in Thodupuzha (Kerala) in 2010. At the time, a ban on PFI, given that many of its cadres had been associated with the banned SIMI, was discussed. But the proposal was shelved as just 1-2 cases were not enough to ban an outfit under UAPA. But PFI has been under watch. “It has been noticed that the campaign and issues taken up by PFI are more communal in nature than those related to terror. For example, it has been agitating on Babri demolition, Gujarat riots and lack of legal aid to Muslims,” said an intelligence official. … (Times of India 21/7/16)

Pak Muslims in Meerut seek citizenship (7)

MEERUT: Tahira Sultana, a citizen of Pakistan, has been living in Meerut with her family for over a decade now. She is among the 40 Pakistani Muslims in the city who have applied for Indian citizenship and are awaiting approval. Tahira who was originally from India but shifted to Karachi after her marriage to a relative there, does not want to go back to Pakistan. “I somehow did not like Pakistan, so I came back with my family to India a decade ago. I had been living here on long-term visa and now have applied for Indian citizenship,” she said. Defying popular perception, it is not only minorities but also a number of Muslim citizens of Pakistan have refused to return to their native country, declaring it a “dangerous place”. Many of them have been living in Meerut for several years. According to a letter from a senior intelligence officer in Meerut, there are 42 Pakistani citizens, including two Hindus, who have applied for citizenship. Their candidature was recently cleared by the Local Intelligence Unit (LIU) in its report to the District Magistrate of Meerut. According to the letter, a copy of which is with The Hindu , LIU officer V.K. Sharma has recommended Indian citizenship to 33 of the 42 Pakistani citizens in the first stage of investigation. Santkauri, one of the two Hindus on the list, came to India in 1983 where she got married to one Darshan Lal. Since then she has been staying in the city on a long-term visa. She told The Hindu that “most of her family members had shifted to India and were living in different parts of Uttar Pradesh.” Most of the Muslims in the list are those whose parents had migrated to Pakistan during Partition, but who later returned to India in the early and late eighties due to reasons like business and marriage. “My parents belonged to U.P., but they shifted to Karachi during Partition. I got married to one of my cousins here and that’s how I came to Meerut. Now I do not want to go back to Pakistan. India is a much more peaceful place to stay. Besides, I have got my work here,” said Mohammad Aslam, who stays in the Lisadhi Gate area of Meerut. (The Hindu 23/7/16)

‘Hindu exodus’ politics will cost BJP Muslim votes: Party leader (7)

ALIGARH: The tension that gripped Babri Mandi here recently over alleged “Hindu exodus” of eight families can cost BJP its Muslim votes from the area, said a local leader in Aligarh. The fact that Muslims in Babri Mandi vote for BJP came to light when former president of Alpsankhyak Morcha, Rashid Pehelwan, told media that this will backfire in elections and cost them votes from here. He said, “There are some people in BJP who are practising this kind of divisive politics for their own political gains and this will harm the party in the long run. The Muslims of Babri Mandi are BJP voters. There are 500 houses here and most of the Muslims here have voted for the party in the past. The party is not bad, it’s the people and their motives that spoil it. On the one hand Muslims are moving towards BJP and on the other hand petty leaders are harming this movement by low-standard politics.” Rashid has been associated with BJP for 18 years. From being former president of the Morchas he is now member of the state working committee of the party. In the FIR for rioting filed by Ravinder Gupta, father-in-law of the local girl who was allegedly molested, Rashid too has been named along with some of his relatives. In his opinion a minor incident was blown out of proportion for political gains. “In Babri Mandi people from both the communities stay together. An issue of bike collision and reaction led to this kind of politics.”  (Times of India 25/7/16)

Azam Khan seeks Sushma’s intervention on visa issue to Haj pilgrims (7)

Lucknow: Minority Affairs minister Azam Khan  has sought the intervention of Union External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj for expediting the issue of Visa stamped passports to Haj pilgrims. In a letter to Swaraj, Khan said that Haj pilgrimmage is beginning from August 4and so far only 20 per cent of the passports have been stamped with visa.  He said that the delay in the issue of visa stamped passport  is certain to affect the timely movement of Haj pilgrims. Drawing the attention of the Foriegn minister to inconvenience caused to the pilgrims of west UP, Khan said the Central Haj Committee has refused to post its staff at the Haj House in Ghaziabad. “Due to this, these pilgrims will  have to go to  the office of Delhi Haj Committee in Turkman gate area for obtaining the passport, ticket and identifrication ring. They will have to return to Ghazaibad and  undertake yet another bus journey from Ghaziabad to Delhi airport,” he pointed out. Khan said that at the Haj House in Ghaziabad, pilgrims are required to report two days before the flight.  The UP Haj Committee has made arrangements for their journey from Ghaziabad to Delhi airport andhence forcing the pilgrims of west UP to make repeated trips to Delhi was unjustified. Khan urged the Union minister to direct the Central Haj Committee to post staff at Ghaziabad as is posted in Lucknow and Varanasi. He added if the former was unable to post staff then the UP Haj Committee could shoulder the responsibility. (The Pioneer 27/7/16)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

Kerala church welcomes move towards Uniform Civil Code (7)

Kochi, July 3 (IANS) The Syro Malabar Catholic Church in Kerala on Sunday welcomed the Narendra Modi government’s pitch for a Uniform Civil Code in the country. Addressing reporters here, Cardinal Maran Mar George Alencherry said that he welcomes the decision of the central government to go ahead with it. “This should take place through discussions and a consensus should emerge as ours is a hugely diverse country,” said the Cardinal. The Uniform Civil Code is intended to replace personal laws based on the scriptures and customs of each major religious community in India with a common set governing every citizen. The Bharatiya Janata Party in its 2014 parliamentary election manifesto had promised the Uniform Civil Code. But Leader of Opposition in the Kerala Assembly and former Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala told reporters on Sunday that the Uniform Civil Code will spell the deathknell of the nation’s secular fabric. “With the upcoming Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, this is a ploy, but this is going to place people on different decks. This is an agenda of the RSS that the BJP government is trying to implement and it will cause serious repercussions,” he said. But BJP’s state unit chief Kummanem Rajasekheran on Sunday said those who oppose the Uniform Civil Code are those who stand against the growth of the country. “It’s rather strange that some oppose even a discussion which is mooted on UCC. It appears that the Indian Union Muslim League is still living in the days of the Partition and it is unfortunate that the Congress party is supporting them. This is not meant to force the Hindu ideology on others,” said Rajasekheran in a press release issued in the state capital. (New Indian Express 3/7/16)

Is divorce granted by Church considered valid under Indian common law? (7)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court today agreed to expedite hearing on a PIL to examine the issue whether divorce granted by a Church, set up under its personal law, could be considered valid under the Indian common law. A bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justice D Y Chandrachud allowed an interim application moved for early hearing in the case after former Attorney General and senior advocate Soli Sorabjee, appearing for petitioner Clarence Pais, sought an urgent hearing. “The application for early hearing is allowed. Hearing of the appeal is expedited,” the bench said. Pais, an ex-president of a Catholic association in Karnataka, said when oral ‘triple talaq’ could get legal sanctity for granting divorce to Muslim couples, why could Canon law decrees not be made binding on courts of law. He had alleged that many Catholic Christians, who married after getting divorce from Christian courts, faced criminal charges of bigamy as such divorces are not recognised by the criminal and civil courts here. “It is reasonable that when the courts in India recognize dissolution of marriage (by pronouncing the word talaq three times) under Mohammedan Law which is personal law of the Muslims, the courts should also recognise for the purpose of dissolution of marriage Canon Law as the personal law of the Indian Catholics,” the plea had contended. The plea had contended that Canon Law is the personal law of the Catholics in the country and has to be applied and enforced by a criminal court while deciding a case under section 494 (bigamy) of the IPC. “This is also applicable for sanction of prosecution considered for alleged bigamy of a Catholic spouse who has married after obtaining a decree for nullity of the first marriage from the Ecclesiastical Tribunal (Christian court),” it said. The Centre, however, had opposed the plea saying Canon law could not be allowed to override Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872 and Divorce Act, 1869. “Since the power for dissolution of marriage has been vested in the court, there is no scope for any other authority including ecclesiastical tribunal to exercise power,” the government had said. (New Indian Express 4/7/16)

Catholic Bishops oppose Centre’s move on common civil code (7)

MADURAI: Tamil Nadu Bishops’ Council has expressed fears over the Centre’s reported move to bring in a common civil code, which, it felt, will negate the country’s pluralism and diversity. In a statement issued here on Thursday, Rev. Antony Pappusamy, Archbishop of Madurai, council president, said that the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Sangh Parivar were attempting to create public opinion in favour of a common civil code after they found that two other issues in their agenda – construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya and repeal of Article 370 according special status to Jammu and Kashmir – did not get support.The council was of the view that if the common civil code sought to generalise rituals unique to a faith, the uniqueness of a religion itself would become questionable. The Archbishop said that the minorities need not have any apprehension over a common civil code if it was proposed by a secular government. But a common civil code put forth by a government which believed in cultural nationalism would only be a ‘Hindu civil code’ and hence unacceptable. The statement said that it was the responsibility of a government to foster the uniqueness of every religion and its symbols, and any attempt to negate them in the name of a common code would mean negation of democracy. (The Hindu 8/7/16)

Church-parish member row over burial space (7)

Thrissur: St Thomas Church at Engandiyur in Thrissur and the members of a Christian family under it have entered into a dispute following the claims of latter that they had booked in advance a burial space for their mother in the church cemetery. The dispute has invited public attention because of its similarities with the recent controversial decision of the Jacobite parish at Attamangalam near in Kumarakom, to refuse permission to bury the maternal grandmother of Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra, at the church cemetery. While the objection to the burial of Priyanka’s grandmother was due to disputes over her families allegiance to belief systems of the church, here the dispute is over the payment of fees to the burial space. According to the members Purathoor Kittan family they had booked a space near the tomb of their father Benny who died on April 4, 1972. “Our mother Thankamma Benny had then expressed the desire that she must also be buried next to his tomb, and that is why we had booked a space next to her husband’s tomb about 40 years back, after paying the required amount to the Church,” said her son Jojius Benny Kittan. Jojius said his sister Sheeba was also buried in the church cemetery after her death on October 1, 1967. He claimed the family have lost the receipt and the church authorities have refused to issue a duplicate saying they did not have any records. He said his mother who is now 84 and is ailing now, and the doctors have informed the family her condition is serious. “Anything may happen to her anytime, and her last wish may remain unfulfilled if the church authorities remain adamant,” Jojius said. According to him the church authorities were now demanding that the family can get a permanent tomb only after paying the fresh fees which is about Rs 1.5 lakh.  When contacted the Thrissur Archdiocese authorities said the claims of the family were totally wrong. “We have checked the records and there was no proof for their claims. If we conceded this claim we will be opening the floodgates of litigations because other may also come up with similar claims without any proof,” a spokesman for the Archdiocese said.  He said Archdiocese has informed the family that they can bury their mother in the church cemetery just like others, even though they had migrated from Engandiyur. But this will be permitted if they bring a letter of consent from the priest of the parish where they are staying now. If they wanted to a permanent tomb they will have to pay the regular fees, the spokesman said. (Times of India 9/7/16)

Charges of denying funeral rites false, says Archbishop (7)

Bengaluru: Archbishop of Bengaluru Bernard Moras termed as a blatant lie the allegations of Catholic Christian Religious Rights’ Forum that they were denied permission to hold funeral rites on Monday. “The Archdiocese had made alternative arrangements to attend to the spiritual needs of the church members in the neighbouring church (St James Church, Mariyappanapalya), ever since St Paul the Hermit Church was shut down,” the archbishop said. “The agitators, however, are spreading false propaganda that the neighbouring church of St James is refusing funeral rites by housing the body of a 65-year-old Catholic woman in the canonically shut down Church of St Paul the Hermit Church in Vishwanatha Nagenahalli,” he said. “The agitators are making highly insensitive statements disturbing the peace in the community,” he said in a press release. Moras said he ordered the closure of St Paul the Hermit Church as it was binding upon him by the universal Catholic Church Law (Canon Law) and in full justification of his office as Archbishop of Bangalore Archdiocese. “Erecting of statue, bust or image of any person who is not declared ‘saint’ or ‘blessed’ is not allowed within the church premises. Even after warning, a bust of deceased Bangalore Archdiocesan priest C Selvaraj was unlawfully installed in the church violating Canonical regulations,” he mentioned. (Deccan Herald 13/7/16)

Miscreants set church door afire in Karnataka (7)

Tumakuru: Unidentified miscreants attacked a church in Tumakuru on Thursday morning, setting the door on fire. Police said the miscreants poured petrol on the main door of Tomlinson Church in Siragate and set it ablaze. Teams have been formed to trace the culprits, said SP Karthik Reddy.Philip, a church member, said this is the first time the church has been attacked. “We have been coming here to pray for 60 years. The church is surrounded by peace-loving citizens. We don’t restrict anyone from entering. In the morning, residents living in the vicinity come to walk in the premises,” he said. The church recently celebrated its 86th anniversary. Deputy commissioner Mohan Raj visited the church and promised to provide security. He said damage control will be done. “We won’t allow such incidents to happen. We will take steps to avoid them,” he said. Tumakuru police have registered a case. (Times of India 15/7/16)

Prayers answered: No more a long wait for Christian divorce (7)

NEW DELHI: The government plans to make Christian divorce laws more women-friendly by reducing the period of separation required from two years to one. The Prime Minister’s Office is consulting a wide range of stakeholders before giving it the nod. The Divorce (Amendment) Bill 2016 is likely to be introduced in the Winter Session of parliament, sources told The Sunday Standard. A draft cabinet note has been prepared on the bill, which seeks to amend the Divorce Act 1869, to bring Christian women at par with other communities like Hindus and Parsis. The note has been circulated to all ministries, including Law and Justice, Home and Women and Child Development. The British era ‘Divorce Act of 1869’ is an Act to amend the law relating to divorce and matrimonial issues of Christians. It is applicable to the whole of India except Jammu and Kashmir. Christians file for divorce under Section 10 A (1) of the Divorce Act, which prescribes that a petition for dissolution of marriage by mutual consent can be presented before a court only after a judicial separation of two years. The Supreme Court had last year questioned why Christian women should stay separated for two years when others only wait for a year. “It does not make sense to us. It is a pure question of law and you (government) should have acted on your own,” the court had observed. In the past, the Law Commission has recommended amendments to the Act to make it more women-friendly. (The Sunday Standard 17/7/16)

Christians injured in clash in Chhattisgarh (7)

RAIPUR: Tension cropped up at a village in Dhamtari district of Chhattisgarh after a group of people attacked Christians, reportedly injuring two of them late on Sunday evening. Chhattisgarh Christian association president Arun Pannalal told TOI that the incident took place at village Kamarud where a group of people stormed a house and took away three people and assaulted them. While two of them were later found injured, there is no information about the whereabouts of another person so far. Inspector General of police (Raipur range) Pradeep Gupta told TOI that the incident was of personal nature and does not have communal overtones. ” Police has taken prompt action,” he added. Dhamtari police maintained “it’s a minor incident of clash over old enmity. Some elements are trying to exaggerate and spreading rumours”.However, reports said one Umesh Sahu, against whom a case of religious conversion is already pending, had a fight with someone over money. Later, a group of people attacked him and another person. Both of them are injured and have been hospitalized. (Times of India 18/7/16)

Making continuous efforts to locate Father Tom, will bring him home: Sushma Swaraj (7)

New Delhi: After the purported video of kidnapped Father Tom being tortured by the ISIS cropped up on social media, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday asserted that the Centre was doing everything in its power to bring the Malayalee priest back home safely. Speaking in the Parliament on Wednesday on the matter, Swaraj assured that the government was making same efforts for Father Tom as it did in the case of Father Alexis, who was brought back from Afghanistan. “We are in touch with the countries which can assist us in locating him not only at my level, but the Prime Minister himself held discussions during his visits. We are making continuous efforts to locate Father Tom,” she said. However, Swaraj added that the authenticity of the video on Facebook would be verified first.Earlier, a video clipping allegedly of Catholic priest from Kerala Father Tom Uzhunnalil, who was abducted by the Islamic State militants in Yemen, surfaced on Facebook. Four months since his abduction, the video clipping shows the blind-folded priest getting thrashed by unidentified men in an unidentified location. The video has reportedly been uploaded from a Twitter account belonging to Taji Non and carried a message: “I got a vid on WhatsApp for Fr Tom Uzhunnalil under torture. “Besides, a purported image of Father Tom shows him sporting a beard. It also carries a header, “Fr Tom`s entreaty will be uploaded soon ..! will also be uploaded on Facebook.”The person in the video footage bears an uncanny resemblance to Father Tom. (Zee News 21/7/16)

Christian educationists oppose draft edu policy over Vedic leanings (7)

SALEM: In their feedback to the draft Educational Policy 2016, the Tamil Nadu Priests Council and TN and Pondicherry Nuns Council have sought fundamental changes in the proposed policy, calling it a challenge to constitutional guarantees. Claiming to represent Christian community’s 300 years of educational service, the feedback has observations under sub heads of vedic education and gurukul, sanskritisation, compulsory yoga classes; segregation of student community; A final blow to village schools; education system that enslaves teachers; concentration of power; system with no role for minorities etc. The feedback note charges that the draft policy note released on June 30 was not given in regional languages. The five-member committee headed by T S R Subramaniyan had only one educationist, an RSS ideologue, on board, they claimed. After making observations under the above sub heads the Priests and Nuns Councils have made the following demands: The draft New Educational Policy must be dropped completely. The government must depart from the idea of introducing values of Vedic education and Gurkul system which are based on Brahmanical and the Varna principle of social system. The Central government must refrain from infringing on powers of the State by compelling Sanskrit language and must enable development of languages of the states. A new draft educational policy must be framed with the help of educationists, legalists and experts from all fields. The new policy must reflect the country’s diversity, secular and socialist character, brotherhood, social justice, respect State’s individuality, decentralization of power, democratic and other constitutional guarantees. The locus standi of minorities’ educational service must be ensured under the Constitution Article 30 (1). The new educational policy must take cognizance of various judgments of the Supreme Court that have upheld the above constitutional guarantee. (New Indian Express 26/7/16)

Bishops seek review of New Education Policy (7)

MADURAI: The Tamil Nadu Bishops’ Council (TNBC) and Tamil Nadu Latin Bishops’ Council (TNLBC) have called for a review of the draft New Education Policy 2016 by eminent educationists. In a statement issued here on Tuesday, Most Rev. Antony Pappusamy, president of the councils, claimed that it was common knowledge that a policy of a Bharatiya Janata Party-led government would not be secular and inclusive. Hence, time was needed to study the New Education Policy in depth and understand it as an inclusive document. The councils, the Archbishop of Madurai said, were not prepared to believe that the policy was formulated in consultation with people of the lower rungs of society. The first paragraph of the policy itself speaks about Vedic education and gurukul system, the statement said and pointed out that the service rendered by Christians to education in the country had no mention in it. The TNBC and TNLBC apprehended that permission for foreign universities would pave way for commercialisation of higher education and centralised guidelines for teacher recruitment would be infringement on the rights of States. The councils would accept the policy only after getting convinced that it contained features that would pave way for emancipation of oppressed people, it said. (The Hindu 27/7/16)

Cardinal condemns killing of French priest (7)

Kochi, Jul 27 () Spiritual head of Syro-Malabar church Cardinal George Alencherry today condemned the murder of a priest in a church in northern France by Islamic State, voicing concern over religious radicalism “misleading and inspiring youth to do anti-national activities in India.” “The brutal killing of Fr Jacques Hamel as he held a church service has sent shock waves throughout the world,” he said here. Two attackers yesterday slit the throat of the 86-year-old priest celebrating Mass in a church in France, killing him and gravely injuring one of the worshippers present, before being shot dead by police. Alencherry said the incident occurred as France was already reeling under the killing of 84 people in Nice this month and a string of other deadly attacks which claimed several lives. The Cardinal also expressed concern over incidents in India wherein people following Christianty were “weaned away” from it to join the extremist ideologies. “It should be seen seriously that hectic activities are on to wean away people who follow Christian faith, radicalise them and inspire them to join anti-national activities,” he said.His statement assumes significance in view of reports of alleged forcible conversion to Islam at the behest of terror outfit Islamic State. Some Keralite Christian youths, including a girl Merin Jacob from Kochi, had converted to Islam before they went missing in Middle East. The senior priest also urged the government to step up efforts to ensure the release of a Keralite priest, Tom Uzhunnalil, from the captivity of extremists in Yemen.Condemning the terrorist attacks targeting Christians in many parts of the world, Alencherry directed that special prayers be held in all Syro-Malabar churches on July 31 in the wake of challenges posed against world peace and Christian faith. (Times of India 28/7/16)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

 ‘Uncertainty about aid hampers return of Sri Lankan refugees’ (13)

COLOMBO: Chief Minister of the Northern Province C. V. Wigneswaran has said that a large number of Tamils, displaced from Sri Lanka during the civil war and now living in India as refugees, are prepared to come back but the uncertainty about assistance is preventing them from returning. “Those who have returned from India are saying that they have not received any aid from the government or non-governmental organisations. When those in possession of land permits visit their lands, they find that people from southern parts of the country have occupied their properties. They are also accusing the Army of supporting such occupants,” Mr. Wigneswaran said, adding that children of the refugees who were born in India were encountering difficulties in getting government jobs in Sri Lanka, despite having the necessary educational qualifications. The Chief Minister was addressing the gathering of landless, internally-displaced persons at an event in Chithambarapuram, about 20 km from Vavuniya town, on Thursday. The event was held to distribute temporary land permits to the IDPs, who have been allotted land within the site of the Chithambarapuram camp. The IDPs, who lived in Tamil Nadu as refugees in the 1980s and returned to Sri Lanka in the 1990s, originally hail from the Northern and Eastern provinces, as well as the hill country region of Sri Lanka. As many as 194 families are living in the camp for over 20 years. Demanding that proper rehabilitation schemes be formulated for refugee-returnees, he said such families should be provided livelihood assistance until they became self-employed. In respect of those who were born in India, the Sri Lankan authorities should issue them birth certificates and national identity cards, apart from documents, recognising educational qualifications that the refugee-returnees had acquired in India. According to the 2015-2016 annual report of the Ministry of Home Affairs of the Indian government, as many as 3,04,269 Sri Lankan refugees entered India between July 1983 and August 2012 in the wake of “ethnic violence and disturbed conditions in Sri Lanka.” While 99,469 refugees were repatriated to Sri Lanka up to March, 1995, there was “no organised repatriation” after March 1995. As on October 1, 2015, there were 64,368 refugees at 109 refugees’ camps in Tamil Nadu and one camp in Odisha. Besides, about 37,000 refugees were staying outside the camps, after getting themselves registered at nearby police stations, the annual report said. Referring to the participation of the Central government’s Rehabilitation and Resettlement Minister D.M. Swaminathan in the event, the Chief Minister, who made public his differences on the issue of 65,000 houses with the Central Minister in Jaffna a few months ago in the presence of President Maithripala Sirisena, said there was “no doubt” that the North would get help from Mr. Swaminathan till the latter was the Resettlement Minister. (The Hindu 2/7/16)

UN and partners warn of growing poverty for Syrian refugees (13)

New York, July 5 : While significant progress has been made in providing assistance, the number of Syrian refugees living in poverty continues to rise in host countries in the region and access to basic services remains a critical challenge, a new United Nations report warned on Tuesday. The mid-year report of the 2016 Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan, released by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and more than 200 international and national actors, examines progress this year in helping refugees and host communities in Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Egypt. With the Syria conflict entering its sixth year, host governments and communities continue to bear a heavy political, economic, social and security burden. Public institutions are under extreme pressure to deliver basic services to an increasingly large number of vulnerable people, testing the limits of existing infrastructure. The report finds that with the generous support of donors, partners in the Plan have in 2016 delivered cash assistance to 102,853 households, food to 2,035,767 individuals, 1,090,795 primary health care consultations, shelter assistance to 25,148 households and other forms of emergency assistance to refugees and host populations. Support was provided to 5,603 people to find employment. A key aim of the Plan is to invest in national services and systems in the host countries, which are under increased strain, and partners report that almost 200 education and health facilities were supported. There was also promising news in the livelihoods sector, with work permits issued by Jordan to Syrians and a new regulation allowing Syrian refugee access to employment in Turkey. These positive initiatives, supported at Februarys London Conference on Syria, need to be matched by the international community with continuing generous funding and responsibility sharing. Despite this progress, the report warns of growing poverty. It says that in Lebanon, the average debt held by refugee households has increased over the first quarter of 2016 and the number of people living below the poverty line has risen to 70 per cent compared to 50 per cent in 2014. In Jordan, 90 per cent of registered Syrian refugees in urban areas are below the national poverty line, while over 67 per cent of families are living in debt. In Egypt, some 62,000 refugees are living in poverty. The report notes that 30 per cent or USD 1.38 million, of the USD 4.55 billion sought by UN agencies, inter-governmental organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) under the Plan, had been received as of 31 May. (New kerala 5/7/16)

Govt plans to amend Citizenship Act to give succour to refugees (13)

New Delhi: Keeping its promise to provide succour to refugees from neighbouring countries, the NDA government is contemplating to amend the Citizenship Act so that Hindus and Sikhs, who had entered India without valid documents could be granted Long Term Visa and citizenship. The issue was discussed threadbare at a high-level meeting chaired by Home Minister Rajnath Singh and attended by Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar besides others. There are thousands of Hindus and Sikhs who have entered India after facing religious persecution in countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan without any valid document.These refugees have been facing difficulty in getting Long Term Visa (LTV) or Citizenship and the existing law does not allow anyone granting Indian nationality if he or she can not show proof of documents on country of birth. “Hence, the government plans to amend the Citizenship Act so that such refugees could be granted LTV and citizenship without any hindrance,” a Home Ministry official said. In its election manifesto before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP had declared India as “a natural home for persecuted Hindus” who “shall be welcome to seek refuge”. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while campaigning in 2014 had made a distinction between Hindu and Muslim refugees from Bangladesh and arguing that the former should be accommodated. “We have a responsibility towards Hindus who are harassed and suffer in other countries. India is the only place for them. We will have to accommodate them here,” Modi had said. Ever since the Modi government came to power, several concessions have been offered to the persecuted Hindus and Sikhs of the neighbouring countries that include issuing Long Term Visa, allowing such people to buy residential properties, procuring PAN cards, Aadhar card, driving licence, opening bank accounts, lowering of visa fees besides others. Besides, the Home Ministry also organised special camps at district level in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana and NCT of Delhi for granting LTV and citizenships. Children of refugees on LTV are allowed to take admission in schools/ colleges/ universities/ technical and professional institutions under foreigner quota without permission from the state government/UT administration. State governments/ UT administration are empowered to grant permission to such people to engage themselves in employment of purely private nature. State governments/UT administration delegated powers for services like grant of visit to additional places, grant of No Objection to Return to India (NORI) and grant of permission to change in mode of travel and port of exit. (Indian Express 6/7/16)

Bru militants to trade guns for development (13)

Silchar, July 6: Bru Revolutionary Army of Union, a militant group active in Barak Valley, today said it would eschew violence if the government ensures development in tribal belts. In a letter released to The Telegraph via a mail, Rajesh Chorkhy, president of the outfit, said it choose the path of violence to highlight the lack of development and apathy. “Reang people are not born to commit crime, taking weapons like AK-47s and M-16s in their hands instead of pen and books. As human beings, we also have the desire to live like the people of other communities. But we are unfortunate that we were treated like animals, being deprived of all rights,” he added. The outfit had recently kidnapped Mono Singh, a forest officer in Hailakandi district, but released him after a few days. “Providing land deeds to the tribal community people has been pending for the past six years and therefore with a view to raise our voice, we had to take such step. I apologise to Singh,” Chorkhy added. He thanked chief minister Sarbanada Sonowal for giving priority to their demand. “There was no one to listen to our cries and it was one of the main reasons behind taking up arms for the sake of the Reang community,” he said. The outfit hoped that the new government in Assam would work for the development of tribal areas. “The tribal villages are not connected with roadways, electricity and drinking water facility even after 69 years of Independence,” he added. Chorkhy in his letter mentioned that government jobs should be given to tribal people for their uplift. He alleged that there were many Anganwadi teachers deployed in tribal areas who got a salary without going to schools. “Nutritional food items for the children were never distributed,” he added. The outfit urged the district administration to take steps to bring development to the tribal areas, rooting out corruption and anomalies. (The Telegraph 7/7/16)

Thousands fleeing violent clashes in Central African Republic – UN refugee agency (13)

New York, July 8 :The United Nations refugee agency on Friday said that more than six thousand people from the Central African Republic (CAR) have fled into Chad and Cameroon to escape renewed tension and violent clashes since mid-June. Refugees arriving in the two neighbouring countries, which already host tens of thousands of refugees from CAR, said they had seen killings, kidnappings, looting and the torching of their homes, Melissa Fleming, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told the regular press briefing in Geneva. Most fled direct attacks on their villages while some said they had run away fearing the fighting would come to their homes. People reported the presence of heavily armed fighters. The exodus from CAR began on 12 June when clashes erupted between livestock herders and local arable farmers in and around the north-west town of Ngaoundaye, Ouham Pende region. Thus far, more than 5,643 refugees have been registered in the villages of Sourouh and Mini in southern Chad. Screening and registration of new arrivals is continuing. A further 555 refugees have crossed to Yamba village in eastern Cameroon. The fighting this year has also affected a further 25,000 to 30,000 people within CAR, including many internally displaced in addition to those fleeing. New arrivals said many people had fled to the bush and might try to cross borders if the situation does not improve, said Fleming. UNHCR shares growing international concern about the displacement and the rising tension and clashes, including in Bangui. She further said that while most of those seeking refuge are women, children and the elderly, more men are fleeing and leaving behind their livelihoods. In Chad, where people have been crossing despite the border being officially closed, about two thirds of arrivals were under 18 years of age and 450 of them unaccompanied or separated from their families. UNHCR protection staff identified more than 20 per cent of those arriving as vulnerable with specific needs. Some had health problems, including malaria, respiratory infections and malnutrition. They are arriving in a poor state; exhausted, weak and hungry with many traumatized. These people, crammed into structures provided by the village host community, need urgent aid, including shelter, food and medical care, added the UNHCR spokesperson. The latest violence comes barely six months after the election of President Faustin Archange Touadera ushered in hopes of lasting peace after three years of escalated conflict that left thousands dead and almost one million displaced. … (New Kerala 8/7/16)

Heavy fighting in South Sudan capital, many killed (13)

JUBA (South Sudan): Renewed gunfights broke out across South Sudan’s capital on Sunday between forces loyal to the president and those of the vice-president, officials said Sunday, causing widespread casualties and raising fears that the country is returning to civil war. The fighting hit a UN camp for displaced people hit by the violence, according to witnesses. “The condition is really very bad. We have a lot of casualties this side, I think around 50 to 60 besides those of yesterday,” said Budbud Chol who oversees security at a clinic in the base. “We have civilian casualties. We have rocket-propelled grenades that have landed in the camp which has wounded eight people.” At least one person has died in the camp, he said, but he did not know about casualties outside where the fighting is heavy. Government forces attacked a rebel base in the Jebel area of the capital Sunday morning, said William Gatjiath Deng, a spokesman for the rebel forces. “Three helicopter gunships have just come now and bombed our side,” he said. The army confirmed the Sunday clashes but it is not clear how the fighting started, said army spokesman Lul Ruai Koang, who is in the SPLA general headquarters at Bilpham. The fighting appears to be mainly in two areas: Jebel, where there is one opposition base and a UN base which houses thousands of internally displaced people, and in Gudele, where the rebels have another opposition base, including Machar’s compound. There have been huge explosions in Gudele and people are leaving the area by foot, said a resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear for her safety. “I’ve gotten calls that I should leave but there was so much gunfire nearby I decided to stay in,” she said. United Nations security radio reported fighting near the house of army chief of staff Paul Malong. “The situation in Juba has significantly deteriorated,” said a statement by the United States embassy. “There is serious fighting between government and opposition forces, including near the airport, UN mission locations, Jebel and elsewhere throughout Juba. US citizens in Juba should remain vigilant … shelter in a safe location, preferably away from doors and windows, and avoid non-essential movements.” The UN mission in South Sudan is on a high security alert with no movement of UN personnel whatsoever, said Shantal Persaud, spokeswoman for the UN mission. Sunday’s fighting is a resumption of the conflict on Friday in which more than 100 people died. A precarious calm was restored on Saturday — the day South Sudan was to celebrate its fifth independence day — that was shattered by heavy gunfire Sunday. … (Times of India 10/7/16)

Order to shift Lankan refugee (13)

Madurai: The Madras High Court Bench here on Monday directed ‘Q’ Branch police to shift Sri Lankan refugee K. Dhayabararaj from a camp in Tiruchi to Mandapam in Ramanathapuram district where his wife D. Udayakala and three children were residing. Justices K.K. Sasidharan and B. Gokuldas passed the interim order on a habeas corpus petition filed by Ms. Udayakala accusing the police of withholding their passports and detaining her husband in Tiruchi special camp though they were willing to go back to their country. Contesting the HCP, the police claimed that Interpol had issued a red corner notice against the petitioner’s husband who was wanted in Sri Lanka in a bank fraud case. It also objected to shifting him from Tiruchi to Mandapam on the ground that he might escape easily. (The Hindu 12/7/16)

 

Germany records historic levels of migration (13)

Berlin, July 14 : Migration to Germany attained record levels in 2015, as the number of migrants grew 46 per cent year-on-year, reaching a total of 2.1 million people, according to a report released on Thursday by the Federal Statistical Office of Germany. Meanwhile, 998,000 left the country, nine per cent more than in 2014, Efe news reported. Net immigration to the country was 1.1 million people, making the balance of arrivals and departures the highest in history. The high number of immigrants, according to the Federal Statistical Office, was not only due to the wave of refugees, but also to citizens coming from other European Union (EU) countries in search of work. Syrians made up the largest migrant group, with 326,000 arrivals, followed by Romanians, with 212,000, and Poles, with 190,000. Some 45 per cent of immigrants were citizens of other EU countries, 13 per cent from non-EU European countries, 30 per cent from Asia and five per cent from Africa. (New Kerala 15/7/16)

World’s wealthiest countries host less than 9% refugees: Report (13)

LONDON: The world’s six wealthiest countries host less than 9 per cent of the world’s refugees, a new report issued on Monday said. While the US, China, Japan, Germany, France and UK make up more than half the global economy, in 2015, they only hosted 2.1 million refugees and asylum seekers — just 8.88 per cent of the world’s total, international aid organisation, Oxfam said in its report. Germany took the largest share of refugees among the world’s richest countries (around 700,000), with the remaining 1.4 million split between the other five nations, CNN reported citing the report. In sharp contrast, the nations that host more than half of the world’s refugees and asylum seekers account for less than 2 per cent of the world’s GDP, the report noted. Jordan, Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, South Africa and Palestine collectively host almost 12 million people. “It is shameful so many governments are turning their backs on the suffering of millions of vulnerable people who have fled their homes and are often risking their lives to reach safety,” CNN quoted Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International, as saying. “Poorer countries are shouldering the duty of protecting refugees when it should be a shared responsibility,” she added.According to the UN, the number of displaced people is currently at the highest ever recorded, surpassing even post-Second World War numbers. More than 65 million people — one out of every 113 people on the planet — have been forced to flee their homes due to conflict, violence or persecution, a 5.8-million increase on the year before, CNN quoted the UNHCR as saying. (Times of India 18/7/16)

Citizenship plea should mention persecution: BJP (13)

The state BJP said on Wednesday that while applying for Indian citizenship, minorities in neighbouring countries should mention the religious persecution they faced before fleeing to India. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, placed in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday allows a person to apply for citizenship if they fulfill certain conditions. These include whether the applicant’s parents were earlier citizens of India and if they resided in India for a year before applying for registration. Similarly, a person may apply for a certificate of naturalisation if they have resided in India or served a government in India for 12 months. The bill allows the central government to relax the requirement of 12 months’ stay or service if special circumstances exist. “We will request home minister Rajnath Singh to make provisions in the law where applicants should provide a statement describing the religious persecution faced by him/her. This will generate historical documents about the religious intolerance in these neighbouring countries,” state refugee cell convener Mohit Ray said, adding that millions of refugees in Bengal would benefit if the bill were enacted. “Owing to lack of legal rights, they had so far not been considered for rehabilitation facilities,” Ray said, adding that nearly 10 million Bangladeshi infiltrators would be sent back. According to a BJP leader, the Liaquat-Nehru Pact should be immediately enforced in Bangladesh and Pakistan, where minorities are being persecuted. Signed on April 2, 1950, the agreement was made to safeguard minority rights. Some of its objectives were to lessen the fear of minorities, end communal riots and create an atmosphere of peace. The BJP leader argued that since the bilateral pact precedes the formation of Bangladesh, which was part of Pakistan, the former should be brought under its ambit. The pact ensures complete and equal rights of citizenship and security of life and property to minorities. (Times of India 21/7/16)

Rights group happy with citizenship bill (13)

Guwahati: A civil society organization in the state, Citizens’ Rights Preservation Committee (CRPC), has welcomed the Centre’s move to grant citizenship to minority refugees from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, which was introduced in the Lok Sabha on July 19, proposes to make persecuted members of minority communities like Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from the three countries eligible to apply for Indian citizenship. In a statement, CRPC general secretary Bidhayak Das Purkayastha said the decision was a humanitarian one but added that certain modifications were needed in the bill.The bill states that a migrant has to stay in India for at least seven years before claiming citizenship. CRPC said this should be reduced to six months or less. CRPC chief adviser Hafiz Rashid Ahmed Choudhury condemned the serial killings and rapes, destruction of religious institutions and property, and forceful eviction of Hindus in Bangladesh over the last few weeks. Stay updated on the go with Times of India News App. Click here to download it for your device.(Times of India 23/7/16)

Some 4,000 South Sudanese fleeing into Uganda daily UN warns (13)

New York, July 26 : Recent fighting in South Sudan has forced 37,491 people to flee to Uganda in the past three weeks, averaging more than 4,000 a day in the past week, the United Nations refugee agency warned on Tuesday. To put this in context, more refugees have arrived in Uganda in the past three weeks than during the entire first six months of 2016, when 33,838 came there in search of safety, Adrian Edwards, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told reporters in Geneva. Yesterday, an estimated 2,442 refugees were received in Uganda from South Sudan. More than 90 per cent of arrivals are women and children. The new arrivals in Uganda are reporting ongoing fighting as well as looting by armed militias, burning down of homes and murders of civilians, Edwards said. Some of the women and children told us they were separated from their husbands or fathers by armed groups, who are reportedly forcibly recruiting men into their ranks and preventing them from crossing the border. He noted that daily arrivals were averaging around 1,500 just 10 days ago, but have risen to over 4,000 in the past week. People are coming from South Sudans Eastern Equatoria region, as well as Juba and other areas of the country, he said. The intensity of the recent fighting between rival factions loyal to President Salva Kiir and First Vice-President Riek Machar in Juba has subsided, but the security situation remains volatile. Further surges in arrivals are a real possibility, he said. The influx is straining the capacity of collection points, and transit and reception centres. Over the weekend, humanitarian organizations worked to decongest the collection points and installed temporary shelters to increase capacities. UNHCR has deployed additional staff, trucks and buses to assist. At its peak, more than 11,000 refugees were staying in Elegu, in northern Uganda, in a compound equipped to shelter only 1,000 people. By the end of this past weekend, the centre had been significantly decongested, and just 300 people slept there on Monday night. Many of the refugees have been moved to the Nyumanzi transit centre, where they are receiving hot meals, water, shelter and other life-saving assistance; others have been taken to expanded reception centres in Pagirinya. The management and expansion of reception facilities as well as the opening of a new settlement area remain key priorities. A new settlement area has been identified in Yumbe district, with the capacity to potentially host up to 100,000 people. Temporary communal shelters are also being built to accommodate the continuing arrivals. The humanitarian response to the influx of South Sudanese refugees is sorely lacking due to severe underfunding. The inter-agency appeal is only funded at 17 per cent, which is constraining UNHCR and its partners to provide emergency and life-saving activities only and causing limitations to the full breadth of humanitarian assistance that can be offered, Edwards said. South Sudans conflict, which erupted in December 2013, has produced one of the worlds worst displacement situations with immense suffering. Some 1.69 million people are displaced inside the country, while there are now 831,582 South Sudanese refugees abroad, mainly in Ethiopia, Sudan and Uganda. (New Kerala 26/7/16)

AASU protests Centres’s move on Hindu migrants (13)

DIBRUGARH, July 26 – The district unit of the All Assam Students Union (AASU) today staged a sit-in demonstration in their office campus near Deputy Commissioner’s residence here to protest against Centre’s bid to grant citizenship to the Hindu Bangladeshi refugees who sneaked into Assam after March 25, 1971. The students’ union which staged three hours of demonstration reiterated that it will not tolerate citizenship to foreign nationals in Assam. “All those foreigners irrespective of the religion they profess, who have come to Assam from Bangladesh and other nations after March 25, 1971, must leave the soil. We do not want division among the Assamese people in the name of religion,” said Anil Gogoi, Organizing Secretary, AASU. The demonstration is part of the state- wide protest launched by AASU today to express its annoyance over Centre’s effort to grant citizenship to Hindu Bangladeshi refugees. The AASU leaders here said that Assam is already overburdened with the huge influx from the neighbouring nations and cannot accept more. Tezpur: As part of the Statewide protest programme declared by the All Assam Students Union (AASU), it’s Tezpur unit also staged a protest programme today at the heart of the town in against the Central government’s decision to grant Indian citizenship to the Hindu Bengalis who migrated to Assam after 1971. In the protest programme, assistant general secretary of the students’ body Duldul Barkataki, president and secretary of AASU Tezpur unit Abhijit Nath and Nitul Bora respectively were present and addressed the gathering. In his speech, Duldul Barkataki said that under no circumstances Assam will bear the burden of any Bangladeshi or any foreigner. (The Assam Tribune 27/7/16)

MP requests citizenship for refugees (13)

KOPPAL: Karadi Sanganna, MP, has urged Home Minister Rajnath Singh to extend citizenship to refugees from Bangladesh residing at RH camp in Sindhanoor taluk of Raichur district. Mr. Sanganna metMr. Singh and submitted a memorandum stating that the refugees have been residing at the camp for 50 years, a release from the MP’s office said. The camp has been chosen byMr. Sanganna under the ‘Adarsh Gram’ scheme of the Union government. (The Hindu 28/7/16)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

Centre asks depts to publish most sought-after RTI info (1)

New Delhi, Jun 30 () Seeking to reduce Right to Information applications, all central government departments have been asked to put in public domain information that is frequently sought by citizens under the RTI Act. They have also been asked to set up ‘Information and Facilitation Centres’ (IFCs) to provide printed publications to citizens mentioning the categories of information that are frequently being sought under the RTI. The latest directive is based on the recommendations of a committee formed by the government to look into the scope of suo motu disclosure of governance-related information by the central government departments. The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has asked each public authority to set up a committee comprising officials with rich experience of dealing with RTI applications and appeals to identify the categories of such information. “Such information must be disclosed in the public domain to make it more user-friendly and should also be reviewed at regular intervals,” it said in an order to all ministries. The DoPT has said the task of undertaking transparency audits may be given to the respective training institutes under each ministry or department and across the states and union territories. The public authorities shall constitute consultative committees consisting of office-bearers of key stakeholder, association on rotational basis to have a systematic and regular interaction between the officials of the public authorities to advice what information to be uploaded as suo motu, it said.The IFCs may be set up in each public authority, where public dealing is involved to educate the citizens about the information or documents available on the website of the department concerned and to provide printed publications to them the categories of information that are frequently being sought under the RTI Act and provide copies of information as per RTI rules, the order said. (Times of India 2/7/16)

Display names of officials as per RTI Act: Forum (1)

SRIKAKULAM: Srikakulam Intellectuals Forum president Pappala Jagannadha Rao on Sunday asked all the government offices to display names of officials and staff prominently as per the Right to Information Act. He said that the displaying of their names was mandatory as per the RTI Act since people would name their nature of work and responsibilities. The Forum organised an awareness programme on the RTI Act. Speaking on the occasion, he said every person in the government offices should respect the Act which was enacted to ensure transparency in the government offices. Former Minister Gunda Appala Suryanarayana hailed the Act saying that it had curtailed corruption and lethargy in government offices. He urged people not to misuse the Act and use it properly in the larger interests of the public. (The Hindu 4/7/16)

Government spent nearly D40cr on investors’ meet: RTI (1)

BENGALURU: THE state government had spent Rs 2.31 crore on food during the three-day Global Investors Meet (GIM) held in the city from February 3, an RTI application has revealed. This means the government had spent an average of Rs 77 lakh a day for the delegates and officials during the event. In response to an RTI application filed by Shruti P of Onlinerti.com, the Karnataka Udyog Mitra said it spent Rs 39.88 crore on organising the meet. “Spending a whopping Rs 40 crore, including Rs 2.31 crore on food expenses, for a three-day event is very high. The money, which was lavished, could have been used for other purposes,” said Shruti. She said the government is answerable to the tax payers on how much of the promised investments they were able to attract so far after spending crores of rupees for a three-day event. Of the total amount, Rs 18.47 crore was spent on infrastructure, Rs 12.27 crore on event management and cultural programmes followed by advertisements and Rs 1.12 crore as ground rent. According to the reply, the government also spent Rs 2.26 crore on roadshows, which includes international roadshow (Rs 93.26 lakh), national roadshow (Rs 90.07 lakh) and state roadshow (Rs 42.66 lakh).However, an official of the Karnataka State Industrial Investment and Development Corporation (KSIIDC) said the amount spent by the state for the meet is not as high compared to investment meets conducted by other states. “This expenditure is necessary as we have to attract investments and job opportunities to the state. The food and accommodation costs will be more since most delegates are VIPs and VVIPs. The expenditure for GIM is meager compared to the total investments received after the GIM,” said the official. He added that nearly 5,000 delegates from across the world participated in the event. According to Invest Karnataka website, the meet concluded with 1,201 approved projects and MoUs valued at Rs 3,08,810 crore and is expected to generate a total employment of 6,70,931 across the state. However, there is no mention on the actual investment received and the number of new industries set up because of the GIM. (New Indian Express 7/7/16)

RTI Act comes to the rescue of Dalit student (1)

CHENNAI: The Tamil Nadu Information Commission has come to the rescue of a Dalit student who was not paid scholarship for two years by the Directorate of Adi-Dravidar Welfare. The case pertains to M. Jayaraj of Chikkanna Arts College, Tirupur, whose scholarship was not disbursed for two academic years.Taking note of dereliction on the part of the scholarship disbursing authorities, State Chief Information Commissioner K. Ramanujam ordered the directorate to pay a compensation of Rs. 10,000 to Jayaraj and take steps for disbursing the scholarship at the earliest. The student had petitioned the Tirupur Collector in December 2015 seeking to know why his scholarship was not granted for the academic years 2013-14 and 2014-15. (The Hindu 9/7/16)

RTI: SBI declines info on Mallya’s loan, says matter sub-judice (1)

Mumbai: Mumbai-based RTI activist Anil Galgali had asked SBI about the total amount of loans given to the beleaguered businessman and his airlines and also the minutes of the meeting in which the loan proposals were sanctioned. “You have sought certain information pertaining to the loan facilities granted to M/s Kingfisher Airlines Ltd and Vijay Mallya. Please note that the matter is sub-judice and the matter is pending for the investigation before certain investigation authorities. Hence deriving exemption from disclosure under Section 8(1)(h) of RTI act, information sought by you cannot be provided,” the bank’s deputy general manager and public information officer (stressed assets management branch, Bengaluru) said in reply. Beleaguered liquor baron Mallya and Kingfisher Airlines owe over Rs 9,000 crore, including interest, to a consortium of 17 lenders led by SBI. He has been facing investigation from various agencies like Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO), the investigative agency for white collar crimes. Last month, a special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court in Mumbai had declared Mallya a proclaimed offender in a loan default case. On June 11, ED had attached properties worth Rs 1,411 crore of Mallya and UB Ltd in connection with its money laundering probe in the IDBI Bank loan default case. Mallya flew to Britain on March 2 using his diplomatic passport which was later revoked. (Deccan Herald 11/7/16)

Nuclear weapons details shifted out of RTI purview? (1)

NEW DELHI: Information on the country’s nuclear weapons stock-pile and any details on their testing has now been put out of the purview of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The Strategic Forces Command has been added to the list of 25 organizations excluded from the purview of the RTI Act except for information pertaining to corruption or human right allegations. This is the first addition made to the list by the Narendra Modi Government after the UPA in 2011 had last added the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), National Investigation Agency (NIA) and National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) to the list of the intelligence and security organisations which are exempt from RTI Act. The Strategic Forces Command (SFC) administers control over the tactical and strategic nuclear stockpile of the country, which includes the land-based and sea-based nucleararmed ballistic missiles. SFC operationalises the directives of the Nuclear Command Authority which works under the command of the Prime Minister and SCF has the responsibility of the process of delivering nuclear weapons and warheads in the event of a planned strike.SCF also does testing of the nuclear missiles, like Agni-4 and Agni-5. The Union Government on the other hand has been actively trying to broaden the access to RTI by adding a host of public authorities to the Online RTI Portal like public sector financial institutions and banks, all the zones under railways ministry and its PSUs, Maharatnas and Navratnas PSUs, central universities and educational institutions. From a list of about 500 public authorities to which RTI’s can be filed online at present, nearly 300 more public authorities are to be added to the portal by the end of this year. Times of India 14/7/2016)

 

Examine if BCCI can be brought under RTI: SC to law panel (1)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court today asked the Law Commission of India to examine the issue of bringing BCCI under the ambit of Right to Information Act (RTI) saying that since the board is discharging public functions, public has a right to know and demand information regarding its activities. It said since those public functions are in nature of a monopoly in the hands of BCCI with tacit state government and central government approvals and the beneficiary being the citizens, there was a need for bringing its functioning under the transparency law. A bench of Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justice F M I Kalifulla, which accepted majority of the recommendations of Justice R M Lodha panel on reforms in BCCI, observed that “as a possible first step” it expected that Law Commission would deal with it and make a suitable recommendation to the government. While reading out the operative portion of the judgement, the CJI said the bench was leaving it to Parliament to decide whether functioning of BCCI can be brought under RTI. “All that we need (to) say is that since BCCI discharges public functions and since those functions are in the nature of a monopoly in the hands of BCCI with tacit State Government and Central Government approvals, the public at large has a right to know and demand information as to the activities and functions of the BCCI especially when it deals with funds collected in relation to those activities as a trustee of wherein the beneficiary happens to be the people of this country,” the bench said in its 143-page verdict. “As a possible first step in the direction in bringing BCCI under purview of Right to Information Act, we expect the Law Commission of India to examine the issue and make a suitable recommendation to the Government. Beyond that we do not consider it necessary to say anything at this stage,” it said. The Justice Lodha panel had recommended that BCCI should be brought under the purview of the RTI Act and to carry out a suitable amendment to this effect. The panel had said that people of the country have a right to know the details about the BCCI’s functions and activities and had recommended that legislature must seriously consider bringing the cricket body within the purview of the RTI Act. (New Indian Express 18/7/16)

 

Kerala government to seek high court’s view on RTI query (1)

Thiruvananthapuram, July 19 (IANS) The Kerala government will approach the high court to understand the implications of the RTI Act vis-a-vis the Cabinet’s decisions, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Tuesday. The Chief Minister informed the assembly that his government had no intention to hide Cabinet decisions and will seek the court’s opinion on the issue. The move comes in the wake of the CIC seeking details of Cabinet decisions as asked for through an RTI query. Since assuming office, the Vijayan government has not held the customary media briefings after the weekly Cabinet meetings. While the Congress charged the Vijayan government with keeping the public in the dark about Cabinet decisions, the Chief Minister refuted the allegation saying that it was not his business to carry out a public relations exercise unlike his predecessors. Reacting to the Chief Minister’s statement, Congress legislator V.D. Satheesan on Tuesday said it was surprising that the Chief Minister considers media briefings as a public relations exercise. “It was surprising to hear that a Chief Minister need not carry out public relations and hence the customary media briefing after the Cabinet meetings has been done away with,” said Satheesan. “The government takes major decisions but the people are kept in the dark,” he charged. “While in Opposition, you (Vijayan) had advised the previous Oommen Chandy government on transparency, but as Chief Minister you are not adhering to the same principle,” Satheesan said. Responding to Satheesan, the Chief Ministger said: “We have no intention to keep things under wraps. A Cabinet sub-committee is looking into the decisions taken by the Chandy government from January 1 to March 31, and once it is over, we will be putting everything in the public domain. We also wish to get some clarification on the RTI Act. Once we get it, everything will be available for the public.” …  (Times of India 19/7/16)

 

Punjab Cricket Association put under RTI (1)

Chandigarh: Punjab’s Information Commission has held that the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) would be considered as ‘public authority’ under the provisions of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Chief Information Commissioner S.S. Channy said on Wednesday that a full bench of the commission had decided that the PCA, a powerful cricketing body that controls the game in the state, was a public authority under the RTI Act. “After going through all the relevant papers put on record, the commission has unanimously held that the PCA would have struggled had it not been in possession of the land in Mohali, which has been leased on a nominal amount coupled with a substantial grant of the government to convert it into a cricket stadium,” Channy said. The commission took note of the statement of I.S. Bindra, the then president of the PCA, made before the CBI saying: “Punjab Cricket Association is not a private organisation. It is a public body solely responsible for promotion, development and administration of the game of cricket, within the state of Punjab.” The commission had, in August 2008, held the PCA to be a public authority under the RTI Act. The order of the commission was challenged by the PCA before the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The high court had dismissed the petition in May 2011. However, following another petition before the same court by the PCA, the high court, in December 2013, set aside the orders of the State Information Commission. The court referred the matter back to the commission for a fresh decision following which a full bench gave its ruling. (Business Standard 21/7/16)

Khar college fined Rs 2 lakh for refusing to give information sought under RTI (1)

Mumbai: The State Information Commission has fined Hansraj Jivandas College of Education in Khar Rs 2.25 lakh for not furnishing information sought under the Right to Information (RTI). The fine amount is the total sum charged for denying information for nine separate queries filed under RTI. The institute, however, claimed that the applicant and his sister, who is an employee of the college, has bombarded them with over 100 RTI applications in a period of one year, and they have replied to almost all. The college is now planning to challenge the SIC order in court. The applicant, Krishnan Kutty, an advocate and an activist, after knowing about the alleged misappropriation of funds in the institute, decided to seek information on several issues including grants received by the college from the government and its utilisation, details on the faculty who were eligible for career advancement scheme, details on leaves available for BEd college staff, details of the fees charged by the college, utilisation of the academic development fund granted to the institute, etc. “The college management had initiated a disciplinary probe against the teacher. The probe is underway since July 2015. Since then, she and her brother have bombarded us with multiple applications/complaints by misusing RTI. The SIC has passed the order, which will be challenged in the high court. The orders were also quite confusing,” said the principal of the college, Anita Swami. (Times of India 22/7/16)

Cabinet notes too to become public (1)

Thrissur: The LDF government, which had appeared reluctant to include cabinet decisions within the purview of RTI Act, seems to have undertaken a major course correction. Chief Secretary S M Vijayanand confirmed to TOI on Saturday that cabinet decisions as well as cabinet notes will be uploaded on the government website along with the government order (GO) issued by the respective department. The chief secretary pointed out that with cabinet decisions available in the public domain, there won’t be any need to file RTI queries to know these decisions. Vijayanand, who was here to deliver a talk organised by Thrissur Management Association, told TOI that respective departments issue GOs usually within 48 hours of cabinet decisions. The orders and related documents will be published mostly on that day itself, he said. The chief secretary clarified that decisions of the cabinet would become public documents once the respective department issues the GO. The objective of approaching the court was to seek clarifications on these points, he said. Vijayanand revealed that the government has also taken a decision not to take up ‘out-of-agenda items’ in the cabinet unless in special situations like announcing relief for disaster victims. Out-of-agenda items delay issuing of GOs because they often need to be referred to various departments like law for legal validity and feedback. (Times of India 24/7/16)

Centre stonewalling RTI pleas: Perarivalan (1)

CHENNAI: A.G. Perarivalan, the life convict in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, has accused the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) of tossing his plea under the Right to Information (RTI) Act seeking copies of the remission rules framed by the Centre based on the judgment of the Supreme Court in the Union of India versus V. Sriharan alias Murugan & others case. Pointing out that the information sought by him pertained to his life and liberty, the convict alleged that three Central Public Information Officers (CPIO) in the MHA had “shunted” his petition from one department to another instead of collecting and providing the information. When he went in appeal aggrieved over the delay in getting the details sought, the first appellate authority, the Joint Secretary, MHA, also failed to respond even after 100 days. The petitioner appealed to the Central Information Commission (CIC) to take a serious view of the issue and impose cost on the information officers besides taking steps to provide the information sought by him. Perarivalan, currently lodged in Vellore central prison, said he was facing the 26th year of incarceration since he was arrested at the age of 19. The Supreme Court commuted his death penalty to life imprisonment along with others facing capital punishment in the case. While disposing of a writ petition seeking premature release from prison, the Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court had ruled in December last that the State Government had no suo motu power to remit sentences of persons who were convicted under a Central law and cases investigated by a central agency like the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The apex court also clarified that decisions on remission in such cases had to be taken in concurrence with the Centre. Perarivalan petitioned the MHA asking for copies of the remission rules framed on the basis of the judgment. He also sought a copy of the order/circular sent by the MHA to the States on the issue. He alleged that neither the CPIOs nor the first appellate authority responded to his query. Representing that his second appeal be admitted for inquiry, the convict urged the CIC to direct three CPIOs and the first appellate authority (Joint Secretary, MHA) to be present at the time of hearing and file an affidavit on why the information was not shared. He also appealed to the CIC to seek a compliance report from the MHA on the action taken to proactively disclose detailed information under Section 4 (1) (b) of the RTI Act as regards the rules framed as per the Constitutional Bench judgment. (The Hindu 28/7/16)

                

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

School charges Rs 35K per year for food, activities from RTE kids (11)

BENGALURU: More and more complaints are spilling out against private schools in the city on alleged harassment of parents, who admitted their kids under the Right To Education (RTE) quota. There are complaints that 27 parents have been asked to pay Rs 35,000 towards food by the Jain Heritage School in Hebbal. The parents have approached the Block Education Officer and also the Right to Education Students Parents Association (RTESTUPA) with a complaint against the school. B N Yogananda, general secretary of RTESTUPA, said, “Parents approached the authorities with the complaints, but they have already paid the amount. We will now file complaints with the Commissioner, Public Instructions, Principal Secretary and also the Chief Minister.” RTESTUPA has decided to support the parents by staging a protest in front of the school till they refund the amount collected. “The school has to repay the money collected. All the parents, who admitted their kids, are from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The school is harassing them saying that if they refuse to pay, the admission will be cancelled,” Yogananda said. The Block Education Officer of the jurisdiction has issued two show-cause notices to the school management.However, the authorities from the school defended their act saying that what they are charging is nominal. “The amount was charged for three meals a day and also other activities such as sports, training and other performing art classes. Lunch is part of the package as the Rs 11,848 reimbursement that the government gives us is not enough,” an official of the school said.Over 60 parents, who have admitted their kids at various private schools in the city under the RTE quota, demonstrated in front of the office of the Commissioner of Public Instruction on Friday. They came to meet the new Commissioner and to complain about the problems they are facing. At that time, the students staged a demonstration, requesting the commissioner to take action against the schools and the officials of the Education Department, who are involved with private schools. (New Indian Express 2/7/16)

Smriti Irani shunted out as govt wants faster saffronisation of education: Congress (11)

New Delhi: A DAY after Smriti Irani was removed as HRD Minister, the Congress said on Wednesday that she may have been shunted out because the “pace of saffronisation” in the education sector was “not to the satisfaction” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The party also accused the BJP government of indulging in “fascisisation” of education. “In the past two years, the NDA government has systematically attempted to subvert and dismantle the public education system of this country which has been assiduously built over the last 67 years. The greatest indicator of this is the budgetary allocation. The UPA government, during its 10 years, raised the budgetary allocation of the HRD ministry from Rs 11,000 crore to Rs 82,000 crore… Between 2014 and 2016, the education budget of India has actually come down by Rs 10,000 crore,” said Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari. He said the budgetary allocation of the UGC too was slashed by 55 per cent, bringing it down to Rs 4,286 crore from Rs 9,315 crore.“What is even more startling is the frontal assault mounted by the HRD ministry on the autonomy of our public universities. The UGC, in fact, tried to take away from the public universities the right to even decide their own syllabus… Besides, there is blatant interference by the RSS in the education sector of the country,” he said. “Six vice-chancellors were summoned by RSS functionaries for a review of the education system in Chhattisgarh…What locus standi does the RSS have to call VCs of public universities and review the functioning of the education system in Chhattisgarh. This is not saffronisation of education. This is far more sinister. It is the ‘fascisisation’ of education,” he added. Asked why Irani was shunted out if, Tewari said, “Maybe the pace of saffronisation was not to the satisfaction of the PM. And therefore, you have an incumbent who will possibly accelerate that pace.” (Indian Express 7/7/16)

Gujarat ranks 20th among 21 states in girl child education (11)

AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat government may be making tall claims about its “Kanya Kelavani” and school enrolment drive, but a report shows the state has performed much poorly than other states in championing girls’ education. The Sample Registration System-Baseline Survey 2014 reveals that Gujarat (with 73.4 per cent of girls in school) is at the 20th position among 21 major states, just a notch above Rajasthan (72.1 per cent). According to the survey, around 26.6 per cent of girls in the age group of 15-17 years in Gujarat have either dropped out or have never been to school. That means 26.6 per cent of girls in the state have not reached the class IX or X level. It reveals the all-India average of girls attending school, which is 83.8 per cent, is higher than Gujarat’s by about 10 per cent. According to officials, when data was gathered, the programme to improve girl child enrolment in Gujarat schools had been in operation for more than a decade. As part of the annual “Kanya Kelavni” program and “Shala Praveshotsav”, ministers and government officials fan out in rural areas to ensure children’s enrolment. Despite the high-level push, however, even states termed backward have performed better than Gujarat. In Bihar, 83.3 per cent of girls in the age group 15-17 years attend school; in Assam the figure is 84.8 per cent; in Jharkhand it is 84.1 per cent; in Chhattisgarh it is 90.1 per cent; in Madhya Pradesh it is 79.2 per cent; in UP it is 79.4 per cent; and in Odisha it is 75.3 per cent. In fact, Gujarat is ranked among the bottom five states even when it comes to education of girls in the age group of 10-14 years. Data reveals that overall 73.5 per cent of girls in the state are literate. But of these, around 59 per cent have not studied beyond class X, and only 14.8 per cent have completed class XII.Of the 14.8 per cent who study beyond class X, only 7.3 per cent complete graduation. Gujarat education minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasma said, “We are aware that the drop out rate among girls is high and hence we launched the enrolment drive even in class IX.” He said this would ensure that girls don’t drop out after class VIII. He said the drop out ratio was not more than 20 per cent. “We are taking measures to ensure that girls study and the government is dedicated to achieving 100 per cent literacy among the girls,” he said. (Times of India 7/7/16)

Mixed response to move for limiting no-detention to class V (11)

Bengaluru: The draft of the new education policy released by the Ministry of Human Resources Development last month has hinted at limiting the no-detention policy in schools to class 5, from class 8.The implications of such a measure in Karnataka are bound to be far-reaching as it has ardently supported the no-detention policy ensured by the provisions of the RTE Act. Ajay Seth, principal secretary, Department of Primary and Secondary Education, has said that the new measure, once implemented, may not be very different from the previous one, in that it talks about the need for “remedial instruction” for weak students. “A child who is weak in class should be identified and brought on a par with others. The recommendations in the draft have their own aims. However, a right approach will make sure that quality education remains available,” he said.Seth said that instead of concentrating on limiting the no-detention policy, emphasis should be on the quality of education. The draft says that the present provisions of no-detention policy will be amended, as it has seriously affected the academic performance of students. This is a sentiment that has been commonly echoed by many. Among them is a primary school teacher from a government school in Koppal. “Students do not concentrate on their studies as they know they will pass. We see the results after class 8. Many of my own students are not able to even read properly. It is a pathetic condition. Teachers, instead of being able to concentrate on teaching, are given responsibilities like mid-day meals and what not,” he said.The new recommendations have, however, rattled supporters of the present policy. V P Niranjan Aradhya, Fellow at the Centre for Child and the Law, National Law School of India University, is of the opinion that the entire debate has shifted from quality of education to ability of the students. “Why are children not learning and performing well? There are numerous problems, lack of good teachers and infrastructure to name a few. One cannot make students the scapegoat for such systemic failures,” he said. (Deccan Herald 10/7/16)

Child rights panel concerned over junk food sale in private schools (11)

LUDHIANA: Taking serious note of serving of junk food, which is easy to cook but harmful for health, in some private schools, Punjab State Child Rights Protection Commission chairman Sukesh Kalia has directed Secretary, Punjab School Education Board and DPI (Primary and Secondary) to take a self-declaration certificate from all schools mentioning that they would not allow serving or sale of junk food in their premises. While mentioning a letter received from National Child Rights Protection Commission, New Delhi, Sukesh Kalia stated that as per the letter, the secretary of Punjab School Education Board and DPI (primary and secondary) would get self-declaration certificates from all schools of the state (from all education boards) mentioning that they would not allow serving as well as sale of junk food (which has salt, sugar and fat in large quantity) in their premises. Kalia said that consumption of junk food amongst children leads to serious implications towards the child’s health. That is why there is an increasing need to check this trend amongst children. He said that the Food Safety and Standard Authority of India has already issued some guidelines to the schools, which should be followed by all schools. Sukesh Kalia has also written a separate letter to Food Safety Commissioner, Punjab, mentioning that the Commission would carry surprise checks in different schools on regular basis. And that is why, the commissioner should send names of technical experts and food inspectors so that their services can be taken during surprise checks. Kalia said that the commission would take strong notice of any news that comes to their notice regarding serving or sale of junk food in private schools. (Times of India 13/7/16)

Many holes in education policy draft: Experts (11)

Chennai: The inputs for the draft National Education Policy (NEP) released by the HRD Ministry last month came under criticism by educationists on Thursday during a national convention on evolving education policy. Organised by the State Platform for Common Schooling System, the convention discussed key features of the draft. President of the state platform, P Ratnasabapathy said the TSR Subramaniam committee had already released a ‘report’ and questioned the need for the MHRD to release another draft. He points out several ‘threats’ to the education system listed in the document. These include evading reservation, intrusion of foreign agencies into Indian education system, and privatization of education.Member of the All India Forum for Right To Education (AIFRTE), Madhu Prasad pointed out several problems with the draft including the input on steeping up interventions currently being practiced in the RTE system. “The draft recognizes that the RTE has not traditionally benefitted the vulnerable sections. When they are recognizing that the methods so far practiced have failed for so many years, how can the stepping up of the same measures correct the failures now?” she questioned. R Ramanujam from the Institute of Mathematical Sciences, pointed out that the tone of the document in formulating ‘solutions’ is such that education is being reduced to a managerial or administrative issue. (Times of India 15/7/16)

Govt frames new rules for opening private schools (11)

Bhubaneswar: All private schools in the state have to take permission from district education officer (DEO) before opening the education facilities, according to a recent guideline issued by the state government. The school authorities would have to ensure registration of their school in Unified District Information System for Education. “We have asked the director of elementary education to form a detailed guideline on this, which would streamline the opening and running of new private schools in the state,” said additional secretary, school and mass education department, B N Pradhan. The new schools would have to fulfil all criteria under the Right To Education (RTE) Act prior to opening the school followed by a clearance from director elementary education of the state. This year only 14 private schools have been given no objection certificate by the state government to open their institutes so far. As many as 255 applications are pending with different district project coordinators (DPCs) of Sarva Sikshya Abhiyan and 356 applications pending with different block education officers (BEOs). All DPCs and BEOs have been asked to verify and give recommendations to eligible schools by July 20. A separate portal has also been opened for the purpose, official sources said. The schools, who have applied for recognition but have not fulfilled the criteria according to the RTE Act, will be given showcause notice for one month within which the school will have to fulfil the criteria. (Times of India 17/7/16)

RTE students sent out of class for not paying ‘extra fees’ (11)

BENGALURU: Some children, admitted under the RTE quota, had to go through embarrassing moments before they were allowed to sit for the unit test at the SVES English High School, Rajajinagar, Bengaluru. The alleged reason: their parents had not paid “extra fees”. A parent of a class 5 student admitted under the RTE quota said her child was sent out of class and not allowed to take the unit test that began on Friday. “While all the other students wrote the test, my child along with a few others, who had not paid the fees, was made to sit in another classroom and was allowed to take the test after three periods,” the parent said. She explained that the school collects excess fees under various sub heads, such as smart class and computer class every year. “This year, we paid Rs. 6,242 for books, uniforms and common-items fee. But, they also insisted on us paying Rs. 7,600 as computer, smart class and maintenance fee. This is beyond our means,” she said. She also said that the school was pressurising them and using all kinds of “tactics” to pay the fee, and this was affecting the morale of the child. RTE Students and Parents’ Association chief secretary B.N. Yogananda has lodged a complaint with the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR) and has urged it to initiate action in this regard. Kripa Alva, chairperson of the commission, said the commission will summon the school management and initiate strict action against the management if they are found guilty of discrimination. Meanwhile, a member of the school management claimed that the test was conducted batch-wise, which is why some students were made to take the test later. He also said that if the school had illegally collected fees from students admitted under the quota, they would return it. (The Hindu 19/7/16)

Lok Sabha passes NIT Bill, Javadekar pledges quality education for all (11)

New Delhi, July 21 (IANS) The Lok Sabha on Thursday passed the National Institutes of Technology, Science Education and Research (Amendment) Bill, 2016 with the new HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar asserting that the NDA government is committed to ensure “quality education” for all. “The Narendra Modi government is committed to ensure Sabko Shiksha aur Acchi Shiksha (Education for all and Quality Education),” Javadekar said in Lok Sabha after members from various parties participated in the discussions on the bill. He said the BJP government is committed to ensure quality education especially at higher levels like the NITs where the role of faculty and teaching community should be understood. “Teachers can make a difference to story of India. There will be in-service training and pre-service training. All vacant slots will be fulfilled,” he said. Javadekar said the government is trying to ensure safe guard of teaching community’s “dignity” withA”compassion” and also added that the teachers will be given “freedom”. And along with these there will be emphasis on accountability. Stressing on the role of research, he said several schemes are being evolved to promote research especially among technological institutes. A separate funding of Rs 1,000 crore will be made for this, he said adding under this, “customized research” of industries will be encouraged wherein academicians from NITs and IITs and other such technological institutes will be involved.”We will encourage more incubation centres and under which even after graduation NIT and IIT pass outs and graduates can also be allowed to visit their institutes and take part in research,” Javadekar said.The bill, later passed by voice vote, seeks to establish the National Institute of Technology (NIT), Andhra Pradesh as an institute of national importance under the National Institutes of Technology, Science Education and Research (NITSER) Act, 2007. Among others Congress member Shashi Tharoor, (Congress), Kambhampati Haribabu (BJP) and RSP member N.K. Premachandran also spoke. (Times of India 21/7/16)

Experts hold meet to discuss suggestions for new edu policy (11)

Mumbai: From no-detention to asking minority institutions to reserve 25% seats for students from the economically weaker sections, experts from the city are meeting up to discuss the suggestions they are going to make for the new National Education Policy. The Ministry of Human Resource Development has uploaded on its website a 43-page report which highlights key points of the draft NEP and has called for suggestions before August 15. While the education experts have welcomed a change, they have also raised concerns over various changes suggested in the draft. At one such discussion organised by Shikshan Katta, a group of experts, principals and educationists all agreed that the Right to Education Act must be amended to include children between the age of 3 and 6 years as well. Currently, the Act covers students from 6-14 years of age. “The draft has accepted to extend the RTE to students from 14-16 years as well but not for those aged 3-6 years. This is probably because it is resource intensive. Early childhood education must be attached to schools and must be made a right,” said Kishor Darag, a researcher in education. Educationists in the city have also risen in one voice against the government’s plan of doing away with the no-detention policy for students after class V. “There has arisen a need to have a discussion on the no-detention policy because we have misunderstood it. The policy requires schools to conduct re-tests for five times. Whenever we start doing that, students will not take exams lightly,” said Sucheta Bhawalkar, principal, Raja Shivaji Vidyalaya, Dadar. Changing this could also be conflicting with the RTE act. The group is planning to suggest that as the Centre has said it would examine the exemption given to minority (linguistic and religious). A similar discussion was conducted by the RTE forum on Friday. (Times of India 23/7/16)

 ‘Vietnam ahead of India in school education’ (11)

VISAKHAPATNAM: Vietnam was torn apart by two major conflicts in the last century, and it is only after the 1980s did the country start its rebuilding process, and in about four decades they are ahead of us in school education, especially when it comes to the best practices. This was the opinion of R. S. S. Nehru, faculty, Department of Teacher Education, Central University of Odisha, Koraput. He was here for a seminar at the Andhra University and spoke to The Hindu , on his comparative observations. The teacher who had recently completed his post-doctoral fellow on the topic ‘comparative study of education and teacher education in India and Vietnam’, from the National University of Vietnam and University of Education, said it was only now that we have designed and implemented the Right to Education (RTE) in India, whereas it has been implemented in Vietnam in 1991. He went ahead to add that the RTE has been implemented in its true essence and spirit in Vietnam, whereas it is yet to take off as desired in India. “School education over there is completely government owned and controlled and it is free from LKG to Std XII,” he said. According to him, though the education is government controlled, total autonomy and financial freedom is given to the schools and every student, be it from any section of society, will have to study in government-run schools.“The government schools are not like the ones that we have here. The schools are on par with any international school and each class is an e-classroom. They follow the blended learning system, which includes use of technology and face-to-face teaching,” said Dr. Nehru. Apart from the best of facilities, each school has a fully-equipped dispensary with at least two beds and free safe drinking water is provided by the government, he added. According to him, regular faculty-development-programme and training is embedded in the teaching system and everything is made transparent in the website of school or government website. (The Hindu 25/7/16)

 ‘Draft education policy against minorities’ (11)

CHENNAI: Claiming that the draft National Education Policy unveiled by the Union Human Resource Development Ministry was against the interests of the minority educational institutions, Congress legislator S. Vijayadharani urged the Tamil Nadu government to oppose the policy. During the debate on the Budget 2016-17 in the State Legislative Assembly on Tuesday, Ms. Vijayadharani referred to one of the features of the draft policy which did not exempt minority institutions from the Right to Education Act (RTE) and claimed this was against the interests of the minorities. As ‘Education’ was presently in the Concurrent List in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution, she said that the State government should take efforts to bring ‘Education’ in the State List. She also urged the State government to exempt school teachers of minority institutions from the mandatory requirement of clearing Teacher Eligibility Test (TET) and to further conduct the exams regularly every year.  School Education Minister P. Benjamin said the State G.O. reducing the pass percentage from 60 to 55 for OBC, SC and ST candidates was quashed by the Madras High Court. The appeal preferred the State government against it was pending before the Supreme Court. (The Hindu 27/7/16)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

NHRC seeks ATR on starvation deaths, kidney ailments (21)

BHUBANESWAR: THE National Human Rights  Commission (NHRC) has soughtan Action Taken report (ATR)  from the State Government over starvation deaths linked with food supply and corrupt practice in ensuring ration cards underNational Food Security Act (NFSA). Acting on a petition filed by rights activist Radhakanta Tripathy,  who raised corruption in selection of NFSA beneficiaries in undivided KBK (Kalahandi- Balangir-Koraput) districts, the Commission has asked the Chief  Secretary to submit a detailed reply within four weeks. On May 16, a destitute woman Lalita Sahu allegedly died of starvation while her son Pancha Sahu is suffering hunger pangs as the family was denied of a ration  card under NFSA at Graduatepada Square in Balangir district. Tripathy said Lalita and Pancha had taken shelter on the verandah of a co-villager as they did not have one. With no livelihood means, they were spending most of their days in hunger. Lalita died of hunger, he said. Earlier, Pancha used to earn his  livelihood by engraving names of persons on brass and copper utensils. However, he could no longer pursue it after he had a physical infirmity. Their condition  aggravated after Lalita stopped receiving rice under Antodaya scheme as the authorities removed her name during ration card distribution last December,  the petition mentioned. Alleging that no strong step has been taken to curb illegalities and corruption in selecting the  NFSA beneficiaries, Tripathy requested to investigate the case through the Special Rapporteur  and direct the Government to curb the phenomenon of starvation death besides paying adequate compensation and benefits of social welfare schemes including house under IAY, food  and free medical care to the surviving family members. He also urged the Commission to recommend the  Government for setting up of State Food Commission and appoint a district grievance redressal officer to monitor and look into the complaints of NFSA beneficiaries.    (New Indian Express 3/7/16)

Ensure effective implementation of schemes, Khattar tells officers (21)

Chandigarh: Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Tuesday exhorted administrative secretaries to ensure effective implementation of schemes pertaining to their departments so as to achieve 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets identified by United Nations on critical issues. Mr. Khattar was addressing the inaugural session of Briefing Workshop on Sustainable Development Goals-Implementing Sustainable Development Goals in Haryana: 2030 Action Plan here, an official release said. UN Resident Coordinator and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative in India Yuri Afanasiev was present at the workshop. The Chief Minister said the objective of SDGs was to produce a set of universally applicable goals that balances the three dimensions of sustainable development—environmental, social and economic—through proper planning and integration of schemes. He said the State aims to align its existing schemes and programmes with the SDGs target and prepare a vision 2030 document as well as an action plan for achieving the goals. Appreciating that the UN agencies have agreed to provide technological assistance to Haryana in this regard, he said the State government was actively working towards the 17 SDGs and hoped that the goals would be achieved before the scheduled time. These SDGs would eliminate poverty in all its forms, end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture, ensure healthy lives and promote well-being at all ages. These would also ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities, achieve gender equality and empower women and girls. These would also ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy.Mr. Khattar directed the Additional Chief Secretaries to create a mechanism so that every beneficiary receives the benefit of various welfare schemes being implemented. He said the 25 Good Governance Associates have been appointed with the objective to ensure good governance and transparency in the working of the government. Earlier, Finance Minister Abhimanyu assured that Haryana would not only be able to achieve SDGs, but would also go beyond that by improving the overall quality of life of people in the State.-PTI (The Hindu 6/7/16)

Nagaland rolls out food law; only TN, Kerala left (21)

New Delhi, Jul 6 () Nagaland has rolled out National Food Security Act from this month across all districts, taking the total number of implementing states and union territories to 34. Only two states — Tamil Nadu and Kerala — are left where the food law is yet to be implemented. Under the law, passed by Parliament in September 2013 during the previous UPA regime, the government provides legal entitlement to 5 kg of subsidised foodgrains per person every month at Rs 1-3 per kg to two-third of India’s population. “Nagaland government is implementing Food law in all districts from this month. Only two states are left now. Kerala has committed to implement, but we have not yet got positive response from Tamil Nadu,” Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan told reporters. The Supreme Court has given a direction that this law has to be implemented and no state is above the law, he added. Speaking about direct benefit transfer of food subsidy, Paswan said this is being implement fully on a pilot basis in Chandigarh, Puducherry as well as Dadar and Nagar Haveli.”Though some states are keen to implement DBT, but we want to do it carefully. There are 3-4 problems that we are trying to sort out,” he said. The minister said the beneficiaries might face problems in withdrawing money from banks for purchase of grains in the open market. Both the state and banks should take proactive measures to address these hurdles, he added. On allocation of PDS foodgrains to states, Paswan said the Centre has decided to be flexible in allocating wheat or rice in a ratio that is required by those states which procure more than their PDS requirement.

For instance, the Centre had recently allocated 85 per cent of rice and 15 per cent of wheat for PDS distribution to the Odisha. Earlier, the state was getting rice and wheat in 60:40 ratio. On cane arrears, Paswan said it has come down to Rs 3,838 crore so far in 2015-16 marketing year that will end in September. Out of which, Rs 1,963 crore pertains to Uttar Pradesh. (Times of India 6/7/16)

Guj 4th worst in allotting JNNURM houses to poor (21)

Ahmedabad: In what seems to be indifference in allotment of housing to the urban poor, Gujarat has the fourth highest number of unoccupied houses, under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) and the second highest number of vacant houses under Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY). According to the data from the Union ministry of housing and urban poverty alleviation, 19,986 JNNURM houses and 3,138 RAY houses are unoccupied in Gujarat, because the government has not allotted them. According to the figures on houses sanctioned and constructed under Pradhanmantri Awas Yojna (PMAY), which was introduced by the Narendra Modi-led Union government, 66,983 houses have been sanctioned, but none have been constructed. According to the government’s figures, 1.32 lakh houses have been sanctioned under JNNURM projects in the state, of which 1.20 lakh houses have been constructed. The state got sanction for 30,494 houses under RAY, but constructed just 3,138 homes under this scheme. This means just 10% of the houses sanctioned under RAY were constructed. These housing schemes are meant for the urban poor, but activists believe the government has not taken appropriate steps to implement them. Bharatsinh Jhala, a rights activists, said around 14 lakh people classified as urban poor in Ahmedabad are eligible for houses under various government schemes, but the state government has neither given them a proper dwelling place nor made any other arrangements. Jhabu Parmar, a 36-year-old resident of Ganeshnagar which is next to the city’s landfill site in Pirana and a BPL card holder, said that during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections she was verbally assured that she would get a pucca house, but it turned out to be a false promise. “As we were living near the dumping site, we went to live near Shankar Bhuvan na chhapra, beneath a plastic roof. It flew away in the last monsoon and we became homeless. After that we returned to Ganeshnagar, to live in that horrid place,” said Parmar. Shankar Chaudhary, minister of state for urban housing, was not available for comment on this issue. (Times of India 9/7/16)

Three quarters of South Sudanese need humanitarian aid: United Nation (21)

“We had over 2,000 people taking shelter inside our compound with our staff,” UN’s World Food Programme director Etharin Cousin said. Three-quarters of the population of South Sudan needs humanitarian aid after four days of deadly fighting, the UN’s World Food Programme director Etharin Cousin said on Monday. Between Friday and yesterday, the capital Juba was rocked by clashes between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and his longtime opponent Vice President Riek Machar. The two men finally announced a ceasefire late yesterday. “Three quarters of the population of South Sudan is in need of humanitarian assistance,” Cousin told AFP in the Jordanian capital Amman. “This latest conflict is going to push even more people into hunger and despair,” she warned. Cousin said heavy fighting over two days had forced humanitarian staff into underground bunkers “because the shelling was in Juba and so close to our places of operation. “We had over 2,000 people taking shelter inside our compound with our staff.” The fragile ceasefire appeared to be holding in Juba today. The fighting left hundreds of people dead and sent nearly 40,000 fleeing. The violence has raised fears of a return to civil war that broke out in December 2013. On June 29 — before the latest violence erupted — both the United Nations and the Juba government said that more than a third of South Sudanese face starvation as the nation runs the risk of a full-blown famine. (DNA 13/7/16)

Beef eating: HC seeks govt reply (21)

NEW DELHI: The Delhi high court on Wednesday sought Aam Aadmi Party government’s response on a PIL challenging criminalisation of possession and consumption of beef in the national capital. A bench comprising Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal issued a notice to the Delhi government and gave it time till September 14 to respond to a petition seeking to set aside a provisions of Delhi Agricultural Cattle Preservation Act criminalising possession and consumption of beef in Delhi.Petitioner Gaurav Jain, a law student, along with an NGO in their petition claimed that similar provisions in a legislation of the Maharashtra government was struck down by the Bombay HC. The NGO working for welfare of Scheduled Castes and Tribes claimed that the Cattle Preservation Act (CPA) was ‘a case of legislative over-reach.’ “The right to eat food of one’s choice is an integral part of the right to life and liberty,” the PIL stated. (Times of India 14/7/16)

Centre approves changes in DAY-NULM guidelines (21)

New Delhi, Jul 19 () To reach out to more people, the Centre today approved changes in the guidelines of the urban livelihoods mission DAY-NULM, including allowing those in vulnerable vocations to form groups for availing loans at subsidised interest rates. As per the new guidelines, banks can directly accept applications from beneficiaries for extending loans at subsidised interest rates for setting up enterprises under the self-employment component, dispensing with the need for sponsorship by urban local bodies concerned, an official statement said. One bank will be designated as the nodal agency for each state to coordinate with all other banks to increase banking linkages for loan support under this component. “Men involved in vulnerable occupations like sanitation workers, rag-pickers and rickshaw-pullers are now allowed to form groups who would be eligible for bank loans,” the release said. Norms for formation of self-help groups (SHGs) of urban poor have also been relaxed, allowing up to 10 members to form a group in hilly tracts and tribal areas as against the earlier norm of 20 members. The Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Urban Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NULM) seeks to reduce poverty and vulnerability of urban poor with providing loan and skill training, among others. The changes in operation guidelines of the mission were approved at a meeting of the National Governing Council of the mission, an inter-ministerial body chaired by Minister of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation M Venkaiah Naidu. Minister of State for Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation Rao Inderjit Singh also attended the meeting. The Governing Council also allowed construction of shelters for the urban homeless with CSR (corporate social responsibility) funds and other donations allowing display of names of such donors. Construction of multi-storeyed shelters for urban homeless keeping in view land constraints has also been permitted, the release said. The Council has also permitted convergence of DAY-NULM with other schemes like Prime Minister’s Kaushal Vikas Yojana, Skill Development, Jan Dhan Yojana and various social security schemes like Pradhan Mantri Jivan Jyoti Bima Yojana and Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana. After reviewing progress of the scheme in the past two years, Naidu said that the performance against the targets has been “satisfactory” but expressed the “need for states to do more”. (Times of India 19/7/16)

Tribals dying of hunger (6)

Bhubaneswar: The infant deaths (18 in three months), at Nagada village is a case of chronic hunger of primitive Juang tribals leading to acute malnutrition of their children and subsequent death due to lack of medical treatment. “ It reflects a bizarre case of how malnourished children are dying unattended in the chromite ore rich area where mining giants and big companies are minting money and claiming to have undertaken a lot of social activities as part of their corporate social responsibility,” observed a team of civil rights activists who returned from Nagada on Tuesday. Claims of ‘”inclusive growth’, innumerable anti-poverty schemes , nutrition programme, free food etc fall flat at Nagada as no officer ever visits the village which remains inaccessible calling for a hardous trek – climb the hill, they remarked . The village still suffers from hunger, malnutrition, drinking water crisis etc. the tribals area leading subhuman life without drinking water, electricity, food and lack of road connectivity. The government is squarely responsible for failing to provide basic amenities to the tribals. Many families have not been provided ration card under National Food Security Act due to irregularities in survey conducted to identify eligible households. Secondly, as per guideline of Antodaya Anna Yojana, all Juang families deserve to get each 35 kg rice per month.” Most of Juang families have not been covered till date,” said the rights activists led by Mr Pradip Pradhan, member of the advisory group of NHRC on right to food, Sudhir Mohanty, advocate, Odisha High Court, Mr Kalandi Mallik, Mr Sanjay Sahu, Mr Debenbdra Kumar Rout, who formed the fact finding team. The tribals walk for over 10 km to get any service or benefit under any scheme, they are unable to carry their sick children to hospital for treatment. They spend one day ( Rs.200 labour wage per day) to get Rs.300 pension amount under Old Age Pension Scheme. Almost all development programme and food security programme like ICDS, MDM, PDS, NREGA, Indira Awas Yojana, Biju Pucca Ghara Yojana, forest development programme, agricultural and horticultural programme etc. are not implemented in the area. (The Statewsman 20/7/16)

Capital’s date with food convention (21)

The state chapter of Right to Food Campaign – a national network of professionals working towards ensuring food security – will organise a national convention in Ranchi, the first such convention in Jharkhand, in September. This was announced at a meeting of the preparatory committee of the convention held at HRDC hall within GEL Church Complex in Ranchi on Wednesday. “The 6th national convention will be organised here between September 23 and 25. We are expecting about 3,000 delegates from across the country and also from other countries such as Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka,” ? said Gurjeet Singh, one of the members of the national steering committee of the network. Singh said that Right to Food Campaign is being supported by over 100 other organisations, which would raise around Rs 20 lakh from people, mostly in rural areas of the state, to organise the convention that would discuss plans on how to free people from hunger. Singh said there would be other donors too. At Wednesday’s meeting, Singh said that even though Jharkhand had implemented National Food Security Act, 2013, there were certain problems that needed immediate attention. “The government is planning for direct cash transfer through the public distribution system (PDS) instead of subsidised food grains. This is wrong because if people are given cash, then they will have to buy food grains from the market at higher rates,” he said. Singh also opposed the government’s plan to supply packaged food under mid-day meal scheme in schools. “Fresh food cooked by women’s self-help groups (SHGs) is better than packaged food,” he said. Singh suggested that eggs, which were being offered to anganwadi children aged 3-6 years in only three districts – Dumka, Ranchi, East Singhbhum – should be extended to all the districts. “The quantity of food grains supplied through PDS shops is less than the prescribed amount,” said Bahamani Kumari, a member of a SHG at Arki in Khunti district. Mamta Lakra, a member of a SHG working at Kisko in Lohardaga, opined that SHGs active in a particular area should be entrusted with the job of distributing food grains through PDS by rotation. (The Telegraph 21/7/16)

‘Poverty’ forced woman to kill children in Odisha (21)

NUAPADA: Poverty and not mental illness led Lochani Majhi (28) to drown her three children to death, hinted cops and neighbours of the woman. Lochani, who is mentally ill, had pushed her children __  Sashibhusan (4), Kundi (3) and 19-month old Laxman into a well at her farm land near Banyapada of Keshrajpur village under Boden police limits on Tuesday. Though it was initially believed that she was not in a right frame of mind when she killed her children, police on Friday revealed that Lochani and her husband Kalyan Singh were facing abject poverty. Kalyan (32) worked as a daily labourer and it was difficult for him to maintain a family of five. This led to frequent quarrels between the couple  and they had also approached the Boden Police over family feud. Villagers said financial condition of the couple was not good even as Kalyan had inherited 1.5 acres of land and was a BPL card holder. They said even on the fateful day, Kalyan had gone to a nearby village Salapada to work on farm land as labourer. Sarpanch of Sunapur gram panchayat, Amar Singh Majhi, who also happens to be a neighbour of the couple, said the couple had marital discord. He said that there have been numerous instances when Lochani had left her husband and gone to her paternal house only to return. Majhi also admitted to mental illness of Lochani but was unsure if the murders were committed over mental state or out of desperation. After the incident, she admitted to have pushed her children into the well. This drew the attention of the villagers nearby. Later, they informed Narahari, brother of Kalyan, who reached the farm land and retrieved the bodies. He also informed the police about the incident. (New Indian Express 22/7/16)

‘Banjara infant girl trade dodges vigil; desire for son and poverty key reasons’ (21)

HYDERABAD: The Banjara community in Devarakonda of Nalgonda district continues to dodge the law and sell girl children for Rs 40,000-Rs 50,000, according to Nalgonda district Child Welfare Committee chairperson K Nimmaiah. Speaking to Express, Nimmaiah expressed concern over lack of knowledge about family planning, the desire for a male child, coupled with chronic poverty among the Banjaras that forces them to sell their girl children to brokers. “The brokers, who make Rs 10,000 out of each transaction put the children up for illegal adoption or sell them again for sex trade. However, government monitoring over adoption has increased and now many Banjara girls, who are known for their beauty, are adopted legally by infertile couples,” the Nalgonda CWC chairperson said. “However, the brokers also sell the children to people who bring up the Banjara girls till they become majors, sell them to brothels in Yadagirigutta in Nalgonda district and in Mumbai and Pune,” he added. To avoid suspicion, the girl children change hands while being brought up. “The Banjara women work as sex workers till the age of 35 and when their youth is gone, they are left alone with a lot of sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS, and nowhere to go,” Nimmaiah added. However, Devarakonda officials say reported cases have come down due to vigilance. But, some agree that Banjaras manage to slip their vigil and sell infant girls. “In some cases we have seen that mothers are also willing to sell their infant girls. We have conducted gram sabhas and counselling is given to mothers. We also recommend setting up of residential hostels and some have already been established,” said Devarakonda RDO K Gangadhar. “Though the cases of selling girl children has reduced since the past 7-8 months, still some incidents happen secretly. But cases were booked against brokers and sellers,” he added. However, Devarakonda Child Development Protection Officer (CDPO), ICDS, Sakku Bai claimed that strict monitoring is in place. “Our Anganwadi workers keep a fortnightly and monthly tab on pregnant women,” she said. Devarakonda DSP G Chandra Mohan said that the Banjaras know that if they sell children they will be booked. (New Indian Express 26/7/16)

 ‘Feed the future’ programme launched (21)

NEW DELHI: The Union Agriculture Ministry and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) on Monday launched the second phase of the “Feed the Future” India triangular training programme here, in a bid to bring specialised agriculture training to 1,500 agricultural professionals across Africa and Asia. U.S. Ambassador Richard R. Verma and Agriculture Secretary S.K. Pattanayak launched the programme together at the national agriculture science complex. The programme builds upon five decades of joint work utilising science and technology to bring innovative solutions to the challenges facing farmers.“By harnessing the expertise and innovation of our two great countries, we are unlocking new opportunities to address global development challenges, bringing us closer to our shared objective of eliminating global poverty and hunger,” said Mr. Verma. The programme is expected to enable India and the U.S. to share these farming techniques worldwide, helping countries in Africa and Asia revolutionise their agriculture practices and ultimately, improve global nutrition levels. Notably, led by the National Institute of Agricultural Extension Management- MANAGE, the programme will train agricultural professionals from 17 countries in Africa and Asia on specialised farming practices such as agricultural marketing, dairy management, food processing and ways to prevent post-harvest losses. The first phase trained more than 200 professionals from Kenya, Liberia and Malawi, and they are now implementing the new farming methods to increase farm productivity and income. India and the U.S. are expanding the programme with the second phase launch to reach hundreds of professionals and in turn thousands of smallholder farmers. (The Hindu 27/7/16)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

Centre moves to raise minimum wage for workers, labour unions unimpressed (14)

New Delhi: The NDA government is in the process of revising the minimum wages of millions of workers in several sectors, including agriculture, construction and mining. The daily wages of a sweeper or an unskilled construction worker in Delhi, for instance, is proposed to be increased by Rs 81 to Rs 449. Likewise, the position of an unarmed security guard could be upgraded from the semi-skilled to skilled category with a Rs 139 hike in his existing daily wage of Rs 407. These revisions form part of the labour ministry’s proposal to revise the minimum wages for 45 economic activities in the central sphere, including agriculture, construction, stone mining, sweeping, and loading-unloading. Despite being in the central sphere, they serve as a benchmark for minimum wages in the states too. “Increasing the minimum wages is a continuous process, and in a country that has a large informal sector, this move will bring cheer to many while boosting the overall economy,” said Soumya Kanti Ghosh, chief economic advisor, State Bank of India. Delhi and other major metropolitan cities have been clubbed under one category for the purpose of wages, while the rest of the country is divided into two other categories with lower income structures. A sweeper in Gwalior or Jaipur, for instance, would get Rs 374 per day – up by Rs 67 – if and when the wages are revised. On the other hand, a skilled construction worker in Delhi might see a hike of Rs 98. The minimum wages are applicable to both the formal and informal sectors “theoretically”, but it’s difficult to implement in the unorganised sector.Under the Minimum Wages Act-1948, wages have to be reviewed every five years. However, the agriculture sector saw its last wage review in 2005, sweeping and cleaning in 2008, and construction sector in 2009. “Minimum wages must be revised periodically to factor in inflation,” said DK Joshi, chief economist, CRISIL. Sources said the proposed changes in the wage structure have been brought before the Minimum Wages Advisory Board, and these will be notified soon after being cleared. …  (Hindustan Times 3/7/16)

20 booked for vandalising assistant labour chief’s office (14)

Kolhapur: Workers of the Republican Party of India (RPI-Athawale group) allegedly vandalised the office of the assistant labour commissioner in Shahupuri on Monday causing losses to the tune of Rs 3 lakh. The Shahupuri police have booked 20 workers of the party for their alleged involvement in the act. According to the police, the Republican Party of India (A) members organised a morcha at the assistant labour commissioner’s office on Monday afternoon for their series of demands. However, things took a violent turn when they allegedly vandalised the office breaking chairs, windows and glasses and also damaged furnitures. The police present at the spot stormed into the office and managed to bring the situation under control. Later, the police held 20 people responsible for the act. They were booked under sections of Indian Penal Code (IPC), including 143 (punishment), 147 (punishment for rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon). They were also booked under the IPC sections 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object), 353 (assault or criminal force with intent to dishonour person, otherwise than on grave provocation) and 452 (house trespass after preparation for hurt, assault or wrongful restraint) as well as section 135 of the Maharashtra Police Act. The RPI activists were agitating to press for their demands that included starting of insurance scheme for construction workers, allotting service books to construction workers within 15 days and enrolling new construction workers at the earliest. (Times of India 5/7/16)

MGNREGA is most innovative Indian programme: Joseph Stiglitz (14)

Bengaluru, July 6 (IANS) The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) is the single most innovative programme from India and a lesson to the whole world, said Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz on Wednesday. “The single most innovative programme from India, lesson for the whole world, it was that programme (MGNREGA),” said Stiglitz in response to a question on how India can minimise or eradicate inequality. He was speaking on the topic ‘Global Inequlity — Causes and Consequences’ at an interaction organised by Azim Premji University here. Enacted in 2005, the job guarantee scheme under the MGNREGA aims to enhance the livelihood security of rural people by guaranteeing 100 days of wages in a financial year for adults willing to take up unskilled manual work. Elaborating on how to curb inequality, the 2001 Economic Sciences Nobel laureate said it is pivotal to generate full employment. “One of the things most important is employment. And when there are high levels of unemployment, there is inequality,” said Stiglitz, also a professor in the the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University in New York city. Generating full employment can be facilitated by ensuring rapid overall economy growth, he said. “Making sure that your overall economy grows at rapid rate is important. That means, not getting overly obsessed about inflation,” he stressed. “Excessive focus on inflation always inevitably leads to higher levels of unemployment levels and lower growth, and therefore more inequality,” added Stiglitz. Born in 1943 in Indiana, US, Stiglitz created a new branch in the discipline of Economics called ‘The Economics of Information’, which explores the consequences of asymmetries in information. (Times of India 6/7/16)

Sharp rise in timely wage payment to MGNREGA workers (14)

New Delhi: More workers are getting paid on time under the MGNREGA rural job scheme after the Supreme Court and Prime Minister Narendra Modi cracked the whip, as late payment threatened to derail India’s biggest anti-poverty project. Delayed wages had been a major reason for beneficiaries opting out of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), which brings work to millions of poor people in the countryside. It defeated the purpose of generating employment during distress in rural areas. But the payment schedule has improved substantially, of late. According to government figures, 62.21% of MGNREGA workers have been paid their dues within 15 days of completion of their work during April-June this year — the best performance since the scheme was introduced a decade ago. That’s a 65% jump, compared to 37.65% of workers getting their money on time in 2015. The sharp rise in timely payment came after the Supreme Court pulled up the government over unpaid wages two months ago. “It’s meaningless to have welfare schemes if affected persons do not receive assured benefits on time,” said a bench headed by Justice MB Lokur, hearing a petition on drought. There are 27.76 crore registered MGNREGA workers and payment punctuality is imperative because successive droughts had shriveled farm income. “It’s not sufficient to say so much has been allotted under a scheme. Those who worked under MNREGA are waiting for money. Why should people work without being paid? You can’t tell somebody to work today without money, which will be given after three months,” the court said. The top court’s rap forced the government to improve the payment schedule and cut delays. Prime Minister Modi stepped in too, hauling up officials at review meetings with the rural development ministry, sources said. He asked them to ensure timely payment and create assets under the MGNREGA. “Instead of waiting for the states to disburse money, we sent money directly to banks for disbursal of wages into the accounts of beneficiaries. We started an internet-based master roll of workers and monitored the system rigorously,” a rural development official said. (Hindustan Times 9/7/16)

Promote labour-intensive industries: NITI Aayog (14)

NEW DELHI: NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Arvind Panagariya stressed upon the need to promote labour-intensive industries in the country in a bid to create jobs. In a meeting with central trade unions and industry bodies, Mr. Panagariya gave a presentation on employment generation drawing a comparison with other countries such as China, Korea and Japan, said Virjesh Upadhyay, general secretary, Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, who attended the meeting. “The presentation talked about the need to promote big and capital-intensive industries,” Mr. Upadhyay said. The meeting comes ahead of the labour ministry’s meet on July 18 with central trade unions to revive talks on their 12-point charter of demands. “He also said that legislative reforms in the area of tax, land and reforms are a must to generate jobs,” Mr. Upadhyay said, adding that this was the first time that the government think-tank held a meeting with the trade unions. CII and FICCI representatives also attended the meeting. (The Hindu 12/7/16)

33 bonded labours rescued of Bastar rescued from Bangalore (14)

Raipur: A day after opposition Congress legislators expressed serious concern over rising incidents of human trafficking in Chhattisgarh, 33 tribal people, including three minors of Bastar district, were rescued from a factory in Bangalore who were kept in confinement and were forced to work as bonded labours. With the initiative taken by Aam Aadmi Party at Jagdalpur, the members approached district collector demanding return of 15 people identified who were stuck in Karnataka. A team was then sent to rescue them, who returned with 33 people of Bastanar and Darbha region while thousands were still languishing in parts of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. District convener of AAP Rohit Arya told TOI, “Two local women had lured these people for jobs in railway department and took them to Bangalore via Vizag in December last year. The people working in a factory were kept in confinement and were measly paid irregularly amid dearth of food and sleep and regular beatings.” When they tried contacting families and local sarpanch, they didn’t get much support and the families contacted AAP members. Arya said that we made a list of 15 people and submitted before district collector Amit Kataria following which a team of five members from labour department were sent to Karnataka to rescue. A case was also lodged against the women agents against whom police have launched a manhunt. In their statement they said that there were thousands of people more from Chhattisgarh in clutches of contractors who don’t allow them to return home. Meanwhile, district administration would now get strict with maintaining of registers at gram panchayat level to record movements and migration of people from one place to another. (Times of India 13/7/16)

No anti-labour legislation planned: Labour minister (14)

NEW DELHI: Labour and employment minister Bandaru Dattatreya on Monday sought to allay fears of trade unions and said the Centre had neither implemented any anti-labour law nor did it intend to do so in the future. The minister’s meeting with labour unions came amid apprehension that the government was looking to amend the laws to make them more business-friendly and could impact the interests of labour. The unions, which went on a day’s strike last September, have presented their demands to the Centre and Dattatreya sought to address the concerns. Sources said during the meeting that lasted nearly four hours, the minister “committed to labour welfare and to promote employment generation” but at the same time argued that labour reforms were necessary to enable setting up of more enterprises and to create jobs. He further said the government was looking to protect the interests of contract and construction workers. Some of the demands of unions include steps to contain price rise, opposition to foreign direct investment in railways, insurance and defence in addition to putting a halt to amendment to labour laws. (Times of India 19/7/16)

Four rescued from bonded labour in Hoskote, owner and sons charged (14)

BENGALURU: Suffering through bonded labour for over 10 years, three minors and an adult were rescued from a vegetable farm in Hoskote on Saturday, July 16. The four victims, hailing from Krishnagiri in Tamil Nadu and Ramanagara in Karnataka were trafficked by the farm owner and his five sons who had paid the parents of the four an advance at the time of trafficking, ranging from Rs 20,000 to Rs 60,000. The oldest, 25 years of age, was bought by the farmer ten years ago and the rest of them, aged 16, 15 and 14 were trafficked, seven, four and five years ago, respectively. Once brought to the farm, the four youngsters were forced to work as per the weightage of advance paid to the parents. On Saturday, the victims were rescued by the Bangalore Rural District Administration and local police, along with the International Justice Mission (IJM). A case has been registered against the farm owner and his sons at the Hoskote Police Station under IPC 370 (Trafficking of Persons), bonded labour act and child labour act. “It is a serious crime that the youngsters were used as bonded labourers at this vegetable farm in Hoskote,” said, GB Chandrashekara, Tahsildhar of Hoskote who was in charge of the rescue. “The government of Karnataka takes these cases very seriously and we will conduct raids on any farm or factory that we suspect uses bonded labour. In this case, the owner of the farm faces serious human trafficking charges which carries a minimum sentence of 10 years. The labourers have been given release certificates by the Assistant Commissioner of Bangalore Rural District, MK Jagadesh and they will be rehabilitated.” “Giving advances to labourers or their families and restricting the freedom of the labourer based on the advance is also illegal according to the Bonded Labour (Abolition) Act which attracts a maximum sentence of three years,” said Sashmeeta Mulmi, Director of Government Engagement, IJM. … (Times of India 20/7/16)

89 cr person-days generated under MGNREGA in first quarter (14)

New Delhi, Jul 20 () With change in implementation mode, the MGNREGA performance has improved substantially, as employment generated under it jumped by 60 per cent to record 89 crore person-days in the first quarter of this year. Under the MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) scheme, the employment is demand-driven. Those who turn up for work are hired and paid on notified wage rate. In the April-June period of last year about 54 crore person-days of employment was generated under the MGNREGA which has jumped to 89 crore this year, Joint Secretary in Rural Development Ministry Aprajita Sarangi told . “So far Rs 30,000 crore has been allocated to the states under this scheme which is almost 78 per cent of the total budget. While in the last year at the same time about Rs 20,000 crore was allocated,” she said. The government has tweaked its implementation strategy of MGNREGA and now the focus is more on asset creation, she added. To ensure that there are no ghost assets being created, the geo-tagging of all the assets is being done. At the same time there was sharp rise in the number of field visits to assess the implementation of the scheme on ground level, Sarangi said. The official also mentioned that at the central level the rural development ministry is very minutely monitoring the scheme. “I think rural distress due to drought has also played a big role in the rise in working days under MGNREGA,” she said. The Centre has also announced the additional employment over and above 100 days per household to up to 150 days in notified drought affected districts in various states of the country. (Times of India 21/7/16)

CPI(M) seeks revision of minimum wages (14)

MANGALURU: Workers of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) staged a protest outside the Deputy Commissioner’s office here on Monday accusing the Union government of failing to control inflation. It was part of a nationwide protest. They also demanded that the government fix the minimum daily wage at Rs. 600. K.R. Shreyan, a senior leader of the party, said that the prices of essential commodities had not come down in the last two years as promised by the Union government. The government had also failed to provide jobs to two crore persons a year, he alleged. Mr. Shreyan said that ahead of last Lok Sabha elections, the BJP promised to bring back black money stashed abroad. But it had remained only a promise. The government had also failed to end corruption in government departments, he said. Vasantha Achari, secretary, Dakshina Kannda district committee, said that atrocities against Dalits and minorities were increasing in BJP-ruled States in the country. Hindutva activists were behind the murder of RTI activist Vinayak Baliga in Mangaluru, he alleged. (The Hindu 26/7/16)

Since 2005, fewer jobs for women in India (14)

Female labour force participation in India is among the lowest in the world. What’s worse, the share of working women in India is declining. This is a cause for concern since higher labour earnings are the primary driver of poverty reduction. It is often argued that declining female participation is due to rising incomes that allow more women to stay at home. The evidence, however, shows that after farming jobs collapsed post 2005, alternative jobs considered suitable for women failed to replace them. Rising labour earnings have been the main force behind India’s remarkable decline in poverty. The gains arise partly from the demographic transition, which increases the share of working members in the average family. But trends in female labour force participation veer in the opposite direction. Today, India has one of the lowest female participation rates in the world, ranking 120th among the 131 countries for which data are available. Even among countries with similar income levels, India is at the bottom, together with Yemen, Pakistan and Egypt (Figure 1). Worse still, the rate has been declining since 2005. This is a matter of concern as women’s paid employment is known to increase their ability to influence decision-making within the household, and empower them more broadly in society as a whole. This declining trend has been particularly pronounced in rural areas, where female labour force participation among women aged 15 years and above fell from 49% in 2005 to 36% in 2012. This is the most recent period for which data are available. The numbers are based on the National Sample Survey’s (NSS) definition of ‘usual status’ of work, but the trend remains similar with other definitions too. In a recent paper, we argue that the explanation for this disturbing trend is the lack of suitable job opportunities for women. In a traditional society like India, where women bear the bulk of the responsibility for domestic chores and child care, their work outside the home is acceptable if it takes place in an environment that is perceived as safe, and allows the flexibility of multi-tasking. Indeed, three-quarters of women who were willing to work, if work was made available, favoured part-time salaried jobs. From this perspective, female labour force participation can be expected to depend on the availability of ‘suitable jobs’ such as farming, which are both flexible and close to home. However, the number of farming jobs has been shrinking, without a commensurate increase in other employment opportunities. Our research suggests that more than half of the decline in female labour force participation is due to the scarcity of suitable jobs at the local level. … (Indian Express 26/7/16)

RSS opposes Centre’s labour laws, wants govt to focus on job creation (14)

New Delhi: Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-affiliated trade unions and farmer groups have opposed the government’s attempts to amend labour laws at a time when the BJP-led NDA is pushing big-ticket programmes such as skill development and Make in India. They want the government to focus on job creation, saying its initiatives were not creating employment opportunities and better wages. The message was relayed to the government at a meeting on Tuesday between several Union ministers and representatives of the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, Swadeshi Jagran Manch and the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh. These organisations are not content with minimum wages and contractual jobs or with the government limiting its intervention to skilling alone. “There is no wage-led growth; people appointed at junior levels continue to earn a meagre salary till their retirement,” a BMS functionary said. The affiliates have called for reassessing benefits accrued in the past through foreign direct investment (FDI). PM Narendra Modi’s views that FDI reforms will boost employment and benefit the economy has failed to impress the Sangh. An SJM functionary said: “From what we have seen, the rich have become richer and the gap between the rich and the poor has widened.” The Sangh’s farmer wing said allowing FDI in the food processing industry would affect local businesses, small operations and start-ups. These Sangh affiliates will deliberate on FDI and other economic policies at a meeting in September. Their opposition may force the government to rethink its strategy. RSS, the BJP’s ideological mentor and often accused of influencing policy decisions, has become more assertive of late, unlike its blanket endorsement of government policies last September at a coordination meeting in New Delhi. Besides trade, labour and economy, education is where the Sangh wants its imprint to be conspicuous. It wants its inputs incorporated in a new education policy and a curriculum steeped in Indian culture. Reverting to the traditional teaching forms such as the Gurukul system, popularising Sanskrit and culling out information from Vedas is a priority for the Sangh, which it asserted in meetings with HRD ministers — first Smriti Irani and now Prakash Javadekar. (Hindustan Times 29/7/16)

RESERVATION

Jats suspend quota stir after talks with Rajasthan govt.(25)

JAIPUR: The Jat community of Bharatpur and Dholpur districts in Rajasthan has suspended its agitation for reservation under the Other Backward Class (OBC) category, which was slated to begin on Saturday, after its representatives reached an understanding with the State government over some of the demands. Three State ministers, who met a 21-member delegation of the Bharatpur-Dholpur Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti in Jaipur, assured that the State OBC Commission would be apprised of the demand for early collection of quantifiable data to support the claim of Jats for quota in jobs and education. The demand for drinking water supply from Guragaon Canal to 205 villages will also be considered. Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Arun Chaturvedi said though the State government agreed in principle with the reservation demand, the matter was sub judice after both the Supreme Court and the Rajasthan High Court struck down the notifications for inclusion of Jats in the Central and State OBC lists. (The Hindu 3/7/16)

Govt issues notification on reservation in promotions (25)

Jaipur: People from Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, Other Backward Class, Special Backward Class and economically weaker sections placed in notified areas of the state will get reservation in promotions. The state government on Monday issued notification approving 5% of reservation for Scheduled Caste and 45% of reservation for Scheduled Tribe in scheduled areas for government jobs other than state services. Apart from this, 5% seats will be reserved for SC and 45% for ST’s in scheduled areas for the direct recruitment in government jobs other state services. On rest 50% seats, applicants from other communities will be selected based on their qualification. However, even these seats will be open for the SC and ST candidates. (Times of India 5/7/16)

OBC quota opening doors but policies need better implementation: Transgenders (25)

BENGALURU: Manju, 41, is a postgraduate but is forced to beg for a living. The transgender harboured the dream of being a teacher but was shown the door by many colleges. “What good is my education? Despite being a degree holder, I have to resort to begging. I have been pushed into sex work too. Had society been a little empathetic towards me, I would be living with dignity,” said Manju.Discrimination and stigma have bulldozed the dreams of many like Manju, who are competent enough to hold respectable positions. But coming to the rescue of the community, the Supreme Court last week passed a ruling reiterating that transgenders have to be included in the OBC category. Though the judgment was delivered on April 15, 2014, the NDA government moved an application in July 2014 seeking clarification on whether the term ‘transgender’ included lesbians, gays and bisexuals. The apex court’s latest verdict has clarified that the transgender community does not include lesbians, gays and bisexuals but only eunuchs. The judgement has come as a ray of hope for transgenders who can now identify themselves as the third gender, reap the benefits enjoyed by OBCs and get more employment opportunities. However, implementation of policies is still a far cry, say activists. “Though we are witnessing a change, it is visible only in a few institutions and organizations working for the uplift of transgenders. The policies are still pending with the government and there is a lack of implementation. We are yet to be accepted by society. Commissions should be set up to look into policies related to the transgender community,” said Akkai Padmashali, an activist inspiring transgender community across the world. When asked about transgenders being given the recognition of the third gender, Akkai said, “If I am the third gender, then who is the first? Why should anyone decide what my gender is? Rakshita, 19, who is all set to pursue B Com, said the SC order will help only if the government and society gives them employment opportunities. “Even though the verdict brings us under the OBC umbrella, transgenders hardly any chance to grow. How many colleges are willing to offer admission to transgenders except St Joseph’s,” she asked.The SC order should be accepted and implemented at the state level. I have been pursuing modelling and have worked in the national award-winning and critically acclaimed Kannada movie Naanu Avanalla Avalu, which which narrates the story of a transgender. But I am still struggling. I am mostly offered petty roles, which portray transgenders in a bad light. I dropped out of school after class 7 because I was bullied. If we have to struggle for something like a ration card despite the OBC status, there is a serious lack of policy implementation. (Times of India 5/7/16)

Arvind Kejriwal calls DU admission system ‘bizarre’ (25)

New Delhi: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Thursday termed the admission process of Delhi University “bizarre”, saying it doesn’t have a quota for the local students or entrance tests. “Delhi University admission system is most bizarre. They don’t have either quota for locals or normalisation of marks or entrance tests”, tweeted the Chief Minister. His comment comes close on the heels of Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia’s letter to the then Union Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani, demanding changes in the admission process of the varsity. In a letter written to Irani on July 2, Sisodia had suggested allotment of five percentage points for local students in those Delhi University colleges which are funded completely by the Delhi government. He also asked for a separate entrance test for admission in DU colleges. Former Delhi BJP chief Vijay Goel, who has been raising the issue of reservation for local students in DU, also suggested an eligibility test for admission into the varsity. “I met DU Vice-Chancellor and requested him to bring quota for local students and conduct eligibility test for admissions. I also called on Manish Sisodia and the HRD minister and I am confident that the talk would go in the right direction”, Goel, who was recently inducted into the Union council of ministers, told IANS. DU admissions for various courses are currently going on with the university scheduled to release the third cut-off list on Sunday. (Business Standard 7/7/16)

Rajasthan rectifies notification to allow 100% quota for locals in TSP areas (25)

Jaipur: The Rajasthan government has reissued a notification for Tribal Sub Plan (TSP) areas, reserving 45% jobs for Scheduled Tribe (ST) and 5% for Scheduled Caste (SC) candidates in all direct recruitment, except the State Services. In addition to the ST/SC candidates, the general category candidates too would get quota benefit in the TSP areas. As per the notification, the remaining 50% vacancies in all direct recruitment in the TSP areas will be filled only with local candidates from the OBC, SBC and general categories. The special quota is only for candidates who are natives of the TSP areas and is applicable in direct recruitment at the lower levels only in TSP areas. The TSP areas include the entire southern districts of Dungarpur, Banswara and Pratapgarh and some parts of Udaipur and Sirohi. The tribal people, supported by the Samanta Manch, had been agitating for the fresh notification since the earlier one was stayed by the Rajasthan high court on the ground that the state government failed to clarify under which law the special quota was granted. The new notification gives references to sub-para (1) of para-5 in the Fifth Schedule under Article 244(1) and the Government of India notification F19(2)80-L-1 dated February 12, 1981 in allowing special quota to tribal people in TSP areas. The local people from the TSP areas held a massive “Dhikkar” rally in Sagwara tehsil of Dungarpur to demand correction in the earlier notification so that the special quota could be implemented. The state government subsequently held a couple of meetings with the TSP leaders on the issue. The region has the largest number of assembly constituencies reserved for ST candidates in Rajasthan. The past election-patterns show that the locals here vote en masse and the party that takes lead here generally comes to power. In 2013, the BJP won 15 of the 17 seats reserved for the ST in the region. (Times of India 9/7/16)

Right to admission reserved (25)

NEW DELHI: Most colleges have already filled more than half their seats and the largest number of vacancies now exist in the reserved categories. Hindu and Shri Ram College of Commerce, for instance, are close to completing the process and, barring further withdrawals, are likely to close admissions in several subjects. A fourth list of cutoffs is likely in subjects like economics and mathematics and will be released on the night of July 14. “We have filled 719 of our sanctioned seats. Adding the admissions to supernumerary seats, such as sports quota, the total is 730,” said Anita Vishen , admissions convenor at Hindu college. There have been a total of 114 withdrawals at Kirori Mal College, while at Indraprastha College for Women it is 150. Officials at both colleges said that there are vacancies in the reserved categories. “Out of the 148 seats reserved for Scheduled Castes, 66 have been claimed. Of the 74 seats for Scheduled Tribes, 53 are full and of the 255 OBC seats, 180 have been admitted,” said Purnima Roy, vice-principal, Miranda House. Of the 986 seats, 779 have been filled. The situation is the same at SRCC which has filled all general category seats. There are vacancies in BCom (H) at KMC, Lady Shri Ram and Kamala Nehru College. But Shaheed Bhagati Singh College (Evening) has over-admitted in the subject, taking in 60 candidates against 40 seats. Even in science courses there are few vacancies. Hansraj , however, has seats in chemistry and zoology and Hindu in physics. There are also seats in mathematics and statistics at several colleges. “Around 200 seats are vacant. With another day for admissions left in the third list, we expect a good number of students. On Tuesday we had around 110 admissions. Barring 3-4 courses, others are likely to be closed for general category candidates in the fourth list. However, we will take a final call on Thursday. We may have to keep a few courses open at the same cutoff ,” said P Hemlata Reddy, principal, Sri Venkateswara . Some candidates are still finding it difficult to pay. Officials from both north and off-campus colleges say that the payment for first-list admissions has not been cleared in some cases. (Times of India 13/7/16)

Bihar leader’s quota prod (25)

Ranchi, July 14: Senior BJP leader from Bihar Prem Kumar has urged the Jharkhand government to keep the Chandravanshis out of the purview of the tenancy laws, allowing this socio-economically backward community to use their land for commercial purposes. The Leader of the Opposition in the Bihar Assembly added that the Chandravanshis were an extremely backward community (EBC) and needed special benefits on a par with the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes from government to survive. “I called on chief minister Raghubar Das yesterday and apprised him of the ground realities. The economic condition of members of the community is deteriorating yet they are not able to sell their land in the Scheduled Areas,” Prem Kumar said at a news conference at the state guest house in Ranchi. If the Jharkhand government is unable to exempt the Chandravanshis – who claim to comprise around 6-7 per cent of the population in the tribal-dominated state – from the tenancy laws, the community members should be given reservations and other benefits like SCs and STs. “Like Bihar, Jharkhand should give 16 per cent reservation to EBCs and 11 per cent to OBCs in government jobs and admissions to educational institutions,” he advocated. The BJP leader claimed that chief minister Das had promised to give careful considerations to the demands, which also include setting up of an extremely backward community commission in Jharkhand; representations by Chandravanshis in the proposed advisory body as well in the 20-point programme implementation committee, other boards and corporations; enactment of stringent laws to prevent exploitation of EBCs; reservations in panchayati raj and municipal bodies et al. On the liquor ban in Bihar, Prem Kumar questioned chief minister Nitish Kumar’s real intentions. “Illegal and spurious liquor is being smuggled into Bihar from neighbouring states. Before imposing the ban, Nitish Kumar should have spoken to his counterparts in neighbouring states,” he said. The Bihar leader, however, maintained that the BJP in principle was also in favour of liquor ban everywhere. “But it should be done in phases.” He also alleged that Bihar under the JDU-RJD combine had become a den of scams – merit scam, scholarship scam. (The Telegraph 15/7/16)

Demand for reservation based on economic conditions opposed (25)

KALABURAGI: Chairman of ICCSR Sukhdeo Thorat has opposed the demand for reservation based on economic conditions for different castes and said that reservation extended to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was not based on their economic conditions but due to oppression faced by them for centuries and also deprivation of opportunities due to the caste system prevailing in the country from time immemorial. Speaking at a seminar on “Challenges faced by the Dalit Communities in the Country” organised by the Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Vichara Vedike to commemorate the 125th birth anniversary of Ambedkar here on Tuesday, Prof. Thorat, who is a former chairman of the University Grants Committee, said that the very demand for reservation based on economic conditions is meaningless as it defeated the concept of reservation guaranteed in the Constitution. He said that the Scheduled Castes continued to be deprived of their due share in development and employment avenues due to various factors, including continued oppression and the practice of untouchability that is going on unabated even now in the villages throughout the country. The education levels and employment levels of the Scheduled Castes continued to be low despite the reservation policy. Prof. Thorat said that the government should conduct a study and document the extent of deprivation of property rights, education and employment opportunities and low wages to Dalits in the country and take corrective measures to undo the injustice done to the community. Recent studies by UNESCO have pointed out that the unemployment rate among the Scheduled Castes continued to be high at 11 per cent where as the unemployment rate of Other Backward Classes was around 5 per cent. The UNESCO survey also pointed out that the infant mortality rate was high among the downtrodden communities when compared to others, he said. Prof. Thorat said that the government should introduce a programme for reduction of poverty among the Scheduled Castes by extending education, employment benefits as per reservation and ensure that all the landless Scheduled Castes families get agricultural land for tilling to improve their economic status. Honorary president of the vedike Maruti Manpade spoke. Sri Jayamrutyunjaya Swamiji of Kudala Sangama was present. (The Hindu 20/7/16)

Women Reservation Bill needs careful consideration on the basis of consensus: Maneka Gandhi (8)

New Delhi: Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi urged parliamentarians before the bill could be introduced. Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi stressed the need for building consensus among all political parties on Thursday, before the Women Reservation Bill is introduced in Parliament. In a written reply to a question in Rajya Sabha on the issue of 33% reservation for women, she said, “It has been the endeavour of the government to provide for reservation of one-third seats for women in Lok Sabha and the state legislative assemblies. “The issue involved needs careful consideration on the basis of consensus among all the political parties before a Bill for amendment in the Constitution is brought before Parliament.” The Women’s Reservation Bill or the Constitution (108th Amendment) Bill, 2008, seeks to reserve one-third of all seats for women in Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies. Introduced by the UPA-I government in May 2008, it also provides that one third of the seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes shall be reserved for women of those groups. Rajya Sabha had passed the Bill in March 2010, but could not be cleared by Lok Sabha and then it subsequently lapsed. Similar bills have been introduced thrice before in the late 1990s but lapsed with the dissolution of their respective Lok Sabhas. Janata Dal United, Rashtriya Janata Dal and Samajwadi Party have been the main opponents of the Bill. (DNA 21/7/16)

Tribal children struggle to get Plus One seats (25)

Palakkad: Commendable performance by tribal children of Attappady in the SSLC examinations this March has created a different kind of crisis in the region with more than 100 tribal students failing to find admission to Plus One under the single window admission procedure. Even after four allotments, the students who scored better marks in the SSLC examination have failed to get admission as seats for Plus One in Attappady are limited. Tribal welfare organisation, Thambu, has sought the intervention of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Welfare Minister A.K. Balan to ensure admission for all those who have passed SSLC this year from Attappady’s tribal community. Affirmative actions taken up in the recent years have contributed to the educational excellence of tribal children in the region which had witnessed high dropouts so far. “In the last SSLC examination, 815 tribal children were able to pass. The region has only three government and two aided Plus Two schools to pursue higher education. They together have 600 seats, which would be allotted among both tribals and non-tribals. Though the single window scheme provided preference to tribal children in schools closer to Attappady, around 100 students are struggling to get seats,” said K.A. Ramu, an activist with Thambu. Though a similar situation prevailed last year too, the then government had done nothing to increase the number of seats. More batches and seats are needed in the schools in the region to ensure justice to the tribal children who passed SSLC overcoming several hurdles,’’ said Rajendra Prasad, education activist. “In Kallakkara tribal colony, five students are seeking Plus One admission while the number at Kakkupathi is four. In Cholakkad, it is six while the number is five at Kallamala,” he said. (The Hindu 22/7/16)

Nitish demands reservation in judiciary (25)

LUCKNOW: With both the Bharatiya Janata Party and Bahujan Samaj Party going an extra mile to woo the dalit voters in UP, ahead of the 2017 assembly elections, Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal-United president Nitish Kumar on Tuesday demanded reservation (for dalits) in judiciary. The Bihar CM was addressing a gathering at Lucknow’s Bijli Pasi Quila on the birth anniversary of Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj, the Maratha ruler (of Kolhapur), believed to be the founding father of reservation in Indian society. Addressing the gathering, Nitish said, “The current reservation policy and the one envisaged by Babasaheb Ambedkar traces its origin to Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj (from Kolhapur). However, much needs to be done and achieved. We have miles to go and achieve more. The bahujans must get reservation in every field and sector including the judiciary.” He further stated that the battle of the bahujans and for the bahujans has just begun, and it would be folly to think that the battle has come to an end. Showering accolades on Shahuji Maharaj, the Bihar CM said, “When I was the Rail minister, I got the Kolhapur station renamed on Chhatrapti Shahuji Maharaj.” He further stated that it was on July 26 that Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj implemented reservation during his rule. Attributing the improvement among the scheduled castes in Maharashtra to Shahuji Maharaj, Nitish Kumar said, “He ensured reservation in education right from the primary to higher educational level, and also helped Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar. Shahuji Maharaj was a harbinger of social change.” He went on to add that for optimum utliisation of power, it is imperative to be well educated. Ending speculations about his much talked about political rally in Lucknow’s Bijli Pasi Quila, Bihar chief minister and Janata Dal-United president made his second public appearance in Lucknow (since May 2016) on Tuesday. And it was at 3.15 pm, when the Bihar CM stepped on the dais at the historic fort. The JD-U chief then made a veiled attack on BSP chief Mayawati, and said that by mere repeated chanting of the word Bahujan, a person cannot claim to be their messiah nor this could be achieved by taking birth in bahujan family. “For this, the actual pain of the Bahujans and Vaanchits (deprived sections of the society) have to be understood. If the bahujan leader is not able to experience the pain and agony of the fellow brethren, then he/she could not move beyond a certain limit,” Nitish said, and added that time has come to work unitedly for the cause of the weaker sections of the society. The Bihar CM also invoked Karpoori Thakur, the former chief minister of Bihar, and said that the focus of his government in ‘human development’. “Factories alone could not ensure it,” Nitish said, and added that Bihar was the first state in the country to give 50% reservation to women in the panchayat and urban local bodies’ polls. “The best part was that more than 50% winners were women,” the Bihar CM informed. … (Times of India 26/7/16)

Athawale to discuss OBC ‘creamy layer’ limit with Modi (25)

New Delhi, July 27 (IANS) Republican Party of India (RPI) leader and Union Minister of State for Social Justice Ramdas Athawale on Wednesday said there has been a consistent demand to raise the creamy-layer limit for OBC to Rs 10 lakh, and that he would discuss the matter with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “There has been a consistent demand on this. I can raise the issue and discuss with Prime Minister Modi,” Athawale told reporters outside Parliament. At present the “creamy layer” income limit for Other Backward Classes (OBC) is Rs 6 lakh a year. Athawale said the demand to raise the cap is genuine as the incomes of the people are increasing. The hike, if brought in by the government, will bring more OBC people with higher income bracket within the reservation net. The “creamy layer” is the group with income beyond the Rs 6 lakh a year ceiling, that excludes relatively wealthier and better educated members of the OBC from seeking reservation in government colleges, institutes and jobs. The “creamy layer’ criteria was defined as earning more than Rs 1 lakh per annum in 1993, and subsequently the limit was revised to Rs 2.5 lakh in 2004, Rs 4.5 lakh in 2008, and Rs 6 lakh in 2013. However, in October 2015, the National Commission for Backward Classes recommended that for the OBCs an annual family income of up to Rs 15 lakh should not be considered as the “creamy layer”. (Times of India 28/7/16)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

India abstains at UN vote on LGBT Independent Expert (1)

NEW DELHI: India avoided taking a position on the need to end discrimination based on sexual orientation at the Human Rights Council of the UN, as the Supreme Court is yet to “pronounce” on the issue of rights of LGBT persons, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said on Friday. The MEA’s clarification came a day after India abstained from a voting at the UNHRC on a resolution to set up the office of Independent Expert to end discrimination against LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transexual) persons. “The issue of LGBT rights in India is a matter being considered by the Supreme Court under a batch of curative petitions filed by various institutions and organisations. The Supreme Court is yet to pronounce on this issue. As such, We had to take this into account in terms of our vote on the third UN resolution to institutionalise the office of an Independent Expert to prevent discrimination against LGBT persons,” said Vikas Swarup, MEA spokesperson. The move to create this special office in support for the LGBT community follows the June 12 mass killing at an Orlando night club in Florida. The resolution which was backed by the Latin American member states was opposed by Russia and the Islamic countries as India, Philippines and South Africa abstained. The official for the newly created post of Independent Expert will shortly be appointed for a three-year period and will serve to fight challenges faced by LGBT persons across the world. The debate on the resolution brought out sharp differences among member countries of the Human Rights Council (HRC) as several countries cited cultural traditions against supporting the move. However, the move to have the office of the Independent Expert was supported by 628 NGOs from 151 countries, informed The International Lesbian, Gay, and Trans and Intersex Association. India has been cited by several human rights reports as one of the countries where the rights of LGBT persons are yet to be secure. Introspecting on the opposition to the resolution, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in an official statement: “We are disappointed that several hostile amendments to the resolution were adopted, but we remain steadfast in our support for the resolution and its goals, despite these unfortunate changes.” The move at Geneva comes after an initiative on June 17 when diplomats posted in 27 embassies in Delhi celebrated the LGBTI “Pride Month”. (The Hindu 1/7/16)

NHRC issues notice to Kerala govt on dalit sisters’ arrest (1)

Kochi: The National Human Rights Commission has issued a notice to Kerala government, seeking its report over the arrest of two Dalit women for allegedly attacking a CPI(M) worker in Thalassery in Kannur district last month. In its notice, the NHRC directed Chief Secretary S M Vijayanand and state Police Chief Loknath Behera to “explain the circumstances” in which the Dalit women were arrested “when they in fact came to lodge a complaint against local CPI(M) activists”.”They are requested to submit an Action Taken Report in the matter for perusal of the Commission within four weeks,” the Commission said, acting on a complaint filed by senior Congress MP Mullappally Ramachandran in respect of the arrest. In his complaint, Ramachandran alleged that the women were abused, called by their caste name and subjected to obscene gestures by the CPI(M) activists. The arrest of two Dalit siblings, daughters of a local Congress leader, for allegedly attacking a CPI(M) activist in Thalassery, had kicked up a row in Kerala with Congress and BJP attacking the LDF government over the issue. Akhila (30) and Anjana (25), daughters of Indian National Trade Union Congress leader N Rajan were summoned to the police station on June 17, where a case was registered against them. They were then sent to the women’s jail after being charged with non-bailable offences. Akhila went to jail along with her one-and-half-year-old daughter. Both the sisters got conditional bail the next day. However, one of them attempted to commit suicide after release from jail. Cases were registered against CPI(M) MLA A N Shamseer and DYFI leader P P Divya in connection with the suicide attempt of one of the Dalit sisters. (Business Standard 2/7/16)

Haryana human rights panel issues notice to govt (1)

Chandigarh: Taking suo motu cognizance of a TOI report on lack of basic facilities for candidates appearing for selection to constables’ posts, the Haryana Human Rights Commission (HHRC) on Monday sought explanation from the government and the Haryana Staff Selection Commission (HSSC), the running the recruitment drive.As many as 5.25 lakh candidates from Haryana and nearby states have applied for the 7,000 posts of general duty constables of Haryana Police. While issuing the notices to additional chief secretary (home), HSSC secretary and director general of police, the rights commission’s divisional bench, comprising Justice V K Jain (retd) and J S Ahlwawat, has directed the three officers to file their replies on the issues raised in the media report. On July 2, TOI had highlighted the plight of candidates appearing in the physical tests conducted at Kurukshetra. With makeshift open toilets near the recruitment venue, non-availability of proper arrangement to relax and candidates were made to run in potholed roads. In addition, there was no medical aid and no mechanism to check the use of performance enhancing drugs by aspirants. Three candidates had died reportedly due to use of performance enhnacing drugs and around 400 were hospitalized for various reasons between June 15 till July 2. (Times of India 5/7/16)

SHRC to take up cop torture of kuravas (1)

Chennai/Madurai: Member of the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) K Baskaran termed the alleged detention and torture of 14 members of the kurava community (gypsies) by the Kanyakumari police a brutal act. He told TOI that he was extremely shocked by the incident that was reported in the media on Thursday. While condemning the torture unleashed on the kuravas, that included four women and five minors, during their illegal detention for 63 days, Baskaran said the SHRC would take up the issue suo moto and issue notices to the police officials concerned seeking their explanations. Activists say incidents of kuravas being illegally detained and tortured are not infrequent in the state. The Kanyakumari episode is just one such example. In Madurai too, such incidents used to be frequent until a few years ago. It is because the police have a tendency of stereotyping the community, which was once a notified tribe under Criminal Tribes Act of 1871. The activists say the efforts of human rights activists in taking up the atrocities against the community with the higher police authorities and organising the community people have helped in curbing atrocities against them in Madurai. The activists admit that still a small number of gypsies are involved in theft incidents. But the entire community should not be treated as criminals, nor the families of the accused harassed. They say the onus is on the government to pay special attention to the community and uplift them by providing education and employment. Executive director of People’s Watch Henri Tiphagne says gypsies are targeted by the police as they are easy victims. They are often picked up and false cases foisted on them.He said they have brought the Kanyakumari incident to the notice of the National Human Rights Commission. They have also sent formal complaints to the government of Tamil Nadu. The victims will be produced before a magistrate and made to explain the tortures they underwent when a habeas corpus petition filed recently comes up for hearing.  Thanaraj, a Madurai based tribal activist, says a large number of kuravas live in Trichy, Perambalur, Ariyalur and Villupuram districts. (Times of India 8/7/16)

Human Rights Watch says domestic workers `trapped` in Oman (1)

Human Rights Watch warned on Wednesday that many foreign domestic workers in Oman are trapped in abusive employment, urging the sultanate to reform its “restrictive” immigration system. In a 67-page report titled “`I Was Sold`: Abuse and Exploitation of Migrant Domestic Workers in Oman,” the New York-based watchdog interviewed 59 domestic workers, some of whom described “abuses that amounted to forced labour or trafficking.” The report documents how Oman`s visa sponsorship system for workers, known in Gulf countries as kafala, and the lack of labour law protection, leave migrant domestic workers “exposed to abuse and exploitation.” “Migrant domestic workers in Oman are bound to their employers and left to their mercy,” said HRW`s Middle East women`s rights researcher, Rothna Begum. “Employers can force domestic workers to work without rest, pay or food, knowing they can be punished if they escape, while the employers rarely face penalties for abuse,” she said. HRW said at least 130,000 female migrant domestic staff work in Oman. In one documented case, Bangladeshi Asma K, says she travelled to the United Arab Emirates to work there, but her recruitment agency “sold” her to a man who confiscated her passport and took her to adjacent Oman, where he forced her to work 21 hours a day. “I would start working at 4:30 a.m. and finish at 1 a.m.,” she was quoted by HRW as saying. “For the entire day they wouldn`t let me sit. When I said I want to leave, he said: `I bought you for 1,560 rials ($4,052) from Dubai. Give it back to me and then you can go.`” HRW urged Oman to reform its labour law to cover domestic workers and provide them with ‘equal protections’ available to other workers, and to revise the kafala system. Oman “should ratify the International Labour Organization Domestic Workers Convention, and bring its laws into compliance with its provisions,” HRW said in a statement. “The sultanate should also cooperate with countries of origin to prevent abuse and exploitation”, it added. Human rights groups have repeatedly urged Gulf states to reform their labour laws affecting domestic workers, who mostly come from south Asian and African countries.  (Zee News 13/7/16)

NHRC takes up tribals’ cause, seeks reports (1)

BHUBANESWAR: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has sought reports from Union Home Ministry as well as the State Government on the killing of five innocent tribals in police firing in Kandhamal district last week even as opposition political parties accused the State Government of trying to cover up the incident. Secretary general of the NHRC Satyanarayan Mohanty told mediapersons here that both the Home Ministry and the State have been asked to submit reports within two weeks. Meanwhile, the opposition Congress and BJP have raised questions about impartiality of the probe by the SIT formed by the State Government. The SIT is headed by Additional DG, Human Rights Protection Cell Mahendra Pratap. How can the investigation be fair and impartial, when it will be supervised and monitored by an officer who was suspended by the Government, Leader of the Opposition Narasingh Mishra asked. Mahendra Pratap was Gajapati SP when R Udaygiri incident took place on December 8,1998, Mishra said and added that Naveen Patnaik had then demanded action against the officer. Why the Chief Minister has now entrusted the responsibility to the same officer to monitor and supervise the investigation of such a sensitive case, he asked. The Leader of Opposition demanded that investigation by the SIT should be monitored by the High Court. Senior BJP leader Bijoy Mohapatra also criticised the Chief Minister for trying to cover up the incident by entrusting Mahendra Pratap to supervise the investigation of the case. The Chief Minister had demanded action against the officer after the R Udaygiri jailbreak incident. The CM is trying to cover up the incident by doing so, he said. Meanwhile, a three-member team of BJP MPs will visit Kandhamal on Friday to make an on the spot assessment of the situation. The team comprises Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, Jyoti Dhurve and Ramvichar Netam. Former MLAs Pratap Sarangi and Siddharth Sekhar Singh Mardraj, state BJP secretary Sisir Gamang and state executive member Sukanta Panigrahy will accompany the Central team. A team of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) headed by Narasingh Mishra will also visit Kandhamal on Friday. (New Indian Express 15/7/16)

300 cured people still in asylums; SC seeks states’ reply (1)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday issued notices to six states on a petition seeking the release of nearly 300 people languishing in Uttar Pradesh mental hospitals even after their ailments were cured. A bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justice A M Khanwilkar issued notices to Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal Rajasthan, Kerala, Jammu and Kashmir and Meghalaya in response to a PIL petition. The bench sought the release of persons who were fit for discharge from mental hospitals and asked to ensure their social security after discharge. Advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal filed the PIL based on the response received under an RTI query from government mental hospitals in Bareilly, Varanasi and Agra. The plea asked the court to issue directions to shift people who were fit for discharge to secure places such as old age homes. “This court in its various judgments observed that the right to life includes ‘right to live with dignity’ and in the present case the people who are normal are forced to live with mentally ill patients for many years and hence their fundamental rights are infringed by the respondents,” the plea said. The petition added that the conditions in which these people were living unsatisfactory, unethical and unconstitutional. Meanwhile, a recent study has found that at least one in four women lodged in mental health asylums in the country are abandoned by their families who either refuse to take them back or give false addresses at the time of admission. The study by the National Commission for Women and the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) states 23.7 per cent women had been in mental health asylums for 10 years and above. Conducted across 10 mental health institutions in the country, the survey finds that all centres struggled with reintegrating women patients. Further, according to the study, 60 per cent women in mental asylums are married and 30 per cent of them are homemakers. “Many patients reported that they want to go home. Either their addresses cannot be traced because of illness, or they have been deliberately abandoned by their families. Some families do not want to take the patients back and provide wrong addresses at the time of admission,” the study said.  The 10 centres where the research was conducted were RMH Yerwada, RMH Thane, IPHB Goa, GMH Kozhikode, Calcutta Pavlov Hospital, Berhampore Mental Hospital, RINPAS in Jharkhand, MH Bareilly and IMH Amritsar. (New Indian Express 19/7/16)

NHRC issues notice to Centre, J&K govt (1)

NEW DELHI: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Tuesday sought reports from the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir government following the violent clashes in the Valley following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. Expressing its “utmost concern” over the developments, the commission has issued notices to the Union home secretary and the chief secretary of government of Jammu and Kashmir asking them to submit reports in the matter. They have been given two weeks to respond, the NHRC spokesperson said in a statement after the commission took suo motu cognizance of media reports about numerous casualties and injuries in the clashes between protesters and security forces. “It (NHRC) has observed that it is closely watching the incidents of violence in the aftermath of the killing of militant Burhan Wani in an encounter with the security forces on July 8,” the statement said. (Deccan Herald 20/7/16)

Let psychiatrists’ panel examine Ameerul: SHRC (1)

Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala State Human Right Commission (SHRC) on Wednesday directed the State police to set up a panel of psychiatrists to examine Ameerul Islam, the prime accused in the murder case of a Dalit student at Perumbavoor. Chairperson J.B. Koshy passed the order on the basis of a petition that Ameerul was not the real accused in the murder and the police, under severe pressure to solve the homicide, had foisted the case on him. The petitioners, all human rights activists, pointed out that Ameerul was conversant only in Assamese. The language barrier made it impossible for him to properly defend himself under interrogation. He could not even read or understand the confessional statement made out in his name by the police. Ameerul was only 19 years old. He was tortured severely in police custody to make him confess to the crime, the petitioners said. The custodial duress had marred his health. His impoverished family in Assam was hard-pressed to defend him. Mr. Koshy said in his order that the petitioners were free to move their submission in the High Court and National Human Rights Commission. (The Hindu 21/7/16)

Rights panel seeks report on Nuapada youth killed by SOG (1)

BHUBANESWAR: AMIDST the politics over recent  police firing in Kandhamal which claimed the lives of five tribals, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has sought medical reports of a 22-year-old youth who was killed by jawans of SOG, Odisha’s elite anti-Maoist force, in Nuapada district in August last year. The  Commission has also sought payment proof of compensation given to the relatives of the  victim. Acting on a petition  filed by Supreme Court lawyer and rights activist Radhakanta Tripathy, the apex human rights body has asked Nuapada SP to submit the response  within six weeks. According to the petitioner,  Chittaranjan Sahu, Nutan Naik and Narendra Kaibarta had gone to Sunabeda wildlife  sanctuary on a bike when they were picked up by the CRPF jawans on charges of stealing a truck owner’s battery and some  parts of his vehicle on August 16, 2015. The CRPF jawans handed them  over to the SOG camp at Soseng inside the wildlife sanctuary. While Sahu and Naik were subjected to physical torture, Kaibarta, a minor, was let off. Next day, Sahu was found dead. Four days after the incident, police arrested  four jawans on charges of murder and tampering with evidence. Earlier, the  Nuapda SP had intimated the Commission that on the basis of prima facie evidence, four jawans – Khushi  Ram Bhoi, Kamdev Pradhan, S Kujur and Pramod Jagdala – were arrested and placed under  suspension pending disciplinary action.Tripathy said though the SP had informed that the kin of the deceased have been paid  `10 lakh by the Government and Naik was provided necessary medical treatment by the police at Government expenses,  proof of compensation and the status of Naik’s health condition was not furnished. In his rejoinder submitted before the Commission, the petitioner  stated that no compensation was paid to the family as promised. He said the District and Sessions  Judge of Nuapada was also requested to conduct a judicial inquiry into the matter and the report is awaited.  In the petition, Tripathy also sought proper medical care and adequate  compensation for the injured victim.   (New Indian Express 21/7/16)

NHRC notice to Tamil Nadu government over activist Piyush’s prison torture (1)

CHENNAI: The National Human Rights Commission on Saturday issued a notice to the Tamil Nadu government over the alleged torture of human rights and environmental activist Piyush Manush by Salem prison officials during his judicial custody.A press release issued by the NHRC said that the Commission has issued a notice to the Tamil Nadu government through its Chief Secretary and the Director-General of Police on a complaint that  Piyush Manush was ill-treated and brutally tortured by the prison authorities in Salem after being arrested without following the due process of law. Further, the release said the Commission found the allegations serious in nature and amounted to human rights violation. So it has given the State government two weeks time to respond. The Commission also mentioned that a few top officials had directed the prison officials to assault him as he had spearheaded a protest demanding justice for the death of a 21- year-old woman graduate who committed suicide over the use of her morphed image on Facebook and also for a protest over construction of the Mulvadi bridge in Salem. His hands were tied up and he was beaten up by 30 members led by the Superintendent of Prison and he has been allegedly placed in a solitary confinement. The notice by NHRC was issued after Piyush Manush alleged that he was beaten up by around 30 prison officials including the Superintendent. He was arrested on July 8 for protesting against the construction of flyover at the Mulvadi Gate. (New Indian Express 25/7/16)

Lokpal amended: Government staff, NGOs need not declare assets by July 31 (1)

NEW DELHI: In a surprise move, the government on Wednesday quickly got an amendment to the Lokpal Act passed in the Lok Sabha to give reprieve to central government employees and NGOs from declaring their assets by the July 31 deadline. Though ‘The Lokpal and Lokayuktas (Amendment) Bill, 2016′ was not listed in the initial list of business, a supplementary list of business was moved at around noon and the bill was circulated quickly eliciting protests from many MPs who complained of not getting enough time to go through it. Interestingly the bill, which was passed without a discussion, was moved by Minister of State in the PMO Jitender Singh. A delegation of MPs had on July 25 met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and demanded deleting the provision for fixing a deadline for assets declaration. As many members, specially from the Left and Trinamool Congress, protested, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs S. S. Ahluwalia was seen rushing around speaking with MPs like Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mallikarjun Kharge. The minister had also met many party leaders before the bill was moved in the house. Questions were raised as to what was the hurry and was the approval of the cabinet not required before passing such an amendment. Government sources, however, quoted rules of procedure to show that cabinet approval was not needed as this was just being done to provide extension to the last date and buy time till the final bill is brought in. While the current bill will provide immediate relief by approving the amendment to Section 44 of the Act, the provision will be examined in detail by a Parliamentary Standing Committee which will submit its report before next session of Parliament. Jitender Singh said: “Till the present impasse is overcome, the deadline with regard to government servants can be deferred”.As per the rules notified under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act 2013, every public servant shall file declaration, information and annual returns pertaining to his assets and liabilities as well as for his spouse and dependent children on March 31 every year or on or before July 31 of that year. In April, the government had extended the date of filing returns by public servants from April 15 to July 31. This is the fifth extension in the deadline since the Act came into force in January 2014. As per rules, organisations receiving more than Rs 1 crore in government grants and donations above Rs 10 lakh from abroad fall under the ambit of Lokpal. The amendment to the Lokpal Act 2013 was later passed by a voice vote. Though the bill found support from Congress benches, the Left parties vehemently opposed the bill. CPI-M leader M. Salim was seen gesturing Ahluwalia that his party was not consulted before introducing the bill. Trinamool Congress MP Kalyan Banerjee claimed that the government was favouring NGOs by exempting them from filing asset declaration. He said very few of the NGOs are engaged in charitable purpose. He also asked the government not to dilute the provisions of the Act. “It is not my NGO, or your NGO or siding with NGO. We have NGOs and trusts running media houses… We are not going to spare or bail out any NGOs.” (New Indian Express 27/7/16)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

In a metro like Delhi, Rs 12,000 maintenance not too much: Court (19)

New Delhi: A court in New Delhi has refused to set aside an order directing a man to pay Rs 12,000 as monthly maintenance to his estranged wife and child in a domestic violence case, saying the amount was not excessive in view of the inflation and rising prices in a city like Delhi. The sessions court, while dismissing the appeal of the man, a DMRC official, also observed that it is the duty of an able-bodied husband to maintain his legally-wedded wife and children. “Interim maintenance to the tune of Rs 12,000 per month for herself and for her child cannot be said to be excessive, keeping in view of the inflation in the market and rising prices in the metropolitan cities like Delhi,” Additional Sessions Judge Ramesh Kumar said. The court said “respondent (wife) being legally-wedded wife of the appellant (accused), is liable to be maintained by him. It is the duty of the able-bodied husband to maintain his wife and children.” The appeal was filed by Ghaziabad resident Anil Kumar contending that the trial court did not consider his burden and liabilities while pronouncing the award. The sessions court, however, upheld the award saying there were no illegalities or irregularities in the verdict. “It has transpired from the record file that the aggrieved is not having any source of income. Further, she has one minor child dependent on her,” it said. According to prosecution, the complainant had filed a dowry harassment case against her husband and in-laws and the trial court had directed Anil to pay maintenance of Rs 12,000 per month to her after considering his salary slip. The trial court had also asked Anil, a technician with the Delhi metro, to clear the arrears within six months. In his appeal, Anil’s counsel contended that the trial court had not considered the fact that appellant has liability of his parents, three unmarried dependent sisters and a minor son. However, the sessions court asked him to approach the trial court to prove the dependency and other liabilities claimed by him. “He is at liberty to prove the dependency of the other family members upon by adducing evidence before the trial court,” it said. (DNA 1/7/16)

Is divorce granted by Church considered valid under Indian common law? (19)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court today agreed to expedite hearing on a PIL to examine the issue whether divorce granted by a Church, set up under its personal law, could be considered valid under the Indian common law. A bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justice D Y Chandrachud allowed an interim application moved for early hearing in the case after former Attorney General and senior advocate Soli Sorabjee, appearing for petitioner Clarence Pais, sought an urgent hearing. “The application for early hearing is allowed. Hearing of the appeal is expedited,” the bench said. Pais, an ex-president of a Catholic association in Karnataka, said when oral ‘triple talaq’ could get legal sanctity for granting divorce to Muslim couples, why could Canon law decrees not be made binding on courts of law. He had alleged that many Catholic Christians, who married after getting divorce from Christian courts, faced criminal charges of bigamy as such divorces are not recognised by the criminal and civil courts here. “It is reasonable that when the courts in India recognize dissolution of marriage (by pronouncing the word talaq three times) under Mohammedan Law which is personal law of the Muslims, the courts should also recognise for the purpose of dissolution of marriage Canon Law as the personal law of the Indian Catholics,” the plea had contended. The plea had contended that Canon Law is the personal law of the Catholics in the country and has to be applied and enforced by a criminal court while deciding a case under section 494 (bigamy) of the IPC. “This is also applicable for sanction of prosecution considered for alleged bigamy of a Catholic spouse who has married after obtaining a decree for nullity of the first marriage from the Ecclesiastical Tribunal (Christian court),” it said. The Centre, however, had opposed the plea saying Canon law could not be allowed to override Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872 and Divorce Act, 1869. “Since the power for dissolution of marriage has been vested in the court, there is no scope for any other authority including ecclesiastical tribunal to exercise power,” the government had said. (New Indian Express 4/7/16)

Common code exists in various laws, not linked to religion: Law Commission chief (19)

Amid a raging debate over the implementation of a uniform civil code in the country, Law Commission chairman Justice (retd.) BS Chauhan on Thursday said the code has been in place in many laws and not been linked to religion. The government had last month asked the law panel to examine the implementation of the common code. While the move was opposed by some political parties and activists, ruling BJP had hailed it. “It (uniform code) had never been linked to religion in many cases,” Justice Chauhan told PTI. Supporting his observation, he said Indian Penal Code (IPC), Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), Evidence Act, Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act and UP Abolition of Zamindari Act are some legislations where a common law is applicable to all without consideration of religion. He said these laws do not discriminate on religious lines. “These laws have been observed for years and no one has raised any question. Most people are perhaps unaware that common code exists in many laws,” he said. He, however, said it is too early for him to say anything concrete on the Law Ministry reference. “We will have to examine the various issues involved, segregate them and then talk to various people on those lines…we will have to see whether it is time to regulate the various laws in one go or in phases or to regulate them (in one common code) at all,” he said. He said the Commission will take time to present its report to the government. After sorting out various issues, it will seek public opinion by perhaps putting up a consultation paper on its website. Taking over as the new Law Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad had yesterday said the decision to refer the matter to the law panel should not be linked to the election in Uttar Pradesh due next year. Prasad said there was a need for “wider consultation” on the issue before arriving at a decision. Implementation of a uniform civil code is one of the core issues of BJP and the Sangh Parivar but the NDA governments in 1998 and 1999 and the current dispensation headed by Narendra Modi have put the contentious issues like scrapping of Article 370 giving special status to Jammu and Kashmir and construction of Ram temple on the back burner. (DNA 7/7/16)

PIL seeks scrapping of BJP’s Lotus symbol (19)

New Delhi: A PIL seeking a direction to the Election Commission of India to scrap ‘Lotus’ symbol allotted to BJP was filed in the Bombay High Court today, contending that it is a national flower and cannot be used as a party icon. The petition alleged that BJP is using the national flower (Lotus) for electoral purposes and thereby violating the Emblems and Names (Prevention of improper use) Act 1950. “Lotus is a sacred flower and occupies a unique position in art and mythology of ancient India and it has been an auspicious symbol of Indian culture. Lotus is a flower of Goddess Laxmi and symbolises wealth, prosperity and fertility,” said the petition filed by activist Hemant Patil. “Lotus symbolises purity, achievement, long life and good fate and hence cannot be used as a symbol by any party for election purpose,” argued the petition, which is likely to come up for hearing next week. The petitioner said he had given a representation to the Election Commission to scrap the Lotus symbol of BJP as it was a national flower but it had not been considered and hence he had moved the Bombay high court. The Lotus symbol was allotted to BJP 25 years ago by the Election Commission but no party or person had ever objected to it, though it is violative of Emblems and Names (Prevention of improper use) Act, said the petition.The petition prayed for a direction to the Election Commission to produce all the records in respect of allotment of Lotus symbol to BJP and until then freeze the symbol allotted to the party. (Indian Express 8/7/16)

Suspecting wife’s fidelity is also domestic violence: HC (19)

MADURAI: Suspecting the wife’s fidelity and questioning her for moving about with almost every other person, including her father, also amounts to domestic violence, entitling the victim woman subjected to such “emotional abuse” to seek refuge under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, the Madras High Court Bench here has held. Further, rejecting the husband’s contention that he did not have the wherewithal to pay maintenance to his estranged wife, as ordered by a lower court, since he was unemployed, Justice P. Devadass said: “It is too dangerous to accept such a contention. If he has no job, he can work as a coolie and there is no wrong even in begging for feeding wife and children.” Stating that the term ‘domestic violence’ included physical, sexual, verbal, emotional and economic abuse, the judge said: “In a domestic relationship, domestic violence is analogous to matrimonial cruelty. Domestic violence comprises physical as well as mental cruelty. Mental cruelty is worse than physical cruelty. Physical cruelty may heal but not mental torture.” Dealing with the specifics in the case on hand, he said: “In this case, the husband is having the habit of suspecting his wife. He has the habit of linking her with many persons. He is too cruel to link her even with his father. It will be too dangerous and unbearable for a wife. It will be hell for her… In the facts and circumstances of this case, what is complained of is nothing less than domestic violence.” Though a Judicial Magistrate in Kovilpatti had in July last directed the revision petitioner to pay maintenance of Rs.10,000 every month to the woman apart from providing rental accommodation to her on a monthly rent of Rs.10,000 and paying Rs.50,000 towards compensation, a Sessions Judge had modified the order to a great extent at petitioner’s behest on February 11 this year, the judge pointed out. Since the Sessions Judge had reduced the compensation to Rs.25,000 and also deleted the direction to provide rental accommodation, there was no necessity to interfere with the award anymore, Mr. Justice Devadass said. On the plea of unemployment raised by the petitioner, the judge said: “If such a contention is accepted, then every husband will try to escape from his moral and legal obligation.” (The Hindu 13/7/16)

DNA test on children involves serious emotional issues: HC (19)

MADURAI: Directing innocent children to undergo DNA test to prove dispute over paternity, even in maintenance cases arising out of discord between their parents, is like “asking the children to walk on fire,” the Madras High Court Bench here has said. Justice P. Devadass made the observation while rejecting the plea of a criminal revision petitioner to subject his two minor children to DNA test to prove his claim that they and his estranged wife were not legally entitled to claim maintenance from him. A District Munsif-cum-Judicial Magistrate at Vadipatti near here had rejected a similar plea on September 23 on the ground that it was an attempt to avoid payment of maintenance and an indirect pressure exerted on the woman to withdraw the claim for maintenance. However, assailing the lower court’s rejection, the petitioner claimed that the judicial officer had erred in refusing to order DNA test despite his wife having given her consent for the test. But Mr. Justice Devadass strongly backed the decision taken by the Magistrate and dismissed the revision. The judge said: “DNA test cannot be ordered for mere asking. Even if one of the spouses is ready for the test, the court need not be ready as it involves serious emotional issues. Courts must take extreme care and caution in ordering such a test. Only when there is material strong enough to doubt the birth of the children and if it is needed, the court can order such a test.” The judge pointed out that in the present case, there was no need for such a test since the couple had entered into a wedlock in 2006 and lived together for considerable number of years. “Then they were better halves. Now they have become bitter halves,” he said. Further, the petitioner had questioned the paternity only during the hearing on the maintenance petition though several other cases relating to the domestic dispute were pending in various courts. Therefore, “I do not find any impropriety in the lower court order,” the judge said. (The Hindu 15/7/16)

Legal fraternity suggests measures to remove bottlenecks in judiciary (19)

New Delhi: Top lawyers and retired judges of the Supreme Court have come up with an array of suggestions seeking to remove bottlenecks in the judiciary, including the need to strengthen courtroom infrastucture across the country. The proposals came up during a panel discussion organised by civil society and NGOs including Justice Seekers, CSR (Centre for Social Research) and All India Women’s Conference here yesterday. Justice Gyan Sudha Mishra (retd) called for constitutional amendments to refine legal processes and formation of an active group in civil society, which she said, would regularly flag issues faced by litigants, to the judges. (Indian Express 17/7/16)

Madras high court dismisses plea for declaring IT raid, summons illegal (19)

CHENNAI: The Madras high court has declined to quash and declare as illegal searches conducted on the premises of Advantage Strategic Consulting Pvt Ltd by income tax officials and consequential summons issued to its director Ravi Viswanathan. Dismissing a writ petition filed by Viswanathan against the IT department, Justice T S Sivagnanam on Tuesday said: “If the prayer sought for is to be considered, it would result in interdicting an investigation process. What the petitioner seeks to indirectly achieve is to injunct summons, which cannot be done, that too in exercise of jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution. The plea of malafides has not been specifically pleaded or established, mere use of the expression is not sufficient.” In his petition, Viswanathan sought to declare the entire survey conducted by the officers of the income tax department, under Section 133A of the Income Tax Act on December 1 and 2, 2015 on the business premises of the company and residences of its directors and the consequential summons, culminating in the visit of joint director and deputy director of IT department to the residences of the directors on June 15, 2016, as illegal. He also sought to declare the summons issued under Section 131 of the Income Tax Act as illegal, malafide, abuse of powers, ultra vires the Income Tax Act and without jurisdiction. He said the object of the survey and summons proceedings were not bona fide, and the department’s refusal to give copies of the sworn statements made by the directors and consultant of the company amounts to violation of principles of natural justice. The visit of the joint director and the deputy director to the company bosses’ residence to take evidence under Section 131 of the Act is without authority of law, the petition said, adding that there was no assessment proceedings of the directors and consultant of the company pending before the joint director and deputy director of IT department. Hence, repeated summons to them as ‘assessee’ was without jurisdiction, he said, calling the proceedings null and void. However, additional solicitor-general of India G Rajagopalan raised a preliminary objection with regard to the request for copies of the statements by the petitioner, stating that the company director who has sworn to the affidavit in the writ petition had not given any statement. “The persons, who have given statements, have not approached the court, and therefore, the department is not in a position to give the statements recorded from other persons to the petitioner, as the investigation is in process,” he argued….  (Times of India 20/7/16)

SC to hear rape victim’s plea against abortion laws (19)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday will hear a rape victim’s challenge against the country’s laws prohibiting abortion after 20 weeks, even at the cost of the mother’s life. A Bench of Justices Anil R. Dave and L. Nageswara Rao agreed to hear her after senior advocate Colin Gonsalves and advocate Satya Mitra said the victim’s life was in danger. The woman, who claims to have been raped by her fiance on the promise of marriage, challenged the 20-week cap on abortion under Section 3 (2)(b) of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 as a violation of the right to a dignified life for the mother, a fundamental right enshrined under Article 21. The petition contends that the ceiling is unreasonable, arbitrary, harsh, discriminatory and violative of the right to life and equality. (The Hindu 21/7/16)

Transgenders will soon be categorised as ‘third gender’ (19)

New Delhi: Transgenders will soon be categorised as “third gender” and be eligible for welfare benefits including reservations in jobs and education. They would also be able to choose their gender after undergoing sex-change surgery. The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill puts the “third gender” at par with weaker communities like SC/STs and OBCs to end discrimination against them. The Union cabinet approved the legislation piloted by social justice and empowerment minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot on Wednesday, paving the way for its introduction in the ongoing session of Parliament. Rajya Sabha passed a private member bill in April 2015, prompting assurance from minister Gehlot that the Centre would bring an official legislation. The proposal was stuck for a year because approval of the bill in the form passed by the Upper House would have led to decriminalisation of homosexuality, which goes against the stand of the BJP regime. The apprehension stemmed from the fact that LGBT grouping in popular discourse clubs transgenders with homosexuals, as also some other provisions. But a recent Supreme Court ruling clarifying that homosexuals are not transgenders helped seal the proposal, a senior source said. However, the Centre is banking on a debate in Parliament for clarity on a few tricky issues. While the Supreme Court ruling said that transgenders would be able to choose their gender, officialdom is not clear how would it be possible for the “third gender” The Centre has also kept open the provision to put transgenders in the OBC category. (Times of India 21/7/2016)

Child labour bill passed, Unicef voices concern (19)

NEW DELHI: Unicef, along with various other childright activists, has raised concerns about the provision in the Child Labour Amendment Bill, 2016 — passed in Parliament on Tuesday — allowing a child to help out in family enterprises after school hours. The UN agency said the provision will impact children from poorer families and legitimise family work, thus causing further disadvantage to them as there is a lot of outsourced work carried out from home. The bill makes employing a child below 14 years of age in any occupation or process, except where the child helps his or her family, punishable by a jail term of up to two years and even provides for a penalty for parents.”Under the new Child Labour Act, the more invisible forms of child labour and exploitation may go unseen and the most vulnerable and marginalised children may end up with irregular school attendance, lower levels of learning,” said Euphrates Gobina, UNICEF Chief of Education in India. Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) founder and Nobel Peace prize winner Kailash Satyarthi had earlier told TOI that the changes would lead to further “victimisation of children” in their poverty. (Times of India 27/7/16)

Defamation law can’t be used by government to stifle criticism: SC (19)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday said defamation laws cannot be used by the government to stifle criticism. In an obvious reference to several defamation cases filed by the Tamil Nadu government of J. Jayalalithaa against her critics, the apex court said such action amounts to curbing of free speech. The bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Rohinton Faliman said such defamation cases against the lawmakers and those who criticise government policies have a “chilling effect”.”It amounts to curbing of free speech. There has to be tolerance for criticism. The defamation law cannot be used as a political counter weapon,” the bench said. “For any criticism like corruption in the government or that one is not fit to run the government, you can’t slap defamation cases,” the bench observed. The apex court bench also sought a list of defamation cases filed by the law officers of the Jayalalithaa government. Referring to its judgement upholding the defamation law under the Indian Penal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure, the bench said it was its duty to protect the people against whom defamation cases were filed if it found that there was “continuous effort and deliberate design” to use the public prosecutors to institute cases. The apex court by its May 13, 2016, judgement had rejected the challenge to the constitutional validity of penal provisions for criminal defamation. The court had then said “it is extremely difficult to subscribe to the view that criminal defamation has a chilling effect on the freedom of speech and expression”.The bench stayed the non-bailable warrants issued against DMDK leader Captain Vijaykanth and his wife Premalatha that were issued by a trial court at Tirupur in Tamil Nadu. Vijaykanth and his wife had attracted the defamation case for criticising the Tamil Nadu government policy and describing it as corrupt. The Tirupur court had issued non-bailable warrants against the couple following their non-appearance before it in the defamation case filed in February. Vijaykanth is facing 14 defamation cases for criticising the working of the state government. (Business Standard 28/7/16)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

SHO, three cops suspended for custodial death (1)

Bhopal: A police station in charge and three other policemen posted in a police station in Seoni-Malwa were suspended after a youth accused of theft, committed ‘suicide’ under mysterious conditions on Friday. A magisterial probe has also been ordered into the custodial death. Police inspector RN Chauhan, constables Tejraj Singh, Mohan Singh and Aruj were suspended by the senior officials. Youth Jayprakash Lomwanshi was found hanging in his cell at Seoni Malwa police station on Friday morning. Lomwanshi, a resident of Bhalrao village was living in Bhopal for past few months; he was arrested from Harda by Seoni Malwa police a couple of days ago in connection with a theft case, in which he was also named, said police. On May 23, a theft took place at Nadarwara village under the Seoni Malwa police station where around Rs 1 lakh were stolen, Lomanwanshi was named as an accused in that FIR. Police said that on Friday morning he allegedly hanged himself to death in his cell at the Seoni-Malwa police station. (Times of India 2/7/16)

Prisoner’s death: Kin allege custodial torture (1)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: THE death of a prisoner who was serving life term at the Central Prison at Poojappura on Monday got shrouded in mystery with his relatives alleging that he was a victim of custodial torture. Sajeev, 32, a convict in several cases, was found hanging inside his cell at the Central Prison on Monday afternoon. Though the prison staff on duty took him to the Medical College Hospital, he was declared brought dead. Following the incident, the authorities suspended two prison officials – Shashankan, Deputy Prison officer, and Anoop, Assistant prison officer – for dereliction of duty. According to the relatives of Sajeev, a native of Valiyathura, there was no reason for Sajeev to commit suicide as he had spoken to his mother and wife on phone on Sunday. They alleged that the prison staff had used third degree torture methods on him, which led to his death. It is alleged that Sajeev had entered into an altercation with other prisoners a few days ago. However, the prison officials have ruled out any such incidents. A G Suresh, Central Prison Superintendent, said that Sajeev was kept in an isolated cell for the past few days as he had been creating trouble for other inmates. “He was a regular inmate of the prison. Currently, he was undergoing life term after being convicted in an abduction case. He was convicted on April 10. Besides, several theft cases were also registered against him. He used to create trouble for other prisoners and this prompted the authorities to shift him into an isolated prison. Moreover, he was a Hepatitis C Virus patient. This might have prompted him to take the extreme step,” Suresh said. He further said that the officials had been suspended as they were in charge of the protection of prisoners. However, he said that further action would be taken after a detailed inquiry. Sajeev’s body was handed over to relatives after preparing an inquest in the presence of the Magistrate on Tuesday. (New Indian Express 6/7/16)

Security forces cannot use excessive force in AFSPA areas: Supreme Court (1)

NEW DELHI: Serving a blow to immunity enjoyed by armed forces under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) against criminal action for acts committed in disturbed areas, the Supreme Court on Friday held that armed forces personnel and police cannot use “excessive or retaliatory force” in disturbed areas. A Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and R.K. Agarwal upheld the highest constitutional court’s power to entertain and deliver justice under Article 32 of the Constitution in a plea made by the families of civilians killed in over 1,528 cases of alleged fake encounters involving the army and the police force in Manipur. In a judgment, which will have ramifications in sensitive border areas across the country, the apex court held that the allegations of fake encounters in Manipur by the Army and the Manipur Police should be “thoroughly enquired into.” It stressed that security forces cannot use excessive force and then claim immunity from criminal action. The court observed that there are several ‘dos and don’ts’ in the defence forces’ rule book and there is no justification whatsoever of breaching these rules of combat and conduct. The court asked the petitioners and amicus curiae Menaka Guruswamy to collate the information regarding 62 cases of alleged fake encounters in Manipur and submit it before the Bench in a simple tabulated form. The information should comprise details of whether any FIR was filed in a case, the identity of the victim, whether a judicial enquiry was ever conducted or whether there was an enquiry under the Commission of Enquiry Act, etc. The court directed the National Human Rights Commission to render assistance to this exercise. The independent exercise to tabulate the 62 cases once again has been done due to a mismatch in the findings of the apex court-appointed Justice Santosh Hegde Commission and the NHRC. The Commission had enquired into 62 of the 1,528 cases and highlighted 15 cases of ‘fake’ encounters. But the NHRC had found that 31 of the 62 cases were found to be not genuine. The court stopped short of delving into issues of court-martial of defence personnel allegedly involved in the encounters, leaving the issue open for independent enquiry by a competent authority as per law. The court also sought the Centre response on NHRC’s plea that it has been reduced to a “toothless tiger.” The court has scheduled a hearing after four weeks to consider these aspects. The details of the crimes allegedly committed by the Army, the CRPF and police commandos were revealed in a series of inquiry reports filed by serving and retired district judges, adding impetus to the cry for justice and repeal of AFSPA by activist Irom Sharmila. On August 8, 2014, the Manipur government had handed over the reports to the Supreme Court. The judgment is based on a PIL filed in 2012 by the Extra Judicial Executions Victims’ Families Association, through senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, seeking a Special Investigation Team to probe the extra-judicial killings and disappearances in the State. The Supreme Court had in 2014 directed the State government to pay Rs 10 lakh to the mother of Manipuri girl Thangjam Manorama, who was allegedly killed by Assam Rifles personnel in 2004. A Bench of Justices T.S. Thakur and P.C. Ghosh told the government to pay the amount within four weeks. A judicial inquiry report had revealed to the apex court the “brutal and merciless” torture of the girl by an Assam Rifles team. The Manorama case had led to widespread protests against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and is partly attributed to calls for review of the law, especially by the Justice J.S. Verma Committee in 2013. (The Hindu 8/7/16)

Transgenders face problems aplenty (1)

KOZHIKODE: Following the recent rise in the atrocities against transgenders(TG), several TG activists put the blame squarely on the lack of legal protection for the community. Activists say the issues faced by transgenders do not merely end with discrimination, but are far more severe involving violence and atrocities. Ranging from sexual abuse to custodial torture, TGs encounter a host of issues within the family and outside. “Presently there are zero laws in place when it comes to the legal protection for TG community. Right from the time a transgender approaches the police to lodge a case, what awaits her is the male/female column which in itself is inadequate to address the concerns. There are no existing laws to deal with the issue of rape attempt against transgenders. Similar is the case with marriage registration of TGs,” says Seethal Shyam, a transwomen and secretary of Sexual Minority Forum Kerala. She adds that a representative from transgender community should be included in the state Assembly in order to conform to the inclusive nature of the august House. Recently,  two incidents of transgenders being brutalised were reported from Kochi, which is by far the closest the state has to hep mega cities like New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bengaluru. Tragically, the alleged perpetrators in Kochi incident were the law enforcers themselves. “Since the police themselves are the alleged perpetrators of violence in many cases, transgenders must be provided with direct access to the District Magistrate(DM). Apart from this, free legal aid should be given to any transgender approaching the court via respective legal service bodies (NALSA, SLSA, DLSA),” says Vyjayanthi Vasanta Mogli, a transwoman activist and a PhD scholar at Mumbai-based Tata Institute of Social Sciences(TISS). Vyjayanthi is quite critical of the Centre’s Transgenders Rights Bill, which according to her is a ‘watered down version’ of the original 2014 Bill introduced by DMK leader Tiruchi Siva. “The government has done away with the reservations for transgenders in the education sector  while sustaining the job reservations provided for in the 2014 Bill; how are we able to avail ourselves of jobs without education?” she says (New Indian Express 11/7/16)

Congress to raise Jharkhand custodial deaths in assembly (1)

Ranchi: The Congress party in Jharkhand said on Thursday that it will raise the issue of custodial deaths and police atrocities in the state in the upcoming monsoon session of the assembly. Addressing a press conference here, Jharkhand Congress President Sukhdeo Bhagat said Chief Minister Raghubar Das was running “Ravan Raj” in the state and free hand has been given to the bureaucrats and police to commit atrocities on the common people, especially those belonging to the weaker sections of the society and the minorities. “The Congress party will raise the worsening law and order situation, police atrocities, domicile issues and anti-tribal and anti-minorities policies in the state assembly,” said Bhagat. He also flayed the state government over the declining law and order and said that those who have to maintain law and order were committing crimes. Bhagat pointed out that in state capital Ranchi, in the last one month 28 murders took place, while from January 1 to May 2016, 786 murders have taken place in the state along with 251 incidents of loot. Referring to the alleged suicide of Topchanchi police station in-charge Umesh Kachap, he said Kachap did not commit suicide but was murdered. “This was an example of how police officials from the weaker section are exploited by this government,” Bhagat said. He pointed to the murder of a minor, Rupesh Swanshi, in police custody in Bundu, alleged suicide by a police constable posted at District Commissioner House in Hazaribagh, and interrogation of a minor child in Manika police station of Latehar as examples of police atrocities. Bhagat said the state government had called the monsoon session of the assembly just to ensure that the first supplementary budget is passed. The government is not concerned about the developmental issues concerning the state, he added. He said that the government was only interested that the funds be allocated so that the officials and the government “can loot”.The monsoon session of the assembly will begin from July 22. (Zee News 14/7/16)

Little girls are raped, killed, then thrown away. Is brutality becoming an Indian way of life? (1)

From a nation that found its feet on the principle of nonviolence, we seem to have become a nation that celebrates brutality. The daily headlines spell out gory details of ordinary people inflicting the most horrid kinds of cruelty on ordinary people. When the Delhi Nirbhaya case revealed how mercilessly the girl was ripped open by a so-called juvenile, the outrage led us to think that such sadism wouldn’t be seen again. But the plague has been spreading. A girl waiting for a train at a suburban station in Chennai is stabbed repeatedly by a lone man as people watch. Before we could get out of that shock, another girl is hacked to death in public in Salem. In Delhi, a school boy is beaten to death by a panmasala shop’s owners over a trifling argument. Girls 10 and below are sexually attacked, then killed and thrown away. A young wife is helped by her mother to kill her two children with poison so that she can go with her paramour. An abandoned wife finds a lover and the two of them torture the woman’s five-year-old daughter to death so that they can be “free”. Apparently Indians have been doing this sort of thing for a while. Back in 2012, Thomson Reuters Trust said that India was on par with Afghanistan, Congo and Somalia as the world’s most dangerous place for women. In 2004 a woman was raped in our country every 54 minutes, in 2012 every 20 minutes. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reported that between 1953 and 2011, rape became India’s fastest growing crime. Perhaps the most telling statistic provided by the NCRB is that 65 per cent of Indian men believe that women should tolerate violence against them in order to keep the family together. That might throw light on the psychology behind the 8,000 dowry deaths that occur every year in India and the so-called honour killings (1,000 out of 5,000 reported cases annually are in India). They don’t just kill; they kill viciously. In Rajasthan, four years ago, a father chopped off his 20-year-old daughter’s head because she was dating a lower caste man, then walked around town with her severed head to warn other young women in the locality. …  (New Indian Express 17/7/16)

Custodial death: tension at Paravur (1)

KOLLAM:  A tense situation prevailed at Paravur on Tuesday following the death of an autorickshaw driver Surendran Pillai who was taken into custody by the Paravur police late in the evening for not wearing the prescribed uniform. A huge crowd mob gathered at the Nedungolam hospital where the body was kept. They prevented the police from transferring the body to the district hospital mortuary. Surendran Pillai was taken into custody by Circle Inspector Nazar and taken to the police station. — Special Correspondent (The Hindu 20/7/16)

‘90 killed in 6 months in Bastar fake encounters’ (1)

RAIPUR: Senior Maoist leader Ganesh Uike has accused the security forces of killing over 90 people in fake and staged encounters in the first six months of this year in the restive Bastar region of Chhattisgarh. A member of the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist) Danda Karanya Special Zonal Committee (DKSZC) and the head of its Bastar Sub Zonal Bureau, Mr. Uike has also alleged that the security forces have sexually assaulted 50 women in Bastar during the Chhattisgarh government’s anti-Maoist campaign ‘Mission 2016’. “Over 90 people have been killed in the last six months in the name of ‘Mission 2016’ by security forces in Bastar. Over 50 women have been sexually assaulted and hundreds of tribals have been declared ‘warrantee Maoists’ and are being tortured in jail. In the name of anti-Maoist campaign, large-scale attacks are carried out on the common people of Bastar. It’s a police raj in the BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh and human rights of the common public are being openly violated,” Mr. Uike said in a press statement. After Vijay Kumar’s [the special security advisor to the Union Home Ministry] visit, the security forces attacked Mandel, Gondod, Gampur Karka, Eramgonda, Pendam, Edasmetta, Pasnur, Todka and Palnar village of Bastar and committed atrocities on ordinary citizens like an invading foreign army. The people of Chhattisgarh are battling inflation, drought, and unemployment but the State government is only concerned about anti-Maoist campaigns,” he said.“On July 10, four of our men were killed by the police in Bijapur. There was no firing from our men. But the police opened heavy firing on our men and killed them and called it a major encounter,” he claimed. Mr. Uike, however, accepted that all four were “active Maoists” and vowed to take “revenge”. He also owned up the killings of three BJP leaders in Bijapur. (The Hindu 21/7/16)

Separatists defy curfew for south Kashmir march, detained (1)

Srinagar, July 25 : Separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq were taken into preventive custody on Monday after defying prohibitory orders as authorities enforced a strict curfew in the restive Kashmir Valley to foil a protest march to Anantnag. Geelani, who has been in detention at his residence in upscale Hyderpora neighbourhood, came out and attempted to march towards Anantnag in south Kashmir. However, policemen posted outside his house stopped him and drove him in a bullet proof armored vehicle to the nearby Humhama police station, a police officer told IANS. The Mirwaiz was also detained at a police station near his house when he defied restrictions and attempted to march towards Anantnag. Other separatist leaders including Shabir Shah have also been detained while Yaseen Malik of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) has been lodged in a Srinagar lockup since violent protests erupted across the Kashmir Valley following the July 8 killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. The government on Monday tightened security screws across the Kashmir Valley to thwart the Anantnag march, fearing an outbreak of violent protests if people at the instigation of separatists came out in large numbers to reach south Kashmir. Police said strict curfew remained in Anantnag, Kulgam, Shopian and Pulwama districts in the south while restrictions also continued in parts of Srinagar, Kupwara, Sopore and Baramulla. The separatists have extended their protest shutdown call till July 29. Reminiscent of the 2008 and 2010 unrest, separatists have issued weekly protest calendars in the valley asking people when to open or shut their shops and come out on the streets for demonstrations. Meanwhile, another youth injured in the street protests, Sameer Ahmad Wani, succumbed on Sunday, increasing the death toll to 49 in the current unrest. The summer vacation for schools and colleges in the valley officially ended on Sunday. Education Minister Naeem Akhtar confirmed the end of the vacations. “It is now for the district administrations in the valley to decide which educational institutions should start functioning,” Akhtar said. But most educational institutes in the valley remained closed on Monday due to restrictions and separatist called shutdown. (New Kerala 25/7/16)

Court rejects discharge pleas of IPS officers in torture case (1)

Ahmedabad, Jul 26 () A court here today rejected the discharge applications filed by three senior IPS officers in a 1994 custodial torture case and said no sanction from the state government is required for their prosecution. Metropolitan Magistrate H S Gandhi rejected the discharge pleas while acting on a private complaint filed by the wife of the victim, Salim Khan Pathan. The IPS officers – A K Suroliya, Atul Karwal and Ashish Bhatia – had moved discharge pleas after they were summoned in the case. Suroliya is currently ADGP of Gujarat Anti-Terrorism Squad, Karwal is IG of CRPF, while Bhatia is Police Commissioner of Surat. In the complaint, the trio and a sub-inspector of Sola Police Station, Ahmedabad, where Pathan was allegedly subjected to torture under custody, were named. The court rejected the officers’ plea that Pathan was in legal custody of a sub-inspector, and not them. It also said no sanction was required from the state government for proceeding against them. The complainant sought their prosecution under IPC Sections 326 (voluntarily causing hurt), 330 (voluntarily causing hurt to extort confession) and 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt) and 114 (abettor present when offence is committed). The court had initiated an inquiry in the case and as part of the process, summoned the three officials, who were serving as Deputy Commissioners in different police zones of Ahmedabad in 1994. They appeared before the court and filed discharge applications, saying that being IPS officers, proceedings against them can only be initiated after sanction from the Gujarat government. The officers argued that as public servants, they were only discharging official duty and so the court cannot take cognisance of the offence. They cited a rule under Section 197 of CrPC that requires the state government’s prior approval for such proceedings.

Pathan was arrested in a prohibition case and the IPS officers allegedly tortured him in custody in connection with a murder offence. They allegedly wanted to extract confession from him in the murder case. (Times of India 26/7/16)

Irom Sharmila to end 16-year fast against AFSPA, to contest polls (1)

Guwahati: Manipuri human rights activist Irom Sharmila Chanu has decided to end her 16-year long hunger strike demanding repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from the state. Sharmila has instead decided to contest the 2017 Manipur Assembly polls as an independent candidate to continue her fight. Sharmila made the announcement before the local media along with a handful of supporters. Sharmila said she will end the fast on August 9, the next date of her appearance before a court in capital Imphal. Speaking to the media outside a Imphal court room, Sharmila said: “I feel that my fast is not bearing the result I want. I am not happy on how politicians and civil society reacted to my struggle over 16-long years. Recently, a Manipur police commando confessed to the media about fake encounters and how his seniors were involved. That was the time for the civil society to react. Manipur as a state had to take the matter up with the Centre. I have analysed and found that I need to change my strategy.” The decision comes close on the heels of the landmark verdict by the Supreme Court on the issue of fake encounters in Manipur, where the apex court ordered a thorough probe into the killings.  The Supreme Court said use of “excessive or retaliatory force” by the armed forces or the police was not permissible in “disturbed areas” under AFSPA. Sharmila began her hunger strike against AFSPA on November 4, 2000, after the Malom massacre where soldiers from the Assam Rifles gunned down 10 civilians who were waiting at a bus stop. Though Sharmila’s protests gained national and international attention, back in Manipur, the people seemed to be losing interest. For 14 years, she was force fed through her nose in a special ward at a hospital in Imphal under arrest. A local court did release her in 2014, but once she resumed her hunger strike, she was arrested again. Sharmila was offered tickets for the last Assembly polls by two political parties, but she denied. In fact, in 2011, Sharmila told the media that she wanted to “settled down” with her boyfriend Desmond Coutinho, a 48-year-old writer and activist from Goa.  But all along her struggle, Sharmila maintained that she would only quit fasting if AFSPA is repealed. “We are a bit surprised. But we have to respect the fact that she has given 16 prime years of her life for this cause…We will talk to her to decide how she wants to take the fight from here,” said Babloo Loitongbom, a human rights activist and a close aide of Sharmila. (Deccan Herald 28/7/16)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

Defamation: ‘Press Council should appeal against Supreme Court order’ (1)

Expressing concern over the implications of the Supreme Court order upholding criminalising defamation, the former media adviser to Prime Minister and retired Director of Press Information Bureau, S. Narendra, said the Press Council of India (PCI) should appeal against the order in the interest of press freedom. Speaking after inaugurating a discussion on “Criminalising Defamation” at a programme organised by Mysuru District Journalists’ Association (MDJA) here on Saturday, Mr. Narendra said PCI should come to the rescue of the media by approaching the Supreme Court against the verdict. If need be, PCI should implead itself in the case. Also, various media organisations in the country should approach the Law Commission of India and represent their grievances on the matter, he said. Mr. Narendra, however, regretted that PCI was not playing the role expected of it after the advent of the new media, including television and the internet. He said that the role of a watchdog that the media plays in society will be affected by criminalising defamation and added that democracy itself was threatened if media is stifled. Mr. Narendra, who served as a media advisor to three Prime Ministers — P.V. Narasimha Rao, H.D. Deve Gowda and I.K. Gujral — said successive governments had tried to control and censor the media in India, beginning with the Prevention of Publication of Objectionable Matter Act in 1950. Later governments at the Centre too had tried to stifle press freedom, he said. Legal expert C.K.N. Raja, who also spoke on the occasion, however welcomed the Supreme Court ruling to uphold criminalising of defamation and said the order was in keeping with the constitutional ideology. He said every citizen of India had equal rights to respect and dignity. “Nobody has a right to defame and hurt anybody’s feelings, including the media,” he said.Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with defamation, was a well thought out law and there was no need to tamper with it, he said. Referring to freedom of speech and expression, Mr. Raja said nobody can be given unrestricted and absolute freedom and it was only fair to place certain reasonable restrictions on freedom of press. (The Hindu 3/7/16)

Print media facing the threat of extinction: linguist Devy (1)

With the advent of digital technology, the print media is facing the grave threat of of becoming extinct, linguist Ganesh N. Devy said here on Sunday. Inaugurating a State-level “Media Interaction” organised by Trijya Chintana Vedike at the Alur Venkatarao Sabhabhavan, Prof. Devy said that the disappearance of a newspaper like the Independent in England was akin to “live history” coming to a standstill. “Despite the various limitations, the medium of letters and the print media had handled successfully the responsibility of bringing human beings face to face, and make them mingle. However, the advent of digital media has ‘snatched away the speech’ of human beings and made them silent,” he said.Prof. Devy said that people had reached a stage of messaging each other despite standing in front of each other. “This process of pushing people towards isolation and aloneness is complementary to the present day development of moving towards capitalism and fascism,” he said. Prof. Devy said: “The print media, which had undergone a transformation, is facing the threat of extinction because of digital technology and there is a dire need for finding a solution to the problem.” Tracing the history of print media in initiating literary movements and how they led to the birth of great litterateurs, Prof. Devy explained how it became necessary for leaders such as Gandhiji, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Ambedkar to start newspapers to give a direction to the freedom struggle and also to spread their ideas. Vinaya Okkund of the vedike briefed about the objectives of the event. Subsequently, various researchers and students made presentations on a number of newspapers and periodicals. An exhibition of various newspapers and periodicals was also organised. (The Hindu 4/7/16)

Upholding free speech: Madras high court struck a blow for freedom by defending beleaguered writer Perumal Murugan (1)

Freedom of speech is threatened when identity-based groups appoint themselves as community guardians and arrogate to themselves the right to decide how their group can be portrayed in print or film. In a judgment this week, the Madras high court struck a blow for imperilled freedom of speech when it defended a book of beleaguered Tamil author Perumal Murugan, who stopped writing following intimidation by caste organisations. Murugan’s acclaimed Tamil novel Madhorubagan caught the attention of some caste-based groups a few years after its publication. Subsequently, the author was hounded as “sentiments” were offended. The upshot was that he not only announced that he would stop writing but also asked his publishers to withdraw all his work. It is this situation that the court judgment reversed by taking a stand in favour of democratic rights. The judgment does well in pointing out the fallacy in a line of reasoning that has become all too common in India. An identity-based group claims its sentiments have been hurt and threatens violence; the state then steps in and in the interests of “peace” bans the work of art or advises its author to withdraw it. In doing so, however, the state legitimises violence and fails in its first duty: to assure the security of its citizens. One aspect of the judgment needs consideration. Recommending guidelines to help authorities to deal with a similar situation, the judgment said an expert body could look into the work. This is a minefield as assessment of a work of art is subjective. As the judgment itself says “art is often provocative and is not meant for everyone.” It’s best to follow the advice another part of the judgment proffers: “If you do not like a book, simply close it. The answer is not its ban.” (Times of India 8/7/16)

Zakir Naik being harassed for no valid reason, says Cong’s ally IUML (1)

New Delhi: The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) on Sunday came out in support of preacher Zakir Naik, saying the “advocate of peace theory in Islam” is being harassed for no “valid reason”.Addressing a press conference in Kozhikode, IUML MP and former minister E T Mohammed Basheer said, “Naik is an advocate of peace theory in Islam. The action by the authorities against the Islamic preacher is a violation of the freedom of expression. He is being harassed for no valid reason.” The IUML’s stand may cause much embarrassment to its ally Congress which had been attacking the BJP-led government for allowing the broadcast of Naik’s Peace TV in India. “The probe against Naik is being carried out in a prejudiced manner,” Basheer alleged and demanded that authorities stop harassing the preacher. “Since the launch of Islamic Research Foundation in 1991, Naik has travelled to many parts of the world and delivered a large number of speeches and organised several debates. In view of these facts, he should not be harassed,” he said. Basheer alleged that the Maharashtra government has launched an investigation in a “prejudiced manner” intending to oppose his activities and portray him in a “wrong way”.”Those who believe in the Indian Constitution which guarantees freedom of expression should come forward to oppose the move,” he said. A video footage of a speech by Naik in which he speaks against Islamic State, was also played during the press conference. Naik has come under the scanner over reports that one of the Dhaka attackers was allegedly inspired by his speeches. (Asian Age 11/7/16)

Social media posts pose new challenge for govt. agencies (1)

NEW DELHI: A deluge of social media posts terming Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani a “martyr” has emerged as a new challenge for security agencies. Officials said terrorist elements in Pakistan were cashing in on Wani’s killing and they were flooding the Internet with solidarity messages for the slain Hizbul commander. Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafeez Saeed, accused of masterminding the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, has been posting messages from his Twitter handle hailing Wani as a “martyr.” Saeed has also put messages in support of Kashmiri separatist leaders like Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who was taken into preventive custody. Several Twitter handles, mostly being operated from Pakistan, have uploaded Wani’s photo as their profile picture with a tagline — “This isn’t 1 less Burhan, it’s 100 more Burhans.” The image of Wani is seen as an attempt to replicate the iconic photo of socialist revolutionary Che Guevara, taken by Alberto Korda in 1960. “It is a clear attempt by terrorist elements to project Wani as a hero and the next revolutionary leader like Guevara. Like Guevara, Wani is also wearing a headgear in the images being circulated online,” said a senior government official. The official said that though Internet services had been suspended in the Valley, there was active online chatter about Wani’s killing and the image had been shared multiple times. “It is difficult for us to block each and every Twitter account or report to Facebook about such mischievous messages doing the rounds. It is just not possible. The next big headache for us is containing these social media posts that are highly mischievous in nature,” said the official. Several video clips, claiming to pay tribute to Wani, were also under the scanner of the security agencies. “There are multiple such platforms where the only job for Pakistan-based terrorist elements is to post messages in solidarity with Wani. They want to convince the virtual world that Wani was indeed a hero. They want to change the narrative,” the official said. (The Hindu 14/7/16)

Press Council to take up media ban with J&K government (1)

NEW DELHI: Press Council of India will take up the state action against media in J&K on Monday following strong statement of criticism from the Editors Guild of India and concerns raised by several PCI members. The state government has banned newspapers and cable TV following days of unrest after militant Burhan Wani’s killing. Speaking on the issue PCI chairperson Justice (retd) C K Prasad said, “I have received communications of concern from several members. We will take up the issue tomorrow.” Meanwhile Editors Guild described the clampdown as “gagging” the media and strongly condemned it. “This is a direct assault to the freedom of the press in India and the Guild strongly condemns this unwarranted muzzling of the media…It is extremely unfortunate that the state government, under fire for its poor management of the law and order situation in the Valley, has sought to shoot the messenger,” the statement said. Reports suggest that the journalists and other staff working in Greater Kashmir and Rising Kashmir were detained, harassed and their mobiles taken away by the raiding police parties.The Editors Guild notes that the two main English newspapers of Kashmir, Greater Kashmir and Rising Kashmir, are run by responsible editors and journalists and report events with sobriety. “We are also aghast to note that the media censorship will continue, for a minimum of three days if not more. The Editors Guild of India requests the State Government to immediately lift the censorship and refrain from any action to intimidate the press,” it said. (Times of India 17/7/16)

Journalists attacked in Nagpur (1)

RAIPUR: Five journalists and cameramen were allegedly attacked by some office-bearers of a residential school in Nagpur on Monday. A woman journalist was also manhandled by the office-bearers of Ahilyabai Holkar residential school on the outskirts of Nagpur city when two Marathi news channel teams went to the premises to report on alleged irregularities. Surbhi Shirpurkar, a reporter of IBN Lokmat news channel, said she had gone to the school along with her cameraman Prashant Mohite. “One member of our channel’s technical staff and two more journalists were accompanying us. We entered the school premises and revealed our identities. Manoj Mate, son of the school secretary Shrikrishna Mate, began threatening us. Within minutes, Shrikrishna Mate came to the school along with some of his men and without asking anything, started abusing us. They attacked our cameramen. When I began video recording the incident with my mobile phone, they threatened and manhandled me,” Ms. Shirpurkar told The Hindu. Gajanan Umathe, a reporter with the Maharashtra One channel said they had received information about the alleged malpractices and irregularities in the school through the Right to Information Act. In the video footage captured by the channel’s cameraman, the school administrators could be seen shouting and pushing the reporters and cameramen. The journalists, who lodged a complaint in the police station nearby, also alleged that the police have lodged a counter-complaint against them. “Journalists are attacked while trying to cover a story. Then you file police cases against them. How can we work freely in such an atmosphere? This is an attack on media independence,” said Mr. Umathe. Deputy Commissioner of Police Rakesh Kalasagar, who is holding additional charge of the area where the incident took place, said the police had received complaints from both sides. “According to the school administrators, five reporters tried to enter the government-funded residential school this afternoon without proper permission. The school people prohibited them from shooting inside the school. According to reporters, the school people abused and even manhandled the lady reporter. We have registered both the offences and are investigating,” the DCP said. Manoj Mate is the Nagpur district president the Rashtriya Samaj Paksh, one of the coalition partners of the BJP government in Maharashtra. Both Mr. Mate and his father could not be reached for comment. This is the second such incident in Nagpur in a month. In June, an IPS officer was photographed snatching a camera from a photojournalist in the city. (The Hindu 19/7/16)

Lawyers beat up media reporters at Kerala High Court (1)

KOCHI: A section of lawyers of the Kerala High Court beat up media reporters within the court’s premises twice on Tuesday, questioning the wide coverage given to a case where a government pleader is accused of molesting a woman on a public street. Following the attacks, reporters covering the high court have filed a written complaint before the acting chief justice (ACJ) Thottathil B Radhakrishnan, Bar Council of Kerala, and the advocate general. A reporter of Deccan Chronicle who was reporting court proceedings on a petition filed by the government pleader, Dhanesh Mathew Manjooran, was asked his name by a lawyer and taken out of the courtroom. A group of lawyers who were waiting outside took him near a staircase, showered expletives on him, and pushed him down the stairs. Office-bearers of the Kerala High Court Advocates Association held talks with reporters at the media room following the incident and apologized for the attack. Reporters expressed their wish to bring the matter to the attention of the ACJ.While the complaint to the ACJ was being prepared at the media room, a group of lawyers reached there and began showering verbal abuses on reporters. One of them kicked a senior reporter of Asianet News. The second attack was also described in the complaint filed to the ACJ by reporters. When the ACJ reached his chamber after the afternoon session of the court, reporters met him and submitted the complaint. Half an hour later, journalists took out a protest march to the high court under the banner of Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ). The march was blocked by police before reaching the court, outside the building of advocates association. Addressing the protestors, KUWJ leaders said lawyers attacking media within court premises is unheard of in Kerala and demanded that the chief justice should ensure swift and prompt action to ensure the right of media to report court proceedings without any hindrance from unruly lawyers. (Times of India 20/7/16)

Advocates attack journalists in Thiruvananthapuram (1)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: It seems a nefarious scheme is at work on the part of the men in black to muzzle the freedom of the press and the basic right of journalists to perform their all-important duty. It was nothing short of planned hooliganism by the advocate community in the capital city. There was absolutely no provocation from the part of the journalists. The community had exercised self control on Wednesday while protesting against the brutal attack on the High Court premises. The protest march on Thursday was limited to the Secretariat and the journalists stayed away from the court premises. The media room at the District Court here is not a favour granted by the advocates. It was sanctioned after deliberations at the top level of the judiciary and was inaugurated by the then Chief Justice Chelameshwar to facilitate free and fair reportage of the court proceedings in the era of Right to Information. However, the advocates of this right and the very same community to which the journalists also approach to protect their rights are turning out to be a destructive force. Thursday’s untoward incidents started with the advocates sticking derogatory posters outside the media room and declaring there is no space for mediapersons on the court premises. They went to the extent of sticking these posters on the car in which Reporter TV journalists had come to collect the chargesheet of an important case. Other mediapersons also arrived to cover these and were on their way out when the gates were closed and stones hurled at them causing grievous injury to a reporter and an advocate clerk. Reporters and cameramen were subjected to violent attack and cameras were destroyed. Protests led by the Trivandrum Press Club and the KUWJ followed and mediapersons sat on a dharna at the court gate demanding action. Things were heading for a peaceful end with the intervention of political leaders and senior police officials when the ugly face of the advocate community was bared once again. Stones and beer bottles flew out over the gate at the mediapersons and the police. Several were injured forcing even the locals to turn against the advocate community.  For a change the police now need not be told as to what happened as they stood witness to the reprehensible show by the men in black. There is enough and more evidence captured by the scores of cameras. All that we await now is action, as promised. (New Indian Express 22/7/16)

Facebook faces heat for censoring posts on Kashmir unrest (1)

The petition is the beginning of a campaign to defend freedom of speech on Facebook and social media Many accounts’ holders, including Academics, journalist and the local newspapers had their posts allegedly deleted by Facebook. Burhan Wani, 22, a senior member of the Hizbul Mujahideen rebel group, died in a gunfight with the Indian army on July 8, 2016. According to the Kashmir police at least 30 people died in the violent protests following the shooting of the Kashmiri-militant leader. When mobile coverage, landlines and internet services were curbed throughout the region, and authorities imposed ban on local newspaper, people turned to the social networking sites for information or to post their views. However, users were surprised to see that social networking service Facebook was censoring their posts and comments. Facebook received criticism after it censored users’ posts and also disabled their accounts for posting their comments on the death of Burhan Wani. Many Facebook account holders, including Academics, journalist, including the local newspaper Kashmir Monitors, were among those who had their posts allegedly deleted from the social networking website. Hamza Ali Abbasi, a Pakistani actor, also had his post removed from Facebook too. Abbasi had tweeted, ‘My FB account deactivated for talking about KASHMIR. Later, several activists, scholars, writers, namely Dibyesh Anand (an academic at the University of Westminster, UK), Naila Smith, Rollie Mukherjee and Mary Scully (a socialist presidential candidate in US), initiated a petition that demanded Facebook to respect the US bill of Rights, and stop censoring users’ posts. Dibyesh Anand said: ‘I had my first post removed on July 12, 2016, and was the account was blocked, restricting me from posting for 24 hours. When it was over, I received a message from Facebook with formal apology.’ There is no place on the social website for content that praises or supports terrorists, terrorist organisations or terrorism – Facebook. ‘Disturbingly, once again on July 14, soon after receiving the apology, I was censored again and on July 15, I was blocked again for 24 hours for the following post. It was clear that it is not same faulty algorithm but action of a team member,’ he added, concluding, ‘Once I was back online, I sent numerous complaints to Facebook’s help centre.’ (Asian Age 25/7/16)

Journo thrashed by mob in Kashmir (1)

SRINAGAR: A Kashmiri journalist working for an Iranian TV news company was attacked and thrashed by a mob here as he was returning home.Syed Ali Safvi was driving home on Tuesday evening when his vehicle, which had a press sticker, was stopped by a mob who thrashed him with heavy metal rods and stones. This comes at a time when Kashmir has been witnessing violence following the encounter of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8. Sources said bands of masked protestors have now taken to attacking passing vehicles. They are known to target media and medical personnel along with the police. Local policemen are keeping duplicate identity cards to evade being thrashed.Safvi told a local newspaper that the group attacked his car near Batamallo bypass. “We work under extremely difficult conditions but still we have always tried to uphold the principles of free and fair journalism. But incidents like these make our job more difficult,” he said. These bands have been targeting ambulances and doctors as well, reports said. So far, 102 ambulances have been damaged and 20 paramedics and doctors injured by these protestors, state health and medical education minister Bali Bhagat said. A doctor on condition of anonymity alleged, “Nearly all Srinagar hospitals are under direct control of separatist elements. Hurriyat activists, including some from various self-styled NGOs, are making it difficult for us to work.” Refuting the allegation, Bhagat said that the hospitals have been by and large cleared of all the separatist activists. (Times of India 28/7/16)

SC draws limits on defamation (1)

New Delhi, July 28: The Supreme Court today observed that criticising a chief minister or a bureaucrat could not be termed defamatory as it warned of a “chilling effect” if public prosecutors started filing such cases against opposition politicians or anyone disapproving of a government’s policies. A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and R.F. Nariman said the law on defamation was justified but made it clear that it could not be used to harass those speaking against the government. “Free speech is permissible, not defamatory. Defamatory speech is different from free speech. Any criticism that there is corruption in the government cannot be called defamatory,” the bench said as it directed the Tamil Nadu government to submit a list of defamation cases filed against Vijayakanth and other political opponents. The observations came as the court stayed a non-bailable warrant a trial court had issued against the DMDK leader in a case, one among the dozens the Jayalalithaa government has reportedly slapped on the actor-politician for criticising her and the AIDMK regime on various issues. Vijayakanth, who had approached the top court after the cases were filed against him, has in particular challenged the constitutional validity of CrPC Section 199, which empowers a public prosecutor to file a defamation case against anyone on behalf of a chief minister or some other public servant. Several other Opposition leaders too have been critical of the Jayalalithaa government for “indiscriminately” filing defamation cases against them for criticism of the government. (According to legal sources in Tamil Nadu, the AIADMK government has filed at least 210 defamation cases since 2011, nearly 30 of them against Vijayakanth. Among these 210 cases, 160 have been filed in Chennai alone by city public prosecutor M.L. Jagan, reports our special correspondent, quoting the legal sources.) Today, the bench told senior counsel R. Basant, who appeared for the Tamil Nadu government: “In how many matters can the chief minister direct the public prosecutor to file cases? There has to be a tolerance of speech… free speech.” Justice Misra, who headed the bench, added: “If somebody says ‘X’ is unfit, you can’t file a defamation case. It will be an abuse of the process. Merely because there is criticism of any government or any bureaucrat or any person in the government, you slap defamation? “If you start filing cases for criticism, it will have a chilling effect. The provision (defamation) may not be unconstitutional, but courts have a duty to protect it.” Justice Misra had recently upheld the constitutional validity of two penal code sections that deal with defamation – 499 and 500 – while heading another bench. That ruling had come on a batch of petitions filed by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, the BJP’s Subramanian Swamy and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal who had all sought scrapping of the law. At today’s proceedings, Justice Misra iterated his earlier judgment that the defamation law was required to curb reckless and scurrilous remarks, but said the provision could not be used to stifle genuine free speech. (The Telegraph 29/7/16)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

Group clash in south Delhi, cops among injured (7)

New Delhi: Members of two communities clashed and pelted stones and empty glass bottles at each other in south Delhi’s Fatehpur Beri area, injuring over a dozen persons, including policemen, a senior officer said on Saturday. Police have registered a case of rioting and detained around 25 people in connection with the violence which took place on Friday evening.“The two communities live in a narrow bylane which is one reason why it turned into a group clash. However, no one sustained major injury. The injured, including 4-6 policemen, had bruises,” a senior police officer said. Although police claimed the incident was a fallout of tiff among children which was joined by elders of the two communities, sources said an incident of eve-teasing led to the clash. “It started as a brawl among youngsters. Later, the communities got involved. Bricks and bottles were used. Timely action was initiated and situation was brought under control,” said Additional DCP (south) Nupur Prasad. (Indian Express 2/7/16)

MP towns shut on Eid, Hindu groups blamed for forced bandh (7)

Neemuch / Mandsaur |  : Several towns in the communally sensitive Malwa region of Madhya Pradesh shut down on Thursday, raising allegations of Hindu right-wing organisations orchestrating the unofficial bandh during Eid celebrations. Reports said the majority of business establishments in Neemuch, Javad and Manasa in Neemuch district and Mandsaur, Shyamgarh and Sitamau in Mandsaur district remained closed and people had a tough time even buying essential commodities on Thursday. The two districts have a history of communal violence and sources said the RSS and its affiliated organisations circulated messages for the past one week asking people to protest alleged provocative statements made by a Muslim cleric. HT could not independently verify the circulation of such messages, allegedly through mobile apps. All these towns in western MP have sizeable Muslim populations. But Neemuch SP Manoj Singh and collector Rajneesh Shrivastava denied shopkeepers were forced to close shops and said those who did not open their shops did so on their own volition. Shrivastava said there was no disturbance anywhere. Such unannounced bandhs started a year back in Javad following stone pelting on a Hanuman Jayanti procession. There were also reports of a similar bandh in Neemuch during an earlier Muslim festival. The Congress submitted memoranda to the administrations of both districts against the bandh. Sources said some Congress members also tried to open some of the shops in Neemuch. Congress leader Umrao Gurjar said that people belonging to RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal were behind this and BJP was pressuring the administration to look the other way. “This is an attempt to create animosity between communities,” he said. VHP Neemuch district president Babulal Nagda, however, said the bandh was a “reaction of the common people against members of a particular community for previous incidents of stone pelting on Hindu religious processions and molestation of Hindu girls”. (Hindustan Times 8/7/16)

400 cops deployed amid fears of Bhojpur ‘communal tension’ (7)

Shahpur/bhojpur; Two days after a Hindu youth allegedly circulated an objectionable post regarding Prophet Mohammed on WhatsApp, Ranisagar village in Bhojpur remained tense Saturday. Jitendra Gaud, who runs a sweet shop in Ranisagar market, under Shahpur police station’s jurisdiction, said over a dozen shops, including his, had been ransacked. “We don’t know who sent what WhatsApp message. We earn Rs 500-700 a day. We want to live peacefully and do our business,” he said, adding that “over 1,000 people” had created ruckus in the area. While the youth, the son of a local barber, has been arrested, police said communal tension resurfaced after Friday prayers. Ranisagar, which has a population of over 12,000, has about 70 per cent Muslims. Locals say there is no history of communal violence here, and Hindus and Muslims have for years run adjoining shops. “Some influential Muslims of the village brought it to the police’s notice on Thursday. Some fiery speeches after Friday prayers escalated the situation. Though there is no communal conflict, we cannot rule out (anything),” said a police officer, adding that a case has been lodged against more than 50 people. No arrest has been made yet. Over half a dozen policemen and government officials were injured in stone-pelting as a mob torched several small shops. Suraj Thakur, a fish seller, said the mob wreaked havoc and retreated only when police were called in. Over 400 policemen have been deployed at Ranisagar, which is in Shahpur assembly segment, to monitor the situation, Bhojpur SP Chhatranil Singh said. Mohammed Jamshed, a local, tried to strike a note of reconciliation. “We have co-existed here for years without any communal tension. One must not spread hate messages against any religion.” (Indian Express 10/7/16)

Main accused in Ara trader murder case surrenders (7)

Ara: The main accused in the Munna Sai murder case, Sonu Prasad surrendered before the chief judicial magistrate (CJM) court here on Monday. Three other accused had already been arrested in the case. Munna was allegedly killed by the four near his house at New Area Babu Bazar under the Town police station area of Ara on Saturday morning. Senior BJP man and Union minister Giriraj Singh visited Sai’s house on Monday. Talking to media persons, Giriraj said Sai’s murder in full public view proved that criminals had no fear of law in Bihar. Instead, people have started fearing for safety. He said many criminal incidents happened at Ara recently. Giriraj said the situation is like that during the pre 2005 period in Bihar. Leader of opposition in Bihar legislative assembly Prem Kumar also visited Sai’s house. It may be mentioned that on April 30, some criminals had thrown a bomb at a mall in the town for extortion. On May 9, the deputy mayor of Ara was shot at by some criminals. Singh also visited Ranisagar under the Shahpur police station area of Bhojpur district on Monday. Dozens of shops of a particular community had been burned there by a rampaging mob on July 7 and 8, leading to communal tension in the area. The cause of communal tension was an objectionable comment made by a person on the Facebook against a particular community. According to Bhojpur police, the situation at Ranisagar is normal. Bhojpur SP Kshatranil Singh said shops and property of 22 persons had been damaged and each victim would be given Rs9800 as immediate relief. They would get further compensation after a committee asked to conduct a survey about the exact damages submits its report. The SP said 18 persons have been named in the FIR and three of them have already been arrested. (Times of India 11/7/16)

J&K unrest: Kashmiri Pandits group urges state, Centre to evacuate Hindus from Valley (7)

Jammu: Pointing out that ongoing violence in Kashmir in the aftermath of the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was indicative of entire Valley being “in the grip of a fundamentalist Islamist order”, Panun Kashmir, an organization representing migrant Kashmiri Pandits, on Tuesday alleged attacks on Hindus living there and appealed to both the Centre and the state government to evacuate them to safe places outside the Valley. “The life, safety and honour of minorities living in Kashmir is the responsibility of the government and it should show no dithering in fulfilling this responsibility,” said Panun Kashmir convenor Dr Agnishekhar and its chairman Dr Ajay Churngoo in a joint statement.  “The communal crowds that attacked Kashmiri Pandits’ transition camp at Haal were just a gate-crash away from razing it to the ground and carrying out massacres worse than what happened in Nandimarg and Wandahama,’’ they alleged, adding that such attacks on Kashmiri Hindus took place all over the Valley. Alleging receipt of reports of “burning of Hindu houses, desecration of temples, life threatening harassment and intimidation”, they said that while a comprehensive picture of the situation will appear before people in coming days, these “deliberate and well organized crowd attacks on Hindus living at transition camps or elsewhere in Kashmir and their properties have been nothing less than genocidal attacks”. With dangers to the life and existence of Hindus in Kashmir so brazenly manifest that the perfidy and viciousness of the government proposals of clusters, composite colonies to settle internally displaced Hindus in Kashmir is now clearly visible, they added. Both the Kashmiri Pandit leaders urged the Centre to “realize the gravity of situation on the ground and the dangers to the integrity of the nation from a fundamentalist separatist movement”. “After whatever has happened with Hindus living in Kashmir in the aftermath of the killing of Burhan Wani, nobody should have any doubt that creation of a Union Territory out of areas on North and East of river Jhelum is the only way for their safe and lasting rehabilitation in the Valley,” they added. They held “criminal appeasement of fundamentalist separatist enterprise by both the Government of India and the state government” responsible for the incidents being witnessed on the streets of Kashmir. Pointing out that the authority of the state in Kashmir has been undermined as no time before, they said that this has happened as governments both at the Centre and in the state have allowed the credibility and authority of security forces to be eroded as a matter of political policy. (Indian Express 12/7/16)

SIT begins Kandhamal inquiry, oppn skeptical (7)

Bhubaneswar/Berhampur: The state government-constituted special investigation team (SIT) on Tuesday began its probe into the death of five innocent villagers in an alleged crossfire between police and Maoists in Kandhamal. Amid growing criticism of the BJD government, three ministers met the families of the dead during the day. This apart, government sources said consultations are on to nominate a judge to head the judicial inquiry commission announced by the government within hours after the Kandhamal killings. The commission will be formed under the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952, to examine how the incident happened and to recommend corrective steps to prevent such incidents in future. State DGP K B Singh said the SIT headed by additional DG (Human Rights Protection Cell) Mahendra Pratap, has taken over the investigation. He added, “Everything will be clear once we finish the inquiry.” BJD spokesperson Amar Prasad Satpathy added, “The two commissions will bring out the truth.” On the other hand, opposition parties were sceptical about the efficiency of government-sponsored inquiries. Leader of opposition Narasingha Mishra said, “The Naveen Patnaik government has constituted 24 judicial commissions since it came to power 16 years ago. Details of only 12 inquiries have been disclosed so far. Reports on major incidents are yet to be made public.” Inquiry reports on the December 2007 Kandhamal riots and the murder of VHP leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati have not been published. Mishra said he would visit Gumudumaha village, where Friday’s killings took place, on July 15. He alleged, “The government will try to hush up the matter with the help of the SIT, which works under the State Human Rights Protection Cell.” (Times of India 13/7/16)

AAP promises to repair homes of 1984 riot victims (7)

New Delhi: Eyeing the Punjab elections slated for early next year, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government on Tuesday announced that they will carry out repair work in colonies where the families of 1984 riot victims reside. In what seems like a politically motivated move as AAP has emerged as one of the main contenders for Punjab elections, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has directed the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) to immediately begin the work.The decision to repair at least 2,000 flats in eight localities was taken in a meeting headed by the CM. Soon after the meeting, Mr Kejriwal tweeted, “The 1984 riot victims and refugees from Punjab (are) staying in horrible conditions. The Delhi government today decided to repair their houses [sic]”. Repair work will be taken up in Tilak Vihar, Garhi, Raghubir Nagar, Sangam Park, Jahangir Puri, GT Road Shahdara, Kalkaji and Madipur. “The initial estimate for repair work is Rs. 10 crore, which will be revised on the basis of the actual estimate,” said an official statement by the Delhi government.“The condition of colonies where the families of victims reside is worrying and requires urgent attention,” said officials at Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board. In June, the Aam Aadmi Party had alleged that the Centre was incapable of providing justice to the victims of the anti-Sikh riots in Delhi. The Kejriwal-led government had demanded that it should be allowed to form its own SIT (Special Investigative Team) to probe the riots. (The Hindu 13/7/16)

Communal tension spreads in Steel City, clash averted (7)

ROURKELA: A communal clash, triggered by an objectionable post on WhatsApp, was averted in Rourkela due to timely action by police on late Thursday night. While prohibitory order was clamped in the area to prevent further flare-up of violence, palpable tension prevailed. According to police, soon after an objectionable picture linked to Islam was circulated on the social networking site by a youth, protesters in large number gathered at the Main Road ahead of the Bahuda Yatra and disrupted traffic by burning tyres for about 90 minutes and also forced closure of shops till 5 pm. Police persuaded the protestors to call off the blockade and restored normalcy with detention of the youth responsible for the sacrilegious post. The Bahuda Yatra passed off peacefully. In the evening, the saffron brigade blocked the road in front of Uditnagar office of Rourkela SP Anirudh Singh and damaged two auto-rickshaws. Members of Viswa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal and Hindu Sena staged protest on the road demanding release of the youth and action against members of the minority community who allegedly assaulted him before he was detained by police. VHP leader Nilakanta Mohanty claimed that the youth detained by police is a Hindu Sena activist and the WhatsApp issue was sorted out amicably with other minority community youths of his age group. But some Muslim youths on Thursday assaulted him and staged road blockade leading to his arrest, he added. Meanwhile, tension spread from Daily Market to minority-dominated Nala Road under Plant Site police limits. While a group of Hindus had gathered at Daily Market, Muslims had gathered at Nala Road. Police were deployed to prevent communal clash. At around 10.30 pm an unidentified person threw a stone at the police patrol jeep at Daily Market injuring Inspector SN Muduli of Brahmani Tarang police station. Apprehending a clash, police dispersed the crowd. Prohibitory order in and around Nala Road was also clamped. Senior police and administrative officers rushed to the spot and Panposh Sub-Collector Bimanshu Behera declared imposition of Section 144 of IPC. Sundargarh Collector Bhupendra Singh Poonia said the situation is tense but under control and senior officials are keeping a watch on the situation. (New Indian Express 15/7/16)

Petty squabble sparks rioting near Mangleshwar Zampa (7)

Vadodara: Tension gripped the communally sensitive Bhandwada area in the old city after rioting broke out late on Thursday night. The incident occurred when two persons belonging to different communities entered into an argument over a minor dispute and soon it snowballed into a clash. Soon, mobs from both sides gathered at the spot and resorted to stone pelting. “An egg cart owner entered into arguments with a customer near Mangleshwar Zampa. The heated discussion turned ugly as people started gathering and a passer-by riding a two-wheeler fell down in the chaos,” said city police commissioner, E Radhakrishana. Mobs began pelting stones at each other but the police said that they have not received reports of anyone being injured. “A team of crime branch passing from there immediately swung into action and we also rushed additional cops to take situation under control. The mobs were dispersed within few minutes and security has been stepped up in and around the area,” Radhakrishana, who also reached the spot, added. The police will register complaint and then begin search for the accused. Additional security measures have been taken by the cops in the old city in the wake of the upcoming festive season. (Times of India 22/7/16)

`Scared’ Hindus plan exodus from restive Aligarh (7)

Aligarh: The alleged molestation of a newly wed in Babri Mandi has put further strain on the already tense communal situation here, with some Hindu families approaching the district administration requesting the authorities to buy their property as they don’t feel safe living in them. Their fears, they said, were fuelled by a recent episode of “eve-teasing” in which a newly married 19-year-old woman had her sari pulled by men from a different community, leading to stone pelting between two groups that became so big that a contingent of police had to be rushed in to control the violence. When TOI visited the Hindu families that had approached the administration, Vinay Varshney, who was one of those who had signed the affidavit stating his house was on sale, said, “There are 10 families ready to sell their properties. It is not possible to live in this area. We are in a minority. Ten families want to sell their houses right away but every family wants to eventually leave.” Sudha Varshney, another local resident who has been living in the area for 38 years, said she wants to leave. “Our daughters are not safe here. Hooliganism and harassment are the order of the day. The roads are narrow and some boys from a different community sit on both sides of the path making it difficult for our girls to even go to school. Many of them have refused to attend class fearing for their safety.”Additional district magistrate (ADM) Avadhesh Tiwari said, “Only eight people wanted to sell their properties as they felt unsafe. This was done to garner publicity in a situation that has more to do with law and order. Miscreants involved have been arrested. We will make sure no family exodus takes place. The situation is normal now.” Significanlty, even as as the district administration tries to persuade the Hindu to stay put, notices were seen put up outside the homes of Muslim families, that said, “We don’t feel safe here and our houses are for sale. The Muslim families that put out the boards, said a prominent local leader was fanning the tension. Gulzar Ahmad, convener, UP Welfare Minority Association, added, “Since the talk about the so-called exodus from Kairana, there have been repeated attempts to say something like that is happening everywhere in UP. This is not the truth about Aligarh’s Babri Mandi.” (Times of India 24/7/16)

HC sentences 7 to life imprisonment in a post-Godhra riot case (7)

Ahmedabad: The Gujarat High Court today sentenced seven persons to life imprisonment in a case related to the 2002 post-Godhra riots at Viramgam in the district where three people had been killed.

The court also upheld the conviction by the trial court of two others for murder, and acquittal of Devabhai Samatbhai Bharwad, another accused. The division bench of Justices Harsh Devani and Biren Vaishnav pronounced the quantum of sentence today. The seven who were sentenced to life are Satabhai alias Haider Gela Bharwad, Naranbhai Samantbhai Bharwad, Udaji Ranchhodbhai Thakor, Valabhai Gelabhai Bharwad, Viththal alias Kuchiyo Moti Bharwad, Mulabhai Gelabhai Bharwad and Merabhai Gelabhai Bharwad. Last month the HC had convicted them under sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and other sections of the IPC. The trial court in its order in 2011 had convicted four of them for lesser offences and acquitted three others. Of the ten people accused in the case then, the trial court awarded life term to two, lesser punsihment to four and acquitted the other four. On June 28, the HC convicted seven persons of murder and rejected the revision petition of two accused who were already given life sentence by the lower court. Of the four who were acquitted, the High Court upheld the acquittal of only Devabhai Bharwad. It found other three guilty of murder. The case dates to February 28, 2002, a day after Godhra train fire incident. A mob of around 40 people had attacked a Muslim locality in Viramgam and tried to demolish a dargah. When Muslim residents tried to stop them, the mob attacked them, which resulted in the death of three persons. (Zee News 25/7/16)

Aligarh’s Babri Mandi tension: Administration brings together Hindus, Muslims for a talk, ease situation (7)

Agra: IN A bid to quell the escalating communal tensions in Aligarh’s Babri Mandi over the past few days, the district administration Wednesday brought the members of Hindu and Muslim communities together for a meeting at the City Kotwali police station. At the gathering of nearly 500 people, Additional District Magistrate (ADM) Awadhesh Tiwari recited shlokas from Gita and verses from Quran to spread the message of peace and brotherhood, and asked the two communities to shed the tension. The administration’s initiative failed to evoke the desired response at first, with the two sides entering into verbal altercations every time an allegation was made. But the ADM persisted with the idea as he assured the Hindu community of “complete security” and the Muslim community of “withdrawing FIRs” filed after the clash on July 20. Community members then hugged each other and agreed to call off the tension. “Ab hamare seene se seene mil gaye hain. Hum sab ek hain or nahin ladenge. ADM sahab ne kaha hai ki FIR (clash-related) bhi wapis ho jayegi,” said Haji Suhail, one of those named in the FIR who attened the peace meeting. The 19-year-old girl who was allegedly molested said the meeting does not change anything for her. ‘Main mukadma wapis nahin loongi (I won’t withdraw the case),” she said.Aligarh SSP Luv Kumar said the two accused have already been arrested in the molestation case and the situation in Babri Mandi is “under control”. “The peace meeting worked. We have called them again on Friday for another round of talks,” he said. Meanwhile, some local businessmen groups have started a signature campaign against the ‘Hindu exodus’ in the area. Tension has been brewing in Babri Mandi locality where both Muslim and Hindu families had claimed that they felt “unsafe.” The tension rose after a woman was molested and her husband attacked with a knife allegedly by four Muslim youths. This had led to a clash on June 20, following which many Hindu families had approached the administration to buy their houses and shops so they could move out. (Indian Express 28/7/16)

COMMUNALISM

Academics, activists see Hindutva stamp in uniform civil code move (26)

HYDERABAD: Academicians, religious scholars and advocates from the city are sceptical over the implementation of Uniform Civil Code by the Centre. Noted academician Prof Kancha Illaiah of Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU) has opined that irrespective of religion, every individual should marry through a legal system and should get a certificate for that. “No marriage should only be religious in nature. Every marriage should be registered in a court, panchayat office or any legal system where individuals can get a certificate of marriage. There should be equal rights for marriage, divorce and property,” he said. However, he does not support the BJP’s Uniform Civil Code. “There are many civil codes. Even Ambedkar wanted to bring Hindu Code bill. The present Uniform Civil Code is BJP’s Hindutva agenda and is not acceptable. The way it deals with the Christians, Muslims and other religious minorities and issues of priest marriages and child marriages is not clear. It would not be easy for them to push their Uniform Civil Code as religious minorities would definitely oppose it,” he opined. Echoing Prof Kancha Illaiah’s assesment, Haafiz Hassan bin Ahmed Shakir, president of Al Faizan Educational Society in Barkas, said, “We have always believed in the diversity of India. We have obeyed what India has asked us to. That does not give any government which comes for only five years the right to intervene in our religious matters, which has been carried on by the orders of Prophet Mohammed PBUH and is universal for all Muslims of the world irrespective of their nationality.” “Is Islam an obstacle towards the growth of India? If not, then why are our religious matters being meddled with? Every religion has its own rights and this plurality bestowed upon us in the 1950s through separate laws for religious communities would take forward the country. This change is not welcome,” he added. Senior advocate S Satyam Reddy also shared serious doubts and expressed concern over the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code. “The Code is a Directive Principle of State Policy and is not enforceable in the constitution. Though desirable in a multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-ethnic country, its imposition is impractical and may hurt the religious sentiments of many communities,” he said. (New Indian Express 3/7/16)

Muslim population share decides their mentality: RSS women wing wisdom (26)

New Delhi: Claiming “Islam is not a religion, it’s a political aggression”, the Rashtriya Sevika Samiti, the women’s branch of the RSS, Wednesday said wherever Muslims are in majority, they create problems. These remarks were made by Asha Sharma, Akhil Bhartiya Sahkaryavahika of the Samiti, at a seminar in New Delhi — the topic was ‘Religious Terrorism: A Global Threat’ — which was attended, among others, by Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan who was the guest of honour. Sharma was critical of Islam: “Jahan Islam jaata hai, wahan par vidhwans saath lekar ke gaya hai. Yah itihas hai, isko hum inkaar nahin sakte (Wherever Islam goes, it brings destruction. This is history, we cannot deny this).”Noting that “aaj bhi unki soch yahi hai (their mentality is still the same),” Sharma said: “Jahan dus per cent hain, wahan chup kar ke rahenge. 15 per cent ho gaye toh apni baat keh ke chup karenge. 25 per cent ho gaye toh apni baat ko manvane ka prayas karenge, aur adhik badh gaye to kisi aur ki baat sunenge nahi (Wherever they are ten per cent, they remain silent. If they are 15 per cent, they go quiet after making their point. Where they are 25 per cent, they ensure that people follow whatever they say. And if they are more than this, then they do not listen to anyone else.)” Sharma said Islam has proliferated due to the absence of education, whereas Christianity has spread due to poverty. In the absence of these two factors, she said, these religions will disappear. “Jahan shiksha hai, wahan Islam nahi hai. Jahan jahan shiksha badh rahi hai, jahan samriddhi aayi hai, wahan ye dono sampraday dheere dheere khatam ho rahe hain… Jahan gareebi hai, wahan Christianity hai. Gareebi door hogi to Christianity ka prabhav dheere dheere kam hota jaata hai (Where there’s education, there is no Islam. In places where education is increasing, prosperity has come, these two religions have gradually declined… Christianity exists in areas where there is poverty. If poverty is removed, the influence of Christianity gets reduced gradually).” Sharma said that the Samiti has taken up the task to fight terrorism and “this mentality”. “If women want, they can change the face of the world. If mothers want, they can change the thinking of the entire world,” she said. Samiti speakers referred to Mahajan as a “sevika” who in turn called them “sakhi” (friends). Mahajan told the gathering that religion is a “misunderstood word” since “religion is not dharma, it is panth… there are so many panths in India… dharma is duty, whatever duty one does in life, it marks his dharma”. Mahajan also referred to the Dhaka attack and said Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has rightly said “jo Ramzan ke dinon mein is prakaar se goliyaan chalane wala, Musalman ho hi nahin sakta (those who open fire during Ramzan cannot be Muslims)”. The seminar was held to mark the birth anniversary of Samiti founder Laxmibai Kelkar. The Samiti’s Pramukh Sanchalika Shanta Kumari alias Shantakka was also present. The Samiti has some three lakh members, and holds 4,350 shakhas daily across India, besides an active presence in 45 countries. (Indian Express 7/7/16)

VHP wants separate law, ministry to protect cow (26)

New Delhi: Claiming that the Atal Behari Vajpayee government was ready with a draft law on cow protection, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has asked the Narendra Modi led NDA dispensation at the Centre to complete the unfinished task and pass the law in the Parliament at the earliest. The VHP has also sought from the Modi government a ministry for cow protection, besides bringing the subject of cow-protection under the concurrent list of the Constitution. VHP international general secretary Champat Rai, while speaking to this newspaper, said the government should act fast on the issue of cow protection. “The draft law was ready when the Vajpayee government was in power. However, it did not see the light of day. The government now should enact the law by bringing the subject into the concurrent list of the Constitution,” said Mr Rai, while adding that a separate ministry for cow protection should be set up. The VHP leader stressed that the law should be such that it would deter people from killing cows and consuming cow-meat. “The law should protect the emotions of Hindus, who consider cows as their mothers. The Hindus will fight to protect their emotions,” he added. The VHP is to launch a week long nationwide “Gopashtami” campaign from November 8. “We will hold programmes at 5000 places, which have population of more than one lakh, to bring the issue of cow-protection to the forefront,” said Mr Rai. When asked if he justified the killing of Mohammed Akhlaq in a village in Dadri in Uttar Pradesh over the rumour that he had consumed beef, a defiant Mr Rai stated, “Hindus will fight to ensure that their emotions concerning cows are not violated.” While beef is consumed in Kerala and Northeast and there has been difference of opinion within the ruling BJP over the issue, Mr Rai maintained that people in such regions should not consumer cow meat and his organisation would launch a campaign there to persuade people to change their habits. “Has anyone yet told the benefits of cows to the people of Northeast and Kerala? The government must engage with the people in these regions. We have asked the saints in Assam to persuade the people in the Northeast to understand the importance of cows,” said Mr Rai. The VHP leader claimed that Namdhari Sikhs sacrificed their lives for protection of cows, for which even Shivaji and Guru Govind Singh fought. (Asian Age 8/7/16)

BJP veteran Shanta Kumar urges PM Modi to work to control India’s population (26)

New Delhi: Even as Hindutva hardliners like VHP leader Pravin Togadia pitch for Hindus producing more children, BJP veteran Shanta Kumar on Saturday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to come out with a population policy as burgeoning populace was creating problems like unemployment and pollution. Kumar, a former Himachal Pradesh chief minister who had earlier joined seniors like L K Advani in attacking the party leadership, said India had achieved high growth and won global recognition under Modi but ignoring the problem of rising population will endanger that. “There has already been much delay in solving this problem and any more delay will be deadly. There is no other option but to control population to deal with all these problems. The country has reposed a lot of faith in you. “It seems to me that the history wants you to do this difficult but fundamental work of national importance. I humbly urge you to take an initiative to call a meeting of all political parties to evolve a consensus over national population policy,” the Lok Sabha member said in a letter to Modi. Citing figures of high unemployment, pollution, hunger and slums, he said these challenges could be tackled only by controlling population. “Some problems of the country have acquired dangerous proportions. Increasing population is at the root of maximum problems. Every year India’s population is increasing by the size of two countries. There has already been much delay in solving this problem and any more delay will be deadly. “There is no other option but to control population to deal with all these problems. We will start benefiting from the decision in some years but the biggest benefit will be that the coming generations will not hold us responsible for not doing the national duty due to vote bank politics,” he said. The biggest worry, he said, is that the nation’s politics has completely shut its eyes to this root problem in a way similar to a pigeon closing its eyes before a cat. Agenda and manifesto of no political party mentions this dangerous problem, he said, noting that the population has increased to 127 crore from 35 crore since independence. The 81-year-old leader said BJP received a historic mandate in the last Lok Sabha elections and the country put its trust in Modi. “I think the fundamental problems of this country can be resolved under your leadership only,” he said. Besides thousands of people applying for a few vacancies, 11 out of 20 most polluted cities in the world are in India and 27 crore out of 82 crore hungry people in the world reside here, he said, adding that over 3 lakh farmers had committed suicide. (Indian Express 9/7/16)

Valley violence backlash against RSS agenda: Congress (26)

NEW DELHI: Congress today hit out at BJP for the large-scale violence in Jammu and Kashmir and said it is the “backlash” against the RSS agenda being “imposed” there. “What is happening in Jammu and Kashmir is unfortunate. BJP should own direct responsibility for all this as BJP cannot run away from its responsibility as it is in government there. “This is a big backlash against the agenda of RSS that is being imposed there. BJP should admit that it exerted pressure on the regional party to form the government in the state by saying otherwise it won’t give funds. BJP will have to own up its responsibility for what is happening in Jammu and Kashmir,” senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said. He said that “it is terrible the way police has been “let loose” on the youth and the elderly, in which 1,500 people have been injured and more than two dozen people have died”.Azad said it is understandable that government initiates some steps to control the law and order situation but it is a “very serious issue” when people are being killed in dozens. The Congress leader, a former chief minister of the state, said Jammu and Kashmir is a sensitive area and is “religiously sensitive, politically sensitive and geographically sensitive, being a border area”.He said “imposition” of RSS ideology in Jammu and Kashmir is having a “backlash” and that is why the law and order situation is getting out of control there. On Pakistan’s support to separatists and attack on India for using force on protesters in Kashmir, Azad said “I condemn Pakistan. Pakistan is fishing in troubled water.” Azad said BJP should take “responsibility” for the killing of over two dozen people and injury to 1500 people. “BJP should own direct responsibility for all this, as BJP cannot run away from its responsibility. BJP is in government in Jammu and Kashmir and has its deputy chief minister and Ministers. Law and order is a state subject and BJP is a party in the state administration,” he said. The Congress leader, who is Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, said he had said in Parliament in the presence of Prime Minister when talks about forming a government with PDP were going on with BJP, that Jammu and Kashmir is a very sensitive area and “You are forming a government in Jammu and Kashmir to impose your philosophy there and not for bringing any change there.” Asked about violence having taken place in the state earlier too when it was ruled by Congress and National Conference, he said it was there but not like what is happening now when there was violence spread across the state. “This type of violence is spread across in different parts of the state for three, four days. It is not that some people have died in one firing. In different parts of the state, there is violence and there are hundreds of bullet injuries and serious cases,” he said. Azad said it is “compounding” now and is “brewing” further. To a question on whether the issue will be raised in the Monsoon session of Parliament, he said the issues will be decided soon. Asked if Congress would soften its stand on GST and if the bill would be passed in this session, he said, “Government has also given a proposal for resolving pending issues. We will decide. There is still time for the Parliament session. We will put forth our views and hold discussions with government sitting across the table.” (New Indian Express 12/7/16)

Acts to curb terror don’t violate human rights: RSS on Kashmir (26)

Agra: Rejecting claims of human rights violation in the ongoing battle between civilians and police in Jammu and Kashmir, RSS pracharak Dattatreya Hosabale Friday expressed “satisfaction” with the Centre’s stand against what he termed as “anti-national activities of some” in the valley. Speaking to reporters on the last day of the week-long meet of pracharaks in Kanpur, Hosabale said Kashmir was “burning with terror activities”, and asked media “not to glorify terrorists”. “Afzal Guru, Yakub Memon – all were hanged because they were terrorists. Their hanging was constitutional. People and the media should not glorify the terrorists, it should not make netas (politicians) out of them. Your support is required to end terrorism from India. And there is no violation of human rights in curbing terrorism. The Centre is doing what it should do to eradicate terrorism and we support it at every step,” the RSS functionary said.Following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani by security forces on July 8, Kashmir has faced violent protests which have claimed the lives of 39 people so far. Through a week-long meeting of its all-India executives with pracharaks from all 44 prants and 11 regions across the country, the RSS has chalked out its “action plan” for the next one year. Boasting a rise in number of people wanting to join RSS, Hosabale claimed the organisation’s support base has also seen a rise “among the Hindu population”. The organisation has been running a “join RSS” campaign and claims to have accepted membership requests from nearly 50,000 people this year alone. Meanwhile, a senior member told The Indian Express that Ram Madhav, the former RSS dignitary and the current BJP in-charge of Jammu and Kashmir, met RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat Friday and discussed the “burning issues” affecting the valley in a three-hour-long meeting. Bhagwat is also said to have met senior leaders of Vishwa Hindu Parishad who discussed with him issues like the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya and “VHP’s cultural expansion”. (Indian Express 16/7/16)

CPM Worker’s Murder: 4 RSS Activists Arrested In Kerala’s Kannur (26)

Kannur, Kerala:  Four RSS activists have been arrested in Kannur today in connection with the July 11 murder of a 38-year old CPM worker over political rivalry in the politically volatile Payyannur district, police said. A team led by Payyannur Circle Inspector V Ramesh arrested Vysakh, 21, Sukesh, 29, Prejithlal, 21, and Anoop, 21, all hailing from the district, they said. The arrested men were among the eight persons identified as accused in the case. The four allegedly had direct involvement in the crime and the others will also be nabbed soon, police said. CV Dhanaraj was hacked to death by a group of people, allegedly RSS activists, when he was entering his house at Payyannur. He had died while being rushed to the hospital. In a suspected retaliatory attack hours later, 52-year-old BJP activist Ramachandran, an autorickshaw driver, was murdered by another group at his house in Vellur village in the district, police said. No arrests had been made so far in this connection. Kannur and some parts of the state had witnessed clashes between CPM and BJP workers after the May 16 Assembly election results. (NDTV 17/7/16)

VHP to step up pressure for arrest of Akhlaq’s family (26)

Bishahra: Days after the Uttar Pradesh police registered a case of cow slaughter against Mohammad Akhlaq’s family, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad is organising a meeting in their town of Bishahra on Monday to call for the arrest of the bereaved family. Senior VHP functionary Jugal Kishor is expected to attend the meeting in which the Hindutva outfit is expected to chalk out its strategy. “We want justice for the cow which was mercilessly slaughtered by Akhlaq,” said ‘Sadhvi’ Harsidhi Giri who stays at a temple in Bishahra. The meet will see participation of VHP activists from the region as well as residents of Bishahra village. However, local officials said they were unaware of the meeting. “We are not in the know of any public meeting or agitation by VHP. As far as the ‘Sadhvi’ is concerned she is a nuisance for the villagers and an outsider,” Dadri circle officer Anurag Singh told The Hindu. Despite the concerns Ms. Giri, whose controversial plan to do a “purification ceremony” in Bishahra was stalled by authorities earlier continues to stay in the village, ostensibly to take care of the village temple. The Uttar Pradesh police on Friday registered a case of cow slaughter against Akhlaq’s family under several sections of the U.P. Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act 1955 and Animal Cruelty Act. On the instructions of the local court, the police booked seven persons including Akhlaq’s wife Ikraman, his ailing mother Asghari, his brother Jaan Mohammad, daughter Shaishta and son Danish. All of them except Jaan Mohammad witnessed Akhlaq’s lynching on the night of September 28, 2015 as the angry mob dragged him and his son Danish from the one-storey house and beat them with lathis, bricks and hockey sticks. (The Hindu 18/7/16)

Attacks on Dalits: Congress targets RSS-BJP, says Hindutva organisation working for ‘dalit-mukt Bharat’ (26)

New Delhi: Congress on Wednesday targeted RSS and BJP in Lok Sabha over attacks on some Dalit men in Gujarat for skinning a dead cow, saying the Hindutva organisation was working for ‘Dalit-mukt Bharat’ which was sponsored by BJP to polarise communities ahead of next year’s assembly polls there. The opposition party demanded constitution of a joint parliamentary committee to go into the incident but Home Minister Rajnath Singh strongly refuted its charges and cited figures to claim that cases of atrocities against Dalits have declined in the state since 2001 when Narendra Modi took over as chief minister and commended the state government for its “swift and effective” action. Congress leader K Suresh raised the issue in Zero Hour during which its members remained in the Well during protesting against the incident. Referring to large-scale protests by Dalits following the incident and ‘emergency-like’ situation in parts of the BJP-ruled state, he said they have lost faith in the government and attributed the violence to RSS and upper caste lobby, inviting protests from the treasury benches. Many Dalits have tried to commit suicide as they have no faith in the state government, the Congress member alleged. “Violence is RSS agenda. RSS is trying for Dalit-mukt Bharat. The government totally failed. It was a BJP-sponsored attack. What is going on? Is this Gujarat model,” he said. Suresh claimed it was the BJP’s agenda to polarise communities before the state assembly elections and alleged that the saffron party was doing it in all states ruled by it. In his reply, Singh termed the incident “very unfortunate” and said he condemned it in strongest words, after he sought to turn the tables on Congress asserting that the cases of atrocities rose during its rule in Gujarat earlier. He said Dalits had faced lots of atrocities in the state during 1991-99. Incidentally, BJP had formed a government under Keshubhai Patel there in 1995 and ruled for most of the period till 2001 when Modi took over. Singh said crimes against Dalits were a “social evil” and all parties should join hands to eradicate it. The Anandiben Patel government acted swiftly and arrested accused and provided treatment and compensation to the victims, he said, adding that nine persons have been arrested. Expressing dissatisfaction over the Home Minister’s reply, Congress and TMC members staged a walkout. (Zee News 20/7/16)

BJP looks to rein in cow vigilantes ahead of polls (26)

New Delhi: It’s trouble time for saffronites who have been trying to play the backward card in the high-stakes elections that lie ahead in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. With the BJP’s move to woo backwards taking a major hit across the nation, the Sangh Parivar and its affiliates are looking at options on how to contain the “lumpen elements” masquerading as cow vigilantes. The BJP, that has been demanding a “Congress-mukt Bharat”, was hit back by the Congress on Wednesday with the slogan that the BJP wants a “dalit-mukt Bharat”. Fishing in troubled waters and taking advantage of the situation, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday rushed to Una and met members of the dalit family allegedly assaulted by “gau rakshaks” for skinning the carcass of a cow. Delhi CM and AAP president Arvind Kejriwal is expected to visit Gujarat on Friday. Sensing the danger of being thrashed in the coming electoral battle in UP and losing its grip over Gujarat, the RSS and VHP on Wednesday joined forces to “condemn” the attacks on dalits by cow protection groups. The situation for the BJP worsened after its UP unit vice-president, Dayashankar Singh, called BSP supremo Mayawati a “prostitute”. Though the party sacked him from his posts and later expelled him, political strategists feel Mr Dayashankar’s remark has put Ms Mayawati firmly “in the driver’s seat” in the state. “So far we believed the BJP was ahead of the SP and we could edge past the BSP. This remark has delivered a body blow and consolidated Mayawati’s position for the forthcoming polls,” a senior BJP leader said. The BJP, which claimed to have the support of a large chunk of upper castes across the country, has been trying to reach out to dalits, who constitute nearly 17 per cent of the country’s population. Party strategists claimed since dalits were under-represented at the national level, the BJP could provide them leadership. It was pointed out that despite Mayawati’s attempts to reach out to dalits, she had never been able to make her presence felt outside UP and this was the space that the BJP was looking for at the national level. On Wednesday the RSS in Gujarat issued a statement saying it “strongly condemns all forms of discrimination, injustice and atrocities in the name of caste”, while VHP leader Pravin Togadia tweeted: “Just bcoz the name is ‘Goraksha Dal’ doesn’t mean that they are associated with VHP. Those who implicate VHP in this matter should refrain.” It may be recalled that recently the VHP had thrown its support behind the Gau Raksha Dal, that was accused of force-feeding cow dung to beef transporters in Haryana. The dalit backlash, that has virtually shaken the saffron leadership, is expected to have an adverse impact in Punjab, where the BJP-Akali Dal alliance was already hit by anti-incumbency. Punjab’s dalit population is 31 per cent, compared to 20.5 per cent in Uttar Pradesh. After Narendra Modi left Gujarat and became Prime Minister, the BJP has been hit by one political crisis after another in the state. Before the BJP could contain the Patel agitation, the dalit backlash has put the administration on a sticky wicket. What is worse for the BJP is that the Opposition is now using National Crime Records Bureau data which indicates crimes against backwards have risen after the BJP took over power. NCRB data compiled till 2014 shows that crimes against SCs and STs are up by 40 per cent. (Asian Age 22/7/16)

India must be declared a Hindu nation, says Uddhav (26)

Accusing Pawar of political opportunism, Uddhav said the Maratha strongman was known to keep open all possibilities of getting into power after every election.Accusing Pawar of political opportunism, Uddhav said the Maratha strongman was known to keep open all possibil… Read More

MUMBAI: Slamming Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the escalating terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir and for not providing adequate security to the Hindu pilgrims on their way to the Amarnath shrine, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has demanded that India should be declared a Hindu state. “The country will have to choose a path…We have indulged secularism for too long…India should be declared a Hindu state…There is no other alternative. Hindus are suffering injustices (in the country) because of secularism,” Uddhav said in a hard-hitting Q&A with Saamna. The first instalment of the four-part interview was published on Sunday in the Sena mouthpiece ahead of the Sena chief’s birthday on July 29. Uddhav’s demand is an indication that the Sena may be readying itself to go for a renewed Hindutva campaign as the party plans to contest the upcoming assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Goa, said political analysts. Reminding the Modi government of Atal Behari Vajpayee’s famous line in the 1990s, ‘Ab Hindu maar nahin khaayegaa’ (Now Hindus will not take blows)Uddhav said, “Today, Hindus are suffering indignities in J&K. The Hindu pilgrims can’t go to the Amarnath shrine. Whose responsibility is it to ensure that Hindus reach the Amarnath temple?” Stating that the Sena has been keeping a close watch on the goings-on in J&K, Uddhav said, “The people of Kashmir are out on the streets. There are bands of angry youths on the road, raising anti-India slogans. They don’t fear the laws of the land…There have been dastardly attacks on Indian armymen and policemen. People are pelting stones at military vehicles…The scenario is singularly disturbing. The party which believes in the thoughts of Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee, who laid down his life for the cause of J&K, has entered into a power-sharing pact with the PDP.” Observers said Uddhav cleverly invoked the Dr Mookerjee “myth” as the BJP routinely pays obeisance to the legendary leader and founder-president of Bharatiya Jan Sangh, the the BJP’s precursor, for his unflinching commitment to the J&K issue soon after Independence. …. (Times of India 25/7/16)

Attack on Dalits: district BJP chief defends Bajrang Dal activists (26)

Chikkamagaluru: The Chikkamagaluru district BJP president and Sringeri MLA D.N. Jeevaraj has defended Bajrang Dal activists who have been accused of assaulting Dalits in the name of protecting cows. The leader said the Dalits were not assaulted and false case was filed against the seven people. Addressing a press conference in Chikkamagaluru on Tuesday, Mr. Jeevaraj described it as a conspiracy by the Congress. He said the five Dalits, allegedly beaten up, had “stolen a cow and slaughtered it.” The Hindutva activists, he said, had only informed the police and not assaulted anyone. He went on to say that Balaraj, one of those allegedly assaulted by the Bajrang Dal youths, had not suffered any injury. Nagesh Angirasa, a member of Praja Prabhutva Ulisi Horata Vedike, in a separate press meet, accused Komu Souharda Vedike that brought the incident to light, of “spreading wrong information about the issue.” (The Hindu 27/7/16)

Women accused of transporting beef beaten up in MP (26)

INDORE: In an incident reminiscent of the Dadri lynching, two women were beaten up by cow-protection vigilantes at Mandsaur railway station on Tuesday afternoon accusing them of transporting beef. Mandsaur superintendent of police Manoj Sharma later told reporters that the 30 kg of meat transported by the women turned out to be that of buffalo. The women identified as Salma and Shamin had reached on Mandsaur railway station from Jaora carrying the meat when they were attacked. One of the women was already injured and had plaster on her right hand. Nonetheless, she was brutally beaten by the vigilantes, who claimed to be acting on a tip-off. Police reached the spot in strength and took custody of the victims. The women were later booked under Madhya Pradesh Cow Slaughter Prohibition (Amendment) Act, 2010. They were produced before a court and sent to judicial custody, Kotwali police said. The entire episode was captured on cameras and went viral in social media on Wednesday. The meat was sent for testing. It turned out to be buffalo meat. Inspector general of police Madhu Kumar claimed that they were in the process of considering the reports before going ahead with the case.SP Manoj Sharma said the attack on women was being looked into. “Strict action will be taken in this regard,” he told reporters. The shocking incident reported in Mandsaur comes just two weeks after four Dalit men were stripped, tied together and beaten with sticks for allegedly transporting beef at Somnath in Gujarat. (Times of India 28/7/16)

TERRORISM

84 people die in car bomb attacks in Baghdad (12)

 Baghdad, July 3 (IANS): Two suicide car bomb attacks at two crowded commercial areas in the Iraqi capital early on Sunday killed 84 people and wounded more than 130 others, officials said. One attack took place in Karrada-Dakhil district when a suicide bomber detonated his car bomb at a crowded thoroughfare in south central Baghdad, Xinhua news agency and other media reports said. The powerful blast set fire to several nearby shops and destroyed many stalls and civilian cars at the scene, which was crowded with shoppers who were preparing their families for Eid ul-Fitr. The Iraqi capital was the scene of another attack after midnight when a booby-trapped car went off at the Shallal market in Baghdad’s northeastern district of Shaab, killing five civilians, the media reported. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi visited Karrada on Sunday morning and vowed to punish the terrorists. Iraq has been hit by a new wave of violence since the Islamic State terrorist group seized parts of Iraq’s northern and western regions in June 2014. (The Assam Tribune 3/7/16)

Threat to officials: High alert sounded in State (12)

VIJAYAWADA:: With the al-Qaeda in the Indian Sub-Continent (AQIS) inciting Indian Muslims to target IAS and IPS officers in the country, the Central and State intelligence agencies sounded an alert in the State. AQIS, a designated foreign terrorist group, reportedly issued a statement directing the Muslims to target IAS and IPS officers, which was put in the SITE Intelligence Group on July 3. The U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group is tracking the terror networks and threats across the globe. In the statement, al-Qaeda leader of AQIS Maulana Asim Umar asked the Indian Muslims to follow the examples of lone wolf attackers in Europe and Syria, and compared the attacks against Muslims in India as similar massacres. Umar, an Indian and reportedly operating from Pakistan, directed the Indian Muslims to begin ‘jihad killings’ to create bloodshed and unrest in the country. Taking serious note of the threat, the intelligence authorities sounded a high alert and stepped up security for the bureaucrats across the country. Intelligence officials instructed the Counter Intelligence and the Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau officials to keep track of the movements of suspects. The police officials directed the local police to check the movement of various organisations affiliated to terror outfits . (The Hindu 5/7/16)

3 killed in attack on Bangladesh Eid gathering (12)

DHAKA: Suspected Islamist militants launched another deadly attack in Bangladesh on Thursday, using bombs, guns and machetes, on an Eid rally, killing two policemen and a woman. One of the attackers was shot dead by the police. The incident occurred at 9.45 a.m. near the historic Sholakia Eidgah in eastern Kishoregonj district, some 150 km north of Dhaka, where an estimated 3,00,000 people gathered to offer prayers. The attack was launched just before the prayers were to begin. A group of three assailants first hurled bombs at a police checkpoint near the gathering. The police responded with gunfire to prevent the attackers from coming close to the congregation. The civilian who died in the attack was identified as Jharna Rani Bhoumik. Additional Superintendent of the Kishoreganj police Abu Sayem confirmed that four persons were killed on the spot. The police arrested two attackers. and recovered a pistol and machetes from the scene. At least 20 people were injured in bomb blasts and gunfire. One of the attackers held has been identified as Abu Mukaddem of northern Dinajpur. (The Hindu 8/7/16)

Despite violence, Centre stands by decision to kill Hizbul terrorist (12)

NEW DELHI: Even as it moved to reinforce security forces to tackle violent protests in south Kashmir, an unfazed Centre remained confident that the elimination of the most-wanted terrorist, and recruitment icon of jihadis in the Valley, Burhan Wani — was a big gain for counter-insurgency operations. Gearing up to send 1,200 paramilitary personnel to J&K to deal with the protests, officials said that the violent reaction to the elimination of Wani was only to be expected considering his emergence as the poster-boy of the insurgency. While the law and order situation is a short-term fallout, particularly in South Kashmir, Wani’s killing was a well thought out decision intended to convey a stern message to young followers of propagandists like Wani, who are enamored by his larger than life image, that there is deadly danger in taking up arms. There are risks too, agree officials, who feel Pakistan and terror groups based across the border will try to use Wani as a “martyr” and blame India for suppressing Kashmiris. But this is a scenario the security establishment is braced for as it is the unavoidable fallout of tough action against individuals like Wani. “A terrorist is a terrorist who has to be dealt as such irrespective of whether he is net-savvy or illiterate and his success in whipping up popular sentiment at a particular point in time”, said a senior official, articulating the viewpoint that his popularity should have been “no deterrent for elimination of a terrorist who was targeting army and other security forces”. Sources point out over a decade ago, a conscious decision was taken by the Jammu and Kashmir government to hand over bodies of dead terrorists to the kin and allow funeral of local militants. Since then high attendance at terrorists’ funerals has become a trend but the Centre so far seems firm on not altering its approach towards eliminating leaders of Hizbul and other terror organisations. Security officials point that while Wani’s direct involvement in terrorist attacks is being questioned by some quarters, he was clearly a committed jihadist who promoted and even romaticised terror to recruit youth. Those behind the attacks do not always carry weapons, an official argued and pointed to Wani’s support for hard core doctrine. Three planes will carry CRPF personnel to Srinagar on Sunday morning.Wani had become a youth “icon” propped up by Hizbul Mujahideen to optimally leverage social media to push up recruitment. His status was also convenient for Pakistan-based Lashkar e Toiba and Jaish as it projected terrorism and inflammatory propaganda in Kashmir as a localized insurgency rather than sourced from Pakistan. ….  (Times of India 10/7/16)

21 missing from Kerala may be in IS camps: CM (12)

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told the State Assembly on Monday that 21 persons declared missing in the State are suspected to be in the camps of the Islamic State (IS) in Syria or Afghanistan, as per news reports. They include 17 persons from Kasaragod and four from Palakkad. Responding to a submission by Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala, Mr. Vijayan said the issue had come to light after P. Karunakaran, CPI(M) MP in Kasaragod, and M. Rajagopal, its MLA in Thrikkaripur, petitioned the Government on behalf of the kin of the missing. The Chief Minister said the State would be uncompromising in its approach to terror, but observed that the State would not be able to tackle the issue on its own. But the State agencies would work in tandem with those of the Centre, he said. Informed sources told The Hindu that the National Investigation Agency is expected to take over the probe after the State police registers cases under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. “This is a very serious issue and it needs more clarity. Terrorism has no religion. Extremist activities cannot be attributed to any particular religion,” Mr Vijayan asserted, cautioning against attempts by vested interests to whip up anti-Muslim feelings in the wake of the news reports. (The Hindu 12/7/16)

NIA arrests 2 IS suspects including Hyderabad unit chief (12)

HYDERABAD: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested two suspected key operatives of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), including the self-styled xHyderabad-Deccan unit ‘chief’ of the dreaded terror outfit, from the Old City on Tuesday. The two suspects — Mohammed Ataullah Rahman, 21, and Syed Naimath Ullah Hussaini alias Yaser Naimathullah alias Syed Yasir, 44, had allegedly administered ‘Bayah’ — the oath of allegiance to their ‘Khalifa’ (ISIS chief) Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi. The arrests took place on the very same day when the 12-day police custody of the five terror suspects, who were arrested recently for planning terror attacks in the city, expired. According to sources, just hours before the five terror operatives were to be produced before the court, the NIA sleuths raided the residences of Mohammed Ataullah Rahman located in Bandlaguda and Syed Naimath Ullah Hussaini located in Moghalpura. Sources told Express that Syed Naimath Ullah Hussaini is the self-styled chief of the Hyderabad- Deccan unit of ISIS. Hussaini was said to be a key member of the ‘conspiracy group’ and had attended several meetings organised by the terror operatives. He is said to be involved in the plan to unleash terror attacks in the city. Hussaini also generously contributed to the terror fund collected by the members of the group. The second operative, Mohammed Ataullah Rahman allegedly tried to radicalise the youth and motivated many to join IS. “Rahman is believed to be involved in radicalising the group members and he administered Bayah – the oath of allegiance to the Khalifa – to the members of the group,” NIA sources said. Rahman was the fund raiser for the terror group, sources said. He is said to have collected funds from businessmen and politicians in and around Hyderabad city. During their 12-day police custody, the five terror suspects are believed to have spilled the beans and provided vital information about their plans. While producing the two terror suspects before the special court for NIA cases, the investigating agency said the duo were in touch with the five operatives, who were arrested earlier for their “attempt to commit a terror act and wage war against the nation.” (New Indian Express 13/7/16)

IS claims truck massacre as France defends security (12)

Nice: The Islamic State group claimed responsibility Saturday for the truck massacre in Nice, as France highlighted the “extreme difficulty” of preventing such attacks amid tough questions over security failures. In a statement via its Amaq news service, IS said one of its “soldiers” carried out the attack “in response to calls to target nations of coalition states that are fighting (IS)”. Tunisian Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, 31, on Thursday night ploughed a 19-tonne truck into a crowd of people who had been watching Bastille Day fireworks in the French Riviera city, killing 84 and injuring around 300. After crisis talks in Paris, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian noted that IS had recently repeated calls for supporters to “directly attack the French, Americans, wherever they are and by whatever means”.”Even when Daesh is not the organiser, Daesh breathes life into the terrorist spirit that we are fighting,” he said, using an Arabic name for IS. In the wake of its third major terror attack in 18 months, the French government faced searing criticism from opposition politicians and newspapers demanding more than “the same old solemn declarations”.Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader of the National Front party, called on Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve to step down. “In any other country in the world, a minister with a toll as horrendous as Bernard Cazeneuve — 250 dead in 18 months — would have quit,” she said. Cazeneuve defended France’s security efforts, saying the country was facing “a new kind of attack” which highlighted “the extreme difficulty of the anti-terrorism fight”.Speaking as France began three days of mourning today, he said Lahouaiej-Bouhlel “had not been known to the intelligence services because he did not stand out… By being linked with radical Islamic ideology”.The interior minister pledged to boost the presence of security forces across the country and called on willing “French patriots” to join the country’s operational reservists — currently made up of 12,000 volunteers. Police said today they had arrested four more people linked to Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, in addition to his estranged wife who was taken into custody yesterday. Cazeneuve said the father-of-three “seemed to have been radicalised very quickly, from what his friends and family” have told police. “We are now confronted with individuals open to IS’s message to engage in extremely violent actions without necessarily having been trained or having the weapons to carry out a mass (casualty) attack.” At least 10 children and adolescents were among the dead as well as tourists from the United States, Russia, Ukraine, Switzerland and Germany. (ZeeNews 17//7/16)

Over 290 killed in military coup attempt in Turkey (12)

Ankara, July 18 : Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Sunday that the failed military coup has left at least 290 people killed. The death toll includes at least 190 civilians and 100 coup plotters, the statement said, adding that more than 1,400 were wounded in the coup attempt that swept the country on Friday night but was foiled by Saturday morning. More than 6,000 have been detained so far due to their involvement in the failed coup, Xinhua news agency quoted the statement as saying. The statement said it was the Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen that staged this coup attempt. “Our government has been constantly exposing the real motives of this terrorist group and its leader, Fethullah Gulen, to all allies and partners. The foiled coup is the latest criminal act revealing the danger posed by Fethullah Gulen Terrorist Organisation,” it said. (New Kerala 18/7/16)

India stands with Bangladesh in its fight against terrorism: PM Narendra Modi to Sheikh Hasina (12)

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday condemned the recent terror attacks in Bangladesh and said that India stands with its immediate neighbour in its fight against terrorism. While interacting with Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina through video conference, PM Modi condemned the terror attack on Eid congregation in Kishoreganj, which left four people dead. The PM extended condolences to the Bangladesh Premier saying, “You are not alone in your fight against terror. India will always fully support you in all your efforts to fight this menace.” India’s progress is linked to the progress of its neighbouring nations, PM Modi asserted. PM Modi and Hasina interacted with each other during the inauguration of Petrapole-Benapole land port. Earlier this month, Bangladesh was rocked by two terrorists attack. On July 1, 20 foreigners were brutally hacked to death by ISIS militants inside a restaurant popular with expatriates in the high-security diplomatic zone before commandos launched an assault killing six attackers and capturing one alive, ending Bangladesh’s worst terror attack. Few days later on July 07 at least four persons were killed and 12 others injured when the assailants, numbering seven-to-eight men and armed with explosives, machetes and firearms, battled the police for more than an hour at Sholakia Eid prayer venue in Kishoreganj district near Dhaka. (Zee news 22/7/16)

Suicide car bomber hits checkpoint, kills 14 (12)

BAGHDAD: A suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden car into a checkpoint outside a Shia town north of Baghdad on Monday, killing at least 14 people, Iraqi officials said. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which bore the hallmarks of the extremist Islamic State group. Since late last year, the group has suffered a string of territorial losses, most recently in Fallujah, where it was driven out last month by Iraqi forces after occupying the city for more than two years. But the extremists have continued to carry out near-daily bombings in and around Baghdad, as well as complex attacks in other countries. Monday’s bombing took place at one of the busy entrances to the town of Khalis, about 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of the Iraqi capital, a police officer said. The town is a Shia enclave surrounded by Sunni areas in the restive Diyala province. Eight policemen and six civilians were killed and up to 41 people were wounded, the officers said, adding that the explosion also damaged nearly 20 cars lined up at the checkpoint. A medical official confirmed the casualty figures. . On Sunday, the IS claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on a checkpoint in Baghdad that also killed 14 people and wounded 31. The group still controls significant areas in northern and western Iraq, including the country’s second-largest city of Mosul. Since its 2014 blitz, the IS has declared an Islamic caliphate on the territory it holds in Iraq and Syria.The Sunni militant group recently stepped up its attacks far from the front lines in what Iraqi officials see as an attempt to distract from their battlefield losses. (The Hindu 25/7/16)

400 people forcibly converted to Islam for ISIS (12)

KOCHI: THE forcible conversion to Islam at the behest of terror outfit Islamic State came to light after the officials probing the case of the missing 21 Keralites, who reportedly left the country to join IS received vital leads with the arrest of Islamic preachers Arshi Qureshi and Rizvan Khan.During the interrogation, Rizvan admitted that he had converted about 400 persons to Islam, including many Keralites. Qureshi, 45, who has been working as a guest relation executive with IRF, however denied his involvement in forcible conversion. Qureshi said he has not converted anyone, including Keralites. Police said they have recovered documents revealing that Mumbai-based Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) had recruited youths to IS from India and one of the persons had contacted Abdul Rasheed, 35, a Kasargod youth who went missing and reportedly joined the IS.Police said Rasheed had used computers in the Kochi office of Niche of Truth, an organisation run by Salafist televangelist M M Akbar – known as Kerala Zakir Naik. Kochibased girl Merin Jacob aka Mariam and her husband Yahya aka Bestin Jacob, acquaints of Rasheed, frequently visited the Niche centre. The investigators said they have recovered documents of Merin’s conversion to Islam from Christianity through the Juma Masjid of Bombay Trust in Mumbai. “We have recovered documents related to the conversion and electronic devices such as mobile phones, computers and others used by the accused for communication. The electronic equipment will be sent to Hyderabad Forensic Laboratory and this examination will unveil more terror links”, said ACP K V Vijayan, who is heading the investigation. The case has assumed national significance as so far this is the only case in which Section 13, 39 (a) (i) of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) has been slapped on the accused. The case was registered based on the complaint lodged by Ebin Jacob, Merin’s brother. The first accused Qureshi and second accused Yahya aka Bestin converted Mariam Aka Merin to Islam in 2014 September and recruited her to IS. Yahya had attempted to radicalise Ebin too after visiting his house at Thammanam in August 2014 and took him to Mumbai. They forced him to annihilate non-Muslims and Islamise the countries, including India, propagating Islamic ideologies. The third accused 53-year old Rizvan extended support to the forcible conversion and the marriage between Yahya and Mariam, said the remand report produced by the police before the Chief Judicial Magistrate Court, Ernakulam. (New Indian Express 26/7/16)

Forcible conversion angle being probed (12)

KOCHI: With reports emerging about Arshi Qureshi, the Mumbai native who was arrested last week for suspected Islamic State links converting over 700 persons to Islam, the police have now begun probing whether there was any element of coercion or influence behind such conversions. Officials said Qureshi had told the police that the conversions took place at the Mumbai-based Islamic Research Foundation where he was holding the post of Guest Relations Officer. It was his aide Rizwan Khan, who was running a marriage bureau based at Kalyan in Mumbai, who helped process the documents related with the conversions. Meanwhile, top police officials continued to quiz Qureshi and Khan at the Kalamassery AR camp on Tuesday. The duo was arrested in connection with a case under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, registered by the Kochi city police. This was after Ebin Jacob, brother of Merin who is missing along with her husband Yahia, gave a statement before the police that the duo forced him to get converted to Islam and join the terrorist organisation IS. (The Hindu 28/7/16)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

Maoist leader killed in Jharkhand encounter (12)

SIMDEGA, JHARKHAND: A Maoist leader was on Saturday shot dead during an encounter with the police in Simdega district. Superintendent of Police Rajiv Ranjan said following a tip-off, a search operation was launched during which three motorcycle-borne men fired on the policemen near Mudia jungle under Sadar police station. In the retaliatory action, one of them, Turia Oraon, was killed on the spot, the SP said, adding the two others managed to flee into the deep jungle. Oraon, who was a former area commander of the CPI (Maoist), faced four cases in the district. (The Hindu 3/7/16)

Jiram valley attack suspect among three Naxals held (12)

Raipur: Three Naxals, one of them allegedly involved in the 2013 Jiram valley attack that left 31 people, including several prominent Congress leaders, dead, were on Sunday arrested in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district, police said. The ultras, carrying cash rewards on their heads, were apprehended from the forests of Kuakonda police station limits by a joint team of District Reserve Group (DRG), Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and district force, Dantewdaa Superintendent of Police Kamlochan Kashyap told PTI. Of the arrested, Bandi alias Bandu (30) was allegedly involved in the Jiram valley attack in the Darbha region of Bastar in which prominent Congress leaders were killed, he said. Bandu was also allegedly involved in Tahakwada attack under the Tongpal police station limits killing 15 security personnel and a civilian on March 11, 2014, the SP added. Similarly, equally dreaded Pandaru Podiami (30), deployed as a military platoon section commander, was apprehended. He was allegedly involved in several deadly Maiost attacks, including the killing of six police personnel in the forested hills of Tadkel in 2008, the SP said. However, six ultras were also gunned down in Tadkel attack, he added. Another cadre Sukhram (38), who was working as a member of military platoon number 16 and carried a reward of Rs 2 lakh, was arrested, Kashyap added.-PTI (The Hindu 4/7/16)

Naxal fronts take their fight against govt to Gujarat (12)

Nagpur: Several front organizations for Naxalites are set to come together later this month in Ahmedabad to prepare a strategy to oppose government policies like land acquisition for industries and foreign direct investments in sensitive sectors like defence. They would give out a call to save ‘Jal-jangal-jameen’ which is also the theme of red rebels. Defying prime minister Narendra Modi’s popularity in Gujarat, these organizations aim to characterize his development model as anti-people in the convention that they are claiming is being organized to save the natural resources from corporate exploitation. The development is on the lines of State Anti-Naxal Operation (ANO), Maharashtra, cautioning that several front organizations of Naxalites had become active in state and Gujarat fuelling anti-government sentiments which was also published by TOI. Maharashtra government has declared that around 55 front organizations of the banned rebel outfit have been functioning in the state and also having network elsewhere. The intelligence agencies have claimed that Naxal front organizations are operating across the state borders to create a mass base for waging war against the government and incite citizens in the name of people’s struggle. A document procured from intelligence agencies showed a Gujarat-based organization had appealed to its counterparts in various parts of the country, like West Bengal and Chattisgarh, to join the national convention to debate on the policies like land acquisition act, foreign investment, plundering of natural resources for benefits of corporate powers and deprivation of labour and lower classes. IGP, State ANO, Shivaji Bodkhe said Naxalites tried to influence the youngsters, especially students, who might find the left wing ideologies captivating. “The Naxalites and their front organizations try to mislead the students,” he said. The organizers’ invitation to other organizations, which is in possession of TOI, claims that Gujarat had one of the longest coastline in the country but its fishermen were at the receiving end of government’s policy. It underlines the fact that Gujarat’s fishermen community would suffer as government plans to develop thermal power plants along the coastline. The organizers have also claimed that Modi government was trying to usurp lands from the tillers using new land acquisition law for the benefit of industrial houses. The Gujarat organization also termed the present as challenging period for the working classes including labourers and farmers. It said the government was amending labour laws to benefit the employers. (Times of India 7/7/16)

Two women among three Naxals arrested in Chhattisgarh (12)

Raipur/Raigarh, Jul 7 (PTI) Three Naxals, two of them women, were arrested from separate locations in Chhattisgarh, police officials said today. The women Naxals – Ramvati (25) and Shyamvati (26) – were apprehended from Baramkela Police Station area of Raigarh district yesterday, Additional Superintendent of Police U B S Chauhan said. The duo, residents of Kanker district, was part of the group that attacked a police team in Karamal area of the district in 2011. No casualty was reported in the attack, he said. Ramvati and Shyamvati were produced before Judicial Magistrate First Class at Sarangarh Ashok Kumar Lal, who sent them to jail. The two face charges like sedition and instigating people against the state administration. The third Maoist, Dukaal Singh Watti, was nabbed in Kanker district today. The 38-year-old was apprehended when he was visiting a weekly market in Amabeda area, about 125km from the state capital Raipur, Kanker district officials told PTI by phone. He is facing cases related to dacoity, attempt to murder and taking part in Maoist activities, they said. PTI  (India Today 8/7/16)

Anti-Naxal operation in Odisha goes horribly wrong, victim rebuts cop version  (12)

BHUBANESWAR: THE anti-Naxal operations by Odisha police appear to be missing its target lately. Four instances of civilian killings in the last one year __ during which 11 innocent lives were lost __  cannot simply be “collateral damage” as a top cop was quoted saying in a section of the media after Friday’s incident at Kurttamgad in Kandhamal district. The killing of five villagers and injury to seven others who were travelling in an autorickshaw has opened up a debate about how the incident panned out but the security personnel’s reaction to the situation went terribly wrong is something even insiders in State Police admit. “There were probably 12 or more people in the one vehicle which got stuck on the muddy hilly road. That all of them were hit meant that the securitymen fired at their direction, most probably mistaking them for Maoists. The autorickshaw itself should have been a give-away,” sources said. The State Police though tried to put up a brave face stating that the incident occurred when the security forces received a first burst of fire from Left Wing Extremists positioned at the opposite side of the road. The anti-Naxal unit changed it position which apparently brought the road in their arc of fire. “The vehicle stopped at a U-turn right in the fire zone. Once the retaliatory fire starts, it is difficult to control but our men did. Since the autorickshaw was immobile, passengers received the bullets from both sides. When the probe reports come, the whole truth will emerge,” said an officer. The crossfire justification though is thin on logic because firing would have alerted the autorickshaw passengers from a distance. A young victim, Luto Digal, who survived the ordeal negated the police theory on Sunday saying that they came under fire only after they reached the spot. The villagers were apparently trying to move the vehicle out of the ditch when they were hit. The securitymen probably realised the mistake when they saw the toddler, one of the victims. Most of the ambush operations are planned during the night and security agencies execute it in a way so as not to blow their cover. While such operations are dicey and can go either way, they depend on specific intelligence input about movement of Maoists. The security personnel, who are armed to the teeth, are virtually on tenterhooks during such actions because it concerns life and death. Even at slightest of mistakes, the whole operation can backfire given the hard terrain, densely forested regions, rainy season and poor visibility with communication gadgets switched off to remain in stealth mode. Yet, there is little room for mistake when civilian lives are involved. That too on four occasions since July last year when the anti-Naxal agencies gunned down a tribal couple in Kandhamal’s Kotagarh when they were returning from a hilltop after talking to their son over mobile phone because of the poor network signal in the area. .. (New Indian Express 11/7/16)

Maoist held with arms and ammunition in Bihar (12)

Jamui: Security forces on Wednesday arrested a Maoist with arms and ammunition from Besratand forest near Dulampur village in Bihar’s Jamui district after an encounter with the ultras, police said. Following a tip-off about gathering of some Maoists in the forest, the CRPF’s 215th battallion jawans reached the spot in wee hours and started sealing the area before they came under fire from the ultras, Superintendent of Police (SP) Jayant Kant said.  The jawans fired 20 rounds to quell the Maoists, most of whom escaped from the spot, he said, adding the security personnel, arrested an ultra Sanjay Marandi alias Motilal Marandi, said to be a former area commander of the CPI(Maoist) and native of Udaipur village under Chakai police station area. Two rifles with 67 ammunitions and a pistol with one ammunition, police uniform, naxal literature, papers related to levy collection, and levy receipts among other things were seized from him, Kant said. (Indian Express 13/7/16)

Top Maoist leader with Rs 25 lakh reward surrenders (12)

Ranchi: ONE OF Jharkhand’s top Maoist leaders, Balkeshwar Oraon alias Bada Vishal, surrendered before DGP D K Pandey at the police headquarters Thursday. Oraon, considered second-in-command after Arvind Ji in the state’s Maoist hierarchy, carried a reward of Rs 25 lakh on his head. He had joined the Maoist organisation in 1995. Among the major operations in which Oraon — along with Arvind and others — took part was the January 2013 Latehar attack in which the rebels first ambushed a CRPF team and then used a body as a booby trap. They planted a bomb inside the body and another underneath it. At least 10 security personnel and four villagers were killed in the attack.A total of 76 cases were registered against Oraon in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. According to the police, Oraon was Special Area Committee member of the Bihar-Jharkhand-North Chhattisgarh of the CPI (Maoists) for over six years. He had 37 cases registered against him in Jharkhand’s Latehar district and 17 in Garhwa, and 22 cases in Chhattisgarh. As per Jkarkhand government’s surrender policy, his kin would get the reward money and he would be kept in open jail in Hazaribagh. Besides, some other facilities like Indira Awas and provision of a lawyer to fight his cases will be extended to him. The police will also try to get his cases tried expeditiously. IG (Operations) M S Bhatia said: “Oraon was also involved in extracting levy, besides recruiting youngsters. Now that he has surrendered, we hope many of the youngsters who took up guns under his influence will follow suit.” Apart from the Latehar incident, Oraon was involved in incidents like attacking a passenger train. “He was involved in almost all the cases of Maoist attacks on security forces ,” said Bhatia. (Indian Express 15/7/16)

Five Naxals surrender in Kondagaon (12)

Raipur: Five low-ranked Naxals reportedly dissatisfied with discrimination meted out by senior Naxal leaders of Andhra Pradesh origin, surrendered  in the insurgency-hit Kondagaon district, police said here on Saturday. “Continuous anti-Naxal operations and public awareness drive carried out by police in the district had deep impact on the surrendering ultras that motivated them to leave the path of violence,” Superintendent of Police (SP) Kondagaon Santosh Singh said. According to the SP, the insurgents were Naxal Janmilita members and were active in Kondagaon and Kanker districts. A local court had issued  warrants for their arrests. The ultras were identified as Suduram Marapi (35), Rainu Ram (50), Suklal (35), Dhosi (35) and Gagru alias Sangnu (38) all residents of Amadeda region. (Pioneer 17/7/16)

Naxals fire at tribal for being ‘police informer’ (12)

Balaghat (MP): A 40-year-old tribal was today shot at and injured allegedly by naxals on suspicion of being a police informer at Songudda area in Baihar tehsil near here. “Three naxals came on a motorcycle and fired at Channulal Tekam at the weekly Songudda market and escaped,” Balaghat Inspector General of Police (IGP) DC Sagar told PTI. Tekam sustained two bullet injuries on one of his legs and was rushed to the district hospital by police, he said, adding that a hunt is launched to trace the attackers. (Business Standard 18/7/16)

Naxals remote controlled the IEDs as security forces approached them (12)

Patna, July 22: Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) controlled by remote controls went off as the security forces walked into the area in a bid to hunt down naxalites at Aurangabad earlier this week. However, as many as nine CRPF personnel were killed in the encounter with naxalites. The manner in which the naxalites had countered the operation was only an indication that they were trying to guard their top leader Sandeep Yadav against who the CRPF had launched this offensive. Yadav is a key player and is a member of the Central Committee of the CPI (Maoist).Officials say that the CRPF launched the operation in a bid to hunt down the top leadership. Along with Yadav there were three others who play a key part in the operations, sources also added. The entire set up was planted by the naxalites to ensure that their top leadership remained safe, an officer also informed. During a recovery operation, AK-47 riles and the Insas rifles were found. These are indicators that the naxals were readying for a bloody fight. The security forces were also taken aback when they found that a number of IEDs had been strewn along the terrain. However, the forces took the biggest hit from the IEDs that were planted on the trees as well. The IEDs were controlled by a remote and set off as the security forces were under the trees. Many were also planted on the ground and systematically triggered off when the security forces began approaching the camp. (OneIndia 22/7/16)

13 new armed police battalions to be raised to tackle Naxals (12)

New Delhi: Thirteen new armed police battalions, including one comprising mostly tribals from the worst Maoist-hit districts, will be raised by the government to tackle the Naxal menace. The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has approved 12 India Reserve battalions for the Left Wing Extremism affected states. Of the 12 battalions, four will be raised in Chhattisgarh, three each in Jharkhand and Odisha and two in Maharashtra. The CCS has made it clear that 75 per cent of the posts at constable level will be filled from 27 worst Naxal-hit states and there should be a relaxation in age and educational criteria as considered necessary for recruiting local youths, a Home Ministry official said. Besides, approval has been given to CRPF for raising a ‘Bastariya’ battalion by recruiting youths from undivided Bastar district of Chhattisgarh. For this battalion, all constables will be recruited from tribal dominated Sukma, Dantewada, Narayanpur and Bijapur districts (all parts of undivided Bastar). Further, two already sanctioned India Reserve battalions will be converted into auxiliary battalions in CRPF by recruiting youths from 15 severely Naxal affected districts of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Maharashtra and Odisha. Out of these 15 districts, five belong to Chhattisgarh. The concept of ‘Bastariya’ battalion was considered useful as the recruits will be mostly tribals who would help address local unemployment issue, provide tactical advantage to CRPF in operations, intelligence collection and language benefits. While in case of tribal candidates in rest of the country where the minimum height has to be 160 CMs, as many as 4.5 CMs has been given as relaxation for the candidates from Bastar region while there will be 10 per cent relaxation in weight, which has to be proportionate to height and age in case of other candidates. (Reopens DEL 22) The ‘Bastariya’ battalion will be deployed in Chhattisgarh for at least five years and pre-recruitment training will be given to the local people. The government had introduced the scheme of India Reserve battalions in 1971 and so far 153 battalions have been sanctioned to various states. India Reserve battalions are elite units sanctioned to states and union territories which are equipped and trained to deal with specific situation and used in exceptional circumstances. Its recruitment is modelled on Central Police Force but states may conduct regional recruitment. A total of 69 incidents of Naxal violence and killing of 33 security forces personnel and civilians were reported from the 10 Left wing extremism-hit states of the country in the first six months of this year. According to Home Ministry data, a total of 118 such incidents were reported last year, slightly less than the corresponding figure of 155 in 2014. A total of 35 security personnel and civilians were killed last year as compared to 96 in 2014. (Business Standard 24/4/16)

Twelve Naxals surrender, cite disappointment with Maoist ideology (12)

Raipur: As many as 12 Naxals, including two women, today surrendered in Chhattisgarh’s insurgency-hit Bastar district citing disappointment with the “empty” ideology of the outlawed CPI (Maoist), police said. The rebels, most of them lower rung members, belonging to East Bastar division of the banned CPI (Maoist), turned themselves in before senior police and administration officials at Jagdalpur district headquarters, Bastar Additional Superintendent of Police Vijay Pandey told PTI. Of those who surrendered, Chalki, active as head of Barsoor Janatana sarkar squad, and Baldev Gawde, a Janmilitia commander in Bastanar region, were key cadres of the area, the ASP said. Besides, Moti alias Mamta also played an important role as commander of Chetna Natya Manch (CNM)- a cultural wing of the Maoists, in Bastanar area, he said. The other rebels were working for different lower rank squads of the banned outfit. They all were active in Barsoor Area Committee under East Bastar Division of Maoists and involved in the incidents of damaging roads and railway tracks, collecting information and inputs related to security forces and thrashing villagers, he said. “It is for the first time that cadres from Dakapara area of Bastanar local organisation squad in Barsoor have laid down their arms before police. It clearly indicates that the rebels have lost their ground in this region,” Pandey said. In their statements, they all expressed disappointment with the empty ideology of the outlawed Naxal movement and violence. Moreover, they were also impressed with the provisions of surrender and rehabilitation policy of the state government which compelled them to join the mainstream, the ASP said. An encouragement amount of Rs 10,000 each was given to the ultras who surrendered while they will be further ensured facilities as per the surrender policy, he added. Notably, a total of 362 Naxals and their supporters have surrendered in Bastar district since December last year. (Indian Express 25/7/16)

Gadchiroli: Woman Naxal killed in encounter (12)

Nagpur: A WOMAN Naxal cadre was killed in an encounter in the Gatta area of Pendhri in Gadchiroli on Thursday. Incidentally, it was the first day of the Naxal martyrs’ week. The encounter ensued when Special Action Group (SAG) and Quick Response Team (QRT) were carrying out an intelligence-based operation in the Bhimpur forest in Gatta around 11.30 am. The two sides exchanged fire but the police maintained an upper hand, forcing the Naxals to retreat, according to a press note issued by Gadchiroli police. “The body of a woman Naxal, one 12-bore gun, 25 bags and five tents were recovered from the spot,” the press note said. But the identity of the Naxal cadre was yet to be established. With this, the number of Naxalites killed in encounters this year has gone up to 11, six of them being woman. Even as the Naxals began their annual martyrs’ week on Thursday, the police started a counter-campign called Shanti Melawe (peace camps) for those tribal youths, who had been lured by the Naxals and were registered in police record for helping the movement (alleged sympathisers). “We are providing the youths with training in various skills for four days with free lodging and boarding facilities at nine of our sub-divisional headquarters. This is an opportunity for them to get a reprieve from police action,” said Superintendent of Police Abhinav Deshmukh. (New Indian Express 29/7/16)

TRAFFICKING

NGOs looks for ‘wider’ consultations on proposed draft trafficking bill (1)

New Delhi: As Women and Child Development Ministry’s consultative process on its draft Trafficking of Persons Bill concluded on June 30, several NGOs have dubbed the proposed legislation as “vague and full of loopholes” and sought “better, wider, deeper consultation” on it. The National Coalition to Protect Our Children (NCPOC), an umbrella organisation comprising several NGOs working in the field, has while offering its comments on the draft bill emphasised on the need for more discussion. They have slammed the draft bill for being “vague and full of loopholes”. The letter written by Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrashekhar, who is also a member of NCPOC, says, “The bill suffers from several legislative and procedural flaws.” Several other NGOs who have separately written to the Ministry, too, echo the same sentiment.Nearly all NGOs have questioned how a draft meant to become a legislation on trafficking does not even define the term “trafficking”. Founder Secretary of Prayas, an NGO for Child Rights, Amod Kanth says, “Commercial sex, forced labour, organ trade, illegal adoption, forced child labour- all of these should have been brought directly under the definition of trafficking but a basic definition is missing.” According to several activists who have written to the Ministry, the draft creates confusion about the existing law on trafficking–Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act (ITPA). “One does not know whether the Bill is in addition to ITPA or a replacement of ITPA. If (it is )a replacement of ITPA, the provisions of ITPA must find a place in the Bill,” reads the submission to the Ministry made by HAQ: Centre for Child Rights. According to Rajeev Chandrashekhar, “ITPA has stricter penalties than the current draft bill. So, does it mean we are now going to let off offenders lightly? What message does this bill then send to traffickers?” Many contend how another law, Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, has stronger provisions for rehabilitation of trafficked children than the new draft bill and therefore there is a need for cross-references to be made to the JJ Act. However, the chapters on rehabilitation in the draft do not mention JJ Act at all. “The mechanisms within JJ Act are very good. It has a powerful infrastructure, which comprises four different kinds of homes, which can be used for victims of human trafficking. It has Child Welfare Committee, Juvenile Justice Board, Child Protection Unit and Special Junvenile Police Unit. “Any child who is rescued requires these mechanisms and they should all be extended to the trafficking bill,” says Kanth.(Indian Express 3/7/16)

Eight Mizoram girls rescued while being trafficked to Gujarat (1)

 Agartala, July 3 (IANS): At least eight tribal girls from Mizoram were rescued from a car while being trafficked to Gujarat, police said on Sunday. As many as two tribal youths were also arrested in this connection, the police said. “They were rescued from a small vehicle on Saturday night while being trafficked to Gujarat via Guwahati,” police inspector Ratanmani Debbarma told the media. “During interrogation the girls gave different versions about their journey. Seven of them are the inmates of refugee camps in Kanchanpur (in north Tripura) where tribals from Mizoram live. Another teen aged girl is a class nine student from Mizoram,” he said. Debbarma said that to know the details the police have called the refugee leaders who said they were unaware of the girls’ journey. “Their parents said they face acute poverty here. They were sending their daughters to Gujarat in search of jobs in beauty parlours. However, the parents could not give corroborative facts and other details. We are investigating the matter,” the police official added. The girls were aged between 15 and 25 years while the two men are aged between 35 and 40. About 31,300 Reang tribals, who call themselves ‘Bru’, have been living in seven makeshift camps for the past 19 years in Kanchanpur area adjoining Mizoram. They had fled ethnic violence in western Mizoram following the killing of a Mizo forest official at the Dampa Tiger Reserve. Despite several initiatives by the Mizoram government to bring them back, the refugees have been reluctant to go back to their villages unless their demands for food and security are met. (The Assam Tribune 3/7/16)

‘Trafficking in women and children deterring nation’s progress’ (1)

KALABURAGI: Isha Pant, principal of the Police Training College at Naganalli on the outskirts of Kalaburagi, has said that that trafficking in women and children continues to be an insurmountable problem while being a deterrent to the nation’s progress. Speaking after inaugurating a workshop on “Alliance to Combat Human Trafficking” here on Tuesday, Ms. Pant said that every eight minutes, a child went missing in the country and a majority of such children fell into the hands of anti-social elements involved in trafficking in human beings. While a majority of boys who go missing end up as bonded labourers, such girls are forced into the flesh trade, Ms. Pant said. Trafficking in human beings continued to be a major problem mainly because of the lack of coordination between the stakeholders and the indifferent attitude of society. She said that trafficking in human beings continued to be the third largest organised crime in the country. Ms. Pant said that trafficking in human beings, particularly girls, did not confine to India’s borders alone and many were sent outside the country forcibly and made to do things against their wishes under threats and pressure. She said that all the stakeholders, including the non-governmental organisations, different departments and law implementing agencies and responsible citizens, should join hands to end trafficking in human beings once and for all as it was an impossible task for government agencies alone to tackle the problem. Ms. Pant said that rehabilitation of rescued victims was very important to prevent them from returning to their old trade. “Due to the lack of proper rehabilitation measures, a majority of the rescued victims, particularly young girls, go back to prostitution,” she said. She said that the rehabilitation package for the rescued victims should include vocational training and support to help them stand on their own legs. Director of Sarvodaya Rural Development Project Teena Xavier, in her speech, said that trafficking in human beings was going on unchecked in the rural areas and there was a need for keeping a strict vigil in the villages on the status of young children. Another form of trafficking in rural areas was in the name of marrying off young girls to unknown persons from distance places such as Gujarat and Rajasthan, where these girls are exploited. Member of the Karnataka State Child Rights Commission Aparna Kolla said that the indifferent attitude of government agencies allowed trafficking to go on unchecked. She recalled her own experience in rescuing a child labour from a railway compartment recently and how the railway police personnel were not helpful in rescuing the child. She said that she handed over the child to the authorities concerned with help from passengers. (The Hindu 6/7/16)

NGO writes to Kejriwal, DCW against trafficking (1)

Panaji/NewDelhi: With the steady increase in the number of girls trafficked from Delhi to Goa for commercial sexual exploitation, NGO Anyay Rahit Zindagi (Arz) has written to Delhi chief minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) head Arvind Kejriwal, and Delhi commission for women (DCW) to intervene in the matter. This comes barely a week after Kejriwal’s visit to the coastal state to connect with people ahead of the 2017 assembly elections. With AAP seeking to expand beyond Delhi, Kejriwal met Goans from different walks of life to gauge the mood of the voters. Between 2010 and 2014, Goa police rescued about 300 trafficked girls of whom 12 were from Delhi. But, between 2014 and 2016, 220 girls have been extricated from prostitution rings of which 20 hail from the national capital. Most of these girls have not even completed higher secondary level of education. The letter dated July1 has urged Kejriwal and DCW to get to the root of the problem and step up measures to prevent incidents of trafficking, protect those susceptible and rehalibitate girls rescued from flesh trade rackets. The NGO also asked the Delhi government to conduct awareness campaigns in areas like Shastri Nagar, Vasant Kunj, Kundan Nagar, Greater Kailash, Lajpat Nagar, etc, from where most girls are picked up. “A rising number of girls rescued from flesh trade are from Delhi – a trend that has emerged in the last two years. It’s a matter of concern. Earlier, Delhi was considered a destination where trafficked girls ended up but now it’s evolving into a source and a transit point for peddling girls into Goa,” said, Arz director Arun Kumar Pandey. Girls employed in the catering industry or working as exotic dancers are lured to the coastal state with promises of better paying jobs in casinos, hotels, clubs or catering companies, and then forced into commercial sex trade once they are here, Pandey also said. In Delhi, the girls earn between 1,000 to 2,500 per event depending upon their age and appearence. Whereas, in Goa, there is potential to earn about 10,000 every day, sources said. “While traffickers in Goa are arrested once the rackets are busted, their counterparts in Delhi go scot-free. No steps are taken to deter them and they continue to perpetrate the crime,” Pandey said. Commenting on the lack of proper rehabilitation facilities for the rescued girls, he said often the same girls are forced back into the vicious cycle of flesh trade in the absence of measures to track their progress once they go back. While no one from the Delhi CM’s office was available for comment, DCW chairperson Swati Maliwal’s office confirmed receipt of the letter and said DCW will be calling a meeting shortly to discuss the problem and will ask the NGO to come and explain the concerns they have raised (Times of India  7/7/2016)

Tribal girl kidnapped, sold, raped, kept hostage; flees, one held (1)

Jaipur: A 15-year-old tribal girl from Pratapgarh went through a horrifying ordeal for 25 days. She was kidnapped by a woman who took her to Madhya Pradesh and kept her hostage for days. She then sold the girl to a man in Kota’s Sultanpur area for Rs 1.25 lakh. He brought the girl to Sultanpur and raped her repeatedly. She was kept hostage in a house. On Wednesday, she managed to escape. Some people who saw her stranded took her to the police following which her buyer was arrested on Friday. The case is yet another instance of growing trend of human trafficking in the state. The girl belongs to Bagwasa village in Pratapgarh. She was on her way to her maternal grandparents’ house in nearby Banswara district when a woman, belonging to a village near Pratapgarh, ran into her. “The woman befriended the girl and then coaxed her into coming with her to a place. She took the girl to Khetakheda village in Madhya Pradesh and kept her hostage there. She then sold her to one Dharmaraj Bairawa, a resident of Surela area in Kota’s Sultanpur,” said a police officer. The officer said that Dharmaraj brought her to the house of his brother-in-law and kept her hostage there. He raped her several times. Twenty-five-year-old Dharmaraj was forcing the girl to marry him. On Wednesday, the girl managed to flee from the house. “The girl was clueless as to where she should go after escaping from the house. Some people saw her stranded and brought her to Udhyog Nagar police station in Kota. We informed the child welfare committee members so that she could get a shelter,” said the officer. The girl narrated her ordeal since she was kidnapped to the child welfare committee members on Thursday. Police have registered an FIR against the woman who kidnapped her and Dharmaraj. The man has been arrested. A team was being rushed to Pratapgarh and Madhya Pradesh for further investigation, the officer said. (Times of India 9/7/16)

‘Centre mulling separate law to tackle human trafficking’ (1)

Raipur: Amid opposition Congress legislators expressing serious concern over rising incidents of trafficking of young girls, Chhattisgarh home minister Ram Sewak Paikra informed the assembly on Monday that the government has taken effective steps to contain human trafficking menace. Replying to a call attention motion moved by Tejkunwar Gowardhan Netam (Congress) and others, he said the state government has already enacted a legislation in 2013 to regulate agencies taking people outside the state for employment. Paikra said the centre is mulling enacting a separate legislation to deal with the problem of human trafficking. Centre’s draft bill is already ready and is under consideration of Government of India, he added. He refuted the charges levelled by the opposition that young girls from rural areas were being trafficked to other cities luring them with offers of a career in acting and were being pushed into prostitution. He said that the state police had already cracked down on traffickers and slapped criminal cases against them. Paikra said Balod district police had arrested traffickers from Allahabad district in Uttar Pradesh few days ago. He said that cases under various sections of IPC and POCSO Act has been registered against the accused. He said the girls were taken to Allahabad as a dance party and there were complaints about their sexual exploitation. During 2011 and 2016, the home minister said that the state police had solved and found 84 per cent of missing women, 91 per cent of missing girls and 94 per cent missing boys under a special campaign. As compared to 2014, there has been a sharp decline in cases of human trafficking, the home minister claimed adding that however, there has been a marginal increase in cases of kidnapping and rapes. However, opposition Congress legislators expressed serious concern over the incidents of trafficking of girls, mainly from the tribal areas, saying that the government should take effective steps to contain the problem. He said the state government must come up with a concrete scheme to address the problem which they said have taken alarming proportions. (Times of India 12/7/16)

India, Malaysia trafficking ratings may be too high, say US lawmakers (1)

Washington: The US Department of State’s closely watched annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report was released on June 30. After last year’s report provoked a firestorm of controversy, the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs Committees held hearings on Tuesday to review this year’s findings.

A low ranking is a black mark on a country’s reputation and can subject a government to sanctions limiting access to aid from the United States, the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank. Last year, members of Congress and human rights groups said some countries’ ratings were changed for political reasons.For example, over the objections of State Department experts, Malaysia was upgraded in 2015, despite authorities’ discovering mass graves of trafficking victims and rights groups’ reporting continued forced labor in its palm oil, construction and electronics industries. On Tuesday, lawmakers again questioned why Malaysia had not been downgraded. “It’s hard to understand that they’ve made progress in 2016,” Senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said. Susan Coppedge, who runs the State Department’s trafficking office, told lawmakers that Malaysia and India had both made improvements. Some lawmakers and rights groups said Malaysia’s 2016 ranking seemed to reflect President Barack Obama’s advocacy for the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact, which would include Malaysia. Labor unions oppose the TPP, which they fear could lead to US job losses, while doing nothing to improve the treatment of workers in member countries. In connection with Tuesday’s hearings, the Communications Workers of America union questioned whether the TPP continued to influence the ratings of Malaysia and Thailand. Senator Bob Corker, the Senate panel’s Republican chairman, asked why India was rated Tier 2, saying that there are an estimated 12 million slaves in the country. “The report highlights some progress, but official complicity in trafficking is widespread, victim protection is inadequate and inconsistent,” he said. The TIP report organizes countries into tiers: Tier 1 for nations meeting minimum U.S. standards; Tier 2 for those making significant efforts to meet those standards; Tier 2 “Watch List” for those deserving special scrutiny, and Tier 3 for countries failing to comply with minimum standards and not making significant efforts. (Indian Express 13/7/16)

33 Bastar natives rescued from traffickers in Bengaluru (1)

Raipur: A day after opposition Congress legislators expressed serious concern over rising incidents of human trafficking in Chhattisgarh, 33 tribal people, including three minors of Bastar district, were rescued from a factory in Bangalore on Tuesday. They were kept in confinement and were forced to work as bonded labourers. Members of Aam Aadmi Party, Jagdalpur, approached district collector in this regard. A team was then sent to rescue them and 33 people of Bastanar and Darbha region were rescued. District convener of AAP Rohit Arya told TOI, “Two local women had lured these people for jobs in railway department and took them to Bangalore via Vizag in December last year. The people working in a factory were kept in confinement and were measly paid. They were beaten up and not given food.” When they tried contacting families and local sarpanch, they didn’t get much support and the families contacted AAP members. Arya said that a list of 15 people was prepared and submitted to district collector Amit Kataria. Thereafter, a team of five members from labour department were sent to Karnataka. A case has been registered against the women agents who are on the run. Police have launched a manhunt to nab them. Those rescued from Karnataka in their statement stated that still there are thousands of people from Chhattisgarh languishing in clutches of contractors who don’t allow them to return home. Meanwhile, district administration would now get strict with maintaining of registers at gram panchayat level to record the movement and migration of people from one place to another. (Times of India 13/7/16)

Human trafficking on the rise in north-east region (1)

IMPHAL: Human trafficking is witnessing an increase in the north-eastern states this year, Manipur Commission for Protection of Child Rights member Keisham Pradipkumar said on Sunday. “Human trafficking in this region had decreased for a few years but has seen a sharp increase in 2016,” he said. The state Social Welfare Department has been informing parents in Manipur not to be lured by tall promises by traffickers of free education and jobs for their wards outside the state, the panel member said. He also defended the Manipur Commission for Protection of Child Rights vis-a-vis the detention of 21 Muslim boys on July 14 by the Central Industrial Security Force at the Tulihal international airport here. “We verify such cases as per the Supreme Court directive. Our actions are not directed against any community. Most boys detained were under the age of 12,” he added. (Times of India 17/7/16)

Delhi human trafficking racket: Prostitution angle under police glare (1)

New Delhi: After the arrest of Pritindra Nath Sanyal and questioning of Ajay Ahlawat, a retired Army Colonel, police are looking into the possibility of a big prostitution ring in the case, said sources. Police suspect the accused forced foreign nationals into prostitution, the sources added. R P Upadhaya, Joint Commissioner of Police, said, “Investigation is in a preliminary stage and all angles will be looked into.” Police suspect the human trafficking racket had been operational for at least 3 years and girls were brought to India with the help of foreign syndicates. Police are trying to identify people who dealt with the accused, said sources. Police have filed the case under various sections of IPC, but are yet to invoke the section related to prostitution. A source said the evidence was being scanned and the more penal sections could be added later. A team of south district police is questioning Ahlawat. Sources said his name had cropped up in cases of property disputes and cheating. One such case against him has been found in Hauz Khas police station, the sources added.Read | Delhi Businessman held for running human trafficking racket, posing as MP: CopsDelhi Police arrested a 62-year-old businessman, Pritindra Nath Sanyal, Thursday on charges of running a human trafficking racket and cheating government officials by posing as a Member of Parliament. (Indian Express 22/7/16)

Chhattisgarh girl trafficked to Delhi, trapped for a year, awaits rescue (1)

RAIPUR: A graduate girl in her twenties from Chhattisgarh’s Raigarh district was trafficked, trapped and is being harassed in a posh area in Delhi for the past one year. A farmer’s daughter, she was sold at Rs 15,000 to a placement agency in Delhi by her friend whom she trusted would get her a suitable job. But, she was later pushed into domestic slavery and kept in confinement, she somehow requested and borrowed a phone from the cook of the house she works at and called up her family seeking help. Raigarh police has formed a team and is travelling to Delhi to rescue the girl on Friday. “I am stuck in Delhi and I am being harassed. They have broken my mobile phone and I am making this call after praying to the cook to lending his phone to me for a minute so that I can call. Get me out of this place, I am suffering a lot,” the girl had said to her parents over the phone. Parents immediately informed Chakradhar police in Raigarh while they resisted to earlier lodge the missing complaint out of shame in society that their daughter hasn’t returned home since she went out for job. The girl is a graduate and had studied at a local college in Raigarh when she was contacted by a youth called Hemant Bairagi over the phone who befriended her to win her confidence. He often used to meet her and offered her a job worth Rs 15,000 in Bilaspur. While the girl’s financial condition wasn’t very sound, she immediately accepted the offer and also underwent some training for three months in Bilaspur. Hemant then took her to Delhi on pretext of getting her better job and she didn’t realised when she was sold off to a placement agency. Later, when she was pushed into domestic slavery, she realized she has been victimized to trafficking. A similar incident of a college girl being trafficked to Rajasthan had come to the fore recently in Raigarh where the girl was from the same college. Police said that they were investigating very seriously to get hold of the racket and would launch a search for the trafficker once the girl is rescued. (Times of India 23/7/16)

Victims speak against proposed trafficking law (1)

New Delhi: Twenty-three survivors from some villages in West Bengal, Pune, Mumbai, Goa and Delhi have written to union minister for women and child development Maneka Gandhi to suggest changes in the proposed law. Police protection, short stay at shelter homes, cooperation from the police and lawyers and no harassment during trial are some of the provisions that a group of victims want in a proposed law on prevention of trafficking. Twenty-three survivors from some villages in West Bengal, Pune, Mumbai, Goa and Delhi have written to union minister for women and child development Maneka Gandhi to suggest changes in the proposed Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation), Act, 2016. “Some of us were rescued from brothels, hotels, lodges and flats where we had been forced into prostitution. Some of us ran away from these brothels. We were kept as bonded labour and as slaves. Some of us were kept in shelter homes for 1-3 years after being rescued. But in the draft law, trafficking and protection have not been clearly defined. Unless these are made clear, we won’t get justice,” the victim said in the letter. The group said they were disappointed because the draft law will not ensure that the victims are not trafficked again. They said it will not punish police officers who misguide the trafficked people and do not let them record their statement with a magistrate after being rescued. “The police also often scare us and don’t let us lodge cases against the traffickers. This should be dealt with,” said one of the girls. … (Hindustan Times 26/6/16)

Trafficked women rescued from Haryana villages (1)

GURGAON: Twin tale of atrocities, both from Haryana, came to light when two women, from Assam and West Bengal, were rescued in separate incidents of forced marriage. The duo was trafficked from their respective States on the pretext of good jobs and allegedly sold off for forced marriages. Thirty-five-year-old Arzu (name changed) was rescued from a village in Bhiwani in a joint rescue operation of the Haryana Police and NGO Shakti Vahini on July 9.She was trafficked from Guwahati by three persons and later sold off as a bride in Haryana. At the time of the rescue, she was six-month pregnant. Arzu was unable to disclose many details about her ordeal since she only speaks Bangla. She said: “My three-year-old child is in Assam with my parents. I want to go back to them. I do not understand anything here. I am pregnant, but I was not even taken for a check-up.” She said she was sold off to one Jaipal for about Rs.30,000. Though Muslim, she was forcibly married to a Hindu man and her name changed to hide her identity. “Her parents were unable to contact her since the past eight months. They had not lodged any missing complaint and were looking for her on their own,” DSP, South Salmara, Parthopratim Sakia, told The Hindu over telephone.Rishi Kant of Shakti Vahini said: “We received information about her in a battered condition in the village. A raid was conducted and she was rescued.” Her village is situated on the banks of the Brahmaputra, where the communication system is still very challenging. The region is prone to trafficking, the locals police said. In yet another incident, Roma (name changed), a 17-year-old from West Bengal, was rescued from Jhajjar on July 16. She had been missing since June 1. Around two months ago, a family friend named Boddha asked Roma to accompany him to his home, approximately 150 km away from her village, and stay for a week. However, she got suspicious as he took a different route. .. (The Hindu 27/6/16)

CORRUPTION

BJP MP protests outside Kejriwal’s house over tanker scam (5)

New Delhi: BJP Rajya Sabha MP Vijay Goel on Saturday protested outside the residence of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal against the alleged Rs 400 crore tanker scam and demanded his resignation for suppressing information. Goel alleged that Kejriwal tried to save his predecessor Sheila Dikshit by “sitting” over the files for 11 months. “Kejrwal has to answer why he sat over the files for 11 months. The Delhi government not only tried to save Dikshit but also allowed the previous contract to continue. This is shameful and he must resign,” he said. Goel also claimed that Kejriwal was not “cooperating” with the Anti-Corruption Branch in its investigations but only blaming the central government. “Kejriwal government is not cooperating with ACB in the investigations, rather blaming the central government for everything. The government should immediately suspend all the officers and ministers responsible for the scam till the investigation in completed. “The scam exposes Aam Aadmi Party’s claim of zero tolerance for corruption. It has been proved that Kejriwal government is corrupt and power hungry,” he alleged. (Business Standard 2/7/16)

Corruption case: Rajendra Kumar, four others to be produced in court today (5)

New Delhi, July 5 : Rajendra Kumar, Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and four others who were yesterday arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in connection with a corruption charge would be produced before the Patiala House Court on Tuesday. According to CBI sources, Kumar has been charged with abusing his official position to award contracts to M/s Endeavour Systems Pvt. Ltd. and securing government tenders worth Rs. 9.5 crore between 2007 and 2014 for the company. Kumar has been booked under Section 120-B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. According to CBI sources, Kumar has emerged as the kingpin of the 50 crore scam which first started activity in 2006. Kumar had moved an appeal before a special court in March this year seeking the release of his laptop, iPad and cash seized by the CBI. A trial court had in April also ordered the de-freezing of two bank accounts of M/s Endeavour Systems Pvt. Ltd. The Delhi High Court had then stayed the trial court’s order allowing for de-freezing of accounts of M/s Endeavour Systems Pvt. Ltd. The CBI had in December last year raided Kumar’s office at the Delhi Secretariat in connection with this case. (New Kerala 5/7/16)

BJP’s tribal face Faggan was involved in 2008 cash for vote scam (5)

NEW DELHI: BJP’s tribal face Faggan Singh Kulaste, one of the MPs involved in the infamous 2008 cash for votes scam, was on Tuesday inducted as a Minister of State in the Union Council of Ministers. Kulaste (57), a tribal leader from Madhya Pradesh, is a Post Graduate and LLB. He is a former teacher and social worker. He represents the Mandla constituency of Madhya Pradesh and was a junior minister in earlier Atal Bihari Vajpayee- led NDA government. He represented Mandla Lok Sabha seat from 1996 to 2009. After losing in 2009 to Basori Singh Masram of Congress, he was elected to Rajya Sabha. He regained the seat in 2014, defeating his Congress rival Omkar Markam. He has also been president of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikash Parishad, Madhya Pradesh, General Secretary of the BJP Scheduled Tribe cell and National President  of the BJP Scheduled Tribe Morcha. During the 2008 cash for votes scam, the government’s success in the 2008 confidence vote was marred when three BJP MPs, Ashok Argal, Kulaste and Mahavir Bhagoda waved bundles of cash which they produced from bags in parliament during the debate, accusing the UPA government of giving it to them in order to buy their support or abstention in the vote. The BJP demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over the allegations and claimed that they had video evidence of the deals being made. In 2013, a Delhi court accepted the statements the three BJP men that their actions had been as whistleblowers only. (New Indian Express 5/7/16)

147 graft cases against IMC officials: Cong (5)

Indore: Leader of the opposition in Indore Municipal Corporation (IMC), Fozia Sheikh Alim, on Wednesday alleged that 147 corruption cases have been registered by Lokayukta and economic offences wing (EOW) against the corporation officials, many of whom are still working and no action has been taken against them. “A lot of IMC officials working at senior as well as middle levels and even the former ones have corruption cases registered against them,” said Fozia. Quoting a reply received by a corporator from IMC, Fozia said, “Of the total cases, 114 were registered by Lokayukta and remaining 33 by EOW. The Lokayukta has registered cases under different sections of Prevention of Corruption Act against many officials in connection with irregularities in development and construction work, project map approval, purchase and borewell digging.” “Even more discouraging is the fact that a few of these accused officials and representatives retired or completed their tenure from the IMC without any probe in their cases being completed,” she said. The Congress leader said that a proposal seeking official probe against the accused IMC employees was pending with Mayor-in-Council (MIC). “Why is MIC not allowing a probe to be conducted against these officials?” she asked. In a statement released on Wednesday, Fozia also named many former as well as serving civic body officials who have corruption charges against them. They include: ex-mayor Umashashi Sharma, city architect Harbhajansingh Nagar, building officer Mahesh Sharma, former IMC commissioner Vinod Sharma, health officer Dr Apurva Vohra, city architect Hanskumar Jain, assistant director (city and village investment) KC Gupta, former health officer Dr AK Puranik, assistant engineer Dilip Singh Chouhan, former assistant engineer Anup Goyal, assistant engineer Rajneesh Pancholiya, former additional commissioners Avdhesh Sharma, Kedar Singh, deputy commissioner Lata Agrawal and others. Fozia also accused anti-corruption sleuths of shielding these tainted officials. “If one goes by these figures, it seems IMC has become haven for corrupt officials,” she said adding all these officials should be expelled with immediate effect and new officials who have good public image appointed. “We have also written to CM, cabinet minister Maya Singh and Indore divisional commissioner Sanjay Dubey to remove all these officials who have corruption charges against them,” she said. IMC Commissioner Manish Singh, when contacted, refused to comment on the issue. “I am not aware of the matter,” he said. (Times of India 7/7/16)

NGO seeks sanction to prosecute CJ (5)

Bengaluru: A NGO has written to Governor seeking sanction to prosecute Chief Justice Subhro Kamal Mukherjee for not taking action to punish the person who attempted to bribe him. Referring to news published in Deccan Herald – “CJ refuses to elaborate on bid to bribe him,’’ Proutist Universal, the NGO, in a letter to the President and the Chief Justice of India said that it is a fit case to be tried under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. Justice Mukherjee on Tuesday made a disclosure that a Bengali speaking person visited his official residence and had offered a bribe to write a favourable judgment.  When the matter came up for hearing, the CJ flashed the business card of the person in the open court hall. He recused himself from hearing the matter and said that it was his ‘action’ against the person. A few advocates including senior counsel met the Chief Justice on Friday requesting him to disclose the name and the complete address of the person who visited him and to initiate Contempt of Court proceedings against him. The Bar members including TN Raghupathy, B M Arun, S Basavaraj and others, in letter to the Chief Justice said, ‘‘The proceedings on July 5 in the court have caused a flutter and anguish among the members of the Bar and general public. This is a fit matter where remedial actions are warranted. The fact that a stranger could gain access to your residence, that he could discuss the matter which was appearing in your court and leaving the visiting card of that stranger with a dignitary of the State and Constitutional head of State Judiciary is never to be brushed aside or ignored.” A few advocates have also sought an emergency meeting of Advocates Association to discuss the matter. (Deccan Herald 9/7/16)

97 legislators fail to declare asset details to Lokayukta (5)

BENGALURU: Throwing Karnataka Lokayukta norms to the wind, one third of the 300 legislators in the state have not furnished their statement of assets and liabilities for 2015-16 to the anti-corruption body. There are four ministers, including G Parameshwara and UT Khader, among the 97 defaulters. The figure of 97 is highest compared to previous years. This is mainly because the Lokayukta became headless after the resignation of Justice Y Bhaskar Rao following the arrest of his son on corruption and extortion charges. As many as 69 of the total 225 MLAs and 28 of the 75 MLCs have not furnished details of their assets and liabilities. As per Section 22 (1) of the Karnataka Lokayukta Act, MLAs/MLCs should furnish the details of assets and liabilities by June 30 of every year. Around 15 elected representatives submitted their statements after June 30 and hence were not considered. Of the violators four are ministers. U T Khader, Minister for Food and Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs, and Eshwar B Khadre, Minister for Municipalities and Local Bodies and Public Enterprises, are MLAs. Home Minister G Parameshwara and M R Seetharam, Minister for Planning, Programme Monitoring and Statistics, are MLCs Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, in his statement, revealed that he has no right on his controversial Hublot watch as it was deposited with the government. As per the Act, the details must be sent to the Governor. (New Indian Express 12/7/16)

HC notice to CBI on corruption complaint in PP deals (5)

Chennai, July 15 () The Madras High court today issued notice to CBI on a petition seeking a probe by the central agency into alleged collusion of vigilance authorities on a complaint of corruption in Power Purchase deals under former Electricity Minister Natham R Viswanathan. Justice R Subbaiah before whom the writ petition filed by one S P Sreenivas came up for hearing, directed CBI to file its response within two weeks. The petitioner alleged that the former minister had abused his position in power purchase deals and with the help of the state-run TANGEDCO officials, caused a loss of around Rs 25,000 crore. He submitted that he had already given a complaint on March 1 this year to the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti Corruption (DVAC) to prosecute the offenders. A criminal original petition was also filed in this regard in HC. However, DVAC ‘colluded’ with the accused and it was “attempting to close the file” and hence he moved the court for a direction to CBI to probe the matter. The petitioner alleged that to favour solar power generators, the former minister had allowed power purchase at the rate of Rs 7.01 per unit instead of Rs 5.01. He claimed that adjacent states purchased power at Rs.5.01 per unit. The rate of Rs 7.01 fixed by the Tamil Nadu power regulatory body TNERC (Tamil Nadu Electriciy Regulatory Commission) was dissented by Nagalsamy, then member of Commission, he said. Hence, the tarrif order of TNERC should have been challenged by the state-run TANGEDCO, he contended. The judge also said the present petition be clubbed with the criminal original petition already pending before the high court after taking permission from the Chief Justice.  (Times of India 15/7/16)

Bribe to CJ: Activists go to Lokayukta court (5)

BENGALURU: Two RTI activists have filed a private complaint before the Lokayukta Special Court on Saturday seeking directions to the Anti Corruption Bureau or High Grounds police to register a complaint and probe into the bribe allegedly offered to Karnataka Chief Justice Subhro Kamal Mukherjee by a person.The petitioners contended that the accused offered a bribe to the chief justice with malafide intentions and his act is punishable and several sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The High Grounds Police on Thursday declined to file a complaint against the man who had allegedly offered a bribe to Chief Justice Mukherjee. However, they gave an endorsement to the complainants that they can take up the matter in a court of law. “Therefore, we request the court to refer this complaint under Section 156(3) of Crpc to the Additional Commissioner of Police, High Grounds Police Station or the Deputy Superintendent of Police, ACB to register an FIR and investigate into it,” their petition said. On July 5, Chief Justice Mukherjee made a sensational disclosure that a visitor had tried to buy a favourable verdict, while he was hearing a revision petition filed by Umrah Developers against the Revenue Department and the Deputy Commissioner of Bengaluru Urban district. (New Indian Express 17/7/16)

Govt. cornered on tainted ministers (5)

Mumbai: The State government was on Wednesday cornered by the Opposition over the issue of corruption by Cabinet ministers and the charges of misappropriation of funds in purchase of raincoats for schoolchildren.Leader of the Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil said, “Some of the ministers recently inducted into the Cabinet have corruption charges. While one of them is charged by the CBI, another is involved in a Rs. 36-crore bank scam.” Speaker Haribhau Bagde said, “It is necessary to send notices to those ministers and therefore you must name them. You must be specific in your allegations against ministers.” (The Hindu 21/7/16)

NGOs must register with NITI Aayog (5)

New Delhi: The notification also said that managers, directors, board members of NGOs will have to declare their personal assets, jewellery, cash, moveable and immoveable property by July 31. They will also be subject to rules and regulations for government officials under the Prevention of Corruption Act. They will also be subject to rules and regulations for government officials under the Prevention of Corruption Act. The notification has caused considerable consternation in the community raising fears of excessive control by the Centre, though officials maintain the order is only to pave the way for making NGOs accountable. Though an official source at the Aayog told he Hindu hat registration is non-mandatory, the minutes of the May 9 meeting state that all NGOs “must be registered” with the Ayog’s portal. The official further clarified that the move aims to smoothen the process of identification, verification and facilitation — at both ends: for beneficiaries as well as contributors. “Whether contributors or beneficiaries, all will be able to access the money trail and the bank accounts…that is the idea behind the registration with unique identifying numbers,” the source said. N. Ramakrishnan, Executive Director Ideosync Media Combine, said this was only one in a long series of “impositions designed to harass and prevent dissent”. (The Hindu 24/7/16)

Centre agrees to put on hold assets declaration provision (5)

NEW DELHI: The Centre on Tuesday agreed in principle to put on hold the decision mandating “public servants” to disclose their assets before July 31 in line with a Lokpal Act provision. The government was responding to concerns raised by both political and apolitical quarters, and will now further examine the order’s implications. On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told a delegation of senior political leaders, including Sharad Pawar, Digvijaya Singh and D. Raja, that there was merit in the case for review of some of the Lokpal Act’s provisions, including that of the definition of “public servant.” The Prime Minister told them that he would ask the Home Ministry to extend the deadline regarding declaration of assets. “Our impression from the government is that it agrees with the contention on the adverse implications of ‘public servant’ as defined under the Lokpal Act. To begin with the government is expected to put on hold the notification and then bring in some amendments which would be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee. It is immediately not clear if the amendments would be moved in the ongoing session of Parliament,” Mr. Raja told The Hindu. In the last few weeks, several organisations have been seeking similar clarifications from the government. As per the notification issued last month, officials and senior employees of bodies receiving funds from overseas, or from the government beyond specified limits, are covered under the Act, and must disclose their assets and those of their spouse and dependent children by July 31. This makes the law applicable to many charitable organisations and their functionaries, and can impede philanthropic activities. (The Hindu 27/7/16)

Lokpal amended: Government staff, NGOs need not declare assets by July 31 (5)

NEW DELHI: In a surprise move, the government on Wednesday quickly got an amendment to the Lokpal Act passed in the Lok Sabha to give reprieve to central government employees and NGOs from declaring their assets by the July 31 deadline. Though ‘The Lokpal and Lokayuktas (Amendment) Bill, 2016′ was not listed in the initial list of business, a supplementary list of business was moved at around noon and the bill was circulated quickly eliciting protests from many MPs who complained of not getting enough time to go through it. Interestingly the bill, which was passed without a discussion, was moved by Minister of State in the PMO Jitender Singh. A delegation of MPs had on July 25 met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and demanded deleting the provision for fixing a deadline for assets declaration. As many members, specially from the Left and Trinamool Congress, protested, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs S. S. Ahluwalia was seen rushing around speaking with MPs like Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mallikarjun Kharge. The minister had also met many party leaders before the bill was moved in the house. Questions were raised as to what was the hurry and was the approval of the cabinet not required before passing such an amendment. Government sources, however, quoted rules of procedure to show that cabinet approval was not needed as this was just being done to provide extension to the last date and buy time till the final bill is brought in. While the current bill will provide immediate relief by approving the amendment to Section 44 of the Act, the provision will be examined in detail by a Parliamentary Standing Committee which will submit its report before next session of Parliament. Jitender Singh said: “Till the present impasse is overcome, the deadline with regard to government servants can be deferred”.As per the rules notified under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act 2013, every public servant shall file declaration, information and annual returns pertaining to his assets and liabilities as well as for his spouse and dependent children on March 31 every year or on or before July 31 of that year. In April, the government had extended the date of filing returns by public servants from April 15 to July 31. This is the fifth extension in the deadline since the Act came into force in January 2014. As per rules, organisations receiving more than Rs 1 crore in government grants and donations above Rs 10 lakh from abroad fall under the ambit of Lokpal. The amendment to the Lokpal Act 2013 was later passed by a voice vote. Though the bill found support from Congress benches, the Left parties vehemently opposed the bill. CPI-M leader M. Salim was seen gesturing Ahluwalia that his party was not consulted before introducing the bill. Trinamool Congress MP Kalyan Banerjee claimed that the government was favouring NGOs by exempting them from filing asset declaration. He said very few of the NGOs are engaged in charitable purpose. He also asked the government not to dilute the provisions of the Act. “It is not my NGO, or your NGO or siding with NGO. We have NGOs and trusts running media houses… We are not going to spare or bail out any NGOs.” (New Indian Express 27/7/16)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

Javadekar warns against encroachment of river beds (9)

Kolkata, Jul 1 () As cloudburst and heavy rains hit Uttarakhand, Union Minister of State for Environment, Forests and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar today warned against encroachment of river beds. “We need to preserve rivers and we shouldn’t encroach river beds. That is the minimum, otherwise we get more losses. We have to preserve the Himalayas. It is a baby mountain. We have to take care,” Javadekar told reporters here on the sidelines of a function of the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI). Stating that cloudburst in the Himalayan region was not a rare phenomenon, he said climate change has increased the frequency of such disasters. “And therefore, the Modi government has for the first time alloted Rs 100 crore to carry out studies on various aspects of the Himalayan ecology. We have already started working on 27 projects on all such disaster resilience and predictions. With knowledge we can mitigate the challenge,” he said. Asked about the issue of wild animals being killed in road and rail accidents, he said the problem would be taken care of. “In Assam we have been able to reduce it to a large extent and in West Bengal also the issue is being studied and whatever remedies needs to be done, will be done,” the Union Minister said. Javadekar said the Ministry would ensure free movement of vehicular traffic while avoiding accidents with animals. In the sea beach of Digha in West Bengal, Javadekar said ZSI already has an aquarium, but they want a tunnel aquarium like that of Singapore. “It is near the sea and can be a very big tourist attraction. I have told the state government to prepare a DPR (detailed project report). We will consider it,” he said adding, there were plans to start two more regional centres of ZSI, which would be ready within the next two years. The libraries of ZSI and Botanical Survey of India were now digitised, the Minister said. Javadekar said he would talk to the Union HRD Minister to ensure that the database was available on the government’s e-library project. (Times of India 1/7/16)

 ‘Almost 30 per cent of our land undergoing degradation’ (9)

BENGALURU: Nearly 30 per cent per cent of the country’s total geographical area is undergoing degradation, according to a study that analysed satellite imageries of the country over an eight-year period. The degrading area has increased over 0.5 per cent to 29.3 million hectares during the period, as shown by comparative remote-sensing satellite imageries of the States for the periods 2003-05 and 2011-13. Desertification increased by 1.16 million hectares (m ha) and stood at 82.64 m ha during 2011-13.There was high desertification and degradation in Delhi, Tripura, Nagaland, Himachal Pradesh and Mizoram, while Odisha, Telangana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh showed some improvement. The ongoing study, initiated by the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change, was led by the Indian Space Research Organisation and involved 19 institutes. ISRO’s Space Applications Centre released the findings last month in the form of a ‘Desertification and Land Degradation Atlas’, combining GIS and remote sensing data. India has committed itself to the U.N. Convention on Combating Desertification that it would fully stop land degradation by 2030. The atlas, adding 68 vulnerable districts, would form part of the country’s action plan to arrest the phenomenon and also be a status report to the U.N. body, ISRO said. The SAC had undertaken a similar study in 2007. Just nine States together account for nearly 24 per cent of desertification; the other States have less than one per cent of this land. The culprit States in that order are Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana. Southern State Kerala figures among northern and northeastern States where less than 10 per cent land is degraded. With it are relatively greener States of Assam, Mizoram, Haryana, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Arunachal Pradesh. The bad news is that 3.6 million ha of productive land are getting lost, while on the positive side, some land has been reclaimed and the intensity of degradation has been slowed down in a few other areas. “Desertification and land degradation are major threats to agricultural productivity in our country. Combating them is a thrust area identified [by the MoEF&CC],” ISRO said. The main culprit is water erosion (26 per cent) followed by degrading vegetation (rising slightly nearly nine per cent) and land or soil erosion due to wind. (The Hindu 7/7/16)

NGT notice to Centre on Biological Diversity Act (9)

New Delhi: A plea alleging that various states and union territories have “failed” to give attention to the unique biodiversity of the country prompted the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Friday to seek response from the government on the issue. A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar issued notices to Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), National Biodiversity Authority and State Biodiversity Boards while seeking their reply within two weeks on the issue. The NGT was hearing a plea filed by Pune resident Chandra Bhal Singh seeking implementation of provisions of Biological Diversity Act, 2002 and Biological Diversity Rules, 2004. The Biological Diversity Act, 2002 aims to preserve biological diversity in India and provides mechanism for equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the use of traditional biological resources and knowledge. “The blatant non-compliance of the provisions of the said act and rules has frustrated the whole efforts of enacting such a legislation owing to the International obligation of India while being a signatory to the Rio Declaration and Convention on Biological Diversity, 1992,” the plea, filed through advocate Rahul Choudhary, said. It alleged that various states in the country have “failed” to give proper attention to the unique biodiversity prevalent in India and they have also not undertaken their statutory obligations with “seriousness and have remained oblivious in discharging the statutory provision in last couple of years.” Seeking constitution of Biodiversity Management Committees (BMC) at the local level in every state under Section 41 of the Biological Biodiversity Act 2002, the plea claimed that several State Biodiversity Boards have not constituted BMC at the local level “for the purpose of promoting conservation, sustainable use and documentation of biological diversity”.It further said the Peoples Biodiversity Register, a document which records diversity of flora and fauna, has not been prepared and maintained by the Biodiversity Management Committee by some of the states. “Direct the respondents to constitute all the necessary bodies at the state level as well as the local level within a strict timeline and to submit detailed report to NGT,” the plea said. (Business Standard 8/7/16)

Climate change will cause 2,50,000 deaths by 2030: WHO (9)

Climate change will cause an additional 2,50,000 deaths from malaria, diarrhoeal disease, heat stress and under nutrition by 2030, a finding by World Health Organisation (WHO) has stated. The conclusion was drawn at a meeting held by the French government in Paris on July 8 to study actions taken to implement the Paris agreement in order to reduce health risks linked to climate change. Experts noted that climate change was already causing tens of thousands of deaths every year. This is in addition to 7 million deaths caused by air pollution, a release by WHO said. The biggest burden of the additional fatalities will be borne by children, women, older people and the poor, further widening the existing health inequalities. To mitigate deaths due to climate change, participants focused on the need to measure the progress by countries in safeguarding health of the people, it said. WHO has already published profiles on 40 countries. During the conference, benefits of switching to cleaner energy sources were also discussed. The participants also asked countries to develop a new approach to link investment in mitigating climate change with the expenditure on related healthcare costs, the release added. (DNA 11/7/16)

Javadekar for more awareness among students on environment (9)

New Delhi, July 12 : Union Minister for Human Resource Development (HRD) Prakash Javadekar on Tuesday said students should be made more aware and sensitive to environmental issues. He stressed on popularising sustainable practices among the students as part of long- term plan for mitigation of climate change. “The role of HRD Ministry is to make the students aware and environmentally sensitive by adopting sustainable practices and low-carbon lifestyle,” the minister said in his inaugural address at the ‘National Conference on Post-Paris Climate Change Action’. He lauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi in upscaling renewable targets which changed the narrative of India’s negotiation in the global climate change discussions. “Instead of opposing the terms, we set out to propose alternative formulations and India has led from the front,” he said. Recounting the numerous green initiatives by the central government like the coal cess, he said: “India has taken the lead and the world must follow to realise our commitments. Nations across the world are trying to be part of the solar alliance.” (New Kerala 12/7/16)

Earthquake of magnitude nine can hit Bangladesh, India: Scientists (9)

New York: Bangladesh and its neighbourhood including India may be hit by a huge earthquake – although not imminent – that could reach a magnitude of nine, researchers have warned. The scientists said they have new evidence of increasing strain building beneath Bangladesh where two tectonic plates underlie the vast delta of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers. They estimate that at least 140 million people in the region could be affected if the boundary ruptures. The researchers are not forecasting an imminent great earthquake but said it was an “under-appreciated hazard”.”Some of us have long suspected this hazard but we didn’t have the data and a model,” said lead author Michael Steckler, geophysicist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in the US. “Now we have the data and a model and we can estimate the size,” he noted. The destruction could come not only from the direct result of shaking but changes in the courses of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers and in the level of land already perilously close to sea level. The newly identified threat, described in the journal Nature Geoscience, is a subduction zone where one section of the earth’s crust, or a tectonic plate, is slowly thrusting under another. Scientists knew of the plate boundary in and around Bangladesh but many assumed it to be sliding only horizontally near the surface, where it sometimes causes fairly large but less damaging earthquakes in areas that are not as densely populated. However, the authors of the new research said movements on the surface over the past decade showed subduction was taking place below and a part of the plate juncture was locked and loading up with stress. Steckler said strain between the plates had been building for at least 400 years. When an inevitable release comes, the shaking was likely to be larger than 8.2 on the Richter scale and could reach a magnitude of nine, similar to the largest known modern quakes, Steckler warned. …  (Business Standard 12/7/16)

T.N. gets Rs. 670 cr. ADB loan to fight climate change in delta (9)

Chennai: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will provide a $100 million (Rs. 670 crore) loan to mitigate climate change risks in the Cauvery delta by strengthening six irrigation channels in the Vennar sub-basin and rehabilitating 13 irrigation pumping schemes. The ADB officials signed a financing agreement with the Government of India and also signed a separate project agreement with officials of the Tamil Nadu government in New Delhi on Thursday. The total project cost is estimated at $144 million, with the State government pooling in $44 million. Tamil Nadu’s Water Resources Department will be responsible for implementing the project which is expected to be completed in 2020. The Tamil Nadu government had sought financing from ADB to upgrade the irrigation systems in the region. The project will run through six rivers in the districts of Thanjavur and Nagapattinam and involves resectioning of Pandavayar, Velleiyar, Harichandranadi, Adappar, Valvanar and Vedaranyam Canal and desilting of riverbeds as well. According to a report and recommendation of the President, ADB, to the bank’s board in May this year, the irrigation network in the Vennar sub-basin is more than a century old with some irrigation channels completely dilapidated. “Existing embankments are damaged or weak. At the operational level, water distribution is not systematic and is based mainly on the judgement of WRD staff in response to requests from farmers. At the farm level, the application of irrigation water is inherently inefficient,” the report to the board said. The project seeks to protect coastal districts from cyclones and flooding that are aggravated by climate change, have a climate-resilient water management system, better flood risk management and improved irrigation infrastructure, according to ADB. Nearly 11,000 hectares and over 3.35 lakh households will face a reduced risk of flooding over the next 25 years once the project is implemented, as per the bank’s initial environmental examination that was completed in December 2015. A distribution and poverty analysis done by the bank estimated the bulk of the net benefits of the upgraded systems will go to the small farmers (58%) and marginal farmers (42%). While no land acquisition is required for the project, nearly 12,887 persons will have to be resettled, the ADB report said. “Communities will be involved in planning and delivery of water services. Flood forecasting and warning systems will be installed and a flood risks map drawn up to help communities respond more effectively to extreme events,” said L. B. Sondjaja, Deputy Country Director of ADB’s India Resident Mission, who signed the loan agreement for ADB, said, in a release. (The Hindu 15/7/16)

Gurgaon township to go zero-waste (9)

GURGAON: The Residents’ Welfare Association (RWA) of the township has decided to invest over Rs.2 crore to set up two plants — one to convert kitchen and horticulture waste into compost, and the other to treat sewage. “There is no proper mechanism for waste disposal in Gurgaon. Garbage keeps piling up at landfill sites. We hope our efforts will inspire others to follow the same,” said Sanu Kapila, president, RWA. The township generates about three tonnes of green waste every day, and with a mechanism in place to treat it, the housing society will produce almost 1,000 kg of compost daily. “This compost will be used for the parks and trees in the common areas of the township. The rest will be available for the residents to buy at a nominal cost,” said Mr. Kapila.The residents have been asked to segregate waste at their houses. In order to discourage the use of polythene bags, bins will be provided to the people. Also, the vendors in the township will be barred from using polythene bags. Mr. Kapila said the machines to treat the waste were expected to arrive in the first week of August and the system would most likely be inaugurated on August 15. The RWA also plans to set up a sewage treatment plant on its premises. “It will help us produce 3-4 lakh litres of water every day. It will be used to water trees and plants in the common areas,” said Mr. Kapila. He said the local administration had offered to provide land and technical help for the setting up of the STP. The RWA also plans to provide waterless toilets for the domestic helps and the drivers working in the townships. Also, an e-waste collection drive is conducted in the township every Sunday for its residents. Welcoming the initiative, Ruchika Sethi, who runs the “Why Waste Your Waste” campaign, said: “So many Gurgaon citizens want to protect the environment and their health by initiating the key cornerstone of waste segregation. But the main deterrent is lack of a mandatory source segregation notification by the Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon. What indeed is stopping the civic body to issue a notification and incorporate it in the Haryana Municipal Corporation Act?” (The Hindu 16/7/16)

‘Global warming may affect Bhutan’s biodiversity, impact India’ (9)

Kolkata, July 21 : Slow-melting of glaciers due to global warming may cause huge floods in Bhutan in the future and result in loss of keystone species which may encourage probable animal poachers to hunt in this country, Indian researchers say. “The effect on India can be severe. In fact there are earlier instances of devastating flood in Indian states located in the Eastern Himalayas. More emissions will result in global warming rate higher than the normal which can directly result into loss of many ecologically important flora and fauna,” Rajib Bandopadhyay, Associate Professor, UGC-Center of Advanced Study at University of Burdwan’s Department of Botany, told IANS. The Eastern Himalayas are experiencing widespread warming at a rate higher than 0.01 degree Centigrade per year. Bhutan is one of the few countries in the world with negative carbon emissions. However, Its status as a negative carbon emitter does not make it immune to the impact of climate change. “Currently, loss of keystone species is not recorded for Bhutan but the snow leopard, tiger and white-bellied herons are presently threatened. India could be affected in a way that probable animal poachers will hunt in India if loss of keystone species occurs in Bhutan. Also, some international policies (relating to the environment) can also be affected,” Bandopadhyay said. The presence and absence of a keystone species impacts the existence of all other organisms around it. In a critical analysis in Current Science, Bandopadhyay and Aparna Banerjee of the varsity have drawn attention to Bhutan and its biodiversity links with India in reference to their location in the Eastern Himalayan (EH) range, one of the 34 biodiversity hotspots in the world. ….  (New Kerala 21/7/16)

To create awareness on environment, Nepali nuns cycle to Dehradun (9)

Dehradun: Led by Gyalwang Drukpa of the Ladakh-based Drukpa Order, 250 monks and nuns, who cycled into India through the Banbassa checkpoint on July 3, arrived here on Saturday. Every year, these monks and nuns undertake a 2500-km cycle expedition to Hemis monastery in Ladakh with an aim to spread awareness about environment conservation and combating gender stereotypes. Gyalwang Drukpa, who has been conferred the title ‘Keeper of the Himalayas’ by the United Nations, told TOI that they want to inspire people to be one with nature instead of being in a constant state of war with it. Speaking about the expedition which started from Kathmandu on July 3, Gyalwang Drukpa said, “Himalayas have been the home of the Drukpa Lineage for over 1000 years now. Recently, the region has faced several environmental disasters that caused unwanted and unprecedented loss of life and created an imbalance in the ecosystem. The Himalayas and the earth were formed millions of years ago and it is our duty to respect them.” The 72-day expedition will pass through many states in north India including Uttarakhand, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir before culminating at Hemis Monastery, 45 kilometres from Leh. The team is scheduled to arrive Ladakh prior to Naropa, 2016, or Himalayan Kumbh which is a spiritual festival that is held once in every 12 years to celebrate the birth anniversary of the Indian saint Naropa, patron of the Drukpa lineage. Jigme Yeshe Lhamo, who is a part of the cycle yatra, told TOI, “This is the fourth expedition that we have undertaken. This time we are trying to spread the message of environmental conservation and women empowerment. That’s the reason why we use cycles so that we can tell people that this is also a mode of transport which does not pollute the environment. In our expedition, the youngest is a 12-year-old and the oldest is 44-year-old.” (Times of India 23/7/16)

Temperature in Kuwait hits 54 Celsius, sets possible record amid Middle East heatwave (9)

New York, July 27 : The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a United Nations specialized agency, will set up a committee to examine whether a 54 degrees Celsius temperature recently recorded in Kuwait, has set the new highest temperature for Asia, as well as for the entire Eastern hemisphere. The region saw unusually high temperatures with Mitrabah, Kuwait, reporting a temperature of 54 degrees Celsius (129.2 degrees Fahrenheit) on 21 July, and the city of Basra in Iraq reporting 53.9 degrees Celcius (128 Fahrenheit) on Friday 22 July. Southern Morocco also saw temperatures of between 43 degrees and 47 degrees Celsius. The Kuwait investigation, as with all WMO official investigations, will consist of meteorologists and climatologists, the agency said in a news release on Tuesday. They will examine the instrumentation used, the quality of observations, the microclimate of the location, the representativeness of the [weather monitoring] station to its surroundings and to its own record, it added. Large parts of the Middle East and North Africa have been affected by heatwaves since last week, with temperatures exceeding the seasonal averages by a large margin, and over a sustained period. The conditions have prompted to issue health warnings. The refugee population in the Middle East has been hard hit by the spiking temperatures. Their fragile situation has been further exacerbating by the high temperatures, said WMO. According to the World Weather and Climate Extremes official archives, that WMO is responsible for, the hottest temperature ever recorded on the planet was in Furnace Creek, Death Valley, California at 56.7 Celsius on 10 July 1913. However, these records are subject to regular review, noted the agency. … (New Kerala 27/7/16)

Govt informs NGT about measures taken to tackle air pollution (9)

New Delhi, Jul 29 () The government has told the National Green Tribunal that it has taken various measures, including implementation of Bharat Stage IV norms in 63 selected cities and universalisation of BS-IV by 2017, while considering the gravity of air pollution. The Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises told the NGT that a decision has been taken to “leapfrog directly” from BS-IV to BS-VI fuel standards by April 1, 2020. In an affidavit filed before the green panel, the ministry said that besides notifying the construction and demolition waste management rules, it has also banned burning of leaves, biomass and municipal solid waste to curb pollution. It said that National Air Quality index was launched by the Prime Minister in April last year to monitor ambient air quality. The affidavit said that “comprehensive amendments to various waste management rules, including municipal solid waste, plastic waste, hazardous waste, bio-medical waste and electronic waste” have been notified. It said that there has been a revision of existing environmental standards and formulation of new standards for prevention and control of pollution from industries. The affidavit contains the details of assessment of air pollution here conducted by IIT Kanpur in collaboration with the Delhi government. It gave details of the source apportionment study for PM 10 (dust) executed by the Central Pollution Control Board during 2007-2010 in association with some leading institutes in six cities — Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai and Kanpur. The tribunal, which had recently directed the Delhi government to cancel registration of all diesel-powered vehicles which are more than 10-years-old from plying in the city, would hear the matter on August 2.  (Times of India 30/7/16)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

Families of deceased farmers await compensation (20)

Hassan: The number of farmers, who committed suicide in Hassan since April 2015, has reached 80. Three farmers ended their lives in the current year, unable to repay loans borrowed from banks and moneylenders. Surprisingly, families of only 54 farmers have received relief. Fifteen cases were rejected on the grounds that the land was not in his/her name and loan was not borrowed from a bank. The families have been running from pillar to post to get the relief cheque of Rs. 5 lakh. Home Minister G. Parameshwara, on January 11 this year, had said that the government would provide relief to all families of farmers who committed suicide, without getting into the reasons for their death. However, the Minister’s assurance has not come into practice. Jayalakshmi, a farmer of Thamlapura in Hassan taluk, committed suicide in July 2015. She had borrowed Rs. 1.38 lakh. The committee, headed by the Assistant Commissioner to clear the names for compensation, rejected the proposal citing that the land was not in her name. The land was in her husband Some Gowda’s name. The family had cultivated ginger and potato. Similar is the case of Ramachandra of Ragimaruru in Arkalgud taluk, who committed suicide in February 2016. The committee rejected the compensation because the 1 acre and 28 guntas of land he cultivated was in his father Mari Gowda’s name. He had borrowed Rs. 2.55 lakh loan from SBM and IOB banks. Families of three farmers were denied compensation because the deceased had no land. Those who cultivated land on a contract basis were not considered as farmers by the committee.The committee also rejected all cases where farmers had borrowed private loans. As per norms followed by the committee, farmers who borrowed private loans are not eligible for compensation in case of suicide.Besides these, eight cases are pending due to delay in getting forensic lab reports. In the last three months, three farmers committed suicide in Hassan. The proposals for compensation are yet to be processed, according to documents from the Agriculture Department. (The Hindu 2/7/16)

At 1,274, farmer suicides in state up 16% this year (20)

MUMBAI: The deadly graph of farmer suicides in Maharashtra continued to soar this year with as many as 1,274 cases recorded till May 31. This means that on average eight farmers killed themselves every day in the state this year. Vidarbha recorded the highest toll at 557. The number of farmer suicides is 16% higher than the 1,095 farmer suicides recorded during the same period in 2015. Less than half the cases, however, qualified for government compensation. Of the 1,274 cases, only 593 were considered eligible. Only cases where the deceased farmer owns land and has proof of indebtedness qualify for compensation. Farmer suicides in the state had already started climbing with the onset of the drought in 2014 which destroyed large swathes of crops, mainly in the Vidarbha and Marathwada regions. The distress intensified in 2015 with a second successive weak monsoon pushing the state into its worst-ever drought. The crisis peaked in May this year with an intense drinking water problem in the Marathwada region. The cotton belt of Vidarbha—home to chief minister Devendra Fadnavis—recorded the highest number of farmer suicides this year. As many 557 of the 1,274 cases were reported from the districts in Vidarbha. The region accounts for almost 44% of the total cases. The Marathwada region reported 372 cases which account for 29% of the total suicides. North Maharashtra reported 199 farmer suicides while Western Maharashtra had 37 cases till May 31. The Konkan region was an exception and did not report a single case this year. Officials are hoping that a better monsoon this year will relieve agrarian distress. The government points out that its budget for 2016-17 provides for a Rs 25,000 crore outlay for the agricultural sector. It is also hoping that its flagship water conservation scheme, the Jalyukta Shivar Yojana will reduce the farmer’s dependence on rain. However, critics say the state is doing little to intervene in the crucial issue of rising food prices coupled with low agricultural prices. “The cost of living has gone up. The price of food, health and education has gone up. But agricultural prices remain low,” points out farm activist Vijay Jawandhia. “The government needs to protect the farmer from the drop in international agricultural prices. In the current scenario, where the cost of inputs for agriculture are shooting up, how will the farmer survive?” he asks. (Times of India 5/7/16)

More farmers committed suicide in 2016 than last year’s count (20)

Aurangabad: The incidents of farmer suicides continue unabated in Marathwada with more such cases reported in the first half of this year as compared to the corresponding period last year. The rise in farmer suicides is being attributed to acute water scarcity in the region due to deficient monsoon last year. The eight districts of Marathwada have reported 571 cases of farmers suicide so far. Last year, around 428 such cases were reported by end of first half of 2015. Beed has reported the highest number of farmer suicides (115), followed by Osmanabad (88) and Nanded (87). Aurangabad (82), Latur (64) and Parbhani and Jalna (52 each) have also reported considerable number of suicides. Hingoli, which is smallest district in Marathwada, has reported 31 cases of farmers suicide. Of the total 571 cases of farmers suicide, 315 have been declared eligible for help, while another 143 have been termed ineligible for any compensation. A total of 113 cases are still pending for inquiry. Farmers’ leader Jayaji Surywanshi said the agrarian crisis has turned many farmers bankrupt and therefore, many of them are choosing to end their lives. “The loan-waiver is the only solution that could offer relief to farmers. Any other measure or announcement is not going to dissuade farmers from ending their lives,” he said. (Times of India 8/7/16)

Debts lead to suicide by farmer and 3 family members (20)

Srikakulam: Four persons of a family committed suicide by jumping in front of running train at Amudalavasala station in the district on Friday reportedly due to debts and land-related disputes. The deceased were identified as farmer G Srinivasa Rao (35), his wife Sarojani (30) and their daughters Jagadeswari (10) and Umamaheswari (8) of Karjada village. According to the government railway police, Srinivasa had taken loans from several people and was also involved in a dispute with his neighbours over a piece of land. Unable to repay the debts and upset over the land dispute, he took the extreme step along with his family. The police found a suicide note at the spot in which the couple mentioned their problems including mounting debts and land dispute. A case has been registered and the bodies sent for post mortem. (Times of India 9/7/16)

Farmers disrupt movement of vehicles on Bathinda-Chandigarh national highway (20)

BATHINDA: The police on Tuesday forenoon took positions across the Bathinda parliamentary constituency of union food processing industry minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, to foil the massive protest announced by farmers for debt waiver. The farm organisation BKU Ekta Ugrahan was protesting outside Bathinda Deputy Commissioner’s office for the last 50 days for debt waiver and to hold a survey to know farm suicides in Punjab after 2011 and the organisation had announced to lift the protest on Tuesday evening after ensuring a massive turn out. The police aiming to stop farmers in large numbers from reaching Bathinda barricaded the town from all sides and laid nakas at different points leading to Bathinda. The police even held searches in busses so that farmers may not pass the barricades. Agitated over this, the farmers stopped vehicular traffic at Bathinda-Chandigarh national highway near Rampura and various other places around Bathinda and started protesting on the road. “It is unjustified that police is stopping farmers from reaching Bathinda to raise voice for debt waiver. The state government cannot crush our voice by adopting measures. We will come out stronger and will keep on protesting with renewed vigour,” said farmer organisation state secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokri. We had already announced to lift the protest but despite that the state government has tried to intimidate us. This type of attitude will not be tolerated and we will continue our protest for the genuine demand of aggrieved farmers, said organisation state president Joginder Singh Ugrahan. He also said that more than hundred farmers have been taken into custody and they should be released immediately. Bathinda police officials tried to play down the action and said police is only trying to keep law and order situation under control. (Times of India 12/7/16)

48 farmers committed suicide in farm ponds (20)

Bengaluru: As many as 48 farmers have committed suicide by jumping into krishi hondas (farm ponds) constructed under the government’s Krishi Bhagya scheme. Replying to questions by Congress member K Sudhakar in the Legislative Assembly on Friday, Agriculture Minister Krishna Byre Gowda stated that first information reports have been registered in 36 cases. He also said the highest number of such cases have been reported from Tumakuru. As many as seven cases were cons (Deccan Herald 16/7/16)

Activists to present their anti-GM mustard stand before central regulator on Monday (20)

NEW DELHI: Moving ahead with the government’s call to have wider consultations before taking any decision on commercial release of genetically modified (GM) mustard, the central biotech regulator has invited representatives of anti-GM organisations to present their views and concerns in a specially convened meeting here on Monday. The regulator, Genetic Enginnering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), will thereafter scientifically analyse all the details to be provided to it by the eight-member anti-GM group including experts, farm activists and farmers’ representatives. “The GEAC will take its call only on the basis of scientific evidence,” said an official. Other aspects including socio-economic nature/impact of the commercial release of GM mustard or any such crops will also be a deciding factor, keeping in mind rights of farmers over seeds of such transgenic varity of crops in future. “Science will definitely be a driving force in taking decision. But, the other aspects will not be ignored as the government wants to keep interests of farmers supreme,” said the official who has been associated with this process for long. Representatives of the anti-GM group who will make their presentation before the GEAC on Monday include farm activist of the Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) Kavitha Kuruganti, ex-BARC scientist Sharad Eknath Pawar, sustainable agriculture campaigner Rajesh Krishnan and farmer leader Rampal Jat. They will make presentation and try to put facts while demanding immediate rejection of commercialisation application of the transgenic mustard hybrid (DMH-11) of the Delhi University’s institution. The application has been pending before the GEAC since last year. If the decision finally goes in favour of the commercial release of the GM mustard in due course, it will be the first food crop to be cleared for cultivation in India. At present, only GM cotton (Bt Cotton) – a non-food crop- is allowed for commercial cultivation in India. (Times of India 17/7/16)

‘Farmers’ suicides a complex phenomenon’, RBI governor (20)

HYDERABAD: Terming the increase in farmers’ suicides as a tragic and complex phenomenon, Reserve Bank (RBI) governor Raghuram Rajan observed that the issue is not just about debts and economics but of livelihood and culture. Interacting with participants at the national seminar on ‘Equity, Access and Inclusion – Transforming Rural India through Financial Inclusion’, at the National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj here on Monday, Rajan said that there is a need to make access to credit easier. He also opined that expanding productivity and helping farmers to generate more income can help to overcome the crisis.In his inaugural speech, Rajan spoke about the ways to overcome the impediments in financial inclusion of the excluded (the poor, the small and the remote). He said that three impediments are information, incentives and transaction costs, adding that the most important impediment is financial condition of the excluded. Elaborating on information part, Raghuram Rajan said if the excluded live in remote areas or undertake economic activity informally, bankers, who are not from the local area, will find it difficult to get sufficient information to offer financial products. He pointed out that sahukars (money lenders) boldly lend money while bankers are hesitant. Raghuram Rajan said that as ‘sahukars’ live in the local area, use minimal documentation and do not approach the courts to force repayment, loans are easily and quickly obtained. “Coming from the local community, the sahukar is well informed about the sources of income and wealth of a customer, and how much they can repay. He is quite capable of using ruthless methods to enforce repayment. Moreover, the borrower knows that if he defaults on the sahukar, he loses his lender of last resort. So the borrower has strong incentives to pay,” he said. He said that mandates and subventions, transforming institutions and moving away from credit are three approaches to overcome the problem. Rajan added that there would be issues such as lack of documentation in obtaining financial services and explained what could be done to overcome them. He said that RBI requires only one document showing permanent address and the and a self certified temporary address as documents. … (Indian Express 19/7/16)

Now, Madhya Pradesh government blames ghosts for farmer deaths (20)

NEW DELHI: The Madhya Pradesh government has two reasons to believe ghosts really exist. In an official government reply in the Assembly, State home minister Bhupendra Singh Thakur said two farmer deaths reported in Sehore district in the State were caused by ghosts. The issue was raised by Congress MLA Shailendra Patel who had asked about suicide cases in Sehore district in the last three years. The State minister in a written reply said there were over 400 incidents of farmer suicides in the last two-and-a-half years. However, Patel was shocked when he found that two deaths in 2014 were attributed to ghosts (bhoot, pret ka saya hona). “On one hand we are talking about digital India and Prime Minister is promoting Make in India and on the other, we still have bizarre reasons like ghosts and black magic,” Patel told Express, adding that he countered the government on the explanation but has not received any reply so far. Patel said that apart from the “laughable” reason of possession by ghosts, the reply also fails to mention the reasons in the case of 117 of the 418 farmer suicides in the district. (New Indian Express 21/7/16)

‘Jai Jawan, Mar Kisan’ is a potentially fatal paradox (20)

When Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Bhupendra Singh made a bizarre statement in the state Assembly the other day, stating in a written reply that some  of the 418 farmers who committed suicide in the past three years were “possessed by ghosts”, he transcended all limits of insensitivity. The statement itself led to a round of laughter with senior BJP member Babulal Gaur wondering whether this was the idea behind the proposal for setting up a ‘department for happiness’. Whatever be the reason, the remark only reflects the casualness with which political leaders treat farmer suicides.  With more than 315,000 suicides in the past 20 years, it is nothing short of a serial death dance being enacted on the farm. In fact, in lot many ways it is a political statement being made by farmers as an expression of their anger against the continuing agrarian crisis. But unfortunately the message that they hope to leave behind has failed to stir the nation’s collective consciousness. One is reminded of Maharashtra BJP MP Sanjay Dhotre, who earlier said, “Let the farmers fend for themselves. If crops fail, they will figure out what to do. And, if they are dying, let them die …Those who can afford farming will do it, others will not.” Union Minister Nitin Gadkari too had made a shocking statement when in an obvious reference to the lack of irrigation he said he watered plants in his New Delhi bungalow with his urine. One doesn’t know whether he was expecting farmers to spend the entire time urinating the crop fields like wheat or sugarcane but his statement showed how disconnected he was from the harsh realties. Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh too earned the public ire when he ascribed failure in love to be among the several reasons for farmer suicides. Well, let’s accept it. Farmers too suffer failed marriages and love affairs, and many a time they are also forced to end their life for social and personal reasons, but to trivialise a massive human tragedy is indicative of the apathy with which the tragedy is viewed. Nothing can be more devastating to know that every hour two farmers take their life somewhere in the country. … (New Indian Express 24/7/16)

Punjab farmers plan mass protest (20)

NEW DELHI: Several farmers’ unions in poll-bound Punjab have come together to protest against the “anti-farmer” policies of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP government and have announced a State-wide stir from July 26. The unions have blamed the ‘anti-farmer’ policies of State government for the rising number of farmer suicides in Punjab and are demanding an immediate debt waiver for farmers. (The Hindu 25/7/16)

Government to promote organic fertilisers: Ananth Kumar (20)

New Delhi, July 26 : The central government on Tuesday said that more organic fertilisers will be encouraged in the agriculture sector even as the “neem coating” ensured that the urea meant for farmers is not diverted to the chemical industry. “We will promote organic fertilisers to see that there is a balanced fertilisation,” Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister Ananth Kumar told the Lok Sabha during question hour. Answering supplementary questions from members including from K.V. Thomas of the Congress and Thota Narasimham of the Telugu Desam Party, the minister shared the concern about the need for maintaining healthy soil. He said the NDA government at the Centre is committed to the policy of ‘Zameen bachao, Kisan bachao’ (Save agri land and save farmers)”. He said soil the health card as proposed by the agriculture ministry will come in handy for the farmers. “Because of the soil health card, soil health laboratories and such other measures, the farmer will get a correct feedback about the health of his soil and the requirement of the soil based on which he can go for fertilisation,” he said. Kumar also informed members that the ‘neem coating’ of urea has prevented its “misuse” by the chemicals industry and also such fortification of urea has ensured that lesser quantity is required to vitalise the crops. Moreover, he said to help farmers for the first time in 30 years the government has reduced the prices of various fertilisers like diammonium phosphate (DAP), muriate of potash (MOP) and nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous. “For DAP, we have reduced it to the tune of Rs 2,500 per tonne, that is Rs 125 per 50-kilogram bag. For MOP, we have reduced it to the tune of Rs 5,000 per tonne, that is Rs 250 per bag. I think this has never happened in the past,” (New Kerala 27/7/16)

363 farmer suicide cases reported so far in 2016: Centre (20)

New Delhi, Jul 29 () Nearly 363 farmers have committed suicide so far in 2016 due to agrarian reasons and the Centre is taking steps to make farming a viable business to curb such instances in future, Parliament was informed today. The House was also informed that states take appropriate steps, with agriculture, including farm indebtedness, being a state subject. However, the Centre supplements their efforts through appropriate policy measures and budgetary support. According to data placed by Minister of State for Agriculture Parshottam Rupala in the Rajya Sabha, 363 farmer suicides have been reported so far in 2016 due to agrarian reasons. The minister made it clear that this data have been furnished by states and not by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). NCRB has published such data till 2014 only. Of the total number of farm suicides, a maximum of 241 have been reported in Karnataka, followed by Maharashtra (57) and Punjab (56), the data showed. In 2015, the number of such cases stood at around 107 in Karnataka, 1,841 in Maharashtra and 46 in Punjab, while the overall figure for the entire country was 2,548, according to the data. Replying to a query on steps taken by the Centre to rehabilitate families in which farmers have committed suicides, the minister said, “The strategy of the government is to focus on farmers’ welfare by making farming viable.” Farm viability is possible when cost of cultivation is reduced, yield per unit of farm is increased and farmers get remunerative prices on their produce, he said. The Centre has been implementing various schemes to meet this objective. (Times of India 30/7/16)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

‘Govt. should fulfil demands of Tadicherla land oustees’ (4)

KARIMNAGAR: Telangana Joint Action Committee (JAC) chairmam M. Kodandaram demanded that the State government fulfil the genuine demands of the land oustees of Tadicherla Genco coal block in Malhar Rao mandal in Karimnagar district. Mr. Kodandaram, along with other JAC leaders of the district, visited Tadicherla village on Thursday and expressed solidarity with land oustees of the project who were demanding compensation and rehabilitation as per the Land Acquisition Act of 2103 and employment to all the land oustees in the coal block. Speaking on the occasion, the TJAC chairman said that the Union government should take measures for the bifurcation of the High Court, and both the State and Centre should coordinate in this regard. He also announced TJAC support to the agitations by lawyers and judges across the State. Expressing concern over destruction of nature through open cast projects by the Singareni, he suggested that the government can go in for more underground mines to protect nature as well as provide employment to the locals. He reiterated that the TJAC would continue their agitational path till there was all-round development across Telangana. Earlier, Mr. Kodandaram inspected the TSGenco’s gas-based power plant in Nedunuru village in Thimmapur mandal and interacted with the land oustees of the project. Demanding the State government to take up the power project at the earliest, he also sought employment to all oustees. He said the government should hand over the lands to the farmers if it fails to take up the project. (The Hindu 1/7/16)

Narmada dam affected people to protest at Kevadia Colony (4)

Vadodara: The project affected persons (PAP) of the Sardar Sarovar dam project will hold protests at Kevadia Colony on July 15 to voice their unhappiness over several long pending demands. The families were shifted to different rehabilitation sites in the Chhota Udepur district as a part of their rehabilitation sites. The PAPs had recently written a letter to the chief minister Anandiben Patel and other prominent functionaries raising their demands that they claim have been pending for over two decades now. The PAPs claimed that these had remained unattended despite repeated representations. The PAPs who have raised the demand include those from 19 villages of the Narmada district in Gujarat that were affected because of the project as well as some residents of who belong to Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. Balu Tadvi, a resident of the Baroli rehabilitation site in Narmada district, said that the issues include that of considering the major son of a project affected family (PAF) as an independent family and rehabilitating him separately. “A court judgment in Madhya Pradesh has clearly stated this,” said Tadvi. Tadvi said that the families had shifted to the rehabilitation sites around 1990. “Presently, only those who have passed standard 10 are being given jobs. No such condition was laid when we were shifted,” Tadvi said. The memorandum states that government resolutions over the years had ensured that getting jobs for PAPs became difficult.The genuine grievances be settled now as the secretary rank officer has been given full time posting ascommissionerrehabilitation Vadodara. It should be note NBA will use such issues to stall filling… Read Morechirantanjoshipura . The memorandum also raises several infrastructure issues like lack of proper roads, drinking water problems, crematoriums and even temples. It adds that waterlogging was a major problem in some of the rehabilitation colonies. (Times of India 4/7/16)

Villagers demand back land granted to Posco (4)

BHUBANESWAR: Hundreds of villagers in Odisha’s Jagatsinghpur district, who have been fighting a tough legal battle against a mega steel plant by Posco in their locality, are now preparing for a fresh round of struggle. Since Posco India had halted the steel project, Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) has decided to intensify its agitation demanding scrapping of the project and handing over the acquired land back to the people as the State government was planning to transfer the acquired land to any other company in case Posco withdrew its project completely. “Since Posco is making no efforts to take possession of the acquired land, the State government should return the land to the villagers as per the Forest Rights Act by way of granting individual right and community right,” said PPSS spokesperson Prashant Paikray on Thursday. Some villagers had already filed individual cases in Orissa High Court seeking patta as per the FRA, he added. POSCO India, which had 100 employees in Odisha (including 40 Korean nationals) in the initial years, now has hardly five persons working at its project office in Bhubaneswar. The company has also closed down its two site offices at Paradip and Kujang in Jagatsinghpur district, and shifted its headquarters to Gurgaon. According to Mr. Paikray, the PPSS is seeking complete withdrawal of the project from their locality as many people were finding it difficult to live in their own villages with more than 400 cases pending against them. “Many villagers are not coming out of their villages under the fear of getting arrested as warrants are pending against more than 2000 villagers in the three gram panchayats of Dhinkia, Nuagaon and Gadakujang,” Mr. Paikray told The Hindu . (The Hindu 8/7/16)

Farmers allege coercion for land acquisition (4)

SANGAREDDY: The state government, in its bid to expedite the land acquisition process for the proposed Mallanna Sagar project, is trying to acquire farmers’ lands through coercion, allege members of Mallanna Sagar Porata Samithi (MSPS). The officials are forcing farmers who have received ownership of lands through ‘Sada Bainama’ (plain paper) and seeking to register the lands in their name to sell their lands to government, and take compensation as per GO 123. Not only this, in case a farmer refuses to accept this proposal, the officials are directly contacting the original owner of the land (as per revenue records), and negotiating a secret agreement with them for the sale. In this case, the current owners of the land would be left in the lurch, as they would not have the official registration records and only have a ‘Sada Bainama’. Farmers who agree to the government proposal and sell off their lands, get compensation under GO 123, and as per sources, it is approximately `6 lakh per acre. The rates are nowhere close to the ones assured under Land Acquisition Act, 2013. As per official records, till date, over 100 acres have been sold to the government in either of these two ways. It may be recalled that all kinds of unofficial land sales are called Sada Bainama. The state government is implementing a special drive to register such kinds of lands for free. “Officials have identified over 100 farmers in Etigadda Kistapur village and using this tactic on them. If successful, they may implement this plan in all the submerged villages,” said MSPS convener Prabhakar. (New Indian Express 9/7/16)

Amnesty International flags issues of human rights violations in India’s coal-mining operations (4)

NEW DELHI: The Indian arm of the Amnesty International, a global NGO on human rights, on Wednesday released a comprehensive report on flip side of coal mining operations in Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Jharkhand, highlighting a pattern of human rights violations in open-cast mines run by different subsidiaries of the state-owned Coal India Limited in these three states. The report — “When Land is Lost, Do We Eat Coal” — is not against coal mining per se or any development model in India, but it examined how the state agencies have failed over the years to adhere to existing laws to provide adequate relief to the thousands of displaced people in all the three mining-rich states. The report — which was also presented to the new environment minister Anil Madhav Dave — said the mining operations by India’s state-owned Coal India Limited (CIL) were shutting out indigenous adivasi communities from decisions that affected their lives. Referring to plight of local people, it highlighted how the CIL, central government ministries and state government authorities in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha failed to ensure meaningful consultation with adivasi communities on land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement, and the environmental impacts of mines, seriously affecting their lives and livelihoods. “Mineral reserves are not the property of any government. They are merely custodians. Development that does not include the adivasi and that leaves out the poorest of the poor is not development, but exploitation,” said V Kishore Chandra Deo, Congress leader and former Union minister for tribal affairs, who was present on the occasion of the release of report. Nirupabai, a mine affected adivasi woman from Korba in Chhattisgarh, was also present on the occasion. She narrated how the coal mining operation affected her family and fellow villagers as they all lost their homes. Amnesty International India also released a documentary, narrating plight of many local people in the area. The narration pointed out how community rights and titles under Forest Rights Act (FRA) were routinely rejected in the mining areas in all the three states. The NGO had conducted its ground research in the areas of open-cast mines run by South Eastern Coalfields Limited’s Kusmunda mine in Chhattisgarh, Central Coalfields Limited’s Tetariakhar mine in Jharkhand and Mahanadi Coalfields’ Limited’s Basundhara-West mine in Odisha. It claimed that the report is based on interviews with 124 affected adivasi people across the three mine areas, state government officials from the states’ forest departments and pollution control boards, representatives of the three Coal India subsidiaries and local activists and lawyers. … (Times of India 13/7/16)

‘Permission to close Narmada dam gates soon’ (4)

Gandhinagar: The crucial permission from the Narmada Control Authority (NCA), Supreme Court and Government of India to close the Narmada dam gates is likely to be granted shortly, according to the Gujarat government’s latest claims. Nitin Patel, state government spokesperson and senior-most minister said: “As MP and Maharashtra are expected to complete the long pending resettlement and rehabilitation work in keeping with the directions of the government of India, we are hopeful that we will get the necessary permission to close the almost-complete dam gates. The gates are likely to be ready by the end of the year. We are hopeful that from the next monsoon we will be able to store three to four times more water, after closing the gates.” (Times of India 14/7/16)

Ryots forced to give up land for Machilipatnam project (4)

VIJAYAWADA: It is a Hobson’s choice for farmers. They would have to give up their land for Machilipatnam Port and Industrial Corridor. There is no way they can escape from the inevitable. Much like the farmers of villages in Thullur mandal in Guntur district, these farmers too should “voluntarily” give up their land, whether they like it or not. The notification issued last August for acquisition of land under Land Acquisition Act will continue to be in force, exerting pressure on them that if they do not give up their land, the government could start proceedings to acquire their land under the Act. The government claims that it is legally valid for implementing land-pooling scheme even when the notification for land acquisition is in force. Says joint collector Gandham Chandrudu: “Everything is as per the law. Relevant Acts and rules have been taken into consideration before issuing notification.  The land-pooling scheme also has legal backing. Both will be in force concurrently, ” he said. If the land has to be acquired under the Land Acquisition Act, social impact assessment, environment impact assessment have to be made. But the government had issued the notification when the ordinance for amendment to the Act, which exempts chapter 3 and 4 of the Act, was in force. “Since the notification was issued when the Ordinance was in force, it stands valid. Hence, no social impact assessment and environmental impact assessment need to be made for acquisition of land for deep water port,” he said. Having issued the notification, despite stiff resistance in the villages, no efforts were made to take over the land. After nearly a year, government is offering farmers a choice in the form of LPS, which is more a mutual agreement, where government gets the land and the land-owner would be given a developed plot for both residential and commercial purposes. Legal experts say, the government is within its rights to implement both the acts. “Since land-pooling scheme is voluntary, the landowner can always choose not to give his land. But he cannot escape from land acquisition act since it has legal backing,”  AP Bar Council member Sunkara Rajendra Prasad said. (New Indian Express 16/7/16)

Varavara expresses solidarity with Mallannasagar protesters (4)

SANGAREDDY: Revolutionary writer Varavara Rao said that he is against the construction of Mallannasagar reservoir as it would displace large number of villagers, besides submerging 14 villages. Mr. Varavara Rao along with others visited Erravalli, Pallepahad, Vemulaghat and other villages that are likely to be submerged on Sunday and expressed his solidarity with the protesters. “Has the formation of Telangana changed the lives of Gonds in Adilabad, Koyas of Eturunagaram or Chenchus in Mahabubnagar? The projects are coming for farm houses and industries and not for small and marginal farmers,” he said, while addressing the land oustees stating that so far compensation was not paid completely even under the Land Acquisition Act- 2013. He wondered what type of jobs would be offered to farmers after they lost farming. He also quoted retired chief engineer Hanumantha Rao as saying that reservoirs were never constructed for lift irrigation projects anywhere in the world. (Thew Hindu 18/7/16)

HC relief for 400 Kalyan families facing eviction (4)

MUMBAI: In a relief to more than 400 families and an English medium school in Kalyan, the Bombay high court on Tuesday stayed an order issued by the Kalyan Dombivli Municipal Corporation (KDMC) commissioner for cancellation of development permission granted way back in 2002 for a large residential complex. The HC bench of Justices SS Kemkar and MS Karnik was hearing an urgent petition moved by Mahadev Homes, which challenged the civic chief’s order as being “illegal, arbitrary and unjust”. Harshad Bhadbhade, counsel for the developer, also argued that the KDMC chief had passed the order without granting any opportunity for a proper hearing of his client.The KDMC had acted on a complaint made by a Right To Information activist that the builders, Landmark Constructions had obtained permission in 1995 in collusion with the land owner KJ Rajkotwala in violation of Urban Land Ceiling Act by claiming more land than entitled. Landmark Constructions, represented by senior counsel Rajiv Patil, said all the alleged legal heirs of the original landowner had been allotted flats in the complex under the agreement of 1995. He said that the complaints of alleged collusion were being made only after the death in 2012 of Rajkotwala. Bhadbade also submitted that the HC itself had earlier in 2013 passed an order rejecting a plea made by one of the legal heirs claiming rights over the land since it was made at a belated stage after Rajkotwala’s death. The claim of being a legal heir is still pending final decision in a civil court in Kalyan. Bhadbhade questioned whether the KDMC had placed the 2013 HC order before a former HC judge whose opinion it relied on while cancelling the development permission. Stay updated on the go with Times of India News App. Click here to download it for your device. (Times of India 20/7/16)

Directive on giving up land near airport (4)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Within two days of the government giving approval to acquire eight hectares of land for the development of Thiruvananthapuram International Airport, those willing to surrender land have been asked to submit their consent along with other documents within one week. The owners of the land identified for acquisition in Pettah and Muttathara villages have been asked to submit the copy of the receipt of the latest land tax remitted by them and the anticipated amount to the Special Tahsildar, Land Acquisition, Airport, at the Collectorate. District Collector Biju Prabhakar said those surrendering land would get the market price of the land, cost of the building in the land being surrendered and trees to be axed, and compensation as per the Karamana-Kaliyikkavila NH package. The cost of the land will be decided through talks with the owners, the Collector said. Those owning land near the plots identified for acquisition may also give their consent to the authorities in surrendering the land. The decision to go ahead with the acquisition is based on the July 18 meeting convened by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. With this, the prospect of a modern domestic terminal near the international terminal complex has brightened. The Airports Authority of India (AAI) had been pressuring successive governments for providing 32.8 hectares of land to set up the new domestic terminal and ancillary facilities. The AAI has already parked funds for the works. The eight hectares identified for the terminal in the two villages have already been notified. The proposed domestic terminal is part of the third and final phase of the ambitious master plan conceived by the AAI in the 1990s for the premier airport of the State. The remaining land is being sought by the AAI for the basic strip and for the parallel taxiway. (The Hindu 21/7/16)

AP Order on Machilipatnam port silent on extent of land (4)

VIJAYAWADA: Undeterred by the sharp criticism of its move to acquire land for the Machilipatnam port under the Land Pooling Scheme (LPS), the Chandrababu Naidu dispensation in Andhra Pradesh issued a government order (GO) on Saturday authorising the Machilipatnam Area Development Authority (MADA)  to go ahead. The land is to be acquired to build a deep sea port at Machilipatnam and port-based industries. The GO was silent of the extent of land that would be acquired under LPS. But the GO and the notification prescribing the guidelines for land pooling left open gaping loopholes. The GO says the draft LPS would be issued within 180 days by the competent authority after the notification of intent to take land under land pooling. This means that the competent authority will decide how much land would be taken from the farmers. According to sources, by an earlier GO (No. 34, dated February 12, 2016), the government had described the 426.16 sq km of land under MADA as ‘Development Area’ which means that it is the maximum area that could be taken under LPS. But backward class welfare minister Kollu Ravindra, who represents Machilipatnam in the Assembly, vows that land pooling will be restricted to only 14,000 acres of patta land and 8,000 acres of assigned land. “We will not take even one acre more than this,” he told the media on Saturday. The minister was only trying to beat down anxieties that have soared among farmers after information and public relations minister Palle Raghunath Reddy told media persons after the last cabinet meeting that the government intended to acquire no less than 1.05 lakh acres (426.16 sq km) for the port and industry projects. That statement triggered a huge uproar from the opposition and the government beat a hasty retreat and clarified that Raghunatha Reddy had made an inadvertent error; he meant that that was the MADA area and not the extent of land to be acquired. Ravindra said that at present the government only intends to acquire land under LPS for which a notification was issued last year under the Land Acquisition Act. “A land acquisition notification is in force. It will not come in the way of taking the same land under LPS since Section 180 of the Land Acquisition Act allows the government to make a better offer than what is laid out in the Act,” he said. (New Indian Express 24/7/16)

‘KCR following Modi on land acquisition’ (4)

HYDERABAD: The government has placed double demands of land on some farmers in Kudikilla for two separate projects. Ten years ago, Kulasi Sannaih parted with four acres of farming land for the Kalwakurthy Lift Irrigation Project at Mahbubnagar district. Now, the state government wants another ten acres from him for the Palamuru Rangareddy irrigation project, which he is not ready to part with. Coming down hard on the KCR government, Brinda Karat, politburo member of CPI(M), said, KCR is acting as the junior for the Modi government by implementing the NDA’s version of Land Acquisition Ordinance in Telangana. “He must be the only chief minister, who turns the gun using the police against his voters,” said Karat with reference to the police action on farmers, protesting against Mallanna Sagar Project. The 2013 Land Acquisition Act came into effect after the struggle of farmers, and adivasis which “only to a certain extent” defended the farmers rights and income of those who depended on the lands, she added. (New Indian Express 27/7/16)

PM’s reply misrepresented, fake and outdated: Patkar (4)

Indore: Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar on Friday alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has failed to convince the people affected due to Sardar Sarovar Dam with the government’s action plan in response to Justice Jha Commission’s report.Patkar rejected the reply received by her from PM as regurgitation of a previous report from 2000. NBA and protesters associated with the movement had written to the PM asking him to spell out a detailed action plan on rehabilitation of the displaced in Narmada valley. The PM had written back after consultation with Uma Bharti, union minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, and Narmada Control Authority (NCA). Patkar dubbed the government claim of rehabilitating all displaced families as “inappropriate”, the documents attached with the reply as “fake” and the figures therein as “misrepresented” and “outdated”.”The action plan conveniently cherry picked only those arguments which could be easily countered. It touches merely the superficial aspects of the issue. It does not take into account the fact that Justice Jha Commission’s report has not even been discussed in Parliament,” said Patkar. She added that the current action plan says that the rehabilitation process will be completed by 2004. “The vomiting of the exact statement from a previous action plan in the current one shows the lack of attention paid to this grave issue.” (Times of India 30/7/16)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

Endosulfan victims, people with HIV to be brought under BPL (3)

MANGALURU: The State government is mulling over issuing Below Poverty Line ration cards to endosulfan victims, people with HIV, cancer patients and those suffering from renal failures, Food and Civil Supplies Minister U.T. Khader has said. He told presspersons here on Friday that endosulfan victims, people with HIV and those suffering from terminal illnesses should get quality food at subsidised rates. Some among them were already receiving subsidised food. “I want to bring all of them under the BPL category.” Mr. Khader said that a survey was on now to identify those who were in need of foodgrains at a subsidised rate. “Soon after getting the details we will take a decision,” Mr. Khader said and added he would seek assistance of the Centre, if needed, for its implementation. Mr. Khader said that his first priority was to process 10 lakh applications for ration cards pending for nearly two years and issue them BPL/APL ration cards. Officials had been asked to complete the process within three months. As many as 11,000 applications would have to be processed in Dakshina Kannada, he said. Mr. Khader said that an award of Rs.400 with be given to those who give information of persons who were illegally possessing BPL cards. A website was being created for online filing of applications seeking Above Poverty Line ration cards. He said people could call 1967 to lodge complaints about substandard grain and other grievances related to ration shops. (The Hindu 2/7/16)

Now, lifestyle diseases catching up with children (3)

Kochi: A screening camp conducted by Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS) – as part of comprehensive school health check-up programme conducted in 2015 – showed that nearly 35% children studying in private schools showed early signs of lifestyle diseases thanks to an unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyle. Nearly 7,202 students, aged between 6 and 17, in CBSE schools of Kochi were screened last year. The study concluded that 6% urban children were obese, 12% overweight and 17.2% underweight. “When we conducted a similar survey among school children in 2005, we found that two children in each class were obese and six were overweight. The numbers have almost doubled in 10 years,” said Dr Manu Raj, clinical professor, paediatrics & public health research, AIMS. Of these 7,202 students, the blood pressure of 4,799 were checked. Nearly 15.1% showed early signs of hypertension, while 5.4% exhibited signs of hypertension during initial screening. Doctors said that two more readings were required before diagnosing paediatric hypertension. “Adolescents are not active now and their diet is unhealthy. At school, there is emphasis on academics and very limited opportunities to maintain fitness and more number of children are given money,” said Dr Krishna Kumar, who heads paediatric cardiology at AIMS. “High BP may be due to inactive lifestyle, excess weight, over consumption of high calorie or junk food or genetic factors. Many children – who reported high BP levels – had a combination of two or more factors mentioned above,” said Dr Raj, adding that 86.6% of the children followed a non- vegetarian diet. To understand whether children, who had family history of lifestyle diseases, were more at risk or not, AIMS also checked 7,392 parents and found that 8.1% fathers and 1.9% of mothers had hypertension. … (Times of India 4/7/16)

Pregnancy deaths in Gurgaon decline, but still more than Delhi’s (3)

Gurgaon: After a decline in the infant mortality rate, the health department has recorded a 28.8% decrease in maternal mortality rate during 2015-16, though it is more than Delhi’s. According to official figures accessed by TOI, the maternal mortality rate – the number of women dying during pregnancy per 1,00,000 live births – came down to 79 deaths per one lakh live births in 2015-16 from 111 deaths per one lakh live births in 2014-15. A 26% increase was recorded in the maternal mortality rate between 2013-14 and 2014-15. Palwal and Rewari, on the other hand, reported as many as 140 deaths and 124 deaths per one lakh live births in 2015-16, respectively. Narnaul recorded the highest decrease of 58% in the past one year, and the second highest decline has been reported in Gurgaon. The city, however, has a much higher maternal mortality rate than Delhi, which recorded between 33 and 38 per one lakh live births in the past five years. The district authorities attributed the achievement to public health intervention programmes by the health authorities and advanced technology in private hospitals. Chief medical officer Dr Ramesh Dhankar said, “Not only has maternal care improved in government hospitals, but also special initiatives have been taken for high-risk pregnancies. We are dedicating special doctors and nurses to expecting mothers in case of the high-risk pregnancies.” Private sector gynecologists, on the other hand, said late pregnancies have also helped in bringing down IMR. “As the age of first pregnancy is now between 20 and 28, there is less risk of complications and death in pregnancy. Similarly, Asha workers play a major role in bringing pregnant women to hospitals for prenatal consultation, which leads to fewer deaths during pregnancy or at the time of child birth,” said Dr Lalita Goel, a city-based gynecologist. (Times of India 5/7/16)

19 die of TB in Mumbai daily: Study (3)

According to the report, as per the death certificates issued by BMC, there have been 33,442 TB deaths in the city in the last five years. As many as 19 people die of tuberculosis (TB) in Mumbai every day. The shocking statistic is part of a white-paper released by NGO Praja Foundation. The information was collected through Right To Information (RTI) applications, and was based on death certificates issued by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) Public Health Department in 24 administrative wards. According to the report, as per the death certificates issued by BMC, there have been 33,442 TB deaths in the city in the last five years. Of them, 8,165 deaths were reported in the age group of 0-19 years, while 8,211 were reported in the age group of 20-39. The BMC’s TB control unit, however, fixes the number at 6,838 TB deaths. “This anomaly needs to be explained by the Public Health Department. We need health officials’ sincere efforts to achieve health goals and eradicate diseases such as TB,” said Nitai Mehta, managing trustee of the Praja Foundation. As per the report, the highest number of cases were registered in L ward (Kurla), followed by H/East (Santa Cruz) and K/East (Andheri-East). “As per our study, 68% of the TB deaths were of men. TB is a curable disease and it still kills so many people. Surprisingly, during the public health committee meetings in the last four years, only two questions asked were regarding TB,” said Mehta. Dr Yatin Dholakia, secretary of the Maharashtra State Anti-TB Association, said, “The main reason behind this discrepancy may be because the death certificates include figures of TB patients availing treatment in private facilities. The BMC TB control officer will only have patients registered under the programme. It is a known fact that around 75-80% TB patients prefer private treatment, and not all notify to the government programme.” “Maharashtra is all set to roll out the daily drug regimen for TB patients from September. The decision is a huge step towards curbing the rise in drug resistance and relapse. It is also starting a universal drug susceptibility testing for all TB patients. These are positive moves in terms of bringing down TB burden on the city,” said Dholakia. While BMC health officials refused to speak on the discrepancy, doctors said though TB was rampant, health officials were making effort in the right direction. “We need to accept facts and work together to eradicate TB. There needs to be an awareness regarding the disease, without creating panic,” said Dr Rashid Vasi, chest physician and TB expert at Hinduja Healthcare Surgical in Khar. According to an estimate, the country loses nearly 170 million workdays to the disease. (DNA 8/7/16)

Climate change will cause 2,50,000 deaths by 2030: WHO (3)

Climate change will cause an additional 2,50,000 deaths from malaria, diarrhoeal disease, heat stress and under nutrition by 2030, a finding by World Health Organisation (WHO) has stated. The conclusion was drawn at a meeting held by the French government in Paris on July 8 to study actions taken to implement the Paris agreement in order to reduce health risks linked to climate change. Experts noted that climate change was already causing tens of thousands of deaths every year. This is in addition to 7 million deaths caused by air pollution, a release by WHO said. The biggest burden of the additional fatalities will be borne by children, women, older people and the poor, further widening the existing health inequalities. To mitigate deaths due to climate change, participants focused on the need to measure the progress by countries in safeguarding health of the people, it said. WHO has already published profiles on 40 countries. During the conference, benefits of switching to cleaner energy sources were also discussed. The participants also asked countries to develop a new approach to link investment in mitigating climate change with the expenditure on related healthcare costs, the release added. (DNA 11/7/16)

Malnourished children to get new drink (3)

Patna, July 12: The Bihar State Milk Cooperative Federation Ltd (Comfed) will next month launch a drink for children suffering from severe acute malnutrition. The social welfare department will provide the drink, named Bal Sudha – Comfed sells milk under the brand name Sudha – at anganwadi centres to children aged from six months to two-and-a-half years. The Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd has a similar initiative called Bal Amul. According to WHO, severe acute malnutrition is a life-threatening condition that requires urgent treatment. Affected children weigh less than what they should at their age and height “The drink will have milk solids, groundnut, vegetable fat, vitamins and minerals,” Sudha managing director S.K. Singh said. “Sudha would initially prepare Bal Sudha at its three units – Begusarai, Purnea and Darbhanga.” According to the plan, Comfed would only prepare the drink and provide it to the social welfare department, which would provide it to children at the anganwadi centres. Malnutrition is a major issue for the state. The National Family Health Survey IV data released early this year said there were 61 lakh kids affected by malnourishment in the state. The clinical anthropometric and biochemical survey released last year lists Bihar among the top nine states with highest number of malnourished children. According to the clinical anthropometric and biochemical survey survey, 52 per cent children in the state had stunted growth, or, in other words, were malnourished, while eight per cent (around one lakh) suffer from acute malnutrition. According to the survey, Patna is the fourth top district in the state with 59 per cent children (around 2.5 lakh) less than five years of age suffering from malnutrition followed by Jehanabad (65 per cent), Jamui (63 per cent) and Munger (61 per cent). According to the survey, among the districts which contribute to one-third of total malnourished children in the state are Patna, East Champaran, West Champaran, Muzaffarpur, Samastipur, Darbhanga and Gaya. The survey also suggests that states like Chhattisgarh has witnessed a 34 per cent decline in stunting (a form of acute malnutrition in which the child suffers from low height problem for his/her age) in the past seven years while Bihar has been able to manage only 4 per cent decline in stunting in the past seven years. Experts hailed the initiative of launching the drink for malnourished children. “Malnourished children are prone to infections. They develop diseases easily compared to the other children because their immunity level is compromised,” said V.P. Sinha, a physician at Patna Medical College and Hospital. “The mental and physical growth of the malnourished children is usually low. It will be good if the government identifies severe acute malnutrition-affected children and provide them therapeutic food in the early stage to combat malnutrition.” (The Telegraph 12/7/16)

Healthcare at cost of property for poor, finds study (3)

JAIPUR: A recent study undertaken by the Budget Analysis Rajasthan Centre in collaboration with NGOs Prayas and the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan has shown that the budgetary allocation for health in Rajasthan is between 4.5% and 6.8% of the total budget. Not only is this woefully inadequate, what money is available is often not fully utilized. Patients were spending on health services by even selling off property, researchers found. As part of the study, exit interviews were conducted in the four districts studied – Chittorgarh, Bharatpur, Barmer and Jhunjunu – with 487 patients. About 70% of patients belonged to families with average monthly income of less than Rs 10,000. A large number of people were found to have taken loans to meet medical expenses and 3.3% of people surveyed had sold property to meet medical expenses. Out-of-pocket expenses on healthcare were found to be high, despite the free medicines and diagnostics schemes. Researchers found that fund utilization in the government healthcare system was far from efficient. “It is important to keep in mind that higher utilization does not ensure efficient and effective utilization of funds. It is important to note that till December 2015, the utilized amount is between 60 and 65%, which means that in the next three months, they are expected to spend 35-40%. This raises the question of effectiveness and efficiency of utilized amount in the last quarter of the financial year,” the report said. A recent article on website India Spend notes that India lags behind other countries in the neighbourhood when it comes to crucial markers of the ‘health’ of the healthcare system, like maternal mortality rate: “India’s maternal mortality ratio of 190 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2013 was high compared to 23 in Iran, 29 in Sri Lanka, 31 in Maldives, 120 in Bhutan and 170 in Bangladesh and Pakistan.” However, within India, Rajasthan lags behind on some of these measures. A survey of 2011-13 said 244 maternal deaths occurred for every lakh live births in Rajasthan. The sex ratio in the state is 928 females per 1,000 males; India’s overall figure is 940. The other significant finding of this study is that while less than a quarter of the state’s population lives in urban centres, the health spend in rural areas and urban ones is nearly the same – in 2016-17, the budget for urban health centres is Rs1,978 crore; for rural areas, it is 1,991 crore. … (Times of India 17/7/16)

Doctor fined 6.3 lakh for medical negligence (3)

Surat: The Surat District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum recently held a doctor guilty of medical and professional negligence and directed him to pay Rs4.8 lakh to the heir of the man who died in the hospital with 9% compound interest and Rs1.5 lakh to six relatives. The petition was filed by Rajeshkumar Taliya against Dr Pragnesh Shah, cardiologist at Mahavir Hospital, after his father Ishwar Taliya died at the hospital in 2008. The deceased Ishwar Taliya had visited Mahavir Hospital in 2008 for angiography on the advice of his family doctor. The operation which should have taken 25 minutes went on for around three hours and Taliya was declared dead later. The angiography of the deceased was done despite the report showing his diabetes at 286mg level. Also, the time of death of the patient was falsely mentioned in the report. The doctor had taken professional indemnity insurance policy from IFFCO Tokio General Insurance Company Ltd. The standard rule of the policy is that the doctor was liable to submit the case to the company within 15 days of the patient’s death due to negligence or other reason, but he did not do so.

However, the insurance company was joined in the case after the matter was remanded by the state commission, which was approximately five years after the incident. The consumer forum ruled that the doctor had violated the policy terms and condition by not intimating the company immediately and further not sending any of the court papers. The forum, however, exonerated the hospital and the insurance company and held the doctor responsible and asked him to pay the compensation to the heirs of the deceased. Advocate Darshan Shah, who appeared before the forum on behalf of the insurance company, said, “This could be a unique case of professional as well as medical negligence on the part of a senior learned doctor. When the state commission remanded the case to the forum, the doctor joined the insurance company in the matter.” (Times of India 17/7/16)

Malnutrition deaths: Tell govt. to act, Odisha Opposition tells Governor (3)

BHUBANESWAR: As the different Opposition parties continued to blame the BJD government for the death of 19 tribal children in Nagada village due to malnutrition, the BJP on Thursday urged Governor S.C. Jamir to direct the State government to implement the welfare schemes meant for the benefit of the downtrodden people. In a memorandum submitted to the Governor, a delegation of BJP said that the death of 19 children speaks volumes about the health condition of the Juang tribal people in the area. “It is due to chronic hunger which led to malnutrition and lack of medical treatment that caused the death,” the party said. Stating that Nagada village had been left out of development schemes of the State government for years together, the party said that many families have not been provided ration cards under National Food Security Act though as per NFSA guidelines all families were entitled to be included in the scheme. The ICDS programme, one of the most important food security programmes to ensure nutritious food to the children was not implemented in Nagada village due to non existence of Anganwadi centre, the party said in the memorandum. No employment generation programme under NREGA had ever been undertaken in the village since the inception of the scheme, the party said, while adding that land pattas were yet to be granted to the Juang tribal families of Nagada as per their entitlement under the Forest Rights Act.Despite the area being an industrial hub there is no road connectivity to Nagada and the tribals are using forest track to cover 10 km on foot to get benefits under various schemes. Meanwhile, the Odisha State Committee of the CPI(M) said that the death of the children in Nagada had exposed the Naveen Patnaik Government’s claim of development as the village had not been covered under the ICDS scheme till date.At a press conference here, CPI(M) leader Santosh Das said that a fact-finding team of the party that visited Nagada and adjacent Gohiasala village had found that no one in the two villages had received formal education in any school so far. (The Hindu 22/7/16)

56% of infant deaths in UP occur in the first month (3)

Lucknow: Over 56% infant deaths reported in UP take place within first 28 days of birth. The phenomenon contributes tremendously to state’s high infant mortality rate. The number translates into death of 1.51 lakh newborn babies. As many as 56 lakh babies are born in UP each year. Of these, 27 neonates per 1,000 live births die before they are four-week-old. Of the total, 36% deaths are reported on the first day while 56% die before the fourth week. A deeper look into the data shared by state health department showed that UP’s neonatal mortality has not improved much in the past 15 years, especially when compared with overall drop in infant mortality rate. While neonatal mortality at the turn of century stood at 30 per 1,000 live births, it stands at 27 as of now. Against this, infant mortality rate in UP has dropped from 83 to 48 in the past decade. The fact came to fore in a state health department assessment undertaken to see implementation of Newborn Home Based Care Programme, launched under National Health Mission to curb neonatal mortality. Under the programme, trained ASHA workers are supposed to meet the neonate’s family periodically for six weeks.Principal secretary Arvind Kumar expressed disappointment over the way the programme was being implemented. “Different studies have indicated that if UP is able to check neonatal deaths, it can bring down infant mortality drastically ,” he said. Issuing show cause notice to 11 chief medical officers, he shared information that 40% trained ASHA workers were not working properly because of administrative failure. Experts said this is the most crucial time to connect with a newborn in the first 28 days of life as this is the period of vulnerability towards different life-threatening diseases. “If the baby survives in this period, UP’s infant mortality rate can be halved,” said Amit Mehrotra, programme manager Unicef, UP. … (Times of India 24/7/16)

Hepatitis biggest killer after TB, says WHO (3)

In spite of an effective vaccine and treatment for Hepatitis B and the possibility to cure over 90% people with Hepatitis C with treatment, the number of deaths due to the disease is alarming in the South-East Asia region, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).Viral Hepatitis kills approximately 3.5 lakh people a year in the region. According to WHO, this is responsible for more deaths than HIV and malaria together and the second biggest killer after tuberculosis. “One of the main challenges to addressing Hepatitis is that 95% of the people with chronic Hepatitis do not know they are infected and less than 1% have access to treatment. To address these issues, people and countries need to be better equipped and enabled to “know Hepatitis” and “act now” – the theme of this year’s World Hepatitis Day,” the WHO statement read. WHO has suggested that national strategies and action plans optimally utilise the existing tools and new guidelines besides stepping up efforts at all levels to address the growing threat of Hepatitis. The WHO adopted the Global Health Sector Strategy for Hepatitis that calls for eliminating the disease by 2030. WHO’s South-East Asia Region comprises the following 11 member states: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste. (Deccan Herald 29/7/16)

Haryana records maximum decline in infant mortality rate (3)

Chandigarh: Haryana is one of the four States in the country which have recorded maximum decline in infant mortality rate (IMR), State Health Minister said on Friday. The other States are Assam, Tripura and Dadar and Nagar Haveli (Union Territory), Health Minister Anil Vij said in a statement. In Haryana, the IMR for children below one year of age has shown a decline of five points from 41 per 1,000 live births in sample registration system (SRS) 2013 to 36 per 1000 live births in SRS 2014 (July 2016 Bulletin). This is the result of strengthened health network and concerted efforts made by State Health Department, he said. Mr. Vij said the result of samples collected by SRS of the Central Government was announced during this month. According to data of September 2014, the IMR was 41 in Haryana. As per SRS 2014, Haryana’s IMR was below the national average of 36. This reduction in death of children under one year of age is due to the concerted efforts of the government.

Mr. Vij said that after the formation of BJP government in Haryana in October 2014, there has been considerable improvement in the infrastructure and sanitation of hospitals, efforts have been accelerated to remove shortage of doctors, medicines and equipment. Special newborn care units have been made functional in all the district hospitals to provide specialised care for sick newborns. Supplementation of iron folic acid was being given to prevent anemia, albendazole for deworming and vitamin A to all under five years of age children. Mr. Vij said that in 2014-16, Haryana also introduced three new vaccines- Pentavalent vaccine to include Hemophilus influenza vaccine in the schedule; Inactivated Polio Vaccine in line with global policy of ensuring sustained eradication of polio and rotavirus vaccine for preventing severe diarrhoea and subsequent deaths due to rotavirus infection among children. Under the Mission Indradhanush, a strategic endeavour was made to strengthen immunisation coverage. The State immunised a total of 56 lakh children through 86,000 immunisation sessions. Haryana is one of the first states in the country to start lab-based Vaccine Preventable Disease Surveillance. He said in 2015, the State had also drafted the Haryana Newborn Action Plan. As per the plan, Haryana is committed to achieve the national and global goal of single digit neonatal mortality rate by 2025. PTI (The Hindu 30/7/16)

HIV/AIDS

HIV-positive girl finally gets school hostel accommodation (3)

BHUBANESWAR: An orphan HIV-positive girl, who shuttled between her home and a government-run residential school for two years for obvious reasons, was finally provided hostel accommodation in Odisha’s Kendrapara district on Friday. The girl’s absence from the premise of Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya residential school, Kendrapara, for two academic sessions had the activists alleging that since the student was HIV infected, she was discouraged from mingling with other students. However, the school authorities emphatically denied charges saying no discrimination had taken place involving the girl. Since the admission of the girl, we found her homesick. She was not at all comfortable in the residential accommodation in the school. In addition to that, her family members had also approached us to allow her to stay at home. On humanitarian grounds, we had given permission. She used to come for collecting courses of studies and appearing in examinations,” said the school principal. The Kendrapara Child Welfare Committee on being informed about the alleged discrimination had visited the school and found that the girl had been accommodated in the hostel. The girl has started attending classes in the school which reopened from July 1 after summer vacation. According to Biraja Kumar Pati, an activist who had taken up her cause, said the girl had lost her parents to AIDS a decade ago. While she and her younger brother have been found to be HIV positive, her elder sister was not infected. The girl, a meritorious student, could not pursue her career normally as she used to stay at home most of the time, Mr. Pati said. The girl’s family members expressed happiness after she was accommodated in the hostel and requested that the issue should not be dragged further. (The Hindu 2/7/16)

Injective drug users turning HIV carriers: Experts (3)

Ludhiana: Intake of drugs through injections is spreading HIV in Ludhiana as 318 cases have been reported in the last about eight years under the target intervention project (TIP) among injective drug users (IDUs). Sharing needles for injecting drugs is said to be the main reason for the spread of HIV. “Not only the men, their spouses have also been afflicted with HIV,” said Dr Inderjit Singh Dhingra, project director. He said in the last two years 11 out of 80 spouses, who registered under the project, have been found HIV positive. Dr Dhingra said besides treating the addicts and weaning them away from drugs, they also inform them about safe sex practices to prevent the spread of HIV to their partners. “Some women are also among IDUs. In the past one year, we registered 16 women for treatment out of which 15 were literate who may not have been led into taking drugs,” he said. Dr Dhingra said 2,293 IDUs were registered with them. “At one time, the situation was so bad in Ludhiana that around 40% of the youths, who took to drugs, belonged to affluent families of the city. However, the number has now come down to around 21%,” he said. He said they had also identified 21 isolated spots in Ludhiana which addicts use to take drugs. Dr Dhingra said they were in talks with the police requesting them not to disturb such ‘hot spots’ as it would scatter the addicts and they might spread diseases. (Times of India 5/7/16)

Better awareness drives down number of HIV-positive cases in state (3)

BENGALURU: HIV-positive cases in Karnataka have been on the decline in the last five years, a phenomenon experts and NGOs attribute to increasing awareness and treatment received. As per statistics available with Express, close to 50,000 people have died due to HIV in Karnataka alone in the last one decade. However, though this number was close to 42,000 in 2011-12, it has become almost half of that in 2015-16. Bengaluru Urban, Belagavi and Bagalkote districts have the maximum number of HIV cases in the state. A senior officer from Health Department told Express that the number has reduced over the past five years.  “The number may not be precise as many people fear to come forward to register as HIV-positive. However, our continous effort along with support from NGOs has paid off,” he said. Subash, vice-president of Desire Society, an NGO that works for HIV-affected children, said the number has come down. “This could be because of awareness, especially in rural areas. Our organisation works for children affected with HIV, in Bengaluru, Mysuru, Mandya and Ramanagaram. We have close to 120 children,” he said. Dr Glory Alexander, Director, ASHA Foundation, a charitable trust that helps HIV/AIDS affected, said they too observed that the number of cases and deaths related to HIV has come down in the past few years. Drugs are available and awareness is being created from various sectors, she said.  Dr Glory added that the recent World Health Organisation guidelines on HIV treatment recommend testing and treatment. “Antiretroviral therapy (ART) helps people with HIV live longer, healthier lives, and  reduce the risk of transmission of HIV. Once treated, viral load is undetectable and chances of transmitting HIV to others becomes less. However in India, it is yet to be implemented,” she said. According to Dr Glory, there are over five lakh people working for the HIV-affected in India. “In Karnataka too, a large number of people work for the HIV-affected. There are 50 ARTs in Karnataka, which is a good number for a state with 30 districts,” she said. According to data from the Health and Family Welfare Department, of the reported 30,319 cases of Men who have sex with men (MSM) in Karnataka, 38 are HIV-infected and out of the 2,025 transgenders who are sex workers, eight are HIV-positive. (New Indian Express 8/7/16)

Nearly 21 lakh HIV patients in India (3)

Chandigarh, July 9 (IANS) India has nearly 21 lakh HIV positive patients in the country and about seven lakh of them are not even aware of their HIV positive status, a senior Union Health Ministry officer said here on Saturday. Additional Secretary, Health cum Director General NACO (National Aids Control Organisation) Navreet Singh Kang said that there was an immediate need to identify the HIV positive patients and start their treatment. Kang was here to attend a function to launch ‘HIV prevention, treatment and care programme for Punjab prisons’ on Saturday. “There are nearly 21 lakh HIV positive patients in the country and about seven lakh of them are not even aware of their HIV positive status,” Kang said. He said that the treatment and care for those living with HIV/AIDS inside prisons should be equivalent to the treatment and care available for the general population. Kang said that the ‘National Prison HIV Strategy’ is being implemented in a phased manner in the country. “Earlier in the Phase-1, ‘HIV interventions in prison settings’ project was launched in February this year in eight northeastern states and is now being launched for Punjab and Chandigarh prisons. A key aspect of the program is to ensure post release referrals and linkages for various HIV prevention and treatment services,” he said. Punjab’s Principal Secretary Health, Vini Mahajan said that the state’s Health Department was committed to support the Prisons Department to provide adequate medical care to people lodged in Jail inmates. Mahajan said that the HIV Intervention Programme for Prisons had been launched by NACO for eight Central Jails in Punjab. Principal Secretary-Home (Prisons) Sanjay Kumar said that more than half of the inmates living in prisons in Punjab are undertrial prisoners and they are expected to return to the community. (Times of India 9/7/16)

HIV epidemic, a blast from past that entered future (3)

Washington D.C, Jul 10 : It may no longer be the death it once was, but HIV continues to haunt the gay men across the world, suggests a recent study. Gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men continue to have disproportionately high burdens of HIV infection in countries of low, middle and high income around the world, the study led by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health suggested. The findings come four years after the same group of researchers issued a call to action, laying out an ambitious plan to curtail HIV epidemics in gay men, setting targets for policy reform, funding and improvement in effective HIV prevention and treatment services, including expanded access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) which has been highly effective in dramatically reducing transmission among this population. “While HIV rates have flattened overall in recent years, we’re really concerned that the HIV epidemic is continuing among gay men and we’re going in the wrong direction,” said study leader Chris Beyrer. He added, “It’s a tragic situation and it’s painful that the history of AIDS is looking like its future, but that’s actually where we are. But the first step in taking on a problem is recognizing and articulating it and we’ve really done that here.” Many are living long lives with the virus carefully controlled with antiretroviral treatment. But while new HIV infection rates are falling among heterosexual men and women in many countries, that is not the case with gay men. For their study, Beyrer and his colleagues analyzed published medical research from January 2007 through October 2015, to identify which elements of their call to action from 2012 had been achieved. They found a few successes. Beyrer said that the failure to get PrEP to the people who need it most, those who are HIV negative and are at high risk of infection, and the backsliding in terms of civil liberties for the gay community in nations such as Russia, Nigeria and Uganda have contributed to the continued high HIV rates among gay men. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, estimated that in the United States a 20-year-old gay black man has a 50 percent chance of becoming infected with HIV in his lifetime. While PrEP is available in the United States, Beyrer noted that it is accessible only when people have health insurance to pay for it, and there are real racial and economic disparities when it comes to who actually gets it. Beyrer also said that in low-income, predominantly minority communities – particularly in the South, where in most states Medicaid has not been expanded to provide wider health coverage – epidemics continue. He added that the United Kingdom refuses so far to cover PrEP, despite evidence of its effectiveness. And despite its availability in poor nations for pennies on the dollar, Beyrer stated that often the politics of providing medical care to gay men are difficult in many countries. While many nations have made great strides in the past four years in terms of gay marriage, in other nations sodomy remains a crime and other discriminatory policies remain in place, making even getting tested for HIV a potentially dangerous ordeal. In Russia, for example, HIV information websites have even been shut down in the wake of new propaganda laws. …  (New Kerala 10/7/16)

HIV drug may prevent transmission even in condomless sex (3)

New York: HIV-affected people taking medication are highly unlikely to transmit the virus to their partners even if they have unprotected sex, suggests new research. The risk is especially low for straight couples, according to the study. For the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the researchers followed 900 straight and gay couples. The couples were serodifferent — meaning thereby that one partner was HIV-positive while the other was HIV-negative — and the HIV-positive partner was using suppressive antiretroviral therapy and also reported condomless sex. During a median follow up of 1.3 years per couple, there were no documented cases of within-couple HIV transmission, the findings showed. The researchers, however, noted that appreciable levels of HIV transmission risk cannot be excluded, particularly for anal sex and when considered from the perspective of a cumulative risk over several years. “Although these results cannot directly provide an answer to the question of whether it is safe for serodifferent couples to practice condomless sex, this study provides informative data (especially for heterosexuals) for couples to base their personal acceptability of risk on,” the researchers said. The study was conducted at 75 clinical sites in 14 European countries between September 2010 to May 2014. Alison Rodger from University College London and colleagues evaluated the rate of within-couple HIV transmission during periods of sex without condoms and when the HIV-positive partner had HIV-1 RNA load less than 200 copies/ml. At study entry, couples reported condomless sex for a median of two years. Condomless sex with other partners was reported by 108 HIV-negative men who have sex with men (33 per cent) and 21 heterosexuals (four per cent). During follow up, couples reported condomless sex a median of 37 times per year, with men who have sex with men (MSM) couples reporting approximately 22,000 condomless sex acts and heterosexuals approximately 36,000. Although 11 HIV-negative partners became HIV-positive (10 gay; one straight) eight of them reported condomless sex with other partners. No molecular characteristics that indicate whether a virus is similar or different from another linked transmissions occurred over eligible couple-years of follow-up, giving a rate of within-couple HIV transmission of zero, the study said. (Business Standard 13/7/16)

Piped drinking water: HIV+ couple allege discrimination, officials deny charge (3)

Chennai: A HIV-positive couple in Thirumani village in Chengalpet say that they are being denied basic rights because of their medical condition. “Three days ago, the authorities began piped water supply to everyone, including my neighbours, except us,” says K Radhakrishan, adding that he and his wife, Kanchana, are often threatened and verbally abused. “Even to avail basic amenities, I have to keep fighting in court. Our neighbours also don’t like us living here because we are HIV-positive. They keep picking fights with us and asking us to leave,” said the 45-year-old president of the Kancheepuram Network for Positive People. The couple and their two daughters have been waging a lonely battle since 2011 when their thatched hut was set on fire. The Revenue Divisional Officer of Chengalpet, Paneer Selvam, has ordered an enquiry. “Officials have informed me that the family will get water connection,” said Selvam. “They seem to have a tiff with neighbours and I have advised panchayat leaders to sensitise them about HIV,” he added. The block development officer, A Venketesan, denied the allegation, saying that they have just begun providing water connections. “That we did not give their house water connection because of their HIV status is false,” said Venketesan. “The entire locality uses tap water and we are in the process of covering all households with pipelines. We have sent orders for him (Radhakrishnan) to be given the connection on Monday morning on a special case,” he said. Trouble for the couple and their two daughters dates back to in the neighbourhood in 2011 when their thatched house was set on fire. and they along with their two daughters escaped with minor injuries. Radhakrishnan had then filed a complaint with police against the former Thirumani panchayat president, late V Rajagopal, who wanted the family to vacate the village because of the couple’s HIV-positive status. Chengalpet police had registered a case of attempt to murder. Radhakrishnan had said that the miscreants had locked the house from outside and set fire to it at 2.30 am because he refused to listen to village leaders’ diktat that they go away from the village. Radhakrishnan, 45 was diagnosed as HIV positive in 1995. “The former panchayat leader had put us through a lot of problems but we protested and built our own house and stayed here,” he says. Activists in the state say that the government’s campaign to sensitise people to HIV has fizzled out. “There has been no effort over the last three years to address stigma and discrimination associated with HIV,” says Krishnagiri-based G Karunanidhi, founder, HIV Positive Network. “There is no budget allocated for support and care.” (Times of India 17/7/16)

Adolescents are dying of AIDS at an alarming rate, UN agency warns (3)

New York, July 19 : An average of 29 adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19 are infected with HIV every hour, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund, which is calling for a redoubling of prevention and treatment efforts. After all of the saved and improved lives thanks to prevention, treatment and care; after all of the battles won against prejudice and ignorance about this disease; after all of the wonderful milestones achieved, AIDS is still the number two cause of death for those aged 10-19 globally and number one in Africa, Anthony Lake, the Executive Director of the UN Childrens Fund (UNICEF) said from Durban, South Africa, the site of the 21st International AIDS Conference which opened on Monday. While rates of new infections among adolescents have levelled off, UNICEF is concerned that projected increases in their population in the coming years will mean an increase in the overall number of infections. Girls are particularly vulnerable, making up about 65 per cent of new adolescent infections worldwide, according to UNICEF. In sub-Saharan Africa, which accounts for about 70 per cent of people in the world living with HIV, three out of every four adolescents newly infected by HIV in 2015 were girls. Yet fear of testing keeps many young people unaware of their status. Among adolescents, only 13 per cent of girls and 9 per cent of boys were tested within the last year. A new poll conducted on U-report, UNICEFs mobile-based reporting tool, shows that some 68 per cent of 52,000 young people surveyed in 16 countries said they did not want to be tested, both because they were afraid of an HIV-positive result, and because they were worried about social stigma. The battle against AIDS will not be over until we redouble prevention and treatment efforts; until we reach those young lives still being denied the progress that millions before them have enjoyed; and until we end the stigma and fear that prevent so many young people from getting tested, Lake said. Meanwhile, new infections among children due to transmission at birth or during breastfeeding have decreased dramatically since 2000, dropping by 70 per cent in the period. UNICEF is calling for stepped-up efforts to fully eliminate the transmission of the virus from mother to child. In 2015, half of new infections among children between the ages of 0 to 14, occurred in only six countries: Nigeria, India, Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania and South Africa, he noted. On the first day of the 21st International AIDS Conference, UNICEF heads a session on South Africas achievements since 2000 towards the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, and chairs a session that will showcase the potential of mobile applications such as Mom Connect, successfully used in South Africa to link pregnant women and mothers to health care, to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV and to improve the health of mothers and children living with HIV. (New Kerala 19/7/16)

Minister reviews functions of AIDS control society (3)

CHENNAI: Health Minister C. Vijayabhaskar held a review meeting with the officials of the Tamil Nadu AIDS Control Society on Tuesday. He said that they have successfully halted the spread of the virus from mother to child in 16 districts, and were taking steps to implement the same in other parts of the State. While the HIV infection rate in India is 0.29 percent, in Tamil Nadu it has decreased to 0.27 percent due to awareness campaigns. The minister added that they were also regularly checking on the availability of drugs and HIV diagnosis kits across the State. (The Hindu 20/7/16)

HIV activists voice concern over crackdown on NGOs (3)

NEW DELHi: Worried about the shrinking space for civil society organisations in India, HIV activists from around the world protested outside the Indian embassy in Durban, South Africa. Humanitarian aid organisations have expressed concern over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s crackdown on non-governmental organisations (NGOs), particularly Lawyers Collective, stating that it will have a direct impact on India’s HIV response. In a press statement, activists said “this condemnation needs to be seen in the context of the ongoing U.N. General Assembly Special Session on AIDS in New York. While on the one hand member States of the U.N. [including India] are pledging support to end AIDS by 2030, organisations such as Lawyers Collective in India, who have stood for the rights of those most affected by HIV, are being baselessly harassed, victimised and silenced.” The activists handed over a petition to the consulate, which has been signed by organisations are attending the international public health event. In June, the government suspended the legal aid organisation’s registration under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) for 6 months, meaning it could no longer receive any donations from abroad. The Lawyer’s Collective has been instrumental in drafting the HIV/AIDS Bill, 2014 — a landmark anti-discrimination legislation. “We are extremely concerned about the situation in India. The government understand how important civil society is, and has been, to the global AIDS response. It was basis for achieving political commitment, driving treatment rollout. India needs it’s civil society more than ever because as of now 2.3 million are HIV positive but only 1 million people on treatment. Organisations like the Lawyers Collective have been at the forefront of activism,” said Mark Heywood, Executive Director of SECTION27, a law centre promoting human rights. “We have not been able to work and our work in HIV is being impeded. We have taken up certain cases, which are not to the liking of present government. Irrespective of funding problems, we will continue our work,” said Anand Grover, founder member of the Lawyers Collective. Besides the clampdown on NGOs, another significant concern voiced by the international community was the change in India’s policy towards Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). “India is the pharmacy of the world and remains vital to nearly 70 million on treatment. Another 20 million people will be on treatment in the next 5 years… If India changes its stand, patients across the world will suffer,” Mr. Heywood added. (Times of India 21/7/16)

HIV activists voice concern over crackdown on NGOs (3)

NEW DELHI: Worried about the shrinking space for civil society organisations in India, HIV activists from around the world protested outside the Indian embassy in Durban, South Africa. Humanitarian aid organisations have expressed concern over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s crackdown on non-governmental organisations (NGOs), particularly Lawyers Collective, stating that it will have a direct impact on India’s HIV response. In a press statement, activists said “this condemnation needs to be seen in the context of the ongoing U.N. General Assembly Special Session on AIDS in New York. While on the one hand member States of the U.N. [including India] are pledging support to end AIDS by 2030, organisations such as Lawyers Collective in India, who have stood for the rights of those most affected by HIV, are being baselessly harassed, victimised and silenced.” The activists handed over a petition to the consulate, which has been signed by organisations are attending the international public health event.In June, the government suspended the legal aid organisation’s registration under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) for 6 months, meaning it could no longer receive any donations from abroad. The Lawyer’s Collective has been instrumental in drafting the HIV/AIDS Bill, 2014 — a landmark anti-discrimination legislation. “We are extremely concerned about the situation in India. The government understand how important civil society is, and has been, to the global AIDS response. It was basis for achieving political commitment, driving treatment rollout. India needs it’s civil society more than ever because as of now 2.3 million are HIV positive but only 1 million people on treatment. Organisations like the Lawyers Collective have been at the forefront of activism,” said Mark Heywood, Executive Director of SECTION27, a law centre promoting human rights. “We have not been able to work and our work in HIV is being impeded. We have taken up certain cases, which are not to the liking of present government. Irrespective of funding problems, we will continue our work,” said Anand Grover, founder member of the Lawyers Collective. Besides the clampdown on NGOs, another significant concern voiced by the international community was the change in India’s policy towards Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). “India is the pharmacy of the world and remains vital to nearly 70 million on treatment. Another 20 million people will be on treatment in the next 5 years… If India changes its stand, patients across the world will suffer,” Mr. Heywood added. (The Hindu 22/7/16)

182 HIV patients in Maharashtra infected through blood transfusion (3)

MUMBAI: In last one and half year, 182 people have been infected HIV during blood transfusion. Public health minister Dr Deepak Sawant in his written reply to a starred question in the legislative council said that there are 182 infected with HIV by blood transfusion. He referred a report submitted to National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) by integrated counselling and testing centres (ICTC). NCP MLC Prakash Gajbhiye had asked question about number of HIV patients in the state. He asked that whether the state has inquired about the 276 patients infected through blood transfusion and what measures have been taken about taking blood samples of the banks. Sawant in his reply clarified that there were 182 patients who have been infected through blood transfusion and not 276 during the period of October 2015 to March 2016.Minister also said that the figures are of patients claimed to have been infected due to blood transfusion. They voluntarily reveal it during the ICTC counseling. “So, to conduct an inquiry and action would be taken against those blood banks once it would reveal from which bank patients has received bloodcells,” added Sawant. The minister also said that NACO has instructed all ICTCs and counsellors to ensure pre and post counselling session should be conducted of patients visiting them for check-ups. The minister further claimed that the cases of infection have been reduced after instruction has been issued by NACO to all blood banks and ICTCs to ensure safety of patients during blood transfusion in future. (Times of India 25/7/16)

State ushers in safe injection norms to fight HIV, hepatitis (3)

Mumbai: The state has become one of the first in the country to adopt safe injection practices with an aim to check the spread of HIV, hepatitis B and C infections, which are often transmitted by the use of unsafe syringes or absence of injection protocols in healthcare settings. This week, a GR to this effect was sent to all the health centres in the state ahead of the World Hepatitis Day that was observed on Thursday. Principal health secretary Sujata Saunik said that the National Centre for Disease Control in 2014 had designed guidelines for safe injection practices, which the state has decided to adopt now. “The first step would be to transition from disposable to single use auto-disable syringes in the immunization programme so that any likelihood of syringe reuse is ruled out,” Saunik said on the sidelines of a WHO event on Hepatitis Day on Thursday. “It will be complemented by extensive awareness about birth vaccination, training of healthcare workers on handling and maintenance of drugs and safe disposal of syringes. Timing of the vaccination is also of utmost importance.” Unsafe injection practices such as reuse of syringes and needles is a leading cause of transmission of blood-borne pathogens such as hepatitis B, C and HIV. Transfusion of unsafe blood is another route through which these infect people. It is estimated that over 1.15lakh people die of hepatitis B related complications every year in the country. (Times of India 29/7/16)

3rd line of defence against HIV in place for patients in India

MUMBAI: Mahesh*, 41, a resident of Sangli, has lived with HIV for 14 years now. The last one year though has been the most trying. “I have been hospitalised nine times over the last 11 months for chest and throat infections. I spent over Rs 3lakh in Pune and Mumbai hospitals before someone pointed out that my HIV drugs were not working. A doctor in the private sector offered to treat me for Rs 4lakh but there was no way I could afford that,” said the patient. Mahesh’s case is rare, but not unusual. In the battle against HIV-AIDS, some have developed resistance to most combinations of drugs used in treatment, either due to poor adherence to the regimen or mutation in the virus. For several such second-line failure patients, their only hope was the international NGO, Medecins Sans Frontieres, but that again was an option open to a select few. Now finally, a third, more potent line of treatment has finally been rolled out across 10 hospitals in India, including JJ in Mumbai, Maulana Azad in Delhi, others in Kolkata, Chennai, etc. 18 patients from Maharashtra have been enrolled for this higher grade of antiretroviral therapy (ART), which is at least 15 times more expensive than the first-line treatment. The Byculla JJ facility, the nodal centre for HIV treatment in the state, has begun the exercise of screening 2,214 patients who are currently on second-line drugs. Doctors will look for a rapidly swelling viral load in them before concluding that the existing treatment regime is no longer effective to suppress the virus. “Any patient with a viral load of above 10,000 copies/mL will immediately be started on the third-line which will be a combination of Raltegravir (400mg) , Darunavir (600mg) and Ritonavir (100mg),” said Dr Vidya Nagar, nodal officer at JJ. The news that the state-run healthcare network is making available a third and more potent line of drugs has come as a huge relief. “The cost for third-line is at least 15 times more expensive than the first and five to six times more than the second line. Several patients have died only because they could not afford the treatment,” said Ganesh Acharya, a member of the Mumbai AIDS Forum. Many were even taking the drugs from the private sector but could not sustain for long. Additional project director at Mumbai District Aids Control Society, Dr Shrikala Acharya, said the annual cost of the third-line regimen was around Rs 1.5lakh for each patient. Drug resistance is one of the challenges for the HIV/AIDS programme. According to studies, resistance is less than 1% in first-line and 2-3% in the second-line. “We have detected around 60-70 resistant patients across India so far against our estimation of 500. But we have drugs for more than 1,000 patients and we can procure more,” said Dr BB Rewari, national programme officer, National Aids Control Organisation. Adult HIV prevalence at the national level has seen a decline from an estimated 0.38% in 2001-03 to 0.26% in 2015. Rise in new infections however has been a major point of concern. In 2015, over 86,000 new infections were detected across India. Resistance poses an additional challenge as treatment failure translates into a high viral load in patients. (Times of India 30/7/16)

 

 

Posted by admin at 30 June 2016

Category: Uncategorized

HR NEWS JUNE 2016 ( News Collection from 1st June to 30th June 2016)

 DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

Mansa Akali sarpanch assaults Dalit leader for slamming state govt (2)

Mansa: Annoyed over the criticism of the SAD government, the Akali sarpanch of Bodawal village in this district assaulted Dalit leader and Mazdur Mukti Morcha state president Bhagwant Smao on Thursday, leaving him injured. Smao was in the village to motivate labourers for the proposed Lalkar rally on June 10 against the state government for its alleged failure to meet the demands of labourers, including giving possession of five-marla plots and the compensation for loss of labour due to cotton crop damaged last year. Sarpanch Surat Singh claimed that Smao was criticising the village panchayat and state government and making false promises with MNREGA labourers to get them money for construction on plots. Budhlada (Sadar) SHO Makhan Singh claimed that no case had been registered as the victim was unfit to give a statement. Police said the preliminary investigation showed that the Dalit leader was instigating labourers against the state government. (Chandigarh Tribune 2/6/16)

Dalit student’s untold sufferings a wake-up call for Law College (2)

KOCHI: It was only after the brutal rape and murder of a Dalit law student in Perumbavoor that most of her acquaintances came to know about the abject penury and the near social ostracism she faced in her life. Stung by that revelation, the Government Law College, Ernakulam, where she was a student, is planning to put in place an emotional support mechanism on the campus for students. R. Biju Kumar, Principal of the law college, admitted that it was tough to identify poor students though teachers were willing to support them. Such students often find it humiliating to admit to their situation. “Since the college has only around 750 students, of which only 550-odd are regulars, it was possible for teachers to maintain personal contact with most of them. However, in the context of the tragic incident, we are thinking of a system to extend emotional support,” Mr. Kumar told The Hindu.In fact, the neighbouring girls-only St. Teresa’s College has a system complete with a counselling centre for the past several years. Every class teacher in the college double up as a mentor and sessions are held where students are encouraged to open up on issues troubling them. Teachers deal with issues they are able to handle while students with more complex problems, who need expert help, are referred to the counselling centre. “Services of two trained counsellors are made available at the centre twice a week and students have been positively responding to the service. Mostly, problems related to affairs, including the emotional trauma of a breakup or the exploitation in the guise of a relation, come up while issues like eve-teasing are also common,” said Kala M.S, the faculty in-charge of the counselling centre. Besides, the college holds a value education hour once every week to groom students into socially responsible citizens and karate sessions for self-defence. Sreekumar Kavil, president of People’s Voice, which is in the forefront of the protest demanding the arrest of the accused in the murder of the Dalit student, said the absence of a platform on campuses to share the problems of students, especially girls, was acutely felt. There was a limit to what they can confide to friends, he said. Toolika Suresh, chairperson, St. Teresa’s College, said counselling centres should be promoted across campuses. “This will break the taboo surrounding counselling and go a long way in the personality development of students,” she said. (The Hindu 5/6/16)

Annual auction of village land: Dalit organisation to hold mega dharna at Sangrur today (2)

Ludhiana: THE ZAMEEN Prapati Sangharsh Committee (ZPSC), a body formed by Dalits, is all set to organise state-level dharnas on June 7 seeking one-third of panchayati land meant for farming at affordable prices. The land is annually auctioned to Dalits but for the past two years, trouble has been brewing in Sangrur villages with Dalits alleging that auctions are not held in a proper manner. “While a mega dharna will be organised at Sangrur from where the problem started. District-level dharnas will be organised across the state. Civil rights organisations have assured us to take our struggle outside Punjab as well,” said Mukesh Malaud, president of ZPSC. However, the ZPSC members alleged that “the administration has scheduled land auction in a few villages on June 7 itself so that less number of Dalits join our dharna. An auction is slated to be held at Bhattiwal, Nidampur, Kheri villages on Tuesday”.Shankar Badra, a union member, said, “Apart from organising auction on the day of our dharnas, the administration has also reduced price of land in five villages. These villages are Baupar, Barhon, Gharachon, Khokhar and Khokar Khurd. Here the price was in the range of Rs 23,000 – Rs 24,000 per acre last year. But after our protest, the price has been reduced to Rs 20,000 per acre. So it is a victory of our association in these villages.” Gurmukh Singh, another member of ZPSC, said, “Over a dozen FIRs have been lodged against our members in the past two weeks. Moreover, nearly 50 members have been arrested. This shows one-sided action of authorities.” Ravinderpal Singh, district development programme officer (DDPO) of Sangrur, said, “We shall hold auction in one or two villages tomorrow. It has nothing to do with the ongoing protest of Dalits. We are organising auctions on a daily basis.” Admitting that the land price had been reduced marginally in a few villages to woo more people to auctions, the DDPO said land was yet to be auctioned in over a dozen villages. They were doing it at the earliest as paddy sowing season was coming near. (Indian Express 7/6/16)

Upper caste men kill Dalit over land dispute in Rajasthan (2)

Ajmer: Upper caste Rajput men allegedly mowed down a Dalit man in Rajasthan’s Nagaur district over a land dispute on Thursday, bringing the focus back on mounting cases of caste-based atrocities in India. Police said three Rajput men called Prabhu Bawaria near a dhaba on Thursday to have a discussion over the disputed strip of land but allegedly crushed him under their jeep. The incident occurred in Jasoori village under the Makrana police station of Nagaur district. The frightened Dalit family said the murder brought back memories of the Dangawas massacre in the state last year, when four Dalit people were killed over a land dispute. “My brother was killed after crushing under the jeep in a similar fashion to what the powerful did in Dangawas,” said Kalu Bawaria, Prabhu’s younger brother. “The strongmen in the area keep threatening us to renounce our claim on the land.” Police said they registered a case and launched a manhunt to book the suspects Anil Singh, Sumer Singh and Ghanshyam. “We have formed teams to nab them,” Amarjeet Singh, circle officer, Makrana, said. The family alleged they mortgaged 19 bighas of land to a local moneylender to borrow Rs 20,000 four years ago but didn’t get the plot back even after clearing the loan payments six months ago. The moneylender – Sunil — asked for `40,000 more as outstanding amount and refused to give back the land, alleged Dhanka Devi, Prabhu’s aunt. He later allegedly forged documents and sold the land to Anil and Sumer Singh. (Hindustan Times 10/6/16)

AAP Approaches Scheduled Castes Panel Over Assault On Dalit Councillor (2)

New Delhi:  A day after its councillor Rakesh Kumar was allegedly manhandled by BJP councillors, the AAP today approached the National Commission for Scheduled Castes demanding strict action under the provisions of the SC/ST Act against those who assaulted him. A party delegation led by AAP’s Delhi unit convenor Dilip Pandey, including Mr Kumar and party legislator Rajendra Pal Gautam, went to the Commission’s office in Delhi. Mr Pandey said since Chairman PL Punia was not in the office, they were assured that the issue would be taken up on Monday. Claiming that the attack was an act of “murder of his human right”, Mr Kumar in his complaint has alleged that he was not only manhandled, but was also hurled with “castiest abuses”. He also demanded protection from the BJP councillors. Later speaking to reporters Mr Pandey said that the alleged attack on Mr Kumar reflected the “anti-minority” and “anti-Dalit” attitude of the BJP. He further alleged that ever since the BJP has came to power, attacks on Dalits and minorities have “increased”.Mr Pandey said the party will also protest outside the BJP office on Saturday morning. Terming the attack as “utterly shameful”, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had on Thursday accused BJP of “assaulting Dalits” all over the country and said the AAP will take up the matter with the President. (NDTV 11/6/16)

Over 30 Dalits booked after land dispute turns ugly (2)

Amritsar: Over 30 Dalits were booked after a dispute over land between them and former Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) sarpanch Karminder Singh turned violent on Sunday in Macchi Nangal village of Amritsar. The police allegedly lathicharged the Dalit group after they allegedly attacked Karminder’s family. The Dalits claimed that 10 people were injured in the incident. The police, however, claim that the force reached the spot only after the brawl was over. However, pictures of the clash suggests that the police had indeed resorted to lathicharge.Besides this, the police have also booked an ‘inebriated’ group of Dalits that allegedly attacked Karminder’s family. According to the Dalits, 10.5 kanals shamlat land of the village was allotted to the 32 families of the village back in early 70s by the Centre under a welfare scheme. Each of them were given five marla plot to construct houses. They also claim to own revenue record to prove the allotment. Police, however, claim that the former sarpanch’s family had sufficient legal papers to prove their claim over the land. “We are satisfied with the documents shown by victim’s family about ownership of the land. But the other party is not ready to obey court orders,” said Sukhjinder Singh,SHO Jhander police station. Tarsem Peter, president of the Paindu Mazdoor Union of Punjab, said, “The Dalits could not construct houses on the land for all these years as their financial health was not good. Meanwhile, the family of the former sarpanch illegally took over possession of the land.” Sharing more information he said, “For the past few years, beneficiaries had approached administration to demark the land to construct the houses. Recent application for the same was given on April 18 to the sub-divisional office via Suwidha Centre. Revenue officials came to village and returned after meeting Karminder’s family.” “As the administration was not willing to give the land to Dalits, we decided to take it back on Sunday. But before we could reach the village, there was a strong police force waiting for us in the area. They attacked us when we tried to enter. The police also resorted to lathicharge in which 10 people were injured and they also fired in the air to disperse us,” claimed Peter. The police, however, have a different version of the story. “There was no lathicharge or firing by the police,” claimed Sukhjinder, adding, “A group of around 50 people attacked family members of Karaminder while he was working in the field. The attackers were in an inebriated condition. We reached the spot after the fight was over. Four persons including a woman of the family were injured. We have booked 16 persons by name and 15 unidentified persons for attacking the family under Sections 307, 323, 324, 341, 427, 148, 49, 120 B IPC.” Meanwhile, Sub divisional Magistrate Ajnala Anupreet Kaur when enquired said that she had no first hand information about the dispute nor the clash. (Indian Express 13/6/16)

Dalit murder: 9 booked under Goondas Act (2)

Coimbatore: Nine of the 11 accused in the murder of dalit youth Shankar have been booked under Goondas Act on Thursday. The nine include parents of Shankar’s widow Kausalya. The orders detaining them under the Goondas Act were served to the accused who were lodged at the Coimbatore and Trichy central prison.The spine chilling murder had shook the state when a gang intercepted Kausalya and her husband on March 13 on a busy stretch near Udumalpet bus stand and assaulted them with weapons. While Shankar, 21, died on the way to the hospital due to multiple injuries, Kausalya survived. Inquiries revealed that it was Kausalya’s parents who had sent the killers to murder Shankar as he happened to be a dalit. Subsequently 11 people were arrested including Kausalya’s father Chinnasamy, mother Annalakshmi, uncle Pandithurai and his friends.While Pandithurai was lodged in Trichy central prison, another accused Prasanna, a college student was lodged in borstal school at Pollachi and the rest were sent to Coimbatore central prison. The case is being heard at the principal district and sessions court in Tirupur. Police had filed chargesheet in the case in May accusing the parents and Kausalya’s uncle of conspiring and executing the murder. Even as the accused were attempting to secure bail, Tirupur superintendent of police Sarojkumar Thakur recommended detention of the accused under Goondas Act, based on which Tirupur collector S Jayanthi issued orders in this regard. (Times of India 17/6/16)

Six Dalits injured after attacked allegedly by GP member, aides (2)

Mandya: Six Dalits, including two women, sustained head injuries when a Gram Panchayat member and his 11 associates allegedly attacked them in Bookanakere village of K.R. Pet taluk late on Friday. Cheluvaiah (55), Kirankumar (19), Thammaiah (38), Shivakumar (21), Thayamma (45) and Kumari (35) — all residents of Dalit Colony in the village — received injuries and were recuperating at the government hospital, K.R. Pet Rural Station police said. The victims were discussing constructing a Ambedkar Bhavan at the village when the group, equipped with rods, sickles and other equipment, attacked them, the police added. According to Mr. Cheluvaiah, the complainant, local GP member Ramesh alias Panchayati Ramesh led the group. The police have registered a case and detained a few persons. (The Hindu 19/6/16)

Muzaffarnagar: Case against 3 for raping, murdering Dalit woman (2)

Muzaffarnagar: The 38-year-old woman was working as a labourer in the paper mill where she was allegedly raped and murdered two days ago. (Shutterstock/representative ) A case has been registered against three persons in connection with the alleged rape and murder of a Dalit woman at a paper mill in Muzaffarnagar in UP, police said on Sunday. The accused include the mill director, Arif, and a labour contractor, Samir, police said. Meanwhile, protests broke out near Nagla village as people demanded justice in the case and blocked the Panipat-Khatima highway for several hours with the body of the victim. The 38-year-old woman was working as a labourer in the paper mill where she was allegedly raped and murdered two days ago. Police said the mill was owned by a BSP MLA. (Hindustan Times 19/6/16)

NCP targets BJP MLA over pig analogy for Dalits’ uplift (2)

MUMBAI: A video showing BJP MLA from Dombivli Ravindra Chavan using analogy of pigs while talking about “uplift of the Dalits” has gone viral on the social media, prompting NCP to demand his apology. The video is purportedly of an event in neighbouring Thane district on June 17. Chavan cited the example of Abraham Lincoln narrating a story where Lincoln picked up a “piglet” from a drain and cleaned it. “Similarly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis too were working hard to uplift Dalits,” Chavan said. The analogy sparked protest and Thane district unit of NCP organised a “naming ceremony” of a pig and named it ‘Ravindra Chavan.’”The cassette (video recording) of my speech which is being circulated is edited and not the original uncut one. My statement has been distorted,” Chavan claimed. NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said the BJP MLA should tender an apology for the “appalling analogy”. (Times of India 21/6/16)

Five booked for Kerala dalit girl’s ragging (2)

KALABURAGI: Kerala police on Wednesday booked five students of the Al Qamar College of Nursing in Kalaburagi, Karnataka, for the brutal ragging of a dalit student that has sparked widespread outrage. The victim, Aswathi (19), hailing from Mallapuram in Kerala, is battling for her life at Kozhikode Medical College Hospital (KMCH) after seniors allegedly forced her to drink toilet cleaning solution on May 9.The police booked Lakshmi and Athira, both natives of Kerala, and Krishna, Shilpa and Joe of Al Qamar College after Aswathi named them in her statement that was recorded at the hospital on Wednesday. “The charges include attempt to murder, besides sections of the Kerala Ragging Act and Atrocities under SC ST Act,” Kozhikode circle inspector Jaleel Thotathil said. Since the crime happened in Karnataka, Aswathi’s recorded statement has been sent through a special messenger to the Roza police station in Kalaburagi, Thothathil added. Also, a copy of the FIR has been sent to the Kalaburagi police commissioner. Kalaburagi SP N Shashikumar told TOI he has formed a 13-member team led by DSP Jahnavi to probe the case. (Times of India 23/6/16)

In Muzaffarnagar village, it’s ‘no service’ for Dalits in salons (2)

Meerut: Eighty kilometres from the national capital, in Bhoopkhedi, a sleepy village of Muzaffarnagar, Dalits are barred from getting a hair cut in public salons. The Dalits allege that if a barber dares defy the order, which they say comes from upper caste Thakurs in the village, he has to face their wrath and shut shop. The humiliating ‘tradition’ which has been followed for generations is now a source of conflict, as young Dalits have started resisting. They held a panchayat on Monday demanding that it be scrapped. “Dalits do not have the freedom to get a shave or hair cut in normal hair saloons. If some barber tries to break this upper caste diktat, he has to either shut shop or face their goons,” said Harish Kumar, a Dalit resident, lamenting the denial of “equal opportunity and dignity”. Asked how his fellow community members managed, Kumar said they went outside the village to get groomed. “We grew up seeing local barbers refuse and making up some excuse or other. Some openly say Thakurs have prohibited them from serving Dalits. Our ancestors did not speak out but we cannot tolerate this undignified practice any more. All we want is equal treatment which is guaranteed by the Constitution,” asserted Kumar a manual labourer in his thirties. Ram Phool, who is Kumar’s neighbour, said the unwritten rule resulted in the overall boycott of Dalits in the village.“Our sons and daughters do not get marriage offers due to this discriminatory rule which is well known outside,” said Phool, a daily wage earning farm worker. Sheru Hajjam is a barber who used to own a shop in the village but shut it down due to daily fights and threats. “It used to be a daily nuisance. Every time some Dalit would come to my shop, I had to refuse to serve because of the pressure from this diktat. The District Magistrate of Muzaffarnagar, Dinesh Kumar Singh, has ordered a probe into the matter. “I have come to know about this issue only from you. This is a completely wrong practice. We will not allow something like this to go on any more. I have ordered a probe and will take action against those responsible for this discriminatory diktat,” he told The Hindu. (The Hindu 25/6/16)

11 Dalits picked up by Tamil Nadu cops missing for a week (2)

CHENNAI: A whole week has passed since a police team, believed to be from Tamil Nadu, picked up 11 men of the Kurava community from a village in Kerala, but the distraught  family members are still clueless about their whereabouts. After knocking doors of Tamil Nadu police in various districts, the families petitioned the National Commission for Scheduled Castes on Tuesday. The families say that the 11 men were forcibly herded by a team, which they believe as Maduravoyal police from Chennai, on June 21. A Dalit community, Kuravas are denotified tribes but still carry the stigma of ‘criminal tribes’ though the Criminal Tribes Act was abolished long ago. These ‘missing’ men, along with several others, left their native village, Kuthirai Santhai near Chinnasalem, in search of better livelihood along with their kith and kin 10 years ago. They settled down at Manikonda Kolavayal village in Kasargod district and eked out their living by cleaning toilets and pruning trees in the locality. Speaking to Express, the women said a group of men dressed in Tamil Nadu police uniform landed at their settlement and forcibly took the 11 men in the middle of their sleep around 1 am. They were pushed away while attempting to stop the jeep in which the men were taken. “Police said the arrest was made in a theft case but refused to divulge where they were taking them,” said S Kannagi, wife of Subramanian, one of the 11 arrested. “It has been almost eight days, we don’t even know if they are alive or not. The local police had no clue and our search at police stations in Villupuram turned futile,” she said. Meanwhile, one of their relatives informed that the missing men were locked up at the Maduravoyal station. So they travelled all the way to Chennai with the hope of finding them. But access was denied forcing them to approach the NCSC as a last resort. According to I Pandiyan of Social Awareness Society For Youths (SASY), a Villupuram-based Dalit NGO, which has been helping these women, the police used to pick up innocent people belonging to Kurava community for any theft case reported elsewhere. This continues to keep them under a sense of fear, he added. Meanwhile, the Maduravoyal police rejected the allegations and an official from the station denied making any such arrest. (New Indian Express 29/6/16)

TRIBALS

Tribals in Khammam on fast unto death for separate dist (6)

KHAMMAM: Local tribal associations in Bhadrachalam have launched a fast unto death at ITDA office on Wednesday, seeking a separate tribal district consisting of 24 tribal mandals. In the wake of the state government’s plan to form new districts, demand for new districts gained momentum across the state and people of Bhadrachalam are also raising their demand. A District Sadhana Committee has been formed and people are staging dharnas and rasta rokos, and have been sitting on relay hunger strikes for the last 20 days. On the other hand, a tribal association began its agitation on Wednesday, demanding Bhadrachalam as a tribal district. 13 members launched a fast unto death in front of ITDA office. Speaking to media, Girijana Sankshema Parishad (GSP) state convener Sonde Veeraiah said there are specific rules in the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution that allow tribal self-rule. He demanded the state government to honour the Fifth Schedule and declare a separate district for tribals. As per the Panchayat Raj Extension to Scheduled Areas Act 1996, tribal Areas should be administered by tribals, he said. “Tribals would not get justice under non-tribal administration, which has already been proved in the last 60 years,” he said. GSP state vice president Murram Veera Bhadram said tribal community was not allowed to develop under non-tribal rule and at least now the state government should consider their demand and declare Bhadrachalam as a tribal district and support tribals’ development. GSP state president Payam Satyanarayana said the state government should honour the tribal agitation and declare a separate tribal district.The Fifth Schedule of the Constitution allows for tribal self-rule by a Tribes Advisory Council, to advise on matters pertaining the welfare of tribes (New Indian Express 2/6/16)

SC asks state govt to ensure ‘well-being’ of tribals in Kota (6)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday came to the rescue of some tribal families, whose dwellings in a village in Kota district have allegedly been demolished by some mine owners, by asking the director general of police and the chief secretary of Rajashtan to ensure their “well-being”.A vacation bench comprising Justices P C Ghose and Amitava Roy also directed the DGP and the chief secretary to conduct an inquiry into the alleged incident and file their respective reports within four weeks. The court was hearing a plea filed by Rekha, a tribal who hails from Julmi village of Kherahad in Kota district. She alleged that some mine owners treat the tribal villagers as their bonded labourers and have demolished about 42, out of 60 houses, in the village without even paying them in a bid to usurp their land. The plea also claimed that some unidentified persons had abducted Raniya, husband of petitioner Rekha, on December 4, last year. Besides seeking a direction for state police and others to produce Raniya, the plea also sought an order for registration of an FIR under the SC/ST Act and other relevant provisions against the mine owners. PTI (Times of India 4/6/16)

Tribals air grievances at K’put consultation camp (6)

Koraput: Tribals of Duruguda lamented lack of electricity, safe drinking water and pucca roads in the village during a consultation camp organized by the Koraput district administration at Baijapur panchayat on Saturday evening. They alleged that the piped water project has been lying defunct for past several months and no steps have been taken to repair it despite repeated complaints. Collector (Koraput) Jaya Kumar V, who was present at the camp, assured the villagers that he would personally look into their problems and try to solve them at the earliest. He also urged the tribals to cooperate with the administration for proper execution of the development projects. Around 300 villagers assembled at the camp site to hear the collector and air their grievances. “For the first time, we had officials at our village. Till date we had been running after them to get our work done. We also got to know about the measures to prevent malaria, dengue and diarrhoea,” said Ramani Nag, an elderly woman of Janiguda village. Consultation camps are being held across the district on 5th and 21st of every month to discuss implementation of development projects. The block development officers have been directed to organize such camps in at least two panchayats under the respective blocks. “The camps help us understand the problems faced by people and address them in a sensitive manner,” the collector said.The villagers are also made aware of different government schemes through posters, banners and video shows, he added. Official sources said over 50 camps have been organized since the launch of the programme in April. Field staff of education, health, rural development and women and child development departments, block office and Southco attend these camps.The feedback are examined and those requiring immediate intervention are taken up on a priority basis, he said. Notebooks and pens are distributed among children, he added. (Times of India 6/6/16)

Rajasthan’s tribal family mortgages anklet, sells goat for toilet (6)

Udaipur: A daily wager in Rajasthan’s Dungarpur sold one of his goats and mortgaged his wife’s silver anklet to raise Rs 9,000 for building a toilet. Kantilal Roat did so after some social workers campaigning as part of the Swachh Bharat scheme sensitized his family about the importance of hygiene and risks of open defecation. The workers told Roat he would be getting a Rs 12,000 assistance if he agreed to build a toilet. Roat started constructing the toilet after getting first two instalments of Rs 8,000. But the money was exhausted while the construction was still underway, forcing Roat to sell one of his seven goats besides mortgaging his wife Gauri’s anklets. “The goat fetched me Rs 5,000 while we got Rs 4,000 against the anklet said Roat. “The goat fetched me Rs 5,000 while we got Rs 4,000 against the anklet, which my wife had received as gift from her parents at the time of our wedding,” said Roat, who lives in a small hut along with his extended family. His mother, Lali Bai, said she understands the hardships her two daughters-inlaw have faced while defecating in the open. “Even if it meant to mortgage our hut, I would have willingly done so for their honour and dignity.”Dungarpur Municipal Corporation chairman K K Gupta felicitated the family. “At a time when it is not easy to convince even educated and urban masses on sanitation issues, Kantilal and his wife have done a commendable work and deserve felicitation,” Gupta said. He released the remaining assistance for the family besides rewarding it Rs 4,000 to get the anklet back. (Times of India 10/6/16)

Tribal forum demands PR in Manipur (6)

 NEW DELHI, June 10 – Tribal organisations in Manipur while demanding the imposition of President’s Rule in Manipur have denounced all the tribal MLAs and the lone tribal MP in Lok Sabha for their “silence on such a crucial issue of passing of the three anti-tribal Bills on August 31, 2015”. In a memorandum to President which was made available to newsmen, the Outer Manipur Tribals’ Forum (OMTF) said that the 20-odd tribal MLAs and the lone tribal MP from Outer Manipur, “in spite of the unrelenting” protests and agitations by the tribal people they represent, “have chosen to remain silent on such a crucial issue in passing the three anti-tribal bills”. “We, therefore, denounced them as our representatives since they have failed to truly represent the tribal people of Manipur”, the memorandum said. The OMTF urged the President to initiate the process of impeachment of the 20-odd tribal MLAs and the tribal MP “as we no longer accept them as our representatives,” the memorandum added. OMTF is an apex body of Hmar Inpui, Mizo People Convention, Thadou Inpi, United Naga Council and Zomi Council. It said, with the situation in Manipur deteriorating by the day, the only viable solution now is for the Union Government to interfere directly into the issue by imposing President’s Rule in the State and work towards a solution that is sustainable and acceptable to the tribal people of the State”. The memorandum said that the “All Political Party” delegation led by Manipur Chief Minister is in New Delhi to pressurise the Union Government to give President’s assent to the three anti-tribal Bills. This is in spite of the Chief Minister himself having admitted that the three Bills are the agenda of CorCom, an umbrella of various Meitei militant groups. “These actions of the Manipur Government, its machineries and other non-State agencies clearly expose the deep-rooted nexus between the outlawed Meitei militant groups, the Manipur Government and the Meitei civil organisations like the JCILPS,” it alleged. The memorandum said that with the tribals of Manipur agitating for more than nine months now, refusing to bury the nine “tribal martyrs” who still await justice, and with no acceptable and sustainable solution in sight, and the “dominant Meitei community” pressing for the President’s assent on the three anti-tribal Bills, the hill-valley divide is becoming more pronounced by the day and is now way beyond repairs. – Newmai News (The Assam Tribune 11/6/16)

Plight of tribal women forest watchers in Attappadi draws flak (6)

PALAKKAD: THE posting of tribal women as watchers in deep forests of Attappadi by Forest Department sans providing any basic infrastructural facilities has spawned resentment among the tribals. Elucidating the scenario, chairman of the Girijan Sevak Samithi U C  Kunchan said: “When the Attappadi Hill Area Development Society (Ahads) was wrapped up, 93 tribals, who were employed with it, were provided jobs by the UDF Government with the Forest Department.While 50 men were employed with the department, 43 tribal women were employed on deputation with the Agriculture Department (Singapara krishi bhavan) to help out with the farming of crops suited for Attappadi”. He said that on May 11,2016, an order was issued hastily directing the 43 women watchers were to return to their parent department. President of the Thaikula Sangham Bhagavathy said that these women were sent to remote and inaccessible areas of Attappadi like Galasi, Thudukki and Aanavaayi, from where it’s nearly impossible to return home in the evening.  A few women have been posted at the Kuchipara station, which is 20 kms away from the Silent Valley forests. She said that Mannarkad Divisional Forest Officer Raju Thomas was behind this exercise as he was irked by the fact that the adivasi women, who include widows, unwed mothers and women married to drunkards, had lent support to the ‘ussiru porattam’ of the Thaikula sangham. “The Thaikula Sangham had agitated for more than a month and blocked traffic demanding the shifting of the TASMAC liquor outlet  from Aanakatti, just on the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border,  and succeeded. The support of these  women to the agitation didn’t go down well with the DFO, which led to the decision,” she alleged. These women were not even provided quarters to stay in the forests. The department officials were feigning ignorance as they believe that the tribals would not protest, she said. The vice-president of the Thaikula Sangham Vanchi said they will petition the CM and  Minister for the Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Tribes A K Balan demanding the removal of the DFO from Mannarkad. (New Indian Express 14/6/16)

Tribal girl raped and killed in Sukma, says activist (6)

NAGPUR: Tribal activist and Aam Aadmi Party leader Soni Sori has alleged that Madkam Hidme, a resident of Gumpad village, was picked up from her home, raped and killed before being branded a Maoist. On June 13, Inspector General (IG) of Police of Bastar range in Chhattisgarh S.R.P. Kalluri had issued a statement claiming that Hidme was a member of the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist), and was killed in an encounter with a joint team of the District Reserve Guard and the Special Task Force near Gumpad forest of Sukma district. “Many villagers told me Hidme was raped and killed. I also spoke to some of her relatives on the phone, who confirmed that she was forcibly taken away by the policemen from the village. Some villagers tried to resist but the policemen waved guns at them and scared them away,” Ms. Sori told The Hindu . “She was taken to the forest nearby and raped. Her relatives also told me some of her clothes and smashed ornaments were found in the forest. The police then let out the propaganda that there was an encounter and a Maoist was killed,” claimed the AAP leader. Ms. Sori also alleged that the police stopped her from visiting the village. “My vehicle was stopped at Dornapal, Errabore and I was asked to go back from Injaram village,” said the tribal activist, who sat in front of the office of the SP, Sukma district, throughout Wednesday night in protest. (The Hindu 17/6/16)

Stopped from visiting rape victim’s village, Soni Sori threatens fast to death (6)

NAGPUR: Tribal activist and Chhattisgarh Aam Adami Party leader Soni Sori on Friday threatened to go on a fast unto death after she was allegedly stopped — by the police and members of former Salwa Judum militia — from visiting the village of a tribal girl in Sukma district who was allegedly raped and killed by policemen. “The police instigated members of the former Salwa Judum militia to stop me,” Ms. Sori told The Hindu . “They surrounded the rest house in Konta where I was staying with my party workers. They shouted slogans, calling me a criminal and a Maoist sympathiser. The attempt was to stop me from visiting Gumpad village and interacting with family members of [the victim] who was raped, killed and branded a Maoist by the police on June 13. The police told me the situation was spiralling out of hand and that I should not go to Gumpad. From the behaviour of the police, it was clear that [the victim] was raped and killed. Why would they stop me from visiting her village otherwise? We will take this fight to the end. I have decided not to eat anything until I am allowed to visit the village. If [the police] continue to resist, I will give up drinking water too and will go on a fast unto death.”“Chhattisgarh Congress president Bhupesh Baghel has formed a 10-member team that will headed by Bastar MLA Lakheswar Baghel. The team will visit the village and submit its report within a week,” said Congress spokesperson Shailesh Nitin Trivedi in a press statement. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) also demanded a judicial probe into the alleged fake encounter and sexual assault on the tribal girl. The AAP, meanwhile, filed a PIL in Bilaspur High Court demanding another post-mortem of the victim’s body. AAP Chhattisgarh convener Sanket Thakur told The Hindu , “We have requested the court that the post-mortem should be done by a doctor chosen by the victim’s family and not that of the police. We also requested for the formation of a Special Investigation Team headed by an IPS officer from outside Chhattisgarh and Rs. 20 lakh as compensation for the family of the victim.” The court is likely to hear the AAP leader’s plea on June 20. (The Hindu 18/6/16_

Draft National Forest Policy sets up another battle over Forest Rights Act (6)

New Delhi: The government has made public its draft National Forest Policy, to replace the one crafted in 1988. Incorporating consequences of climate change but entirely ignoring one of the three forest related laws, the Forest Rights Act, the policy brings new focus to plantations, growing trees outside forest lands and wood industry. The policy continues with the national goal of a minimum of one-third of the geographical area under forest or tree cover. But it does away with the goal for hill and mountainous regions to maintain two-thirds of the geographical area under forest cover. Promising to set up a parallel arrangement to the Forest Rights Act, the policy proposes to launch a new Community Forest Management Mission, bringing government, community and private land under the new proposed management system.  Drafted by the Indian Institute of Forest Management, the research arm of the environment ministry, the policy moots that special communities at the gram sabha (village council) level be created to take over management of forests. The plans prepared by the gram sabhas for their forestlands would also have to be vetted by the forest department based on rules prepared for the same, such as wider management plans the forest department prepares. The policy released for public comments on June 16 for only 15 days ignores that the Forest Rights Act was promulgated in 2006 to take back control from the forest department of traditional forest lands and give these to tribals and other forest-dwellers.  The Act gave communities complete management control over their lands with the forest department’s role substantially diminished. The forest departments had previously, too, run participatory forest management systems but with the final veto of the departments over the lands and the use of the resources, the demand for greater rights to tribals and forest-dwellers had picked pace and found political support during the previous National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government. This culminated in the Forest Rights Act during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. …  (Business Standard 19/6/16)

Armed tribals lynch two extremists in Jharkhand (6)

RANCHI: Tribals armed with traditional weapons lynched two extremists belonging to People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI), a breakaway faction of CPI(Maoist), in Torpa block of Khunti district, 40km from here, on Tuesday evening. Wielding guns the extremists visited Pandaria village to collect levies from a local when they were confronted by the locals. “The villagers who confronted the extremists became violent when the extremists threatened to kill them. The extremists were thrashed with sticks and other traditional weapons,” Khunti SP Anish Gupta said. In the name of civil defence the Khunti police organises meetings of villagers and motivate them to stand against the extremists who take shelter in the villages and forests. In the pursuit of developing civil defence system in the villages police seem to ignore the huge risk it carries. During identification police found that the two extremists were Tene Bhengra and Deepak Bhengra, wanted in several cases by Khunti police. (Times of India 21/6/16)

8,000 tribals head to city, protest clogs arterial road (6)

NASHIK: Around 8,000 tribals marched to the revenue commissionerate on Thursday to press for their various demands. They presented a memorandum of demands to state forest minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, who was in the city, and dispersed only after the minister assured to resolve all the issues in three months. Under the banner of Nashik Zilla Kisan Sabha, the tribals directed their morcha to the revenue commissionerate instead of the collectorate, which threw traffic out of gear and forced the police to rework their security plans. The tribals were led by Surgana-Kalwan MLA JP Gavit, who alleged that the rate of allotting farmlands to the tribals under the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006, has decreased rapidly in the last two years with most of the cases being rejected. The tribals flocked to Anant Kanhere Maidan (Golf Club Ground) since morning in huge numbers with many of them carrying files of their land claims. Several women from respective villages and talukas carried the files over their head during the rally that was aimed at reaching the district collectorate. But upon receiving information that the district collector was at the revenue commissionerate, where even Mungantiwar was expected to reach, the agitators took a U-turn from the Central Bus Stand to the maidan, got into their vehicles and drove towards the office. “This government is not allowing the tribals get access to their rightful land by rejecting a number of evidences presented to the district administration from time to time. The administration has either rejected the claims or given land admeasuring 0.1 to 0.8 hectares when the tribals could be given 4 hectares,” Gavit said adding, “Since the forest minister is in the city, we would be happy to bring it to his notice the injustice meted out to the tribals.” According to Gavit, there were around 50,000 claims from Dindori, Surgana, Peth, Trimbakeshwar and Igatpuri talukas, of which only 19,500 were cleared by the administration. All the remaining claims were rejected for petty reasons despite the tribals providing all the required evidences to prove that the lands belonged to them, he said. “We met the governor on August 1 last year and apprised him of the issue. Accordingly, he asked us to prepare documents of the rejected claims with minimum two proofs as mentioned in the Act and hand them to the administration for further action,” Gavit added. The tribals stay put till late evening waiting for the minister to talk to them. (Times of India 24/6/16)

Judge calls for commitment to implement schemes for tribals (6)

Thane, Jun 26 () Bombay High Court Justice V M Kanade has called for implementing various programmes for tribals in the country not just as work, but as a commitment to fulfil the rights given to them under the Constitution. While launching the NALSA (Protection and Enforcement of Tribal Rights) Scheme-2015 here yesterday, Justice Kanade said there was shortage of NGOs, advocates and para-legal volunteers for implementing various programmes for tribals. He asked the concerned officials to implement programmes for the sake of tribals not just as a work, but as their commitment to fulfil the rights given to the community under the Constitution. The judge said it was sad that though Thane district is near Mumbai, there are still cases of malnutrition, health issues, child deaths, educational problems, legal rights, land issues and others, which need to be addressed. While implementing various schemes for tribals, educating them about their rights should be taken up on priority, he stressed. He also observed that while a city develops in the process of urbanisation, the tribals are left to suffer which should be avoided. They should also develop along with the other members of the society, Justice Kanade opined. He further said that the Bombay High Court receives a number of PILs with regard to the issues of tribals. The court has directed the Maharashtra government to conduct a study and research on the requirements of tribals in the state, especially their food and nutrition, he said. It should be ensured that the rights and benefits guaranteed to the tribals reach them, he urged. (Times of India 26/6/16)

 ‘Aksharabhyasam’ performed for Adivasi school dropouts (6)

ADILABAD: The police organised Aksharabhyasam, or initiation of children into the world of letters, for Adivasi Kolam school dropouts and other students at the famous Gnana Saraswati temple at Basar town in Adilabad district on Sunday. It is perhaps for the first time ever that Adivasi students underwent such an exercise. As many as 24 girl and 23 boys from different Kolam hamlets of Khanapur mandal participated in the programme. The Aksharabhyasam was undertaken as part of the ‘Police Janamythri’ programme to help underprivileged Adivasis with their education. Adilabad Superintendent of Police Vikram Jeet Duggal had lunch with the students and their parents who had been brought to Basar for the programme. (The Hindu 27/6/16)

Forest rights: CM sets three-month deadline for officials (6)

Bengaluru: Expressing dissatisfaction over the apathy of the official machinery in according individual and community rights to tribal communities under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Tuesday set a three-month deadline to bureaucrats for expediting the long-delayed process. Reviewing development works of various departments at a two-day conference of deputy commissioners, chief executive officers of zilla panchayats and regional commissioners here, the Chief Minister asked the DCs and CEOs to dispose of pending applications seeking such rights. He warned them of disciplinary action if they failed to complete the process by November. Mr. Siddaramaiah asked them to take a re-look at the applications that had been rejected on “flimsy grounds”. The Chief Minister is learnt to be upset over the poor attendance of ministers in the beginning of meeting. With only Kagodu Thimmappa, K.J. George, H.C. Mahadevappa, Krishna Byre Gowda and H. Anjaneya turning up when the meeting began, he sought to know where were the other ministers. However, they rushed to the meeting in the next few minutes. (The Hindu 29/6/16)

WOMEN

Counsellors to become police interface for women and children (8)

New Delhi: Women and children going to police stations in Delhi will now have the option of bypassing “insensitive and rude” police personnel. Instead, they will have soft-spoken and professional women counsellors to listen patiently to their woes. Trained at Mumbai’s Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), the counsellors will also help reduce the burden of policemen who — because of the nature of their work — often come across as insensitive and thus ineffective in dealing with problems of women and children. So, when a woman visits a police station with complaints related to domestic violence, quarrels, dowry harassment or even sexual abuse, they will be given the option of visiting these counsellors. “Women and children may not be comfortable describing their complaints to a policeman or policewoman. Our counsellors will play the role of mothers and sisters who are willing to hear their woes and offer all sorts of solutions,” Dr. S Parasuraman, the TISS Director, told The Hindu . The solutions could range from acting as mediators for the complainants and the other party to offering legal advice to women. The aim will also be to avoid the registration of an FIR if the problem can be solved through mediation or by warning the other party. “Filing a police complaint, though, will always be an option and the counsellors will immediately call in the police on behalf of the complainants if they feel necessary. But, many problems are solved better through conversations, and moral support. The counsellors will probe that possibility,” said. Dr. Parasuraman. The purpose is to make the women and children feel that they are not alone in their fight and that they are supported by the government, he added. Though the number of counsellors currently available may not be sufficient, as far as possible they will also be the first contact point for sexual abuse victims who visit a police station.To guide the women and children complainants to the counselling option, every police station in the city will soon carry boards about the availability of the facility and the necessary contact numbers. The project is a joint venture between TISS, the Delhi Police and the National Commission for Women (NCW) which will be funding it. For now, there will be two counsellors at each of the 11 Delhi district headquarters. By the year end, the number will go up to seven in each district.“We already have sanction for 60 more counsellors. Once they join us, one counsellor will be deployed in each sub-division. Eventually, the police commissioner wants one counsellor at every police station so that the women and children find help right away,” Sundari Nanda, Special CP (Women Safety, Airport and Modernisation), told The Hindu . The city police are already effectively using TISS counsellors at the Special Police Unit for Women and Children office in Nanakpura for mediating between couples seeking divorces. Six young counsellors, with the help of the police, claim a 30 per cent success rate in reconciling estranged couples in the city. “The Mumbai Police began seeking the services of the TISS counsellors in 1980s itself. Encouraged by the role they play, their services were extended to every district in Maharashtra,” said Dr. S. Parasuraman. (The Hindu 2/6/16)

More women taking up odd jobs, claims survey (8)

MUMBAI: More and more women in metro cities are applying for unconventional jobs like cab driver, security guard and delivery executives, thanks to attractive pay and demand and supply gap, says a report. “We see a rise in preference, by both end customers as well as job seekers, for women in unconventional jobs or those sectors which were traditionally considered male dominated areas, especially in big cities,” Babajob co-founder and COO Vir Kashyap told PTI. The rising trend of Indian women opting for unconventional careers in the informal and semi-skilled sectors is also due to demand and supply mismatch and higher salary, he added. According to the data compiled from actual applications on Babajob.com platform in 2015-16, there has been seven times more demand from employers for female cab drivers and 153 per cent increase in applications for the women driver jobs. “This trend is a fairly recent phenomenon and the increase of women applying for unconventional jobs is higher in Mumbai, compared to other metro cities,” Kashyap said. Babajob is India’s livelihood marketplace, facilitating blue collar jobs in the country and at present, it has over six million registered job seekers and over 3,25,000 employers. The data also revealed that there has been five times increase in job opportunities for women delivery executives and 114 per cent rise in applications by women. Women are offered more money in categories such as sales and data entry, it said. With an average salary of Rs 10,981.44 per month, jobs of delivery executives saw an increase of 2.57 per cent for women over men, it added. Similarly, sales executive segment, that offers an average salary of Rs 12,809.03 per month, has witnessed 6.55 per cent increase in pay for women candidates, the survey pointed out.The report also revealed that the security guard category has seen 25 per cent increase in job opportunities, while 125 per cent rise in job application by women candidates. (Times of India 5/6/16)

Harassment at workplace? solution just a click away (8)

VISAKHAPATNAM: FOR the employees who are facing harassments at workplace but refraining from registering complaints fearing the consequences, the solution is just a click away. ‘Vegu’, a mobile app developed by the Mihir Solution, through which employees-both men and women-can register their grievances, keeping their identity confidential. The application which can be downloaded from the Google play store is meant for the employees and employers. The application can be used for reporting sexual harassment, corruption, threats, physical abuse, intimidation, blackmail and  vulgarity at workplace. However, the employees can access the app only after their employer register themselves with the app developer, said Jani Nemana, CEO of Mihir Mobile Solutions. The application does not need any hardware or software installation, it is a cloud based solution. “Mihir Solution  has developed an application ‘EyeSkool’ that helps prevent potential mass violence at schools, colleges or universities in the USA to report suspicious behaviour. We wanted to do the same in India and through ‘Vegu’. We have done it for employees in the corporate sector,” said Jani Nemana. “People get nervous to lodge complaints due to fear or possible adverse consequences from the management side. In many cases, the victims do not want to be identified, but want the problem be solved. This app caters to the both,” he explains, adding that the employees will get their pleas addressed and the management will be aware of the problems their staff are facing. It all happened when PhD scholar N Sridevi from Andhra University and Jani Nemana got into a discussion, leading them to think about an app for the people at workplace. “When I knew about the ‘Eyeskool’ I asked him why don’t we do something in India for the professionals in corporate sector,” said Sridevi… (New Indian Express 5/6/16)

594 rape cases in first 3 months (8)

KOLLAM: A total of 594 rape cases were registered in police stations across the State in the first three months of this year. Of these, 219 were cases involving minor victims. Though the district-wise breakup of the offence against minors had not been provided, statistics of crime against women and children given by the State Crime Records Bureau show that Malappuram topped the list with 43 rape cases during the period. Thiruvananthapuram followed with 42 cases and Kollam came next with 37 cases. Kannur propped up the table with eight cases. Rape cases were registered in all districts during the period. Last year 1,974 rape cases were registered at police stations across the State, including 711 involving minor victims. Five dowry-related deaths of women were registered between January and March this year. Two cases were reported from Palakkad, and one each from Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam, and Malappuram districts. Last year, seven dowry death cases were registered in the State. The statistics showed that eight children were murdered and 29 women and an equal number of children were kidnapped during the period. During the period, 1,005 molestation cases were registered in the State. Last year, 177 women and 160 children were kidnapped in the State. A total of 681 crimes against children and 3,219 crimes against women were registered during the first three months of the year. (The Hindu 8/6/16)

Women auto owners against change in colour code (8)

NAVI MUMBAI: It is a case of reverse gender neutrality debate with women auto operators, who purchased their vehicle after getting permits in the new lottery scheme, opposed to a different colour code. In two incidents in Thane women commuters jumping from running autos preceded the state government order, said Vashi Dy (RTO), Sanjay Dole. The rule is applicable to those who got permits in the lottery and want to register their vehicles, but the same operators have the option to drive yellow black autos that are not registered in their name. The imbroglio has led to financial distress for 15 women who have purchased the vehicles and have to pay monthly instalments on the loan. There are 65 women under Vashi Dy (RTO), who have got permits in the lottery. Other women who wanted to buy said a decision in this regard by the state government was imperative or else the vehicles cannot get registered and cannot be plied on roads. Kasam Mulani, president of Navi Mumbai Rickshaw Mahasangh who was present along with women protesters at Shivaji chowk in Vashi, said, “I met the transport secretary last month in this regard. A solution to issue was rather important.”The much vaunted and celebrated lottery scheme of the state government with 5 % reservation in January enabled women with license and badges to get permits. Unions and women auto operators objected to the colour and uniform code change. Mulani said they submitted their objections to the state government suggestion/objections to the colour code issued on April 18. Meera Samuel (an auto operator from Nerul, who is affected due to the imbroglio) said: I am an auto operator and used to drive the yellow black rickshaw, but after qualifying in the lottery scheme, I purchased an auto rickshaw that cost me overall Rs 2 lakh. I have taken a loan and paid one month instalment of Rs 5000. The other one is due shortly. My vehicle is unregistered and parked at home. (Times of India 13/6/16)

NHRC notice to Rajasthan on branding women as witches (8)

New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Monday issued notice to the Rajasthan government on the plight of women branded as witches in the state’s Bhilwara district. Taking sou motu cognizance of the issue through media reports, the commission has learned that most often widows or women without any family support have been branded as witches. “Some of them were tortured brutally or even killed. Some of them were forced to leave their homes, and their properties were grabbed by powerful people,” a statement from the commission said. The state authorities have allegedly not taken effective action against either the offenders or to curb this menace. Accordingly, the commission has observed that the issue if true, raises serious violation of human rights of the hapless and helpless women in Rajasthan. “The notice has been issued to the Chief Secretary and Director General of Police, Government of Rajasthan calling for reports in the matter. They have been asked to indicate the action taken by the law enforcement in each such incident and the steps taken by the State authorities to address the issue,” said the statement. (Business Standard 13/6/16)

Squads to patrol city buses, combat harassment of women (8)

Agra: Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) officials will be forming squads to check activities of miscreants in city buses here. The squad will also conduct checks on those who travel without tickets on these buses. The city buses run on MG Road, Kamla Nagar, Bhagwan Talkies, Dayal Bagh, Agra Cantt and various other localities and routes of Agra. But in the past days there have been increasing complaints about ticketless travel and of passengers misbehaving with women as well as bus staff.”We have decided to form squads to ensure safer travel of passengers, particularly women. There will be four teams in Agra and two in Mathura. Our motto is to provide hassle-free travel for citizens and we are working to improve facilities on city buses,” said Rajendra Prasad Giri, managing director of JNNURM here, talking to TOI. “The squad will include an officer in charge of checking, a traffic police sub-inspector, two constables and a woman constable. They will act against anyone creating problems for passengers or flouting rules,” the MD said, adding that the squads will be formed within this month. According to officials, the squads will also act against illegal buses which have contributed to increasing traffic congestion in Agra, particularly on busy thoroughfares. One can spot these buses at Bhagwan Talkies crossing, ISBT, Water Works and Bijlighar bus station in particular. (Times of India 16/6/16)

Harassed for giving birth to girls, woman ends life; 4 booked (8)

Thane: A 26-year-old woman allegedly committed suicide after being harassed by her husband and in-laws for giving birth to daughters in Katyachiwadai village of Murbad taluka here, police said today. Ranjana Kashinath Thombre took the extreme step by jumping in a well yesterday on account of alleged torture and frequent harassment by her husband and in-laws over dowry and not being able to bear a son. Ranjana was married to Kashinath Bhau Thombre and the couple lived with their in-laws in Murbad. According to a complaint lodged last night the accused again had an altercation over the victim having three daughters.Kashinath (26), Bhagibai Bhau Thombre (58), Vasant Bhau Thombre (28) and Lata Vasant Thombre (25) were booked by Tokawade police of Murbad taluka under sections 306 (abetment to suicide), 498-A (husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) rw 34 of the IPC.

However, no arrests have been so far. (Deccan Herald 16/6/16)

Teams formed to prevent crimes against women (8)

PUDUCHERRY: In an effort aimed at preventing crimes against women, including eve-teasing, the Puducherry police have constituted 15 special teams to nab those involved in the act.Police sources said that women police in plainclothes will inspect crowded places and nab those involved in the act. Each team will have seven women police personnel and two male police personnel. Joining hands with law-enforcement machinery they will work towards safety of women. The teams will function under the direct supervision of Senior Superintendent of Police (Traffic) Rajeev Ranjan. (The Hindu 19/6/16)

Exploitation of girls in spinning mills flayed (8)

Dindigul: Members of Tirupur People’s Movement (TPM) staged a demonstration in front of Dindigul Corporation office on Tuesday condemning exploitation of adolescent girls by spinning mills in the State. Addressing the gathering, TPM State coordinator Melvin said that the mills should stop exploiting adolescent girls by offering fake schemes like marriage and higher education programmes. Such programmes should be banned by the government. Action should be taken against middlemen and agents who brought these girls for work in spinning mills under Section 370 (trafficking personnel) of the Indian Penal Code, he said. The government should frame a new law banning appointment of girls, aged between 14 and 18 years, in mills. Many mill managements did not pay even the minimum wages to them, and other benefits such as ESI and PF were totally denied to them. Many girls had been facing sexual harassment, verbal abuse and living in unhygienic accommodation while working in the mills, he charged. The government should frame new guidelines for setting up stay homes meant for these girls within the mill campus and bring them under the control of Social Welfare Department. Opportunity should be given for the girls to air their grievances personally, Mr. Melvin insisted. Tamil Nadu Textile and Common Labour Union secretary S. Divya said that three girls, who had faced harassment in a private mill in Karamadai in Coimbatore district, were rescued only after the intervention of top officials. A recent survey stated that 70,000 out of 92,000 workers in 200 spinning mills in the district were women, 56 per cent of whom were in the age group of 14-18 years. About 7,400 women completed Plus Two, 14,800 SSLC and 36,000 girls dropped out of school after completing sixth and ninth classes. Middlemen lured girls from rural areas on the false promises of marriage assistance, higher education, etc, she charged. (The Hindu 22/6/16)

Jharkhand cops tie up girl in ropes (8)

Alwar: In an apparent violation of human rights, the Jharkhand police on Tuesday tied a 23-year-old girl with a rope around her waist after arresting her in a dowry harassment case. The girl was kept tied at the Railway police station in Alwar and later taken to Jharkhand in a train in the same manner. The entire incident was witnessed by the residents and local media that captured photos of the girl tied-up by her waist being escorted by the Jharkhand cops, including a woman constable. The Supreme Court holds handcuffing and tying with ropes as inhuman and in violation of human rights. According to the Alwar police, a police team from the Garhwa district of Jharkhand had come to arrest Aparna, a resident of Bank Colony here as she was an accused in a dowry harassment case filed by her sister-in law, who resides in Garhwa. “After arresting the girl, the Jharkhand police took her for a medical examination at a local hospital. The girl resisted her arrest and fled from the hospital. She was, however, arrested again from a nearby area. The police then tied her tightly by the waist with a rope and took her away ,” an Alwar police official said on the condition of anonymity . Aparna’s sister-in-law filed a complaint against her husband, father-in-law and mother-in-law, accusing them of harassing her for dowry .Upon raiding the house in Alwar, the police found Aparna’s parents and her brother missing. The police questioned Aparna and arrested her as she too was an accused. (Times of India 22/6/16)

Sex abuse: AAP MLA held (8)

New Delhi: The police arrested Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLA Dinesh Mohaniya for “sexual harassment” while he was addressing a press conference here on Saturday. Miffed by the police action, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of declaring an “Emergency” in Delhi. The police said the MLA was arrested because he failed to join the investigation in the case registered against him, despite being served with a notice. But the ruling party said the MLA was scheduled to go to the police after addressing the press conference. The MLA faces another case–registered on Friday, a day after the incident over which he has been arrested–for slapping a 60-year-old man in Tughlakabad area. While Mohaniya was being whisked away from his office at Khanpur in south Delhi, he told reporters that the police were acting like hooligans.  “Mohaniya was arrested on charges of sexual harassment on the complaint of a woman who visited his office-cum-residence two days ago as part of a group to complain about irregular water supply,” said a police officer. Mohaniya is also vice-chairperson of the Delhi Jal Board. The complainants, residents of Sangam Vihar, said that Mohaniya and his supporters “manhandled” and “threatened” them when they sought his help. The BJP said the MLA’s arrest underscores the “anti-women character” of AAP leaders. But Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said the BJP is trying to divert public attention from the M M Khan murder case. The AAP has been demanding the arrest of Lt Governor Najeeb Jung, BJP MP Maheish Girri and New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) vice-chairperson Karan Singh Tanwar in the murder of the New Delhi Municipal Council officer Khan. Mohaniya is not the first AAP MLA to face arrest. In the past, his party colleagues have faced arrest on charges such as holding a fake degree, indulging in domestic violence and land grabbing. (Deccan Herald 26/6/16)

Centre stole my ‘Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao’ idea: Lady cop (8)

UDAIPUR: A woman police officer in Rajasthan has claimed that “Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao” was her brainchild, and alleged that the Centre stole the phrase for a national campaign that Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched last year to save and educate the girl child. Chetna Bhati, SHO of a women’s police station in Udaipur, has written to Modi, seeking “recognition for her creativity” after her RTI applications to the Prime Minister’s Office to know how they “got hold of the phrase” did not yield desired results. With post-graduate degrees in History and English, rees in History and English, Bhati was a government school teacher before she joined the police force 20 years ago. “I first wrote and sued the phrase in 1999 for a poetry series. I also recited them at an event in 2005. I do not need money or publicity. I just want to be acknowledged for an idea that has become so popular,” she said. Bhati said her RTI applications were transferred to the women and child development department and the department of school education and literacy, but both failed to provide the information sought. The programme is being implemented in 100 select districts covering all states and UTs by the ministry of women and child development, the ministry of health and family welfare and the ministry of human resource development. A native of Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, She says she has been concerned by India’s dwindling number of girls and selective abortions, something that reflects in her literary works. According to India’s census data, the child sex ratio in the country was 927 girls per 1,000 boys in 2001, which dropped drastically to 918 girls for every 1,000 boys in 2011. A 2012 UNICEF report ranked India 41st among 195 countries. “When I was posted in Nagpur in 2002, I sent a mail to then Rajasthan chief mini ster Ashok Gehlot requesting his Modi has called for the eradication of female foeticide, and invited suggestions from citizens on the programme that he launched in January last year from Haryana’s Panipat to improve India’s child sex ratio and gender equality through education. “Modi shares, in his ‘Mann ki Baat’ radio address, the smallest of things that touch him. I hope he responds to an issue related to originality and creativity,” the cop said. (Times of India 27/6/16)

Woman inked with abuse tattoos over dowry (8)

Jaipur: A 30-year-old woman in Alwar district in Rajasthan was beaten up and gang-raped by her husband and brothers-in-law and inked with abusive tattoos all over her body for failing to fulfil their dowry demand. The victim, married to Jagannath in Reni village, alleged that since her marriage in January 2015, her husband and in-laws were physically torturing her demanding a dowry of Rs 51,000. In her statement to the police, the victim said her husband inked abusive words on her body after her family failed to pay dowry. A temporary tattoo on her hands reads in Hindi, ‘My father is a thief’, which she later scrubbed off after a considerable effort. According to the victim’s father, his daughter was drugged with sedatives, taken to an unidentified location and assaulted. He said “her in-laws forcibly tattooed abuses all over her body and continuously tortured her”. A senior police officer at the women’s police station, who is investigating the case, said the woman claimed she was gang-raped by her husband and brother-in-laws and hence a medical examination was conducted on Monday at Shastri Nagar hospital. The woman’s husband used to work as a tattoo artist and balloon inflator. The police have registered a case of dowry harassment against the victim’s in-laws. They have also registered a first information report under Sections 498-A (Protection of Women Against Domestic Violence Act), 376 (punishment for rape) and 406 (punishment for criminal breach of trust) of the Indian Penal Code against the victim’s husband and family. (Deccan Herald 28/6/16)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

300,000 Children Across India Drugged, Beaten, Forced To Beg: Report (14)

Chennai:  At least 300,000 children across India are drugged, beaten and forced to beg every day, in what has become a multi-million rupee industry controlled by human trafficking cartels, police and trafficking experts said. Writing in a report which is about to be circulated across the country’s police forces, the authors urged law enforcers to carry out greater surveillance of children living on the streets. According to the National Human Rights Commission, up to 40,000 children are abducted in the country every year, of which at least 11,000 remain untraced. “The police don’t think begging is an issue because they assume that the adult with the child is either family or a known person,” said co-author Anita Kanaiya, CEO of The Freedom Project India, which works on trafficking issues. “But for every 50 children rescued there will be at least 10 who are victims of trafficking. And there has to be a constant vigil to identify them,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Children are sometimes maimed or burned to elicit greater sympathy and get more alms, said the report. The money they earn is usually paid to the traffickers, or to buy alcohol and drugs. The report is based on the experiences of police and charities in Bengaluru in Karnataka. There is a seasonal pattern to begging, local police said. Cities like Bengaluru see a sharp rise in the numbers of children wandering the streets just before festivals or after a natural disaster. In 2011, Bengaluru police launched “Operation Rakshane” (“To Save”). In coordination with various government departments and charities, they drew up a blueprint to help children forced into begging. Months before carrying out a series of rescues, they spread out across the city, taking pictures of children on the street, documenting their daily activities and shadowing them back to their homes. “When we started, we had nothing to prove the connection between begging and trafficking. But we went about meticulously recording any signs of forced labour on the streets of the city,” Ms Kanaiya said. According to inspector general of police, Pronob Mohanty, who spearheaded the operation, teams of police and health workers rescued 300 children on a single day across the city.”Operation Rakshane is meant to be a template which can be replicated as a model of inter-agency cooperation,” Mr Mohanty said in the handbook, which includes suggestions for surveillance, data collection and rehabilitation, as well as listing relevant laws. Ms Kanaiya said: “We are now initiating a planned campaign to take the book to every police headquarter in the country and follow it up with a workshop on child (begging) and rescue operations for policemen.” (NDTV 1/6/16)

‘Poverty, lack of awareness main causes for students to drop out’ (4)

Shivamogga: Krupa Alva, chairperson, Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, has called for greater coordination between the Public Instruction, Labour, Women and Child Welfare departments to bring the children who have remained out of schools back into the fold of education system. She was speaking at a meeting held to review the progress of ‘Shaale kade- nanna nade’, a campaign launched by the government to bring the drop-outs to schools.She said that the major chunk of the drop-outs and those who have never enrolled for schools in Karnataka belong to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes. Poverty and lack of awareness among the parents on the importance of education is the reason for these children remaining out of the purview of school education system. It is necessary to keep the parents of such children aware about the importance of education, she said. She also directed the officials of Department of Labour to conduct raids on hotels and automobile workshops that have employed child labour. CEO of Zilla Panchayat Rakesh Kumar, Additional Deputy Commissioner Channabasappa, Additional Superintendent of Police Vincent Shantha Kumar, member of the Commission Vanitha Toravi and Chairperson of District Child Welfare Committee Geetha Shivamurthy were present. (The Hindu 4/6/16)

‘Judicial activism needed to protect child rights’ (14)

Chandigarh: State Legal Services Authority in collaboration with Chandigarh Commission for Protection of Child observed the International Day of Innocent Children, Victims of Aggression at Snehalaya, Maloya, on Saturday. CCPCR chairperson professor Devi Sirohi said “We are celebrating the day to acknowledge the pain suffered by children throughout the world who are victims of physical, mental and emotional abuse.” Professor Sirohi highlighted the role of judicial activism in the protection of child rights in Chandigarh. She also spoke on the active participation of State Legal Service Authority which will contribute towards breaking socio-economic barriers and creating an egalitarian society. (Times of India 5/6/16)

Census shows worrisome data on child labour (14)

New Delhi: India may be chest-thumping about its growth, but the following figures on working children, despite a slide in the numbers, may not be a pleasant data. Four per cent of children under 14 years of age are still sweating it out in workplaces across the country, according to the Census 2011 figures released on Tuesday. In all, 1.01 crore of the 25.96 crore children in the 5-14 age group earn for their families, the census reveals. It is a decrease from 1.26 crore (5% of children in the 5-14 age group) recorded in the 2001 Census. The census figure shows that 25.33 lakh children are in the age group of 5-9 years and the rest 75.95 lakh in the 10-14 age bracket. The figure includes both main workers and marginal workers. With Hindus having the highest population, the community has the largest chunk of such children, but after Jains, the community has the least percentage of children in this age group who are working. Christians have the highest proportion of children who are working, the census shows. There has also been a drastic reduction in the number of working Hindu children – from 1.02 crore in 2001 to 78.72 lakh 10 years later. The proportion in 2011 was 3.03%.The Muslims, who are considered to have a large portion of poor people among them, also had an impressive show by recording a decreasing trend in working children. While there were 18.16 lakh such children in 2001, the numbers came down to 16.27 lakh in 2011. In 2011, the community had 3.79% of its children in the 5-14 age group working. Christians, however, recorded a marginal rise in the number of such children from 2.52 lakh to 2.57 lakh. (Deccan Herald 8/6/16)

Nitish announces Rs 25,000 for every rescued child labour (14)

Patna: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Sunday inaugurated ‘Child Labour Tracking System (CLTS)’ in order to keep a track of rescued child labour for their proper rehabilitation besides announcing financial help of Rs 25,000 for every rescued child labour to be given from Chief Minister’s Relief Fund. Kumar, who was participating at a function on World Day against Child Labour here, also said he had in principle accepted the ‘Charter of Demands’ submitted by the rescued child labour and announced setting up a committee headed by Chief Secretary for implementation of children’s demands. “Every rescued child will be given Rs 25,000 from Chief Minister’s Relief Fund. The money would directly go to their bank account. It (money) would instill a sense of confidence among the children. The money would be given to all those children who will be registered under the tracking system,” Kumar said while addressing the gathering on the occasion. The prominent demands of rescued children are- more schools with all facilities, residential schools for such children, training facilities in order to get job, a year (from Aug 15, 2016 to Aug 14, 2017) be declared and celebrated as child year etc. The main reasons behind the child labour are illiteracy and poverty, he said and emphasised the need for such Child Labour Tracking System (CLTS). Talking about the significance of the tracking system, the Chief Minister said “Even if they are rescued from working as child labour, there is no guarantee that they (rescued child labour) would not be forced to work. So there is need for tracking those children who have been rescued besides, monitoring such children as to what they are doing.” Expressing surprise over the prevalence of child labour, Kumar wondered saying that “there is still child labour despite the fact that government is giving every facility to the needy right from their birth and Anganwadi Kendras. There is mid day meal, uniform, books, cycles etc.” Education Minister Ashok Choudhary, Labour Resources Minister Vijay Prakash, Cooperative Minister Alok Mehta, Social Welfare Minister Kumari Manju Verma, Labour Department secretary Dipak Kumar Singh, Social Welfare Department Principal Secretary Vandana Kinni and other prominent persons also spoke on the occasion. (Zee News 12/6/16)

Six held in separate child abuse cases in Malappuram (14)

Malappuram: Six persons were arrested in connection with three separate child abuse cases in the past one week in the district. Parappanangadi police arrested four persons for raping a 16-year-old girl two days ago. It is learnt that two relatives of the girl were also among those who have been arrested. Perinthalmanna and Karuvarakkundu police have also registered two cases under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, last week. The team led by circle inspector of Wandoor under Karuvarakkundu station jurisdiction arrested a man who abused his neighbour, minor girl. Perinthalmanna police held a man for sexually abusing a boy for the past two months. A case has been registered under section 377 (unnatural sex) of IPC. Despite child welfare authorities including Childline and district child protection units being active in the district, child sex abuse cases are still widely reported in Malappuram. The data available with Childline Malappuram showed that neighbours were the culprits in most of the cases related to child abuse. Of the total 146 child sex abuse cases registered between April 2015 to March 2016, victims’ neighbours have been accused in 49 cases. According to district coordinator of Childline, Anwar Karakkadan, issues in parenting was the main reason for the rise in child sexual abuse incidents in the district. He added that the Childline would intensify its campaign against child sexual abuse and other crimes against children. (Times of India 13/6/16)

Over 300 child workers rescued in five years (14)

NAMAKKAL: Over 300 child workers who were engaged at various units in the district were rescued in the past five years and were rehabilitated, said District Collector V. Dakshinamoorthy. In an audio released in social media, the Collector said that children were employed in farm, and farm related works. They were also involved in brick kiln units, motorcycle workshops and lorry industries in the district. Poverty, lack of awareness among parents and illiteracy were the root cause for children being sent to work. “Employing children prevents their development,” he added. He said that Factories Act, 1948 and Child Labour – Prohibition and Regulation Act, 1986 paves way for initiating action against the employers. If the public come across children being employed, they can inform Childline 1098 so that they can be rescued. More than 300 child workers were rescued in the past five years and they were admitted to special schools run under the National Child Labour Project (NCLP). In the current year, more than 20 child workers were rescued and admitted to special schools. A total of 91 rescued child workers were currently undergoing higher studies, he added. The Collector said that rescued child workers were paid a monthly assistance of Rs. 500. He said that action will be taken against persons who employ children in their units. (The Hindu 16/6/16)

15 child labourers rescued from MIDC company (14)

Nagpur: City police have rescued 15 child labourers from Candico India Limited on Hingna Road in MIDC earlier this week following a tip-off. Around 30 labourers were scanned by police from which the minor ones were shifted to the government shelter home after the raid on Tuesday. MIDC police have now registered an offence against the management of the company. Police sources said the labourers were coerced to operate in the manufacturing unit of the company violating the provisions under Juvenile Justice (Care and protection of children) Act. The labourers, rescued so far, were mainly from Chandrapur, Gondia and Gadchiroli districts. The cops had also summoned the district child protection unit which registered the complaint against the management. The labour contractor too is now under scanner. The minor labourers were also presented before the child welfare committee (CWC) by MIDC police. (Times of India 19/6/16)

Underprivileged kids to get their 1st flight experience (14)

Coimbatore: As many as 51 underprivileged children from a home in Coimbatore might be experiencing their first ever flight travel in the next few days. Air Carnival, a Coimbatore-based airlines, that has planned to start its operations by this month end, has announced that they would take the children from Sadhguru Sevasram free of cost on the launch day of the flight services from Coimbatore – Chennai and Coimbtore to Madurai. The joy trip for the children has been planned in association with Lions Club International. “We are also planning to provide clothes free of cost for all the children who would be taken on the flight,” said Suresh Kumar, governor of Lions Club International District 324B1. The joy ride for the children is expected to be flagged off by the airlines’ chief operation officer S I Nathan. Air Carnival’s authorities said that their first aircraft, an ATR 72 – 500 has arrived at Coimbatore and the flight services will commence shortly. They said that the best available talents in the market have been recruited as flight crew for the aircraft which would seek to differentiate itself from rest of the players with its mantra “On time every time”. (Times of India 20/6/16)

Govt looking at ways to rehabilitate child beggars (14)

Jaipur: In order to curb the menace of beggary, the state government is working on a scheme to provide shelter, health care, education and technical skills to several child beggars in the state.Arun Chaturvedi, minister of social justice and empowerment, held a meeting with senior government officials on Monday and directed that a database should be compiled to ascertain how many children are involved in begging in Rajasthan. “A state-wide survey of children begging on the roads will be conducted. This will help us draft a proposal about the rehabilitation of such children. It is an inter-departmental exercise and officials from health and education departments would also be roped in,” Chaturvedi added. According to an official, the government is planning to set up special skill development training centres for the destitutes and beggars to ensure their reintegration into the mainstream society. “Those who want to study would be enrolled into schools. Those who wish to earn, would be sent to technical skill centres. This way, these children can live a life with dignity,” an official said. Chaturvedi also asked his officials to study the reasons behind child begging in the state. “During the course of the survey we will also study why children go in for begging. This will help us prevent the menace of child begging effectively,” he said in the meeting. The social justice and empowerment ministry will also set up special schools and hostels at divisional levels for the rescued children. NGOs and other institutions would be roped in to design curriculum for the children. “The proposal would also include ways for the rehabilitation of former drug addicts, especially children. Our focus would be to give them healthcare, education and employment skills,” an official said. (Times of India 21/6/16)

62 children rescued in M’bubnagar (14)

Hyderabad: The Mahbubnagar district police’s week-long drive against child labour has once again highlighted that there is a marked presence of child-labour in the district and the state. Police rescued 62 child labourers in a span of seven days. The drive which was started on June 12 by superintendent of police Rema Rajeshwari was aimed to check places and people who hired children. It also aimed at enrolling the rescued children in schools. This drive was part of the “collaborative policing” initiative of Mahbubnagar district police. Police teams visited schools, industries (both organized and unorganized), brick-kilns, dhabas, roadside restaurants, shops, and other commercial establishments to assess the magnitude of out-of- school children, child labour and their work profile as also the availability of support and infrastructure through government programmes and NGOs. (Times of India 21/6/16)

When social workers, child labourers swap roles (14)

Bhopal: 25 kids, who eke out living by selling newspapers, were in for pleasant surprise, when ANSH Happiness Society, an NGO, working for the welfare of children, took them out on a visit to Regional Science Centre on Friday. Besides, giving them a day off from work, volunteers of the NGO sold papers on streets. Anshul, a child labourer, (name changed) “I sell newspaper at mall square, Arera Hills after school. People give me money or clothes, but we never got a chance to visit places like this. I want to become doctor. A visit to Regional Science Centre inspired me to study hard. I enjoyed my day with new friends. It was a wonderful experience.” It was followed by breakfast. Children were treated to educational science recreational activities at the centre including Taramandal and 3D movie screening. Some games were also organized for them. Children participated and won prizes. Children watched movie “I am Kalam”. Towards the end of their 9-hour outing, they interacted for an hour with RJ Roopak from Radio Mirchi. Volunteers, who sold newspapers shared their experiences with TOI. “I earned Rs 200 for 30 newspapers, some people criticized us, but many of them supported and even some even gave Rs 100 for one newspaper. It helped me learn about difficulties these kids face,” said Sanjay Umarwani, a volunteer. The proceeds from the effort will go to kids selling newspaper. Suhani Shridhar, another volunteer said spending a day with children we see on streets selling newspapers cannot be explained in words. Seeing smile on their face when they got a hair cut or when they won prizes was a memorable experience. These amazing kids were teacher for us, who taught us many things in simple way. (Times of India 25/6/16)

World must focus on poorest children: UNICEF (14)

United Nations: The world must focus more on helping the poorest children to build on progress achieved in health and education over the past 25 years, UNICEF said. In its annual “State of the World’s Children” report, the UN children’s agency took stock of important gains such as a 53% drop in infant mortality since 1990 and a dramatic reduction in extreme poverty. But without a sharper focus on the most vulnerable, it warned, 69 million children under five will die from preventable causes and 167 million will suffer poverty over the next 15 years. Without a shift, some 750 million women and girls will have been married as children by 2030, the deadline set by the United Nations to achieve its new global goals for sustainable development. Progress so far “has mainly been made by focusing a lot on children that are more easy to reach, or on interventions on health and nutrition with a high impact,” said Justin Forsyth, UNICEF’s deputy executive director. “What we are finding now is that if we do not focus on the most disadvantaged we won’t accelerate this progress,” he added. “We have made tremendous progress,” said Ted Chaiban, director of programs at UNICEF. “But that progress has not been fair.” The world’s poorest children are twice as likely to die before they turn five and to be chronically malnourished than the richest, according to UNICEF. Across much of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, children born to mothers with no education are almost three times more likely to die before they are 5 than those born to mothers with a secondary education. Girls from the poorest households are twice as likely to marry as children than those from the wealthiest households. The number of children out of school, on the rise since 2011, presents another worrying trend. With around 124 million children today who do not attend primary or middle school, education is key to reaching the most vulnerable, Chaiban argued. “Where there has been a strong investment in basic education around the world, there has been a tremendous return on investment,” he said.With no action to address inequality, societies worldwide will feel “a dramatic impact and it will fuel instability,” Forsyth said. (Business Standard 28/6/16)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

Hindus from Pakistan, Bangladesh will get to claim Indian citizenship (7)

New Delhi: In a move that is as much political as it is humanitarian, the home ministry is ready with draft amendments to citizenship law that will exempt minority citizens of Pakistan and Bangladesh who have come to India out of fear of religious prosecution from being tagged as “illegal migrants”.The changes to the Citizenship Act, 1955, will give a legal path to the refugees to remain in India and even claim citizenship, a move in tune with the Modi government’s unambiguous desire to be seen as a protector of Hindus facing adverse circumstances in these countries. The move stands to benefit nearly 2 lakh Hindus from Pakistan and Bangladesh who often complain they are treated as “second-class citizens” and are vulnerable to violence. They have also often found themselves at the receiving end of blasphemy laws. The decision to come to the aid of Hindu minorities, even while discouraging Muslim migrants driven by economic conditions from Bangladesh as “outsiders”, marks the government’s decision to consciously differentiate between types of migrants even if this attracts criticism of working to a Hindutva agenda.The differentiation between those seeking refuge to escape political and religious persecution on one hand and those migrating for economic reasons is in accord with international norms and definition of who is a refugee. However, the distinction also fits in with the political agenda to amplify the message of India, as Sangh Parivar insists, being a natural home to Hindus of all sorts. BJP promised citizenship to Hindu refugees in its manifesto for 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Ever since it assumed office, the Modi regime has taken a series of measures to facilitate grant of long-term visas to such refugees until they can be granted citizenship. The government recently moved a proposal to further facilitate the stay of long-term visa holders by offering Aadhaar cards, driving licence and PAN cards.As per the proposed amendments to Citizenship Act, December 31, 2014 will be designated as the cut-off date for refugees to be eligible to apply for citizenship. Also, Section 2 (1)(b) of the Act will have a provison that will exempt such citizens from being deemed “illegal migrants”. The government is also looking at simultaneous amendments to the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 and Foreigners Act, 1946. “The draft Cabinet note will be put up for Cabinet approval at the earliest,” said a MHA functionary. (Times of India 3/5/16)

BJP on mission to win over minorities (7)

Guwahati: In the wake of fresh debates on Dadri lynching incident, Assam BJP has embarked on a confidence-building mission to win the trust of the minority communities of different religions. BJP leaders on Saturday had day-long interactions with representatives of Assamese Sikh, Jain, Christian and Muslim community representatives to know their expectations from the BJP-led state government. It was also an attempt to take suggestions on how the government can best deliver the benefits meant for the minorities.Leaders of the Assamese Sikh community, who comprise less than 1% of the state’s 3.12-crore population, said they were looking towards the state government with the hope that the community’s political, cultural and economic rights will be well protected. “Till today, there has not been a single MP or MLA from Assamese Sikh community, though our culture and history form an intrinsic part of the Assamese society. We form a microcosmic community among the minorities. If the state government reserves a single seat for Assamese Sikh students in higher education institutions meant for the minorities here, it will be a great gesture,” Assamese Sikh Association Assam (Asaa) president Manjit Singh said.The meeting here was also aimed at allaying mistrust among the minority community people when oppositions are up in arms against BJP in other parts of the country on charges of intolerance. “I am greatly moved by BJP’s gesture of talking to representatives of various religious communities and seeking our advice for the welfare of the minorities. This initiative has helped in building confidence among us. After attending the meeting I am confident about the new government’s intention to work for the betterment of minorities,” Kukheswar Gogoi of Guwahati Baptist Association said. “At least we can say with satisfaction that the BJP-led government has come out to listen to our plight and expectations. The indigenous Muslims have their roots in the state’s various ethnic and tribal groups. We have our distinctive identities and culture which need to be protected,” Sahir Bhuyan of Sadou Asom Goriya Moria Deshi Jatiya Parishad said. (Times of India 5/6/16)

Human rights group hearing: US Congressmen slam Modi govt for ‘violence’ against minorities (7)

Washington: Around the time Prime Minister Narendra Modi finished his meeting with US President Barack Obama at the Oval Office Tuesday, a short distance away, at 1334 Longworth House Office Building, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission held a hearing, in which at least three US Congressmen and a group of human rights activists criticised the Modi government for the current situation of human rights in India. The hearing, which began 3 pm Tuesday and lasted about an hour-and-a-half, saw the Congressmen speak about “intimidation, discrimination, harassment and violence” experienced by Muslims and Christians in India. US Congressman Trent Franks, a Republican who has visited India, flagged the riots in Uttar Pradesh, violence in Odisha and the 2002 Gujarat riots and said that because of the “current climate of impunity in India, many victims may never get justice”. Congressman Joseph R Pitts, who is co-chairman of the commission, also said the economic growth in India “overlooks an array of troubling human rights concerns”. Talking about the plight of religious minorities, he said there is an “alarming trend” of instances of violence against religious minorities and the numbers have gone up. Activists from Amnesty international, Human Rights Watch and some other activists also took part in the hearing, where they held the Modi government responsible for the current situation. However, the Indian side was unfazed. Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said that on one hand, the PM had been invited by US Congress to address a joint meeting and on the other, “some people are having some hearing”. Asked whether human rights issues came up during the talks between Modi and Obama, Jaishankar said: “No, I do not believe the subject came up today.” However, officials pointed out that the Indo-US joint statement said that the leaders reviewed the deepening strategic partnership between the US and India that is rooted in “shared values of freedom, democracy, universal human rights, tolerance and pluralism, equal opportunities for all citizens, and rule of law”. (Indian Express 9/6/16)

Minority rights in India: US body invites experts (7)

Amritsar: An American Congressional body has invited experts from India, US and UK to testify before it about the happenings in India and how minority rights are being allegedly undermined. American Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (AGPC) coordinator Pritpal Singh informed TOI on Wednesday that the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission on Tuesday examined the current state of human rights in India, challenges to fundamental freedoms, and opportunities for advancement at Washington DC. Recognizing India as the world’s largest democracy, the commission of the US Congress said a wide variety of serious human rights concerns persisted in the country. Showing concern over the sharp rise in cases of intolerance, the commission said that despite constitutional provisions abolishing the legal existence of “untouchable” or Dalit castes and tribes, the caste system remained deeply ingrained in Indian society, leading to discrimination. According to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom’s latest report, “In 2015, religious tolerance deteriorated and religious freedom violations increased in India. Minority communities, especially Christians, Muslims, and Sikhs, experienced numerous incidents of intimidation, harassment, and violence, largely at the hands of Hindu nationalist groups.” “The hearing was jointly chaired by Congressmen Joseph R Pitts and James P McGovern, who took the testimony of expert witnesses pointing to the continuous persecution and threat to Christians, Muslims and Sikh communities in India,” said Pritpal. Acknowledging the need for strong partnership, Pitts and McGovern opened the hearing on the current state of human rights in India by emphasizing the importance of religious freedom for minorities, informed Singh. Welcoming the public hearing of US Congress supported by Tom Lantos Commission Friends, Harpreet Singh, who is heading the American Sikh Congressional Caucus (ASCC), told TOI on Wednesday that the hearing provided opportunities to the Sikhs to outlines important legal, social and cultural issues related to the persecution of minorities in India. (Times of India 10/6/16)

Our minorities need no foreign help: Bangladesh Minister (7)

DHAKA: After a Hindu forum leader in that country said the community ‘is vulnerable and … We have high hopes on Narendra Modi’Bangladesh on Monday said it did not need any foreign help to provide security to its religious minorities despite a recent wave of deadly attacks by Islamists targeting Hindus and other communities along with liberal activists in the Muslim-majority country. “The followers of minority religious faiths are being attacked along with other ordinary citizens as part of an orchestrated plot to embarrass the government but these incidents could in no way affect the interfaith harmony in Bangladesh,” Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu said. He added, “We don’t need to seek assistance of any foreign country or government for the security of our minority communities, the [Bangladesh] government by principle is secular and it is awake 24 hours.” Mr. Inu heads the left-leaning party, which is a partner of ruling Awami League-led coalition government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.The Minister’s comments came in response to a recent media report that said Hindu community in Bangladesh had sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention for their protection in the wake of the attacks. “The Hindu community, which is the biggest minority community in Bangladesh, is vulnerable in Bangladesh. Fundamentalist and Jamaat forces are trying to wipe out Hindus from Bangladesh,” general secretary of Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council and noted human rights activist Rana Dasgupta had said in Kolkata. “We feel that India being a Hindu majority country, should do something. We have high hopes on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He should act and take up the matter with Bangladeshi government and ensure the safety and security of Hindus,” he said.A wave of recent attacks that left a number of secular or liberal activists and religious minorities dead prompted Bangladesh to launch a nationwide anti-militancy crackdown on Thursday. Police on Monday claimed that 8,569 people were arrested with 34 of them suspected Islamists. According to police, most of the militants detained in the countrywide raid belonged to Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) the banned outfit that is believed to have carried out most of the attacks in the past two years. In June, an elderly Hindu priest, a Hindu monastery worker, a Christian grocer, and wife of a senior police officer, were all murdered. (The Hindu 13/6/16)

Minorities singled out in domicile row, say colleges (7)

MUMBAI: The Bombay high court on Monday sought the state government’s reply to a challenge to the requirement of domicile certificate (DC) for those applying under the minority quota to management and engineering courses. A bench of Justice V M Kanade and Justice M S Sonak heard a plea by the Forum of Minority Management Institutions, in a pending petition challenging the validity of provisions of Maharashtra Unaided Private Professional Educational Institution (Regulation of Admission and Fee) Act 2015. The forum includes 20 management colleges like St Xavier’s, SIES, Anjuman Islam, St Francis, KC, Lala Lajpatrai, Rustomjee, Somaiya, Rizvi and 6 engineering colleges like Don Bosco, St Francis, St Xavier’s and Fr Agnel. Rafiq Dada and S C Naidu, appearing for the forum, submitted that the information brochure this year for the first time makes DCs compulsory for minorities and persons with disability. They said not getting a DC would disqualify a candidate as the merit list will be finalized on June 17. “If he does not produce it, he becomes an open candidate. Minority candidates are singled out while others can produce a birth certificate and school-leaving certificate,” said Dada. Shreehari Aney, appearing for the government, said the candidates who want to take benefit of the minority quota should have applied well in advance after SSC. The forum urged that pending hearing the receipt issued by a tehsildar, accepting application for domicile certificate should be considered for accepting application forms for admissions. But Aney opposed this, saying it will affect other minorities who will be displaced in the merit list if the receipts are considered and subsequently they are not issued domicile certificates. The judges directed the government to file its reply and posted the hearing on June 16. (Times of India 13/6/16)

Attack on minorities: Over 1 lakh Bangladesh clerics issue fatwa against extremism (7)

Dhaka: Over 100,000 Islamic scholars and clerics in Bangladesh on Saturday issued a fatwa against violent extremism in the light of brutal attacks by Islamists on minorities and secular writers in the Muslim-majority nation. A total of 1,01,524 Islamic clerics including imams signed the fatwa which was published here. The fatwa titled “the edict of peace for the well-being of humanity” denounces the clandestine attacks on minorities and secular activists. Militants will not get involved in the act of killing people out of the aspiration of reaching to the heaven once they will realise that it is a path of hell, not heaven, Farid Uddin Masoud, Chairman of Bangladesh Jamiyatul Ulama said. “These fanatic militants are not only enemies of Islam and Muslims but also the enemies of humanity,” Masoud was quoted as saying by The Daily Star. The fatwa comes in the wake of continued attacks on religious minorities, intellectuals and secular writers in the country. Masoud was leading an 11-member panel of Alems and Ulamas (Islamic clerics) to declare a set of fatwas against militancy in Dhaka. Calling for peace, harmony and tolerance in the country, the Islamic clerics came up with the anti-terror edicts. Masoud, the grand imam of the country’s largest Eid congregation at Sholakia in Kishoreganj, is also the convener of fatwa for humanity and peace against terrorism and militancy initiative. “Even if the fatwas fail to stop terrorism completely, it will definitely help in curbing violence,” he said. Claiming that a section of criminals is spreading panic in several parts of the country with misinterpretation of the Quran and Hadith, Masoud said law enforcers will not be able to prevent them if the criminals’ misperception is not eradicated. The process to launch the fatwa began in January after the attacks on liberal and secular activists and religious minorities including Hindus and Christian by suspected Islamists sparked an international uproar, Masoud said. Bangladesh is under mounting international pressure to halt the violence, which in the past three years has claimed the lives nearly 50 people – Hindus, Christians, and secular bloggers – many of them by machete-wielding attackers. Though most of the attacks were claimed by the Islamic State or its affiliates and other similar extremist groups, the Bangladesh government has repeatedly dismissed the claims and said the attacks were carried out by homegrown outfits linked to the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party. Over 11,000 criminal suspects have been arrested this week as part of an intensified crackdown against extremists in the country. (Zee News 18/6/16)

Govt to shelter persecuted minorities, says Sushma Swaraj (7)

New Delhi: The government is coming out with a policy on accepting foreign refugees from “persecuted minorities” (in India’s neighbourhood and beyond) and this will comprise not just Hindus but also other minorities like Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said on Sunday. She made the comment in response to questions on the killings of Hindus and threats received by them in Bangladesh. The minister however, lauded the Bangladesh government for their efforts to tackle the crimes. “The attacks (on Hindus in Bangladesh) are unfortunate,” Ms Swaraj said, adding that “The Bangladesh government is leaving no stone unturned” to tackle these crimes, with about “3,000 people having been apprehended”. She said even Muslim clerics in Bangladesh have condemned the crimes as “un-Islamic.” When asked whether India would open its doors only for persecuted Hindus, Ms Swaraj replied that the government was making a refugee policy that would include all those refugees who belong to “persecuted minorities” in their country and not just Hindus. Speaking on another issue, she said the government was “confident of an internal political consensus” on the river Teesta water-sharing issue between India and Bangladesh. (Asian Age 20/6/16)

Jewish community in Maharashtra to get minority status (7)

MUMBAI: Maharashtra government today cleared the proposal to accord the small Jews population in the state with minority status. The decision was taken at a meeting of the state Cabinet, chaired by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. “Maharashtra Cabinet approves minority status to Jew community. This decision will benefit students from these communities to avail scholarships from the state government and setting up of educational institutions,” Fadnavis said. According to 2001 Census, the number of Jews living in India was 4,650 with 2,466 of them living in Maharashtra. After getting the minority status, Jews in the state will be entitled to avail the benefits of government schemes meant for minorities and can also apply in educational institutions under the minority status. If officially recognized as a minority community, it would be easier for them to register their marriages. They would also be able to set up their own educational institutions and practice and promote their culture. The Jews have been a part of the Indian society for over 2,300 years now. However, principal secretary of minority department, Jayashree Mukherjee said the state government has no official record of the number of people from the community in Maharashtra.She also said that there will not be an additional burden on the state exchequer with their inclusion in minorities. “The Jews should have been given (minority status) long back, but somehow they weren’t given. The government has no official records of the number of people in the community as their population is too less. But, according to them (community members), their population in the state is 2,466,” she said.India is one of the few countries in the world where Jews have never faced any harassment or persecution. At present, there are six notified minority communities in India – Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, Parsis and Jains. (Times of India 21/6/16)

Minorities Commission slams AP govt (7)

Hyderabad: The State Minorities Commission on Saturday took up the case of Muslim and Christian Dalit farmers not being allowed to engage in cultivation on endowments land in the state of Andhra Pradesh. The commission took cognisance of the issue after it was reported in these columns. In a press note, the commission said that thousands of such farmers were being affected on account of the AP government’s move to “evict them and cancelling their lease and collecting advance rentals.” The commission has sought a reply on the issue from the secretary of the revenue department of the Andhra Pradesh government by July 4. (Times of India 26/6/16)

India’s Intolerance of Minorities and Anti-Pakistan Moves (7)

India which apparently, claims to be the largest democracy, acting upon the principles of liberalism and secularism has broken all the records of violence, genocide and massacre perpetrated on various ethnic and religious groups, entailing the community of its own lower castes. Taking note of the growing intolerance and plight of minorities in India on June 7, this year, Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the US Congress examined the current state of human rights in India, challenges to fundamental freedoms and opportunities for advancement. The report said, “Despite Constitutional provisions…abolishing the legal existence of untouchable or Dalit castes, the caste system remains deeply ingrained within Indian society, leading to ongoing discrimination. Dalit communities, which make up a quarter of India’s population, are disproportionately at risk of suffering from major human rights concern in India.” It further wrote, “Religious minorities also face growing challenges. According to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s most recent report, “In 2015, religious tolerance deteriorated and religious freedom violations increased in India. Minority communities, especially Christians, Muslims, and Sikhs experienced numerous incidents of intimidation, harassment, and violence, largely at the hands of Hindu nationalist groups…these actions, coupled with perceived crackdowns on groups or individuals critical of the Indian government, have many concerned that the rights to freedom of speech and freedom of association are being increasingly curtailed.” In fact, since the leader of the ruling party BJP Narendra Modi became Prime Minister of India, various developments like unprecedented rise of Hindu extremism, persecution of minorities even of lower cast-Hindus, forced conversions of other religious minorities into Hindus, ban on beef and cow slaughter, inclusion of Hindu religious books in curriculum, creation of war-like situation with Pakistan etc. clearly show that encouraged by the Hindu fundamentalist outfits such as BJP, RSS VHP, Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sena including other similar parties have been promoting religious and ethnic chauvinism in India by propagating ideology of Hindutva (Hindu nationalism). Especially, assaults on Christians and Muslims including their places of worships and property have been intensified by the fanatic Hindu mobs…. (Kashmir Watch 27/6/16)

Minority edu institutes have to put up board with cert info (7)

MUMBAI: All minority educational institutions in the state will have to display its certification details on the premises as required by the minorities development department. According to a circular issued by the department, it will be mandatory for all institutions which have the status of either a religious minority or linguistic minority to put up a board stating their details on their premises. On the board, institute will have to list the name of the trust or society which runs it, the kind of minority (which religion or language) it belongs to, the order number of the certificate and the date of issue. Education officials said that the move is aimed at ensuring that none of the institutions make false claims and deny admissions. Currently, schools with a minority status are exempt from reserving 25% seats for students from the economically weaker sections. Teachers have welcomed the idea. “There are a lot of schools and colleges in the city which misuse the benefits of the minority status. Some might also be using it to get exemptions from rules under the Right to Education Act or others. Displaying the certification details will ensure that students and parents are aware about the details,” said Uday Nare, teacher, Hansraj Morarji Public School, Andheri. (Times of India 29/6/16)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

50,000 Muslims sign petition against triple talaq (7)

NEW DELHI: Over 50,000 Muslim women and men have signed a petition seeking a ban on triple talaq. The petition, spearheaded by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), has sought the National Commission for Women’s intervention to end this “unQuranic practice”.BMMA co-founder Zakia Soman said a national signature campaign was underway in different states, including Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, MP, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Odisha, West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Kerala and UP. “So far, 50,000 signatures have been collected where women and men have endorsed abolition of triple talaq, many more signatures will be collected in the coming days. We have written to NCW chairperson Dr Lalitha Kumaramangalam to enlist its support to this long-pending demand of Muslim women,” Soman said. A recent BMMA study found that 92% of Muslim women supported an end to this practice. Unilateral divorce sometimes given over phone, text message and email has become increasingly frequent, leaving women with the short end of the stick. Oral divorce coupled with the heinous practice of ‘nikah halala’ (practise where a woman must marry another man, consummate the marriage before she is allowed to remarry her husband) has been a bane for Muslim women who do not receive maintenance or alimony and are often left fending for themselves and their children. Bhopal-based Sadiya Vaquas said cases of triple talaq had become rampant. “Men are getting away by using Facebook, SMSes to give talaq to women. They have no legal rights and the qazis support them and not us.” Noorjehan Safia Niaz from BMMA added, “In many cases, the qazis offer themselves as temporary husbands.” Recently, the Supreme Court admitted a petition by Dehradun-based Shayara Bano demanding abolition of the practice. BMMA has been advocating reconciliation and mediation where the divorce process is carried out over a period of 90 days. “Muslim women are citizens of India and all constitutional safeguards are applicable to her (sic). The Muslim personal law must be reformed in such a manner that all discriminatory practices are struck down as illegal and Muslim women’s constitutional and Quranic rights are safeguarded,” the petition says. (Times of India 1/6/16)

‘Why no Muslim name on Rajya Sabha list?’ (7)

Lucknow: Muslims in Uttar Pradesh are angry over the fact that none of the political parties in Uttar Pradesh have fielded a Muslim candidate for the upcoming biennial elections to the Rajya Sabha. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, not even a single Muslim candidate could win the elections from Uttar Pradesh. “This behaviour of political parties will make us do some serious rethinking for the Assembly elections. The Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Congress treat us as vote banks but when it comes to giving us our due, they turn towards their loyalists. We will convene a meeting of Muslim clerics and senior leaders — cutting across sectarian differences — next month after Ramzan and decide what is to be done”, said a senior Muslim cleric, known for his proximity to the Samajwadi Party. The cleric, who did not wish to be named, said he was shocked that the Samajwadi Party list did not include even a single Muslim candidate. Senior Muslim clerics and leaders had even met Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav and the latter had assured them that he would make changes and include a Muslim candidate. He did make changes but included a Jat (Mr Surendra Nagar) instead. “Apparently, the Samajwadi Party feels that it can do without our votes and that is fine with us too. We will now wait for the Assembly polls”, the cleric said. The Samajwadi Party has fielded Mr Beni Prasad Varma, Mr Amar Singh, Mr Sanjay Seth, Mr Sukhram Yadav, Mr Reoti Raman Singh, Mr Vishambhar Nishad and Mr Surendra Nagar for the Rajya Sabha. The BSP, too, has ignored Muslims and its list includes Mr Satish Chandra Misra and Mr Ashok Siddhartha. “The BSP has been wooing Muslims since the past few months but when it comes to giving us a Rajya Sabha nomination, the party opts for a Brahmin”, said Mr Rahil, a BSP worker from Shamli district, who is now planning to quit the party. The Congress, meanwhile, has also not given any seat to Muslims and has chosen Mr Kapil Sibal for Rajya Sabha. Senior party leader Satyadeo Tripathi, however, defended the decision and said, “Congress has always given representation to Muslims. Naseeb Pathan was given two terms in the Vidhan Parishad and we have sent maximum number of Muslim candidates to the Rajya Sabha in the past”. Senior Congress leader Siraj Mehndi , however, said, “If others did not field any Muslim candidate, at least the Congress could have done so”. It is noteworthy that in the 2012 state elections, the maximum number of Muslim MLAs (68) were elected to the UP Assembly and this is the highest number since Independence. In fact, the numbers were almost proportional to the Muslim population in the state. The ruling Samajwadi Party has 42 Muslim MLAs at present (Asian Age 2/6/16)

 ‘Book Akhlak’s family for cow slaughter’ (7)

Lucknow: Defying the prohibitory orders in place in Dadri, a group of BJP and Shiv Sena leaders on Monday held a meeting in Bishahra, demanding action against the family of Mohammad Akhlak who was lynched in September last year by a violent mob over rumours that he and his family had eaten beef. Open threats and warnings were issued to the local administration that if it did not register an FIR against the family of Akhlak for cow slaughter, the village would witness public anger. “We give them 20 days. If there is no action against Akhlak’s family in that time, I cannot guarantee that I can control public anger,” said local BJP leader Sanjay Rana, who is also the father of Vishal Rana, one of the accused in Akhlak’s lynching. The police had said on Monday that it won’t allow any panchayat or meeting in the village as it may lead to communal tension in the area. District Magistrate of Gautam Budh Nagar N.P. Singh had earlier in the day invoked Section 144 of the CrPc banning gathering of five or more persons in the district. Armed with the forensic report from a Mathura lab which declared that the meat at the centre of the lynching was actually beef, Mr. Rana said, “We had been yelling at the top of our voices that a cow was slaughtered, but nobody listened to us then. That has been established now by the forensic report. The logical thing would be to do justice and punish the guilty by registering a case against Akhlak and his family for slaughtering a cow.” A recovery memo prepared by the police, however, had revealed that the meat sample which was declared as “beef” by the Mathura lab was collected not from Akhlak’s house but from the place where the mob had allegedly gathered to attack Akhlak. (The Hindu 6/6/16)

Time to make India Muslim-free: VHP leader Sadhvi Prachi (7)

Dehradun: Touching off a controversy, VHP leader Sadhvi Prachi said on Tuesday it is time to make India free of Muslims. Known for courting controversies, the Sadhvi claimed the mission of a Congress-free India has already been “accomplished” and it is now time to rid the country of Muslims. “Now that we have achieved the mission of making a Congress-free India, it is time to make India Muslim-free. We are working on that,” she said in Roorkee where at least 32 people were injured last week in a clash between two communities over forcible evacuation of a scrap dealer’s shop. Khanpur MLA Kunwar Pranav Singh Champion’s house was attacked by members of a community alleging their sacred book was also desecrated by his supporters. The Sadhvi claimed that the attack on Champion’s house was part of a “premeditated” conspiracy. Champion, one of the nine Congress MLAs who revolted against Chief Minister Harish Rawat, recently joined BJP. On the forthcoming Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls, she said if BJP projects Yogi Adityananth as its chief ministerial candidate, it was bound to win 300 seats in the state. Prachi had often been in the news for asking people to boycott films of Bollywood Khans and demanding a CBI probe into all Muslim educational institutions including Aligarh Muslim University and madrasas in Deoband to check anti- national activities. (Business Standard 7/6/16)

Muslim students denied EWS certificates, get them after Congress corporator intervenes (7)

Surat: Surat district collector has directed an inquiry after the Udhna mamlatdar refused to give certificates to three Muslim students seeking admissions in higher secondary school under the 10 per cent EWS quota. The mamlatdar wrote a note on their applications that “since the applicant belonged to the minority community their application has been filed”. However, the certificates were issued after intervention by a corporator. Mohammed Zaid Nasimuddin Shaikh, a resident of Limbayat in Surat, had cleared his Class X with 50 per cent this year, along with his cousins, Danish and Zuveriya, who had better scores and applied for admissions to Class XI commerce. Zaid’s father, Nasimuddin, drives an auto-rickshaw to earn a living and has an annual income below Rs six lakh which qualified him for the EWS certificate which mamlatdars have been authorised to issue.Nasimuddin and the father of Danish and Zuveriya filed applications at the City Civic Centre for the EWS certificate on June 7 and were asked to come on June 9 to collect the certificates. When Nasimuddin returned two days later for the certificate, he was told to contact Udhna mamlatdar V D Patel. On Friday, at the mamlatdar’s office, Patel told them that as they were Muslims, they did not fall in the EWS quota. Later, Nasimuddin took a Congress corporator of Surat Municipal Corporation, Aslam Cyclewala, along, who threatened that he would lodge a complaint against Patel. When contacted, Shaikh told The Indian Express, “We finally got the EWS certificate and applied for admissions for Zaid, Danish and Zuveriya. Only after Aslambhai threatened to lodge a complaint that the mamlatdar called up his superior and gave us the certificate in half an hour.” Cyclewala said, “I have been doing such interventions for Muslims and have got EWS certificates earlier. This is the first instance where the mamlatdar has given us in writing that as the applicants are Muslims, they were not eligible. I called up prant officer M M Parghi and complained to him about Patel.” Surat District Collector Mahendra Patel said, “We have ordered an inquiry into the incident and prant officer Parghi is probing it. After primary investigations, we have found that there are some sections in the Muslim community that come under OBC or SC, so I think there was a mistake. Any community already availing benefits of OBC or SC is not liable to get EWS certificate.” (Indian Express 12/6/16)

Religious radicalisation among some Muslims could invite backlash to American Sikhs: ASC (7)

AMRITSAR: While expressing grave concern over religious radicalisation of a few Muslims in America, the American Sikh community has expressed apprehensions of backlash on Sikh American citizenry due to misinformation, ignorance about Sikh’s unique identity, their turban and dress. Talking to TOI on Monday, Inderpreet Singh of American Sikh Council (ASC) said that religious radicalisation must be taken very seriously and condemned publicly by all the appropriate national faith organisations. Stating that ASC was extremely distressed by the indescribable act of mass murder at the ‘Pulse’ nightclub in the city of Orlando that left 53 people killed and more than 50 injured, he said, “The fallout and repercussions of violence by radical Muslims especially in America has and continues to have very serious consequences against the Sikh American citizenry through conflation and misidentitification, whether through ignorance or otherwise.” He said an extremely small minority within a very large faith group were maligning the entire faith adding that those few radicals by no means represent the majority. “As a result of such events, religious communities like the Sikh Americans are acutely vulnerable to backlash, and we urge everyone to exercise vigilance and caution during this period of heightened anxiety,” he said. However, he suggested that it was was imperative that the national Muslim organizations not only speak up but reach out to others as well. ASC has also suggested fellow citizens to notify the local law enforcement in case of any threats of violence. “We pray for a speedy and full recovery of the injured. Our prayers are with all the victims, their families, and local community,” he said. Meanwhile, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) informed TOI through an e-mail that they condemned the hateful attack on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Orlando, Florida. “We believe no one should be targeted for his or her race, religion, beliefs or sexual orientation and we stand in solidarity with our LGBT brothers and sisters” said the SALDEF message. It also informed that SALDEF encourages Sikh Americans, especially the community in Florida, to donate blood to save the precious lives. (Times of India 13/6/16)

Atleast 50,000 Muslims migrated after Muzaffarnagar riots: Asaduddin Owaisi (7)

Hyderabad: Asaduddin Owaisi, Owaisi, BJP, AIMIM, muslims BJP,Kairana, Kairana exodus, Muzaffarnagar riots, hindu muslim, hindu muslim conflict, india news Owaisi claimed “50,000 people had left their original places where they had lived for generations” after the Muzaffarnagar riots, and termed it as “mass uprooting” of minorities after country’s Independence. Claiming that 50,000 Muslims migrated after the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots, AIMIM President Asaduddin Owaisi on Saturday asked the BJP if it would send a fact-finding committee there, akin to the one sent by it to Kairana on the issue of alleged migration of Hindus. The Hyderabad Lok Sabha member termed as “bogus” the list of 346 families who are alleged to have “fled” Kairana in Uttar Pradesh, adding that it suited the interests of both the BJP and the Samajwadi Party to create a “drama” over the issue. Owaisi claimed “50,000 people had left their original places where they had lived for generations” after the Muzaffarnagar riots, and termed it as “mass uprooting” of minorities after country’s Independence.“Would the BJP send a fact-finding committee? Would the BJP find some time to send delegation to find out what happened to those 50,000 people who are displaced? (after Muzaffarnagar riots),” he said. “Basically, they (BJP) have no other issue and this (Kairana issue) shows the real face of BJP that all this talk of development, ‘sab ka saath sab ka vikas’, is all a farce…unfortunately, they are being helped by Samajwadi Party,” Owaisi claimed. “It suits both BJP and Samajwadi Party. Politically, BJP wants to create a fear among majority community. Samajwadi Party wants to give a message to Muslims that you are insecure if you don’t elect Samajwadi Party. So, this drama suits both BJP and Samajwadi Party,” he said. When such issue are in the forefront, Samajwadi Party is happy as it does not have to answer questions on their failure to deliver and on “misgovernance”, he said. Owaisi said the AIMIM would contest the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, due early next year, but added that it was too early to give the number of seats that it would contest. He said his party was open to forging an alliance in Uttar Pradesh. “Yes. I have no issue if such a proposal comes. We are open for alliance but we will have to wait and see what happens.” (Indian Express 18/6/16)

RSS-run schools see rise in number of Muslim students (7)

Allahabad: Call it quality, or an urge to get good education from wherever it comes, there has been a sharp rise in the number of Muslim students in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-run schools in UP. According to a conservative estimate, the rise in the number is about 30% in the past two years after Modi government came to power at the Centre. Chintamani Singh, Pradesh Nirikshak ( State Inspector) of Vidhya Bharti, which manages about 1200 schools of the Sangh in 49 UP districts, told TOI that nearly 7000 Muslims students enrolled in these schools. A majority of these students are enrolled in schools in rural areas. Authorities at Saraswati Shishu Mandir and Saraswati Vidya Mandir claim that Muslim boys and girl students have been doing pretty well and have brought laurels to their schools in the fields of sports, cultural activities as well as academics. P 5″Our students like Mohammad Aqib, Aftab Alam, Ejaj Ahmad, Gufranuddin and Mohammad Akaram have won medals in Student Games Federation of India. Besides, there are several others who have won in Youth Commonwealth Games and other national competitions,” he says. “They not only attend schools like any other student, but get totally mingled with their peers and follow all rules like reciting slokas and ‘bhojan mantras’ (chants before a meal),” says Singh, adding ” As of now, there 6,940 Muslim students, including 4,672 boys and 2,218 girls pursuing their education up to class XII in around 1,200 schools in 49 districts of the state.” Not only students, Vidya Bharti has recently recruited eight Muslim teachers as well, he says. “Quality of education is the prime reason which has attracted Muslim parents to get their wards enrolled our schools,” Singh adds. A number of parents of these kids TOI woke to accept Singh’s claim. The fact that a most of these Muslims students study in rural schools also reveals that these schools must be the best option for them, says a social scientist. (Times of India 20/6/16)

Some Muslim families have moved out of Kairana: Sanjeev Balyan (7)

New Delhi: Some Muslim families besides those of Hindus have moved out of Kairana area in Uttar Pradesh’s Shamli district due to law and order problem, Union minister Sanjeev Balyan claimed on Monday. “First of all, I have not visited Kairana. Secondly, you all must have seen that there is law order issue in the state. “It is better to look at it from that angle. As per my information, it is not only Hindus, there has been some migration of Muslims also,” he told reporters.Balyan, BJP’s Lok Sabha MP from Muzaffarnagar, said the “migration problem” was not only restricted to Kairana area in the state, adding that it was wrong to paint the whole issue with a “communal” brush. “It is a law and order issue and the problem should not be connected with communalism,” he said. He said that his comments were based on the information provided by a BJP team that was went to assess the situation in Kairana. “I have spoken with them (the team) and also to a Member of Parliament from that place. They say migration was happening mainly due to law and order issue,” he said. The Assembly polls in UP are scheduled for next year. Last week, the state BJP chief Keshav Prasad Maurya had met Governor Ram Naik with the demand for a CBI probe into the “exodus” while presenting the report of a five-member party team that visited Kairana for an on-the-spot assessment. The ruling Samajwadi Party and Congress have rubbished the reports and alleged that the atmosphere was being vitiated by BJP. BJP MLA Sangeet Som had on Friday given a 15-day ultimatum to the state government to bring back those who have allegedly moved out of Kairana. (Indian Express 21/6/16)

Justice remains elusive for T Muslims: MBT leader (7)

Hyderabad: Majlis Bachao Tahreek leader Majeedullah Khan Farhat on Friday claimed that justice still remains elusive for the Muslims of Telangana.Speaking at the Jalsa-e-Youm-ul-Quran at the historic Mecca Masjid, Farhat said that the state stood for justice for all. Muslims, he claimed, are yet to receive their due. He said that Muslims have not been treated well by the present and previous ruling dispensations. He accused certain political parties who claim to work for Muslims of dividing the Muslim and secular vote. He added that the need of the hour is to work against the strategy of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Sangh Parivar. He claimed that the two were trying to change secular India into a Hindu Rashtra. Fighting against this agenda, he added, is the duty of all Indians including Muslims.  (Times of India 25/6/16)

Telangana Assembly to pass resolution for 12% Muslim quota: CM Chandrasekhar Rao (7)

Hyderabad: Telangana government will convene a special session of Legislative Assembly to pass a resolution granting 12 per cent reservation to Muslims and will send it to Central government, Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao said on Sunday. The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), headed by Rao, had promised during the elections that Muslims will be provided 12 per cent reservation in proportion to their population. “I had promised 12 per cent reservation for Muslims. ‘Main baat kahata hoon toh barkarar rahata hoon yeh aap tamaam janate hain’ (You all know that I don’t deviate from what I say). “A committee has been set up which will shortly submit its report (on reservation) and the moment the report is submitted a special session of Assembly will be called and a resolution will be passed which will be sent directly to Central government…I am fully hopeful that we will succeed in this,” Rao said.The CM hosted an ‘Iftar’ party at Nizam College grounds here as part of ‘Dawat-e-Iftars’ being organised for Muslims across the state in the holy month of Ramadan. The state government had constituted the panel to study the socio-economic and educational status of Muslims in Telangana. Rao further said that a total of 120 minorities residential schools will be started this month across Telangana at the cost of Rs 3,900 crore. “Telangana government made budget allocation of Rs 1,200 crore for Minority Welfare Department, the highest by any state government in the country,” he claimed. Union Minister of State for Labour and Employment Bandaru Dattatreya, Telangana Deputy Chief Minister Mahmood Ali, AIMIM chief and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi were also present on the occasion. (Indian Express 26/6/16)

34 pc Muslim children have no access to pre-school: UNICEF (7)

New Delhi, Jun 28 () Out of 74 million children, in the group of 3-6 years in India, around 20 million did not attend pre-school and most of them belonged to disadvantaged and marginalised sections of the society, a UNICEF report said today. According to “State of the World Children Report-2016″, released globally by UNICEF, around 34 per cent children from Muslim families, 25.9 per cent from Hindu families and 25.6 per cent from Christian families did not attend pre-school. “Lack of access to pre-school education has a long-term impact on learning capabilities of a child. It is a continuum. When children enter primary school without going to pre-school they are likely to drop early and will not be able to fulfill their potential,” UNICEF India representative Louis-Georges Arsenault said while releasing the report. According to the government’s National Survey for Estimation of Out-of-School Children conducted in 2014, more than 60 per cent of children dropped out before completing grade 3, he added. The study also found that implementation of Right To Education (RTE) Act has led to a drop in the number of out-of-school children, aged 6-13 years, to six million in 2014 from eight million in 2009. However, 36 per cent of children drop out before completing elementary education and about half of them are from marginalised and deprived groups, it said. Highlighting lack of quality education, the report citing the National Achievement Survey (2014), said “less than half of Class V students correctly answered reading comprehension and mathematics question posed to them.” Expressing the hope that the new education policy will address these lacunae, Arsenault said “New Education policy with its vision for India as a knowledge superpower really calls for building the goal of Right To Education Act and moving beyond elementary education and extending it to include pre-schooling and also competition in secondary education.” Secretary, Department of School Education and Literacy, HRD Ministry, S C Khuntia said “we are formulating a new education policy and have formed a committee in the ministry to look into these issues.” (Times of India 28/6/16)

Supreme Court to decide on triple talaq (7)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday decided to examine the legal validity of the “triple talaq system” under the Sharia law, which enables Muslim men to unilaterally exercise the power of divorce. A bench of Chief Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice A.M. Kanwilkar, which has already sought the assistance of the attorney general Mukul Rohatgi to assist in adjudicating the issue, will examine to what extent the court can interfere in Muslim personal laws, if they are found to be violative of the fundamental rights of citizens enshrined in the Constitution. The bench was hearing a batch of petitions filed by Muslim Women’s Quest for Equality and others seeking a declaration that triple talaq is invalid in law and unconstitutional. Senior counsel Anand Grover, Indira Jaising, Chadha, Balaji Srinivasan and others submitted that the earlier judgments giving right to Muslim men to divorce should be revisited. Ms Jaising pointed out that triple talaq is unIslamic even under Muslim personal law. Advocate Farha Faiz, president of Rashtrawadi Muslim Mahila Sangh, questioned the role of All-India Muslim Personal Law Board in giving fatwas to Muslim women and deciding on their rights. She said the AIMPLB which is a registered society is successfully governing the community, which has the impression that Muslim personal laws are made by the board. She wanted a direction to restrain the board and the media from debating the issue as such debates would cause disturbance in the society. The CJI told the counsel, “This is an important issue concerning the lives of a large number of the Muslim population and divergent views are possible. However, we will not be influenced by television debates.” The CJI asked the counsel to file their responses in six weeks indicating the propositions to be examined by the court and whether these issues had already been decided or not. The CJI said that depending upon the nature of arguments, he would decide on posting the matter for adjudication by a larger bench. The petitioners highlighted the plight faced by Muslim women in this country on account of arbitrary divorces imposed upon them by men without due intervention of Courts. They said Muslim women are thrown away from their matrimonial houses bringing suffering to them and their children. The current scenario emerging from the imposition of unilateral triple talaq on Muslim Women in India has resulted in infringement and violation of their fundamental rights of equality and rights guaranteed under Article 14 & 21 of the Constitution. It is well settled principle in law that a person cannot be a judge of his own cause, and in the case of triple talaq, Muslim men unilaterally decide an end to matrimonial ties. This clearly conflicts Public Policy. Only the granting of divorce through due intervention of Courts established under Law will protect the interests of both parties while resolving their marital dispute. (Asian Age 30/6/16)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

Focus on quota for Dalit Christians (7)

CHENNAI: The demand for according Scheduled Caste (SC) status for Dalit Christians has become more vocal with the recent Cabinet approval for including Narikuravars and a few other communities in the list of Scheduled Tribes (ST). DMK leader M. Karunanidhi recently wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking SC status for Dalit Christians and ST status for the fishermen under the category of marine tribes. “When the Indian Constitution allows the right to freedom of religion, you cannot deny SC status for the Dalits just because they have converted to Christianity or Islam,” argued Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) general secretary Ravikumar. What comes in the way of Dalit Christians getting the benefits of reservation set apart for the SCs was Para 3 of the 1950 Presidential Order, which states, “No person who professes a religion different from the Hindu, the Sikh or Buddhist religion shall be deemed to be a member of Scheduled Caste.” “But the order was amended in 1956 to give the SC status to Dalits in Sikhism and again in 1990 to Dalits converted to Buddhism,” pointed out Anbuselvan, writer and Dalit researcher. The National Commission for Religious & Linguistic Minorities, better known as the Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission, has strongly recommended deletion of Para 3 of the Presidential Order. The Sachar Committee also recommended reservation for Dalit Christians and Muslims. But the Centre had objected to these recommendations on the grounds that granting SC status to Dalit Christians and Muslims would encourage large-scale religious conversion.As it remains a contentious issue, Mr. Anbuselvan suggested providing compartmental reservation for Dalit Christians within the OBCs because their presence also strengthened the struggle for separate reservation for the OBCs. “I feel that their inclusion in the SC category would exert more pressure on the existing population benefitting from reservation. But they should be allowed to file cases under the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989,” he said. As per the 2011 census, Christians constitute 6.12 per cent of Tamil Nadu’s population and in any church, whether it is Protestant or Catholic, Dalits account for a minimum of 60 per cent. In some areas, their presence has touched 85 per cent. Christianity has offered Dalits the much needed impetus for upward mobility, said Fr Jagath Gasper Raj, while acknowledging that it had not completely improved their status. “We must honestly accept that their condition is abysmally backward and reservation benefits will certainly improve their condition,” he said. While Mr. Anbuselvan alleged that Dalits had to grapple with problems such as admission into schools and colleges, and administrative and ecclesiastic positions continued to be beyond their reach, Fr Gasper said it was a sweeping statement. “Two Catholic Bishops are Dalits and the former Bishop of Madras Diocese is also a Dalit,” he said. While making a strong case for reservation for Dalit Christians, Mr. Ravikumar, however, alleged that there seemed to be motive behind the Church encouraging the demand of Dalits. “Their attitude seems to be ‘do not ask for a share from us. But go to the government’. The Church should be more accommodative in the case of Dalit Christians,” he said. (The Hindu 2/6/16)

Bible story removed from text book in China after criticism (7)

BEIJING: Chinese authorities have removed the Bible story from secondary school text books, days after its inclusion in the curriculum sparked a controversy in the communist nation. The co-compiler of a Chinese textbook used in Beijing secondary schools said the “controversial Bible story” has been removed from the book after facing criticism that it spread Western values, state-run Global Times reported today. The Beijing Academy of Educational Science (BAES), one of the textbook’s two compilers and a textbook selection consultant for capital education authorities, said it had removed the content from the textbook and schools will begin to use the revised version in the upcoming fall semester, the report said. The BAES has included extracts from the Bible’s Book of Genesis in its Chinese language textbook for first-year middle school students. The ruling Communist Party of China remained largely atheistic and discourages its members from practicing any religion though it permits practice of religion in general. While China before the advent of Communist rule in 1949 was predominantly influenced by Buddhism which was brought to the country by t Chinese monks like Xuan Zang during the Tang Dynasty (618-907), Christianity has taken deep routes in the country in recent decades despite restrictions. Buddhism still remained a dominant faith in China but Christianity is regarded as the fastest growing religion. Unofficial estimates say China has over 65 million Christians including Catholics, Protestants as well as other church groups. China has over 21 million Muslims who included Uyghurs in Xinjiang and Hui community in Xinjiang and Ningxia provinces. The Bible story in the text book triggered heated discussion online, as some netizens questioned why the Christian content appeared in a textbook in a secular country. An employee from BAES previously told the Beijing Youth Daily that they had included the Bible story to broaden students’ horizons by introducing them to Western mythology. Columnist Wang Xiaoshi published a commentary saying that the textbook violates China’s Education Law, which mandates that China adopt the principle of separation of education and religion, the report said. (New Indian Express 3/6/16)

Coastal Karnataka town tense as miscreants vandalise church (7)

Bengaluru: Tension prevails in coastal Karnataka districts of Udupi and Dakshina Kannada after miscreants vandalised a church yesterday night in Kundapura town, 440 kms from Bengaluru.Visitors to the Kandlur church near Basrur in Kundapura on Monday morning found the statue of St. Anthony destroyed. The miscreants have also broken the glass enclosure in which the statue was kept. As the news of the church desecration spread, a crowd gathered and demanded action against the unidentified people. Soon the police arrived at the spot and pacified the protesters. The police conducted a preliminary inquiry in the neighbourhood and came to a conclusion that the church was vandalised during the wee hours of Monday. They are looking for CCTV footage of the locality to identify the culprits. This is the second such incident in the last 15 days in coastal Karnataka and it has led to unrest in the region. The police have assured quick action to apprehend the culprits. (India Today 6/6/16)

Believers Church installs 101 bore wells in drought-hit Maharashtra (7)

Mumbai, June 8 (ANI-NewsVoir): In a bid to help citizens across India who are facing drought like conditions due to prevailing heat wave conditions, Believers Church, a Christian denomination with congregations and parishes worldwide has set up 101 Bore wells across Maharashtra for the worst affected areas and communities. “The country is facing severe heat wave and people are facing scarcity of water essential for living and daily chores. People have to walk down several miles to fetch drinking water. Apart from this the farmers are not able to do the cultivation of food grain due to severe scarcity of water. The installation of Bore Wells will not only make their lives easier but also help them in carrying on with cultivation which is their sole means of livelihood,” said Bishop B. K. Lukose who led the exercise. The areas were decided after assessing the severity of water scarcity in various regions of the state in consultation with the local authorities. “In some cases local politicians came forward and sought intervention. For example we have installed 25 borewells in Amaravati and Yavatmal areas of Vidharba Region after receiving a request from the local MLA Bacchu Kadu”, Bishop B. K. Lukose added. Other Bore Wells were installed in more than 101 villages of Maharashtra in various districts like Chandrapur, Wardha, Nagpur, Gadchiroli and Bhandara. Dr K. P. Yohannan, Metropolitan of Believers Church said: “It is important to ensure that these people get some water supply not only to sustain themselves but also to ensure that farming which is their sole livelihood does not get hampered. We are doing this exercise in other states of the country as well.” Last month the Mumbai division of the church reached out to the drought victims of Latur by supplying water and food to the 12 most affected villages of the region. Earlier this month, the Church had also installed more hand pumps and tube wells in more than 104 drought affected villages of Uttar Pradesh. Believers Church is a Christian denomination with congregations and parishes worldwide and over 2.6 million followers in ten countries. The Church at present has eleven Bishops who give spiritual and administrative leadership to the various activities of the Church. The current head of the Believers Church is Metropolitan Bishop, Dr K. P. Yohannan. The church also undertakes various charitable programs including women empowerment, educational projects, community development programs, rehabilitation projects and relief works. Believers Church has helped over 74,000 children by providing quality education and timely medical checkups under its Bridge for Hope Program. The Church has set up more than 28,000 toilets and has committed its resources to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to help educate people on sanitation under the Swatch Bharat Program. Vocational Training and Health awareness programs have been organised for underprivileged communities. The church has conducted eight-month long free literacy programs, to teach the marginalised sections of society how to write and read. The church has provided water to communities where drinking water is scarce by constructing bore wells and community water tanks. The church has given sewing machines, livestock, carpentry tools, rickshaws and agricultural equipments to families to generate regular income.  (New Kerala 8/6/16)

Christians in India Beaten, Tortured by Hindu Extremists (7)

Religious persecution against Christians in India has increased by an estimated 34 percent since 2013. A group of 29 Christians were just tortured and driven away from their homes in a village near Katholi. Hindu extremists recently tortured, beat and chased off from their homes 29 Christians who refused to deny their faith in Jesus Christ and convert to Hinduism in India. Christianity is expanding in India along with Hindu persecution of Christians. The same attackers also destroyed several homes of Christians, forcing the occupants to flee their village of Katholi, reported The Daily Express. Christianity is India’s third-largest religion with nearly 30 million followers, nearly 3 percent of India’s population, reports Christian Today. Open Doors charity sources indicate extremists insisted one of the Christian’s group leaders in Katholi attend a specially convened meeting with the other Christians. When the Christians refused to convert, they were all beaten up, including women and children. The group fled from the area, and tried to return four days later, according to local sources, but were again driven off by hostile villagers who made death threats. Human rights groups asked government officials to step up its protection of Christians and other religious minorities, though police often are accused of not doing enough to help the victims and refusing to punish the guilty parties, reports The Christian Post.To that end, Katholi police reportedly ordered the Hindu radicals to stop the most recent attack, but Christians in the village continued to be threatened even after the torture incident. This is just one of an increasing number of stories of persecution coming out of India. Open Doors representatives indicate Hindu extremists have been attacking Christians more frequently and violently. Sources believe this type of religious persecution has increased by 34 percent since 2013. “Christians are also finding they are prevented from getting certain jobs, buying land or developing land in certain areas and even distributing Christian literature has led to arrests in cities like Delhi,” Open Doors locals stated, as reported by Christian Today. “The villagers accused them, saying – because of you our god and goddess are fleeing from our village. When they refused to forsake Christ, they began to beat them. Beating them, they drove them toward their houses and threw out their belongings.” Open Doors is supporting Christians who are victims of violence in India through the work of local churches and partner organizations. The charity provides emergency medical fees, clothing, food rations, help with housing and trauma care. In May, a mob of nearly 500 extremists attacked a Protestant church in Jabat, with radicals throwing stones at Christians for allegedly damaging a nationalist flag outside the church. “RSS activists [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Hindu ultra-nationalist paramilitary group ed], the BJP and Bajrang Dal [youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, VHP] led by former district chief, threw stones at members of the community, attacked our women and broke the church lamps,” pastor Emmanuel Ariel said. “All this happened before the eyes of the police officers, who stood by as silent spectators.” (The Gospel Herald 10/6/16)

Church denies burial to Priyanka’s granny for marrying a Hindu (7)

Kottayam: The relatives of late Mary Akhouri, the maternal grandmother of Bollywood actor Priyanka Chopra, are yet to come out of shock after a local church did not allow the 94-year-old’s burial in Kumarakom near here last week. Some of the relatives had flown from the US and the UK to attend the funeral. Mary had wished to be interred in her family vault at the St John’s Jacobite Syrian Church, popularly known as Attamangalam church. However, the managing committee of the church did not allow this. Finally, the body was buried in a public vault in St Thomas Jacobite church at Ponkunnam, a town 45km from Kumarakom, following the intervention of the Kottayam metropolitan Thomas Mor Timotheos. The relatives have accused the church’s managing committee of causing embarrassment and pain to the family.Managing committee member Alen Kuriakose Mathew however said, “There are procedures to be followed for burying an individual who is not a parish member.” He said Mary lost her membership in the parish once she got married and went to live with her husband. “At least her children could have applied for the renewal of membership. We were helpless when they approached us after the lady’s death,” he said. Mary’s cousin Elias Kavalappara said he was “disheartened and disappointed”. Elias, who has been living in the UK for the past 55 years, had come to attend the funeral. “She was a practising Christian all her life. The Church has nothing to do with the issue. It is the managing committee which stopped us from fulfilling her last wish,” said Elias. Another relative, Joseph K Jacob, said that “Mary Kochamma” had personally told the metropolitan about her wish to be buried here during one of her earlier visits to Kumarakom.He also said the managing committee rejected their request despite the metropolitan’s intervention. (Times of India 11/6/16)

Muslims help Christians in Pakistan to build church (7)

Islamabad, June 18 (IANS): In a significant display of communal harmony, Muslims in Pakistan’s Punjab province are helping their fellow Christian in raising funds to build a church that was allegedly damaged by a mob. In 2009, Gojra city in near Faisalabad became a fiery furnace after nine people including a bridegroom and bride were shot dead during a wedding ceremony. Some 200 homes and three churches were razed to the ground by a mob that attacked the minority community after local mosques called for retaliation to an alleged blasphemy.The local police, however, had discredited the allegation that torn shreds of the Quran had been used as confetti at a wedding. “I pray that we complete this church. We have had to use different homes for services but our congregation has grown beyond the capacity of such places,” a release from British Pakistani Christian Association quoted a resident, Khalid Aftab, as saying. (Meghalaya Times 18//16)

Church demolition triggers protest (7)

Hyderabad: The demolition of a church at Moosarambagh on Thursday led to angry protests by members of the Telangana Christian Council and residents, who claimed that the act was done without serving any prior notice. “The church had been functioning for two decades and there was no reason to demolish it as it did not cause any hindrance to anybody and everything related to the church was perfect,” said K Ermiah, pastor of the church. Members of Telangana Christian Council now demand that the demolished church be rebuilt in the same place as soon as possible. They had planned to stage a dharna against the government and GHMC on Friday, but it did not happen.Defending the demolition, officials of the civic body said that the demolition of this particular church was not sudden and it was on the cards for the last two years. “The church had encroached a 40-feet road. We had received a complaint from residents living behind the church, saying they were unable to use the access road to reach their homes,” said Purushottam Rao, assistant city planner, circle 4. “This church is not used by many people and there are only 10 to 15 worshippers who congregate there to pray on Sunday. It remains locked the rest of the week,” he said. (Times of India 18/6/16)

Church demolished by GHMC now being rebuilt (7)

Hyderabad: Peeved residents of Moosarambagh, supported by members of the Telangana Christian Council and All India Dalit Christian Society, are reconstructing a church which was demolished by the GHMC last week. After the church was demolished without notice, devouts had demanded that it be rebuilt in the same place as soon as possible. “They (officials) are not paying heed to the fact that it is a place of worship and not a commercial space,” said Jerusalem Mattaiah, general secretary of All India Dalit Christian Society. “If a temple or a mosque is demolished there would be a huge public outcry, but we are protesting quietly,” he said.With no response from the GHMC to their demand, the church-goers in the locality started re-construction of the church on Sunday. “The church had been built on a piece of government land and it had been there for 18 years without disturbing the road. I don’t see any reason as to why it was demolished,” said Issac Raj, president of Telangana Christian Council. “Though a decision to demolish the church was made by a committee of the GHMC in 2014 and some huts were removed from the area but not the church considering that it’s a religious place then. Why was it removed now?” asked Jerusalem Mattaiah. During elections all the ministers visit us and ask for our votes but none of the ministers has turned up to look into the issue or even sympathise with us,” he added. While the GHMC claimed that only 10 to 15 worshippers visited the church, one of the pastors of the church K. Ermiah said that there were at least 50 people who came to worship in the church. Purushottam Rao, assistant city planner, circle IV, on being asked about the re-construction, said, “Since it is a religious issue we will wait for things to simmer down a bit and then see what further actions have to be taken regarding the issue.” The church at Friends Colony in Moosarambagh was demolished on Thursday by the GHMC officials and the members of the area claimed that the demolition had taken place without any prior notice. This had led to protests by the people against the government and GHMC and they demanded that the church be rebuilt in the same place. (Times of India 21/6/16)

Pope denounces Armenian `genocide` in Yerevan visit (7)

Yerevan: Pope Francis on Friday denounced the mass killing of Armenians a century ago by Ottoman forces as “genocide”, risking Turkey`s fury as he met Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian. “Sadly this tragedy, this genocide, was the first of the deplorable series of catastrophes of the past century,” the pontiff said at the presidential palace in Yerevan. When Pope Francis last used the term in the Vatican in 2015, on the centenary of the killings, Ankara angrily recalled its envoy from the Holy See for just under a year. Francis said the killings had been “made possible by twisted racial, ideological or religious aims that darkened the minds of the tormentors even to the point of planning the annihilation of entire peoples.” The pontiff meanwhile said he hoped that “humanity will learn from those tragic experiences” to prevent a “return to such horrors.” “Today Christians in particular, perhaps even more than at the time of the first martyrs, in some places experience discrimination and persecution for the mere fact of professing their faith,” he said. Armenians have long sought international recognition for the 1915-1917 killings as genocide, which they say left some 1.5 million of their people dead. Turkey — the Ottoman Empire`s successor state — angrily rejects the term “genocide”, arguing that it was a collective tragedy in which equal numbers of Turks and Armenians died. (Zee News 24/6/16)

Lucknow, Agra Christian bodies’ spat turns ugly (7)

Nainital: A stand-off between the Diocese of Agra, which has jurisdiction over Sherwood College in Nainital, and members of the Church of India which claims itself to be Diocese of Lucknow regarding control of the school turned ugly late Friday evening when a group of people, some wielding firearms and claiming to be from the Lucknow Diocese, allegedly broke into the school campus, locked the administrative office and created a ruckus. The school, whose alumni include some of the country’s top figures like Amitabh Bachchan, is currently closed for summer vacations. The district administration and police had to intervene to evict the intruders.Sherwood’s principal Amandeep Sandhu told TOI on Saturday, “They are imposters and this Church of India never had any authenticity. The way they entered the school, it was illegal, roguish and totally uncalled for. This is not the way you handle issues related to such world-class and reputed institutions.” The incident has created ripples in the hill town, following which the administration swung into action. A complaint was registered against men who also thrashed and abused the school staff present on the campus. The principal of the school who was in Dehradun had to rush to Nainital. One Rakesh Sobti, who claimed to be a member of the Lucknow Diocese, said, “We have acted in the light of a Supreme Court order. We have no dispute with the staff and we are just following the law.” “We are investigating the matter. We have to consider both the sides and it will be premature to say anything at this stage,” said HC Saati, additional superintendent of police, Nainital.Members of the Lucknow Diocese, however, claimed that the Church of India was a splinter group which was misusing the name of Lucknow Diocese. Bishop Peter Baldev of Lucknow Diocese told TOI, “It is true that Agra Diocese was carved out of Lucknow Diocese. But we do not recognize Church of India, which has no legal entity, and its representatives are simply misusing Lucknow Diocese’s name. In fact, one Vijay Mantode, a former principal of Sherwood College, has anointed himself as bishop of this church.” Right Reverend PP Habil, Bishop of Agra Diocese, said, “There is no question of any territorial dispute between Diocese of Agra and Diocese of Lucknow. In fact, the Church of India that claims itself as Lucknow Diocese is a splinter group which tries to create problem unnecessarily.” The dispute dates back to the 1970s when the school which belonged to the Lucknow Diocese was transferred to Diocese of Agra. (Times of India 27/6/16)

Political parties eyeing Christian vote bank (7)

AMRITSAR : Come election time and the political parties are ready to woo any vote bank in their fold and the sizeable Christian population in Punjab is on their radar ahead of 2017 assembly elections. While the ruling SAD-BJP combine claims to have given sufficient representation to Christian community and have launched various welfare schemes for them, the opposition Congress rubbishes all claims and have instead appointed as many as five General Secretaries from the community in the team of Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) giving indication to the community of giving them larger representation, if voted to power. One of the General Secretary, PPCC, Karam Masih told TOI on Sunday that Christians were not being given their due and the community felt alienated. He alleged that Christian leaders who were given plum posts by Akalis didn’t have constitutional powers and were not doing enough to redress communities issues. Karam Masih who was former Bishop of Delhi Diocese, Church of North India (CNI) is of view that the community votes will affect as many as 15 assembly seats in Punjab especially where Christians have more concentration including border districts of Amritsar, Ferozpur, Gurdaspur, Tarn Taran as well as Ludhiana. While admitting that Christian leaders posted on significant positions were not empowered to tackle all the issues, Punjab State Minority Commission Chairman Nunawar Masih said the government was yet to frame procedures, rules and regulation of Commission. “I don’t have much powers due to delay in framing of procedures etc, I can’t even summon anyone, but I have met chief minister urging him to expedite the procedure,” he said. Christian population was around 35 lakh with more than 20 lakh votes in the state, he said. State president a prominent Christian body Jagat Ki Jyoti Society, Danie Masih, fumed that Christian population was resentful of construction of a crematorium near a Church in Gumtala and had approached the Commission but didn’t help them…. (Times of India 27/6/16)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

Dalai Lama says ‘too many’ refugees in Europe (13)

BERLIN: Tibetan Spiritual leader Dalai Lama said in an interview published that Europe has accepted “too many” refugees, and that they should eventually return to help rebuild their home countries. “When we look into the face of every single refugee, especially the children and women, we can feel their suffering,” said the Tibetan spiritual leader, who has himself lived in exile for over half a century. “A human being who is a bit more fortunate has the duty to help them. On the other hand, there are too many now,” he said, according to the German translation of the interview in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. “Europe, for example Germany, cannot become an Arab country,” he added with a laugh, the daily reported. “Germany is Germany. “There are so many that in practice it becomes difficult.” The Dalai Lama added that “from a moral point of view too, I think that the refugees should only be admitted temporarily”.Germany last year took in 1.1 million people fleeing war and misery in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries, but the flow was reduced sharply by the decision of Balkan countries to close their borders to people travelling through Turkey and into northern Europe. The Dalai Lama also said in the interview, conducted in Dharamsala, seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile in northern India, that he hopes to one day return to Tibet.”Maybe in a few years,” said the 80-year-old. “If an opportunity for my return arises, or at least for a short visit, that would be a source of great joy.” Thousands of Tibetans have fled their Himalayan homeland since China sent in troops in 1951, and many have settled in India. (Times of India 1/6/16)

Hindus from Pakistan, Bangladesh will get to claim Indian citizenship (13)

New Delhi: In a move that is as much political as it is humanitarian, the home ministry is ready with draft amendments to citizenship law that will exempt minority citizens of Pakistan and Bangladesh who have come to India out of fear of religious prosecution from being tagged as “illegal migrants”.The changes to the Citizenship Act, 1955, will give a legal path to the refugees to remain in India and even claim citizenship, a move in tune with the Modi government’s unambiguous desire to be seen as a protector of Hindus facing adverse circumstances in these countries. The move stands to benefit nearly 2 lakh Hindus from Pakistan and Bangladesh who often complain they are treated as “second-class citizens” and are vulnerable to violence. They have also often found themselves at the receiving end of blasphemy laws. The decision to come to the aid of Hindu minorities, even while discouraging Muslim migrants driven by economic conditions from Bangladesh as “outsiders”, marks the government’s decision to consciously differentiate between types of migrants even if this attracts criticism of working to a Hindutva agenda.The differentiation between those seeking refuge to escape political and religious persecution on one hand and those migrating for economic reasons is in accord with international norms and definition of who is a refugee. However, the distinction also fits in with the political agenda to amplify the message of India, as Sangh Parivar insists, being a natural home to Hindus of all sorts. BJP promised citizenship to Hindu refugees in its manifesto for 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Ever since it assumed office, the Modi regime has taken a series of measures to facilitate grant of long-term visas to such refugees until they can be granted citizenship. The government recently moved a proposal to further facilitate the stay of long-term visa holders by offering Aadhaar cards, driving licence and PAN cards.As per the proposed amendments to Citizenship Act, December 31, 2014 will be designated as the cut-off date for refugees to be eligible to apply for citizenship. Also, Section 2 (1)(b) of the Act will have a provison that will exempt such citizens from being deemed “illegal migrants”. The government is also looking at simultaneous amendments to the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 and Foreigners Act, 1946. “The draft Cabinet note will be put up for Cabinet approval at the earliest,” said a MHA functionary. (Times of India 3/5/16)

Rajnath unhappy over Manipur anti-migrant bills being ‘politicised’ (13)

Imphal/New Delhi: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh expressed his unhappiness over the way the issue of anti-migrant bills of Manipur, awaiting presidential assent, is being “politicised” and that Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh had never sought an appointment. He conveyed his sentiments when a Bharatiya Janata Party team from Manipur called on him in New Delhi in connection with the three pending bills. “Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh never sought appointment with me. If he seeks one I am always ready to talk with the delegates,” he said against the chief minister`s public statement that he had sought appointments with the prime minister, the home minister and others from the middle of May but not received any response. “If appointments are sought, meetings could be held. But the prime minister can be met only when he returns from his foreign tour,” he said. Delegates of all political parties with the exclusion of the Naga People`s Front have been camping in Delhi to meet the leaders on the issue. During Sunday`s meeting, the BJP team, led by state president Khetrimayum Bhabananda, urged the home minister to take up steps to give assent to the 3 bills and as he wanted to know whether all political parties in the state support the same, told him that there was “no objection”.Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju was also present in the meeting. (Zee News 6/6/16)

Some 2,000 migrants rescued off Libya: Italian coastguard (13)

Rome: Around 2,000 migrants were plucked to safety off the coast of Libya in the latest series of rescue operations in the Mediterranean, the Italian coastguard said. “The coastguards have coordinated 15 rescue operations, some 2,000 migrants are safe and sound,” they said yesterday, adding that Italian navy vessels and ships from the EU’s Frontex border agency and its Sophia military operation helped with the efforts. More than 800 migrants were already rescued off Libya on Wednesday, mainly by vessels chartered by the aid groups Doctors Without Borders (MSF), SOS Mediterranee, MOAS and SeaWatch. The United Nations’ refugee agency estimates that over 48,000 migrants, most of them sub-Saharan Africans, have arrived in Italy since the start of the year in search of a better life in Europe. A similar number made the treacherous sea journey over the same period last year. But unlike previous years, new arrivals are increasingly finding themselves marooned in overcrowded camps in Italy as countries further north have shut their borders, effectively blocking their overland passage into the rest of Europe. Charities such as MSF, Oxfam and Save the Children have expressed mounting concern over the dire living conditions for those stranded as a result of the bottlenecks — wich have also emerged along the Greek border. (Zee News 10/6/16)

Families on a lonely search for Europe’s missing refugee children (13)

ATHENS: Syrian refugee children stand in their house in Gaziantep, Turkey, in this May 16, 2016 picture. EU’s criminal intelligence agency Europol said at least 10,000 unaccompanied child refugees had vanished after arriving in Europe, at risk of falling prey to trafficking gangs.As many such children move from country to country, coordination is needed at European level, says head of Missing Children Europe. After losing its way in the dark waters of the Aegean between Turkey and the Greek island of Lesbos, the small wooden boat carrying Ghulam Haidar, his young family and nearly 50 other passengers was hit by strong winds and waves. As the boat sank, Haidar managed to save his seven-year-old son, Shahzad, but he lost sight of the others. For the past eight months, he has been in Turkey searching for his wife Shila, his daughter Zahra, 8, and his three-year-old son Behzad.“I’m just living to find my family,” said Haidar, who is from Afghanistan. He has contacted coast guards, immigration officers, international aid groups and the authorities in both Greece and Turkey. But so far, he’s found nothing. His two missing children smile cheekily in a photo posted on the Facebook page “Search and find your family for refugees.” The page posts photographs and information about missing refugees, and has dealt with 172 cases of missing children since September, said its Austria-based founder Jimmy Nagy. It was through this page that the Thomson Reuters Foundation made contact with Haidar, but so far his pleas for information have answered none of his questions about his missing family.“I’ve searched all the hospitals but I’ve found no sign of them or their bodies. That’s why I believe they are alive,” Haidar said by phone from Istanbul. Like Haidar, many other families who have fled war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, are searching for missing children. Without help, they are left to conduct their desperate investigations alone. In January, the European Union’s criminal intelligence agency Europol said at least 10,000 unaccompanied child refugees had vanished after arriving in Europe, at risk of falling prey to trafficking gangs. … (The Hindu 12/6/16)

UP government orders probe into Kairana ‘migration’ (13)

Lucknow: Uttar Pradesh government on Monday ordered a probe in connection with the alleged migration of Hindus from Kairana town in Shamli district in western part of the state. Shamli District Magistrate has asked the SDM and Circle Officer to probe into the allegations that “jihadi elements” had forced migration of Hindus from there, IG (Law and Order) HR Sharma told reporters here. They have been asked to verify the list of 346 families handed over by the local MP who have allegedly migrated, he said.BJP MP from Kairana, Hukum Singh has alleged that 346 families have been forced to flee the town, which has 85 per cent of Muslim population. The state government’s action came after VHP joint general secretary Surendra Jain’s today said, “Jihadis are being encouraged to carry out their activities…VHP calls upon the state government to rein in jihadi elements who are responsible for this exodus and tighten law and order in the state.” He termed the migration of Hindus from Kairana as “unfortunate” and said the township, which was a Hindu majority 40 years ago, now has only eight per cent Hindus left. Sharma said further details will be known only after the report is received from the district officials. Replying to a question, he said the state government is yet to receive the NHRC notice in this connection. Last week, National Human Rights Commission had issued a notice to the UP government in this regard. ‘Anti-Hindu mindset responsible for Kairana mass exodus; same ideology parted the country in 1947′. While observing that the allegations made were serious in nature, the NHRC also directed the state’s DIG (Investigation) to depute a team of officers for a spot enquiry in the matter covering all the allegations made in the complaint and submit a report within two weeks. (Zee News 14/6/16)

Europe refugee crisis: Charity rejects EU funds over policy (13)

London: One of the largest charities helping migrants across Europe said it will no longer accept funds from the European Union and its member states in protest against the “shameful response” to the refugee crisis. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has long called for the creation of safe routes into the continent and joined countless other humanitarian organisations condemning the deal made with Turkey to detain and deport asylum seekers in Greece, the independent reported. Jerome Oberreit, the charity’s International Secretary General, said: “For months MSF has spoken out about a shameful European response focused on deterrence rather than providing people with the assistance and protection they need.” “The EU-Turkey deal goes one step further and has placed the very concept of ‘refugee’ and the protection it offers in danger.” An estimated 8,000 people, including hundreds of unaccompanied children, are currently trapped on Greek islands under the terms of the EU-Turkey deal, which will see them deported if their asylum applications fail, without legal aid. MSF said their plight shows the “human cost” of the controversial agreement made in March, which is seeing migrants held for several months in overcrowded camps, where fights, fires and violent protests have broken out. The number of people crossing the Aegean Sea in smugglers’ boats has steeply declined since the new rules came into force but asylum seekers, mainly from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, continue to arrive. Most of the almost 3,000 deaths recorded this year have been in a succession of disasters on the central Mediterranean route between Libya and Italy. Proponents of the EU-Turkey deal, which the European Commission is considering replicating across more than 16 countries in Africa and the Middle East, argued that it aimed to reduce drownings at sea. “Deterrence policies sold to the public as humanitarian solutions have only exacerbated the suffering of people in need,” Oberreit said. “There is nothing remotely humanitarian about these policies. It cannot become the norm and must be challenged. “MSF will not receive funding from institutions and governments whose policies do so much harm. We are calling on European governments to shift priorities — rather than maximising the number of people they can push back, they must maximise the number they welcome and protect.” A spokesperson for MSF said its refusal of European state funding would take immediate affect and apply to its projects worldwide, condemning the unacceptable “instrumentalisation of humanitarian aid”.The charity accused the EU of setting a dangerous precedent attempting to force people to stay in the countries they are desperate to flee, sparking border closures leading back to Isis territory near Azaz in Syria, where 100,000 civilians are trapped between the closed Turkish border and front lines. “Europe’s attempt to outsource migration control is having a domino effect, with closed borders stretching all the way back to Syria,” Oberreit said. “People increasingly have nowhere to turn.” The organisation has treated an estimated 200,000 people in Europe and in boats on the Mediterranean Sea over the past 18 months and is working with refugees across the continent, as well as in the Middle East and Africa. As well as running clinics at borders and in refugee camps, it operates three search and rescue ships in the Mediterranean that picked up more than 1,300 in just 36 hours last week. The MSF said its rejection of EU funding would not affect patients, and that its activities are already 92 per cent privately-funded. MSF received 19 million pounds from EU institutions in 2015 and another 37 million pounds from member states, as well as working in partnership with Britain and nine other countries. (Business Standard 17/6/16)

Carving out a place for themselves far away from home (13)

NEW DELHI: Fatima (name changed) was only 11 when she was raped by two Talibani militants inside the campus of a wrecked Russian Embassy in Kabul. The incident made her realise what it was to be a ‘Hazara’ in Afghanistan, and she decided to stay indoors and learn what her family was best at – making Qalin-bafi (handcrafted) carpets. Seated on a mattress spread on the floor of her one-room ‘home’ (a barsaati) in Jangpura’s Bhogal area, Fatima, now 30, recalls how she landed up in Delhi. “My family was much more harsh than the authorities there. I was sent to school only on the condition that I would wash utensils and clothes, read the Quran on time and make carpets at the same pace as I used to earlier,” she says in fluent English. Fatima was allowed to go to school only when she turned 15, was inducted directly into Class VII and dropped out after Class X as the school “never took girls seriously”. “When I reached Delhi in March 2013, I did not even know how to write my name in English,” she rues. The first thing Fatima did after coming to the Capital was to join English tutorials. Now, whenever she is free, she teaches English to other Afghan refugees. One of her students is Shakeela Zarin, a 20-year-old woman who was shot at in the face by her husband, a Talibani militant, when she was 17. Her fault: she tried to escape the confines of his house in Afghanistan’s Mazar-i-Sharif city. She has a damaged left eye, a disfigured face and no sense of smell, but she says the incident “liberated” her as she was brought to India for treatment. “I have had nine surgeries on my face, but I am glad that I could get out of that hell. For now, all I want to do is learn English,” she says with an innocent smile. Fatima has been an inspiration for several refugee women like Shakeela. She has not only given them hope, but also the confidence to take up new challenges. Now, Fatima is set to become a professional yoga teacher and is already imparting classes on an ad-hoc basis. “I had joined the Mobile Mini Circus for Children in Kabul where I worked for nearly five years. I learnt acrobatics, gymnastic, skating and juggling and that is why in India, yoga attracted me,” says Fatima. She along with several other Afghan refugees is being trained in yoga by ACCESS, a Delhi-based NGO, in collaboration with the UNHCR. Sharing the room with Fatima is 33-year old Aneesa Mohammadi, who prefers not to narrate how she ended up in the Capital with her two children. But she has carved out a living for the three of them by creating beautiful crochets. “She works day and night making designer dresses, caps, bookmarks, decorative items with crochet patterns. Some of them were taken by a big brand and were worn by models at the Lakme Fashion Week,” says Fatima as Aneesa gets busy with her stitching. Over 14,000 Afghan refugees have taken shelter in the country despite the absence of a refugee law and most of these are carving a niche for themselves from whatever minimal resources are available to them. (The Hindu 20/6/16)

UNHCR unveils new campaign to solicit support for refugees (13)

New Delhi: On World Refugee Day, UNHCR on Monday unveiled a new campaign to create awareness about the problems faced by people who are compelled to migrate from their countries of origin in the wake of unfavourable circumstances. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees’ (UNHCR) campaign, trending on social media websites as #WithRefugees, aims to instill a sense empathy and understanding among all global citizens towards those who are forced to flee their countries due to poverty, terrorism, war, political and military crises. “Every year we commemorate this day to solicit our solidarity with the people who have to leave their own country,” Yasuko Shimizu, Chief of Mission, UNHCR India, said.The hour-long event at TERI University here saw several refugees from Afghanistan, Myanmar and Syria share their first-hand experiences. “Taliban did not let the girls go to school at my place. When I went to school in VII standard for the first time, I did not know how to write my name,” Salma, who is originally  from Afghanistan, said. She was “forced” to move out of the country “for raising her voice” against gender inequality there. She now works as a yoga instructor in New Delhi. 64-year-old Mohammad Salim, who has been living in India with his three children since 2011, has faced discrimination not only in his motherland Myanmar but also in Bangladesh where he was allegedly implicated under false charges by the police. “I am from Myanmar but I left the country with my children because of military crisis and immense poverty. Then I moved to Bangladesh but again faced discrimination after which I came to India and have been live here since then,” he said. Talking about the difficulties he faced, Salim, who now works as an interpreter with the UNHRC here, said he was homeless for nearly four months and barely had any money to feed his children. “I just want to say that support us and accept us. We need all of you,” he said. Dismissing the “myth” that refugees are a “burden on the host country,” Journalist Pamela Philipose, who was part of the panel, pointed out that the problem was global and required immediate intervention, on the part of both civilians and governments, to ensure security and basic human rights to the refugees. “The refugees are the victims of both the countries – where they come from and where they are displaced to,” she said. (Indian Express 21/6/16)

Nepali survivors of Kabul blast demand job opportunities (13)

Kathmandu, June 24 : After a blast in Kabul that left 12 Nepalis and two Indian security guards dead and Nepal announced it would bring back migrants wanting to leave Afghanistan, the blast survivors have demanded local job opportunities. Two days after the suicide bomb attack on June 20, which also left seven security guards injured, Nepal received the remains of those killed, Xinhua news agency reported. Nepal not only airlifted 12 coffins to Kathmandu’s Tribhuwan International Airport, it also welcomed 24 migrant workers who were working over the last few years in war-torn Afghanistan. Following the announcement of bringing back migrants wanting to leave Afghanistan, 24 Nepalis working as security guards for a Canadian mission in Kabul returned home out of terror and fear. At the airport, the workers seemed relieved to have landed in their own country, after their ordeals in the high-risk region of Kabul where some of their friends’ hopes and lives were claimed. Maniram Khanal, from the western Nepali Kaski district, is among those who returned on Wednesday after staying in Afghanistan for five years. Khanal, a retired Nepal Army personnel, said Monday’s attack was evidence of how risky their lives were in Afghanistan. “We knew about the risks from the very beginning but such attacks were centred outside of Kabul. But now, as violent acts are happening in broad daylight inside the main city, life has become so risky that I immediately decided to return,” Khanal said. Khanal, a father of two, was on his night-shift duty on the day of the attack while his colleagues were in a mini bus on their way to duty station. He said the distance between the living quarters and the Canadian mission was less than a 10-minute journey but full of risks. …  (New Kerala 24/6/16)

BSF prevents entry of 300 Bangladehsi nationals in Tripura (13)

Agartala: Border Security Force (BSF) thwarted an attempt of about 300 Bangladeshi nationals to enter Indian territory at Champahaor area of Tripura’s Khowai district and later they were taken back by the neighbouring country, police said on Sunday. “Around 300 Bangladeshi nationals yesterday tried to enter through Champahaor but they were stopped by the BSF. They returned last night following a flag meeting between BSF and Border Guard Bangladesh,” SP (Police Control) Uttam Bhowmick said. He said they were tribals and evicted by the forest guards of Bangladesh from Chunarughat area of Habiganj district of the neighbouring country. BSF and district administration of Khowai provided them food and drinking water during their stay along the border, he said. Bhowmick said due to barbed wire fencing and alertness of the BSF, they could not enter the India. (Business Standard 26/6/16)

36 Sri Lankan Tamil refugees living in India returning home today (13)

Colombo: A group of 36 Sri Lankan Tamil refugees living in Tamil Nadu camps in India, arrive Sri Lanka on Tuesday under the voluntary repatriation program facilitated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The refugee returnees will get back to the areas where they were from in Kilinochchi, Mannar, Jaffna, Colombo, Trincomalee and Vavuniya. According to the Secretary to Ministry of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs V. Sivagnanasothy, a group of 20 male and 16 female refugees were scheduled to arrive on a Mihin Lanka Airline flight MJ 130 at 11.45 a.m. from Chennai, reports Colombo Page. Minister of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs D. M. Swaminathan, has had a discussion with the UNHCR and facilitated the process for the refugees to return. The UNHCR has been assisting the voluntary repatriation of Sri Lankan refugees by providing free air tickets, reintegration allowance of USD 75 per person, transport allowance of USD 19 per person and monitory non-food grant of USD 75 per family. Since 2011, already 4,799 refugees have returned to Sri Lanka. Over 64,000 are stationed in 109 welfare camps in India. Totally, over 100,000 refugees are currently in India. The Sri Lankan government under the leadership of the President Maithripala Sirisena has encouraged the voluntary refugee returnee program on a phased out basis. Minister Swaminathan has also initiated a Cabinet paper on which livelihood assistance of maximum Rs. 100,000 to refugee returnees is provided to support the livelihood activities. Further, the provision of dry ration has been already approved for 6 months. The Ministry Secretary also informed that, the refugees who lost their houses will be provided with houses under the housing program of the Ministry. (Business Standard 28/6/16)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

32 Delhi Metro stations did not have fire NOCs, finds RTI (1)

New Delhi: DMRC did not have fire safety clearances for 32 of its 158 stations for varying durations over the last few years, according to its reply to an RTI query. Huda City Centre did not have the clearance for as long as three years — from May 2011 to May 2012; and from February 2014 to January 2016 — revealed the reply to the RTI query filed by Gurgaon resident Sudhir Yadav in February. Yadav had sought copies of NOCs from the fire department for all Metro stations in the last three years and the names of stations without the clearances in the last five years. A DMRC spokesperson said, “At present, all the 158 Metro stations have valid fire safety certificates… Delay in obtaining NOC… for a few stations was mainly due to procedural aspects”. (Indian Express 3/6/16)

Jharkhand HC seeks EC’s reply on legislators who defected (1)

Ranchi:  The Jharkhand High Court on Saturday sought a written reply from the Election Commission of India regarding the status of six legislators who defected from the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha-Prajatantrik (JVM-P) to the BJP. According to an informed source, the Jharkhand High Court heard a petition and sought a status report on the JVM-P legislators. Headed by Babulal Marandi, the JVM-P has sought a stay on the June 11 Rajya Sabha poll till the matter related to the defection of these legislators is decided. A reply to an RTI query revealed that no merger of the JVM-P took place as claimed by the six legislators who defected. In February 2015, six of the eight JVM-P legislators joined the BJP. Two among them became ministers. The defection case is pending before the Assembly Speaker. The JVM-P has alleged that the case is being delayed only to favour the BJP government in the state. The next hearing of the case will take place on June 8 in the High Court. (Business Standard 4/6/16)

 ‘Refusal to share information against spirit of RTI Act’ (1)

CHENNAI: A. G. Perarivalan, a convict in the Rajiv Gandhi assassinatin case, had in a query sent to the Superintendent of the Yerwada prison, Pune, sought a copy of the entire file relating to Sanjay Dutt’s release and also details of the actor’s conduct in prison. The Maharashtra government had maintained that the decision to grant remission to Mr. Dutt was taken by the Jail Superintendent and the government had no role in the matter of remissions. When contacted, Venkatesh Nayak, programme coordinator, Access to Information Programme, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, said the grounds for rejecting Perarivalan’s plea were unreasonable and were completely invalid. “There is nothing in the RTI Act that enables a Public Information Officer to reject a petition simply because the information sought relates to a third party. In this case, the details sought by the convict pertains to a decision of the executive. There is no confidentiality involved in making the orders of a premature release public,” he said. Peoples Union for Civil Liberties general secretary V. Suresh said premature release of a convict is an issue that pertains to public policy and should be made public. The fundamental principle of the RTI Act is that the petitioner need not reveal what he/she intends to do with the information sought. (The Hindu 7/6/16)

RTI activist hacked to death escaped 4 attempts on his life (1)

Chennai: RTI activist J Parasmal had already escaped four murder attempts before his luck finally ran out on Tuesday when he was hacked to death by an unidentified gang in the city. Parasmal’s relatives told police that an attempt was made on his life in December 2013, and two more attempts were made in 2014. Even last week, a gang was following him near Choolaimedu but despite his life being in grave danger, the RTI activist never filed a complaint with the police. Four people have been detained for questioning by police who are also checking security camera footage from the crime scene on Baker Street in Periamet to establish the identity of the killers. “He had differences with a lot of people, especially building owners. We are making a list of people whom his family suspected. We have not been able to make a breakthrough in the case so far,” an investigating officer said. (Times of India 9/6/16)

HC stays order to disclose report on whistle-blower (1)

NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday stayed the Chief Information Commission (CIC) order directing the Intelligence Bureau and the Centre to give a copy of its report submitted in relation to harassment, human rights violation and false cases filed against Indian Forest Services officer Sanjiv Chaturvedi for exposing corruption during his term as DFO in Haryana. A Bench of Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva passed the stay order on a petition moved by IB against the April 21 CIC order. While staying the CIC order, the Bench asked whistle-blower Mr. Chaturvedi, a 2002 batch IFS officer from Haryana cadre, to file his reply to the IB’s petition. The Bench said the issue of harassment raised in the matter required consideration. Appearing for IB, Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain told the Bench that the report cannot be made public as the agency is covered under protection provided by section 24 of the RTI Act. Section 24 of RTI Act provides that intelligence and security agencies cannot be forced to make any information public. However, Sanjiv Chaturvedi is relying on the proviso to Section 24 which goes on to say that though intelligence and security agencies are exempt from the Act, they cannot claim exemption if the information sought from them relates to corruption and human rights violation. (The Hindu 10/6/16)

‘RTI activist murder a message to silence city whistleblowers’ (1)

Chennai: The brutal daylight murder of RTI activist J Parasmal (59), who would target the Chennai Corporation and TANGEDCO, has shocked other activists in the city. They see the murder as a way to silence protesting voice and hence curtailing dissent. “The killing of activists is a warning to common citizens not to fight wrongdoers. The message is simple; just be silent spectators to all the wrongs taking place right in front of your eyes,” said RTI activists D Gopalakrishnan and R Vadivelu. Citizens are an integral part of democracy and it is their responsibility and right to point out flaws in the functioning of the government, the duo said. Parasmal was using RTI to expose the collusion of government officials in construction of unauthorised commercial and residential buildings with the mafia. “This phenomenon is growing like cancer in the city. Occupancy of buildings without obtaining completion certificate is also on the rise,” the duo said. Resident Welfare associations must play a keen role to highlight such discrepancies, they said. Co-convenor of NGO Arapor Iyakkam Jayaram Venkatesan wondered how the unauthorised building owners would have known that the RTIs were being filed by Parasmal as some of them were being filed by associates. “This means there is a chance that the concerned RTIs were leaked from the government offices,” he said. The murder has opened the debate on the Whistleblower Protection Act which sought to protect those exposing corruption in government offices. “The Bill is in cold storage as it has lapsed. The government at the Centre has not taken any action. We are going to petition the chief secretary of the state regarding The Bill,” Venkatesan said. The act is necessary as many complaints have been filed by citizens and many such cases are pending with governments and courts which need speedy disposal, Gopalakrishnan said. “This Bill is also necessary for honest government servants who might want to expose wrongdoing,” he said. (Times of India 11/6/16)

Crores allocated, yet no shelters for homeless in Mumbai (1)

Mumbai: Although the monsoon is set to hit the metropolis soon, the Maharashtra government and the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai have not constructed any shelters for the homeless in Mumbai as mandated by the National Urban Livelihood Mission (NULM), activist Medha Patkar has revealed. Ms. Patkar leads the Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan (GBGBA). The guidelines by NULM under the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, mandate construction of a permanent community shelter for every one lakh population by the government. Bilal Khan of GBGBA, said: “Mumbai has a population of 12,442,373 as per 2011 Census and as per the guidelines, at least 124 community shelters were required to be constructed. “But, my RTI query revealed that no new night shelters have been build as per the NULM guidelines.” In its reply to Mr. Khan’s RTI query on June 1, the Public Information officer & Research Officer (Planning) of the MCGM said: “No night shelter has been constructed by Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai.” Seven night shelters built before the NULM guidelines exist at Khetwadi, Kamathipura, Wankhede Stadium footover bridge, Bandra, Andheri East, and Malad East, which support 333 people presently. Mr. Khan said, “The Supreme Court of India and various High Courts have on several occasions clarified that the ‘right to shelter’ is part and parcel of ‘right to life’. This means that denying shelter to anyone is a clear violation of ‘right to life’. The Supreme Court, in its rulings, has made it mandatory for state governments to construct shelter for the homeless.” The GBGBA also released an affidavit filed by Sailesh Jogiani, Under Secretary in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, which reveals that the Centre had allocated Rs. 15,272.72 lakh to Maharashtra for construction of permanent shelters, but the State has not spent any of it. “It is startling to know that not a single rupee has been spent so far by the Maharashtra Government. We urge the government as well as the MCGM to look into the matter with utmost urgency, and provide all the possible relief to the homeless living in Mumbai keeping in mind the possible risk to life during rains,” Mr. Khan said. The GBGBA is scheduled to file an affidavit before the Supreme Court related to this in August when the matter comes up for hearing, he said. (The Hindu 14/6/16)

Not a single addict sent by courts to 30 Punjab rehab centres (1)

NEW DELHI: At a time when ‘Udta Punjab’ has put the spotlight on the state’s crippling drug problem, not much is being done to rehabilitate addicts, according to RTI queries. At least 30 rehab centres run by the Punjab government or linked to it have not received a single addict sent on court orders, Punjab’s health department admitted in its response to RTI questions. Sections 27, 39 and 64-A of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act give an option to courts and prosecution to send those caught with small quantities of banned drugs for personal consumption to rehab centres. This would allow addicts an exit route, and save them from a jail term. Addicts typically get smaller jail terms, unlike traffickers. RTI queries have indicat ed that Punjab’s crimi nal justice system appears to be geared towards jailing addicts convicted for drug abuse, rather than curing them. The sentences ordinarily vary from 15 days to a year in prison depending on the quantity of drugs found on an addict. The RTI queries were filed by Neha Singhal and Sakshi, senior researchers with Delhibased think tank, Vidhi Centre For Legal Policy. The RTIs sought full details of the number of addicts prosecuted under section 27 of NDPS Act who were referred for rehabilitation by courts. The applications didn’t lay down a time-frame but sought the number of patients who enrolled voluntarily, facilities and treatment available at the centres, the nature of drugs used by patients, disbursement of funds, etc. Section 27 of the NDPS Act says that persons found in illegal possession of drugs in small quantity are liable to imprisonment of up to six months, or fine, or both, which, in respect of hard drugs like heroin, would be up to one-year imprisonment or fine or both.However, the court is empowered to release an addict to undergo treatment for de-addiction on his executing a necessary bond. Meanwhile, two days before its release, a copy of ‘Udta Punjab’ was leaked on torrent websites. A copyright complaint was lodged late on Wednesday even as investigators said the film’s team has removed the leaked version. (Times of India 16/6/16)

Uttarakhand activist writes to PMO, gets village digitally connected (1)

DEHRADUN: After several attempts to get his village digitally connected did not bear fruit, an RTI activist finally wrote to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), and to his surprise, got a quick response, with a copy of instructions that his village, Dudhali, be provided internet facilities under the PM’s Digital India initiative which aims to connect rural areas with high-speed internet networks. The activist, Ajay Kumar, said he never expected such a quick response when he wrote to the PMO on June 1. By June 6, PMO had written to the Union rural development ministry and the Uttarakhand government about his request and also uploaded the response and action on the PMO-PG website. By June 17, Kumar got the response from PMO about the officials entrusted to review the action both in Uttarakhand and the central government. “I had written to the PM demanding internet connectivity, e-smart classes in the schools, e-library and connecting the village with the optical fibre network,” said Kumar. Dudhali village is close to Doiwala where residents still struggle for basic civic facilities. Last week, Kumar was informed by the state government that the information technology department has been instructed to start working on his demands.”I have been informed about the status of my request. To be honest, I had not expected that writing a letter to the PM would be taken so seriously that all the department would start working on the plan,” he said, talking to TOI. He had demanded setting up of common services centre (CSC) in the village to begin internet-based services like issuing of certificates including domicile, caste, birth, death and payment of water and power bills.The village has a population of over 7,000 and is 20 km away from the hill capital. State government officials admitted about the direction from the PMO and said they are now preparing a plan of action. “It is being prepared in consultation with the IT department and the stakeholders including the villagers before we start the work,” said an official here. (Times of India 19/6/16)

Modi’s degree: HC notice to Kejriwal, CIC (1)

Ahmedabad: The row over prime minister Narendra Modi’s degree has now reached Gujarat high court, which on Monday issued notice to Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and central information commissioner (CIC) M Sridhar Acharyulu. The HC sought reply from the CIC and Kejriwal in response to a petition filed by Gujarat University (GU) challenging the legality of the CIC order asking the university to furnish details of Modi’s postgraduation degree to the Delhi CM. The GU has challenged the CIC order as biased, and lacking jurisdiction under the Right To Information (RTI) Act. PM Modi obtained MA from the GU in political science in 1983. The GU has urged the HC to quash CIC’s order passed on April 9 on the ground that the GU was never made a party to any proceedings before the CIC, and hence, this decision was adverse to the interests of the university. The GU has accused the CIC of giving special treatment to Kejriwal, only because he happened to be Delhi’s chief minister. “The CIC has considered the chief minister on a different pedestal, which is against the principles of rule of law,” the petition reads. The GU has also objected to CIC’s observation that it was proper to disclose information about the PM’s degree since the CM of Delhi sought the information. The university reiterated in the petition that under RTI laws, all are equal and the status of Kejriwal as the CM of Delhi is not a ground for issuing any direction against the GU.The GU has complained that Kejriwal did not make any application to the CIC for obtaining particulars of Modi’s degree from the university. The CIC had wrongly treated Kejriwal’s oral submissions as his application and sought Modi’s degree, GU has remarked in the petition. This is in stark violation of the RTI laws, because any information commission could have ordered the GU to supply Modi’s degree, had the CIC forwarded Kejriwal’s application to it under the RTI laws, or had Kejriwal himself filed an application to the GU’s public information officer, observed the petition. “The CIC is not authorized to unilaterally ask for information without any application made before the GU by Kejriwal,” the petition reads.The GU has also questioned the jurisdiction of the CIC on the ground that its orders could only be given to the public authority under the Union government. After issuing notice, Justice S H Vora has kept further hearing on July 2. (Times of India 21/6/16)

Cabinet decisions come under RTI Act, says Kerala CIC (1)

Thiruvananthapuram: In a significant development that may make government business more transparent, the Kerala Information Commission has ordered that all decisions by the state government, once finalised in the cabinet, come under the ambit of the RTI Act. The Commission also suggested that the government publish the cabinet decisions on its official website. “The details of all cabinet decisions should be given once the procedures regarding those decisions are completed. It also should be considered seriously to upload the cabinet decisions on the government website,” the Commission observed. State Chief Information Commissioner Vinson M Paul issued the order while disposing of a complaint by RTI activist D B Binu against the decision of the state government, which denied him copies of the cabinet decisions taken from January 1 to March 12 under the RTI Act. The Commission also directed the government to make public within 10 days all cabinet decisions taken during during the last three months since January 1. (Business Standard 22/6/16)

Centre didn’t spend on anniversary ads: RTI reply (1)

MUMBAI: The Union government’s Directorate of Advertising & Visual Publicity (DAVP) has said in its reply to an RTI query that “Rs Nil”, or no money at all, had been spent on the advertising blitzkrieg in May on the completion of two years by the Narendra Modi-led government. The reply has set tongues wagging, with Opposition parties demanding to know who had paid for the ads. The RTI application to DAVP had been filed by Advocate Pranay Ajmera, a Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) student wing activist. The application sought details of money spent by the government on the advertisement campaign in print and electronic media. The DAVP comes under the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting and is responsible for releasing government ad campaigns to media houses. In a reply sent on June 8, the DAVP said, “With regard to information pertaining to audio visual accounts of your RTI, the requisite information for amount spent on advertisements to celebrate two years completion of Union government as on date 29/05/2016 in Rs NIL.” The NCP’s chief spokesperson Nawab Malik said, “We have been bombarded with government advertisements for many months now celebrating two years of the government. The government must explain as to whether all media houses published these ads for free or the work was outsourced to a private agency. Mr Malik said the government should also explain if the campaign was funded by the Ambanis, Adanis and Tatas. “Were the media houses forced to publish free government advertisements?” he asked. Mr Ajmera, who has filed an application for first appeal with the appellate authority, said he wanted to highlight bring the money spent by the government on publicity. “I am not satisfied with the information I received. Either they are lying or hiding the information,” he said. He added, “Advertisments cannot be published without spending money. If the government hasn’t spent it, then who spent it? I will continue to pursue the case with the authorities.” (The Hindu 24/6/16)

SIC fines school Rs 25k for not giving info on RTI query (1)

ROORKEE: State information commission (SIC) is reported to have slapped a fine of Rs 25,000 on an intermediate college of girls at Manglaur, a nearby town, for not providing information to an RTI applicant about the recruitment process of school staff. It also termed the behaviour of the district’s chief education officer (CEO) as “unwarranted” in complying with the instructions of the commission in the matter. The commission also asked state government to take a disciplinary action against the education officer too.Rakesh Agarwal, a resident of Roorkee, had filed a petition before the state information commission on August 26, 2015 after he was not satisfied with the response of the public information officer/principal of Kewal Kanya Inter College, Manglaur against his RTI request. Agarwal had asked the school management to furnish certain information over the selection process of teachers. However, instead of giving him point-wise information about his queries, school only provided him inappropriate and ambiguous replies.When the matter was brought to the attention of Surendra Singh Rawat, state information commissioner, he instructed to chief education officer (CEO) that he should seek a sum of Rs 3,280 from the RTI applicant as fee for the needed information and arrange all desired documents for him. But CEO did not pay heed to Rawat’s instructions. Agarwal deposited the said fee in time with the CEO. In a strongly worded statement against the school principal and CEO over their conduct, Rawat said “they did not provide information to an RTI applicant at initial levels but when we tried to put pressure on them to comply with orders, they even levelled allegations against us”. Disciplinary action is also likely to be initiated against CEO for his “unwarranted behaviour”, he added. (Times of India 26/6/16)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

RTE reimbursements for schools hiked to Rs17,329 (11)

Nagpur : The reimbursement to schools in lieu of free admissions under Right to Education Act ( RTE ) quota has been hiked to Rs . 17,329 per student per year. The new figure is an almost 30% jump from the previous amount set by the state government and will come into effect from 2015-16 session. While schools are happy there has been an increase in the amount, the quantum of increase has not gone down well with many. Rajendra Dayma, co-founder and office bearer of Independent English Schools Association (IESA), said, “It is not fair to give schools such a low amount. We have found that the average annual fee is around Rs 40,000. Compared to this what the government is offering is peanuts.” The association has decided to keep their schools closed on June 15 as a mark of protest. While June 15 is the school opening day for state, Vidarbha follows a slightly different schedule. Due to hot weather conditions, government has exempted Vidarbha and allows schools to reopen from June 26. The association will plan out a schedule for schools in Vidarbha. Currently the reimbursements are for admissions done under RTE from STD I-VIII but schools want the government to commit funds for pre-primary too. A principal said, “State wants us to admit children from entry point, which in almost every school is pre-primary level. But we are not getting a single paisa for that. The government must ensure we get reimbursed for every class that we admit a student under RTE.” RTE admissions this year in Maharashtra were done completely online to bring in transparency and increase efficiency of staff involved. The first round of lottery for admissions has been completed and schools are in the process of document verification. (Times of India 1/6/16)

Won’t release education policy till states vet it: Smriti Irani (11)

New Delhi: Union HRD minister Smriti Irani on Friday said that the report on National Education Policy will be made public only after taking views from the states brushing aside the demand of former cabinet secretary T S R Subramanian, who led the panel which prepared the report suggesting reforms to the policy. “Education policy will not become an attempt to be the legacy of one individual who seeks a headline…The recommendations have to be shared with the states first before it is made a draft policy,” she said while responding to a question regarding the statement given by Subramanian that he would make the report on the new policy public, if the government did not do so. Terming it “unfortunate that misleading or distasteful headlines are done”, Irani said she would not renege on her promise to state governments that they will have a voice in it, before it is made a policy.Irani also defended her ministry’s decision to reject three famous names from the corporate world – chairman of the board of directors of Infosys R Seshasayee, HDFC chairman Deepak Parekh and Hero MotoCorp CMD Pawan Munjal – which a search panel had suggested for the post of chairperson at IIM, Ahmedabad. “I am of the opinion that I would not like to give credence to supposed headlines. I will only say this that it is the right of institutions to propose certain names giving valid reasons and if valid stands are not found then we are having the right and the authority to ask for a reason. That possibly can be the only interface that the ministry has, at the level of the joint secretary, with an institution,” Irani said.The minister said the the NDA government had added six IIMs, two IITs and five IIITs to provide quality education to students. She also said the government had brought forth a mechanism to rank institutes of higher education to raise the quality of education all over the country. (Times of India 4/6/16)

10 students injured at Jaipur protest against ‘saffronisation’ of education (11)

Jaipur: At least 10 students affiliated to NSUI injured when police resorted to lathicharge to disperse protesters outside Rajasthan University’s main campus in Jaipur on Monday. The NSUI activists were protesting against alleged saffronisation of education and change in question paper pattern in examination by the BJP government. One of the seriously injured students Deepak Dhindoria was admitted to the trauma ward of SMS hospital, while others were discharged after first-aid. The police have arrested 13 students, including NSUI president Satveer Choudhary and a girl, under Section 151 of the IPC. Pradesh Congress Committee vice-president Archana Sharma condemned the police “highhandedness” and alleged that the BJP government wanted to crush students’ silent protest. She accused the state government of saffronising higher education by deleting references pertaining to former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and even Mahatma Gandhi from history books. “The ideology of BJP and RSS was being thrust on students,” she said. Nearly 100 students were part of the NSUI-led protest against MA II-semester paper which had questions related to BJP’s governance and its saffron ideology. (The Tribune 6/6/16)

Poor infrastructure, skewed policy keep students away from government schools (11)

BENGALURU: Every morning, children studying in Class 1 at the Government Lower Primary School at Kagikharkhane in Kalaburagi walk 2km to reach their school. The school has 10 students and the infrastructure is just enough to keep it going. The children who come from poor families are worried that they will have to trek 4km to reach another ‘nearby’ government school if their school is shut down for want of minimum student strength. The state government had planned to close down schools with student strength of ten or below. Education experts blame the government for pushing its schools to such a sorry state. “Instead of attracting students, the department was planning to close them in the name of merger. Though they call it merger, it is actually a closure as they will not re-open them till they get the student strength to over 15,” said an expert. Late on Tuesday, the government withdrew its decison to shut schools. Dr M S Thimmappa, former Vice-chancellor, Bangalore University, said, “The earlier decision to shut down schools was unfortunate because the poorest of the poor who cannot afford private schools send their children to government schools. The government’s attitude is defeatist. Instead of improving the quality, they are closing schools. Specialisation, quality teaching and infrastructure is what these government schools need.” A teacher of a school in Chikkamagaluru district said, “Our school is in an interior area and has only nine students. This is the only school catering to five villages. Unfortunately, the trend since the past four years has been for parents shifting their children to a private school, 20 km from here. This has affected admissions. But, if we close down our school, where will the poor students go?” Experts say the provisions of Right to Education Act (RTE) is one of the reasons. Ironically, the government is itself to blame for it. Under RTE, the state government admits 25% children from financially weaker sections to private schools. A source in the department said, “When we are providing quality education at free of cost in private schools, who will admit their kids to government schools? As it is a national policy and right of the children for free and compulsory education, we cannot question it.” Another reason is migration. In the North Karnataka region, many families migrate to cities in search of jobs. Shortage of teachers is another factor.  The department says that they prefer merger of schools as they are grappling with teacher shortage. (New Indian Express 8/6/16)

Bihar govt embarks on ‘Operation Clean Education’ (11)

Patna: In the wake of raging Intermediate ‘topper scam’, the state education department has taken up the initiative to start ‘Operation Clean Education’, in which all the affiliated colleges and schools would be inspected phasewise to know the ground reality.This decision was taken at a high-level meeting conducted by CM Nitish Kumar along with senior bureaucrats and state education minister Ashok Choudhary, a couple of days back, but a notification to this effect was issued on Saturday. The minister has asked the DM and the SP of all the districts to do joint inspection of affiliated educational institutions. Talking to TOI, Choudhary said all the 228 affiliated BEd colleges, intermediate colleges and degree colleges would be inspected in phases. “The DM and SP have been asked to inspect BEd colleges and submit reports within 15 days. The two officers will go every college and get detail information such as the number of students enrolled, number of classrooms and the infrastructure available. In case of any irregularity or discrepancy, affiliation of the concerned college would be cancelled, followed by lodging of an FIR,” he said. In the next phase, intermediate colleges would be inspected and finally degree colleges. Even private coaching institutes would be under the scanner of the education department, and it would be checked whether they are following the rules laid out for them or not. The education minister agreed that many of the colleges and schools had got the affiliation by adopting wrong means. “We have also got information that directors and principals of a few colleges have appointed their relatives on the posts of teachers and they are misusing funds, but now they would face the brunt,” said Choudhary, adding, “We promise people quality education. We will go to any extent to achieve that, but we need some time.” After the ‘topper scam’ was exposed by the media last week, there have been reports of affiliated colleges and schools misusing government funds. It is also said that a lot of money changes hands in grant of affiliation and the racket has gripped the entire education system of Bihar. (Times of India 11/6/16)

Govt. to down shutters of 144 private schools (11)

VISAKHAPATNAM: In total, 144 private schools in Visakhapatnam district will be closed down for failing to obtain the mandated recognition from the government before the reopening date, which is Monday for most schools. Reviewing the performances of the schools, including the fulfilment of the required infrastructural formalities with the management of the schools in Visakhapatnam on Sunday, HRD Minister Ganta Srinivasa Rao, expressed displeasure, as many of the schools do not have the required infrastructure such as playgrounds, proper toilets and laboratories. Speaking to The Hindu , the Minister said of the 144 schools, 57 are primary schools and 87 high schools. And they will be closed down before the reopening date. “I do not understand how the District Education Officer Krishna Reddy allowed these schools to function without being recognised. The schools have to be closed down before the reopening date. We have instructed the DEO to release an advertisement in all major newspapers to publicise the names of the banned schools,” he said. In a similar crackdown the government had downed the shutters of 106 schools last year in the district. “We have initiated a task force under the chairmanship of Joint Collector –II and it will comprise four other members, including a DSP rank officer from the Department of Vigilance and Enforcement,” he said. The task force has been assigned to look into various aspects such as the building norms, fire fighting system, playgrounds, laboratories, toilets, faculty strength and quality and other basic infrastructure. “There are many schools that do not have the basic infrastructure and a few are being run from the third and fourth floor of apartments and are located in main junctions, creating traffic nuisance. The task force has been told to take action against all these schools, which includes a number of junior colleges run by a few corporate groups,” he informed The Hindu . On the fitness certificates of busses, there are about 1,640 school busses and so far only 732 have obtained fitness certificates. The management of the schools have been told to obtain the fitness certificate before the reopening date or not to run the busses till then. Referring to the fee issue, Mr. Srinivasa Rao said there was no mechanism to check the fees being charged by the private schools till now. “We have instructed the schools to publicise the details such as infrastructure and full structure of the fees in the public domain and have told the task force to see that the fees are charged reasonably,” he said. (The Hindu 13/6/16)

School notebooks in Vadodara laud ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ (11)

Vadodara: The primary education committee of the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) has once again waded into controversy by bringing out notebooks with messages promoting the BJP-RSS ideology. This time, the committee is distributing notebooks that laud the slogan ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ and have a picture of Bharatiya Jan Sangh ideologue Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay.In the past too, the committee had brought out notebooks with a picture of Bharat Mata as represented by the RSS. The covers of the notebooks have also shown Modi alongside Swami Vivekananda attempting to draw a comparison between the two. Even school bags with Modi’s photograph were distributed by the committee before few years. The committee chairman, Keyur Rokadiya, said that 1.6lakh such notebooks would be distributed. “There should be no objection to ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’. In fact, the quote by Deendayalji on the notebook explains this,” he said. Upadhyay has been quoted on the back cover of the notebooks stating that the foundation of our nationality was Bharat Mata. It adds that without the word Mata, Bharat would merely be a piece of land. Rokadiya added that Upadhyay’s picture was placed on the cover as it was his birth centenary year. The Congress at the other end sees this as an attempt to promote the RSS ideology. “It is an attempt to influence the children to promote RSS views on the Indian culture and history,” said Nilesh Brahmbhatt, Vadodara city Congress spokesperson. (Times of India 16/6/16)

Over 28,000 RTE quota seats remain vacant (11)

Bengaluru: As many as 28,530 seats of the total 1.15 lakh under the Right to Education (RTE) Act quota have not been filled in the State this year. While 78,546 admissions were made during the first round, 8,161 students were admitted during the second round. Although 16,802 children were allotted seats, many parents are yet to approach the schools even though the deadline for admissions ended on Saturday. While 1,478 applications were rejected owing to errors in the documents or duplication in the second round, several applicants have decided not to admit their children as the schools allotted to them were not their first preference. “Although the last date for admissions is over, we still have to analyse if there is a need to extend the last date under the second round,” an official in the Department of Public Instruction said. (The Hindu 20/6/16)

Lack of awareness hits free schooling scheme for BPL kids (11)

BIJNOR: Despite having a provision to admit children of Below Poverty Line (BPL) card holders in private schools — as per the directive to reserve 25% seats for them – not a single applicant has applied for the same with the basic shiksha adhikari (BSA) of Bijnor. There are about 3,000 public schools in Bijnor district. Education authorities attribute this to lack of awareness regarding the scheme among the poor and illiterate due to which underprivileged children are not availing free education in public schools of the district. Under the Right to Education (RTE) Act, free education is mandatory for all children between the ages of six to 14 in government primary and higher primary schools. In addition to this, there is also a provision under the act that all public schools will educate poor children. Only those poor children will be admitted to public schools whose parents’ annual income is less than Rs 1 lakh or they are suffering from diseases like cancer. Stating that he was unaware about the scheme, Jasveer Kashyap, a resident of Mandawali, said, “I don’t know about any such provision. Nobody has ever arrived here to sensitize us on the issue.” According to sources, the government only reimbursed the fee in public schools while other expenses have to be borne by the parents. However, poor parents don’t have money to bear expenses such as dresses, books and transport facilities of their wards etc. Giving details, BSA Bijnor, Sanjay Kushwah told TOI, “No BPL card holder has admitted his children to public schools here. We are creating awareness among poor people about the provision of free education in public institutions so that they enroll their children in such schools.” Kushwah further added, “To admit their children in public schools, BPL car holders have to submit an application in the education department. The form should state about three nearby schools. It is our duty to provide admission to these children.” (Times of India 21/6/16)

Regulate Government-run educational institutions: AISF (11)

COIMBATORE: Members of the All India Students Federation (AISF) on Wednesday picketed the office of the District collectorate urging the State Government to fund and regulate all the Government-run educational institutions. Activists pointed out that private educational institutions have been increasing the fee every year and the School Education department has been a mute spectator all along. Of late, even Government-run educational institutions are taxing the students with extra or higher fee for meeting the salary of teachers appointed through Parent Teacher Associations. Such a situation was because of the failure of the State to fill up the vacancies in Government schools. Such factors threaten the right to education of children from poor sections of society. State should come forward and provide 100 per cent funding to Government schools and fill up all existing vacancies. Stringent action needs to be initiated against private educational institutions that indulge in fleecing. Private schools that refuse to honour the 25 per cent Right to Education seats for economically weaker sections should face cancellation of their recognition. State should come forward to open one arts and science college per Assembly constituency and one engineering, medical and law college per district. Government Arts and Science Colleges should have all departments. The demonstrators also called for increasing the allocation to Government school and college hostels and increase in budgetary provision for the food given to students at the hostels. (The Hindu 23/6/16)

Rights body asks school to take back kids (11)

Hyderabad: The State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR) on Friday charged the Secunderabad-based Amrita Vidyalayam of violating the Right to Education Act and asked the district collector and district education officer to ensure that 27 students, who were issued transfer certificates (TC), are re-admitted with immediate effect. The missive was issued after parents filed a petition with the SCPCR on June 11 complaining that the school had given TC to 27 students who failed to pay the hiked fees. (Times of India 25/6/16)

34 pc Muslim children have no access to pre-school: UNICEF (7)

New Delhi, Jun 28 () Out of 74 million children, in the group of 3-6 years in India, around 20 million did not attend pre-school and most of them belonged to disadvantaged and marginalised sections of the society, a UNICEF report said today. According to “State of the World Children Report-2016″, released globally by UNICEF, around 34 per cent children from Muslim families, 25.9 per cent from Hindu families and 25.6 per cent from Christian families did not attend pre-school. “Lack of access to pre-school education has a long-term impact on learning capabilities of a child. It is a continuum. When children enter primary school without going to pre-school they are likely to drop early and will not be able to fulfill their potential,” UNICEF India representative Louis-Georges Arsenault said while releasing the report. According to the government’s National Survey for Estimation of Out-of-School Children conducted in 2014, more than 60 per cent of children dropped out before completing grade 3, he added. The study also found that implementation of Right To Education (RTE) Act has led to a drop in the number of out-of-school children, aged 6-13 years, to six million in 2014 from eight million in 2009. However, 36 per cent of children drop out before completing elementary education and about half of them are from marginalised and deprived groups, it said. Highlighting lack of quality education, the report citing the National Achievement Survey (2014), said “less than half of Class V students correctly answered reading comprehension and mathematics question posed to them.” Expressing the hope that the new education policy will address these lacunae, Arsenault said “New Education policy with its vision for India as a knowledge superpower really calls for building the goal of Right To Education Act and moving beyond elementary education and extending it to include pre-schooling and also competition in secondary education.” Secretary, Department of School Education and Literacy, HRD Ministry, S C Khuntia said “we are formulating a new education policy and have formed a committee in the ministry to look into these issues.” (Times of India 28/6/16)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

Odisha becomes first to give welfare to transgender community (21)

BHUBANESWAR: Odisha is the first region in the country to give transgender people social welfare benefits – such as a pension, housing and food grains – usually allocated for only the most impoverished, an official said on Thursday. Niten Chandra, principal secretary of Odisha’s Department of Social Security, said the move to give the transgender community the same benefits as those living below the poverty line was aimed at improving their overall social and economic status. “Most transgender people are in a very bad condition because of social exclusion. For example, they very often do not get employment easily,” Chandra told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “The government had a consultation with transgender people in April, and they had raised their problems and issues. On that basis, we are now taking many decisions to help them – giving them the Below Poverty Line status is one of them.” There are no official figures, but activists say there are hundreds of thousands of transgender people in India, many of whom face ostracism and discrimination, as well as verbal, physical and sexual abuse. A lack of access to education and employment opportunities has meant many male-to-female transgender people – also known as “hijras” – end up forced into sex work or moving around in organised groups, begging or demanding money. In a landmark judgment in April 2014, Supreme Court recognised transgender as a legal third gender and called on the government to ensure their equal treatment. The court recognised the community as a marginalised group and directed authorities to implement policies to improve their socio-economic status. Identity documents such as birth certificates, driving licenses and passports must now recognise the third gender, and a certain number of public sector jobs, seats in schools and colleges must be allocated to third-gender applicants. Chandra said Odisha’s transgender population was unofficially estimated at 40,000, but added a survey would be conducted soon to get a more accurate figure. Members of the transgender community will be given Below Poverty Line (BPL) cards that will allow them to access benefits under various government welfare programmes. .. (Times of India 2/6/16)

People’s cooperation needed to make India poverty-free: Narendra Modi (21)

Balasore: Seeking people’s cooperation to make India poverty-free, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said BJP is synonymous with development which is talking place in all the party-ruled states even as he sought a political change in Odisha. “We have heard ‘garibi hatao’ slogan for 40-50 years. The intention of those who gave it might not have been bad but poverty, unemployment and diseases increased as the path chosen for it by them was wrong path,” he said. Addressing a public meeting here on completion of two years of his government, Modi said from the day one he had made up his mind to prepare schemes that would help eradicate poverty. “In my first speech in Parliament, I had stated that my government is dedicated to the welfare of the poor. My aim is to ensure sustainable development of all states,” he said. Describing himself as the ‘pradhan sevak’ of the country, Modi said he had come down to Balasore and Odisha to explain what his government has done for the poor. “We are accountable to the people,” the Prime Minister said while asking the gathering whether Naveen Patnaik had ever given an account to the people. Modi said, “When people are convinced about a government’s sincerity, only then it is possible for the government to move forward. I want people-government partnership to fight poverty and, therefore my government is trying to empower the people. There should be an integrated way of development so that all the states move forward in an even manner.” Holding that all BJP-ruled states were developing in a faster manner, he said Odisha has lagged behind as his party is yet to be in power the state while asking the people to work fora change. “You can look at the condition of states where BJP is yet to get a foothold,” he said, apparently taking a dig at the Naveen Patnaik government. Modi said, “The time has come one has to think why western part of our country is more developed than the eastern. “Odisha is a state where natural resources are plenty but it’s people are neglected and the state is lacking development.” Noting that development created all-round happiness, the Prime Minister said to attain that goal the states and the Centre must have good understanding. “Our government is giving importance to infrastructure development like in rail, road, education sectors. The schemes should involve the people or else they will remain only on paper,” he said. Elaborating on schemes initiated for the poor by the central government, the Prime Minister said these steps have brought confidence among the people as well as given them socio-economic well-being. He said ‘Janani Surakshya Yojana’ and other schemes have been helpful for such people. Modi criticised gender discrimination prevalent in the society and said the central government has vowed to eliminate such discrimination by initiating ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Yojna’. He said immunisation programme like ‘Indradhanush Yojna’, various informal education schemes like ‘Anganwadi’ meant for the five to six-year-old, mid-day meal, ‘Sukanya Sambrudhi’, toilets for school children and others have yielded results. “We have to empower the poorer sections to conquer poverty,” he said, adding the NDA government is working in that direction. He said his government has been successful in taking power to 7,000 of the targeted 18,000 unelectrified villages in 300 days. Remaining work will be done within 1000 days as targeted, he said. (Business Standard 2/6/16)

6.3 L cardholders in Hyderabad don’t buy ration from PDS (21)

HYDERABAD: Believe it or not, even after implementation of National Food Security Act which raised the income eligibility for availing PDS benefits last year, and government’s subsequent drive seeding Aadhaar details with PDS to weed out bogus cards, there are at present over 6.3 lakh cardholders in Hyderabad who do not buy ration from PDS. The number of cards issued stands at 13.21 lakh. Now, one has to understand if these are bogus cards yet to be weeded out or are just below poverty line(BPL) families not interested in availing the benefits of government. According to latest figures, two months after the implementation of Electronic-Point of Sale(EPOS) system which uses biometric details of a PDS beneficiary before releasing ration at fair price shops across Hyderabad, a total of 2.6 lakh families in Hyderabad district and 3.73 lakh families in parts of Rangareddy district which fall under Greater Hyderabad limits have not availed PDS benefits in May. The figures are quite similar for previous month too. The savings for the month of April stood at 35.5 pc in Hyderabad and 37 pc in parts of Rangareddy district. Similarly, in May, the savings were 33.8 pc in Hyderabad and 29.4 pc in RR district. These figures can be read as a saving of `28 cr and `20 cr for April and May respectively. ‘’The savings for any month so far was in single digits. EPOS enables constant monitoring of fair price shops since it uses biometric data for giving supplies to beneficiaries. Now diversion of PDS commodities is not possible,’’ said chief rationing officer of Hyderabad B Bala Maya Devi. District supplies officer, Rangareddy, M Gouri Shankar said: ‘’We cannot say if all these are bogus cards too. A lot of people may be away on vacation. Some of them might not be interested in availing ration. We are in the constant process of weeding out ineligible cards,” he said. (New Indian Express 7/6/16)

India to grow at 7.6% in FY17, says World Bank (21)

NEW DELHI: India is anticipated to grow at 7.6% in 2016-17, according to the World Bank, retaining its position as the fastest growing major economy in the world. China is forecast to grow at 6.7% after 6.9% last year, while Brazil and Russia are projected to remain in deeper recessions than forecast in January. The multilateral agency’s latest global economic prospects report said the outlook assumes rural incomes and spending will rebound with a return to normal monsoon rainfall after two years of poor rain. The opening up of new sectors is expected to attract foreign investment. Public spending on infrastructure and the planned streamlining of business procedures and the tax regime, and accommodative monetary policy are expected to be further conducive to private investment. Foreign direct investment in India has surged over the 18-month period ending in February thanks to the government’s “Make in India” campaign, with computer software and automotive industries the primary beneficiaries. Manufacturing activity accelerated and purchasing manager indicators showed buoyant sentiment. Increased public spending on power generation, roads, railways and urban infrastructure has contributed to an improved business environment. Growth prospects have weakened throughout the world economy, according to the June 2016 Global Economic Prospects. Global growth for 2016 is projected at 2.4%, 0.5 percentage point below the January forecast.”This sluggish growth underscores why it’s critically important for countries to pursue policies that will boost economic growth and improve the lives of those living in extreme poverty,” said Jim Yong Kim, President, World Bank group. “Economic growth remains the most important driver of poverty reduction, and that’s why we’re very concerned that growth is slowing sharply in commodity-exporting developing countries due to depressed commodity prices.” In an environment of anemic growth, the global economy faces mounting risks, including a further slowdown in major emerging markets, the World Bank said. Emerging market and developing economies (EMDEs) are facing stronger headwinds, including weaker growth among advanced economies and low commodity prices. Significant divergences persist between commodity exporters struggling to adjust to depressed prices and commodity importers showing continued resilience. Global growth is projected to pick up to 3% by 2018 as stabilizing commodity prices provide support to commodity exporting EMDEs (Emerging market and developing economies). Downside risks have become more pronounced. These include deteriorating conditions among key commodity exporters, softer-than-expected activity in advanced economies, rising private sector debt in some large emerging markets, and heightened policy and geopolitical uncertainties. (Times of India 9//6/16)

State Food Commission coming up (21)

BENGALURU: The decks have been cleared for the setting up of a State Food Commission, a quasi judicial regulatory body, to monitor issues related to the public distribution system, Anna Bhagya scheme of supplying foodgrains at nominal cost, and supply of food to anganwadis under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS). Announcing this at a press conference here, Food Minister Dinesh Gundu Rao said Karnataka was the third State in the country to set up such a commission under the provisions of the National Food Security Act, after Bihar and Haryana. The State Cabinet recently cleared the proposal, and the administrative formalities have been completed with the issuing of a notification in this regard on June 10. It may take three to four months to put the Commission in place, the Minister said. It will have seven members including a chairman and a member secretary. Till then, the State Consumer Forum will double up as the food commission, he explained. The chairman and members will be chosen by a committee headed by the Chief Minister. The selection committee will comprise presiding officers and leaders of the Opposition of both the Houses of the State Legislature and the Food Minister as its members. The general public could take up any issues and grievances related to food in the public sector with the commission. They could also take up issues concerning the orders by the district-level authorities related to their grievances if they were not satisfied with the verdict of those authorities, the Minister said. He was of the view that the commission would strengthen the PDS as well as Anna Bhagya scheme. (The Hindu 13/6/16)

Pope criticises obstacles to food aid while weapons flow freely (21)

Rome, June 13 : Pope Francis on Monday criticised as a “paradox” the multiple bureaucratic, political and economic obstacles to the distribution of food aid to the hungry while weapons flow freely around the world. Francis made his first visit to the headquarters of the World Food Programme, the UN agency responsible for the distribution of food aid, and was received by WFP director Ertharin Cousin, Efe news reported. In his address to the WFP Executive Board, the pontiff described as “a strange and paradoxical phenomenon” the web of political decisions, ideological bents and customs barriers hindering aid and development assistance but not the flow of arms. “It doesn’t matter where they come from, (weapons) circulate with boasting and almost absolute freedom in so many places around the world. Thus, it is wars that get nurtured, not the people. In some cases, hunger is used as a weapon in war,” the pope said. “The weakest populations not only suffer from armed conflicts, but also see all kinds of help hindered at the same time. It is urgent to streamline all procedures that prevent humanitarian aid programmes from achieving their goals,” Pope said. The pope said: “Excessive information gradually generates a ‘normalisation’ of misery (and) step by step, we become indifferent to other people’s tragedies and we accept it as something that is ‘natural’”.”Let’s be clear. Food scarcity is not something that is natural, it is not just a piece of information or something obvious, evident. That so many people in the 21st century suffer this scourge is the result of a selfish and bad distribution of resources, and of a ‘commercialisation’ of food,” Francis said. (New Kerala 13/6/16)

Tripura Govt blamed for high poverty in State (21)

 AGARTALA, June 18 – Union Minister Anant G Geete on Friday denounced the Left Front Government in Tripura for not being able to alleviate poverty in the State, saying 67 per cent of its population is below the poverty line. “Is it good governance? When the national average of BPL is 38 per cent, in the Marxist ruled State the number is 67 per cent, which is abnormally high. “What is this government doing being at the helm of affairs for the last 23 years? People in this State are getting poorer due to the governance they are being provided,” Geete said at a press conference here. The Union Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises Minister, who visited the State to highlight the achievements of the two-year rule of the Narendra Modi-led NDA Government, said even very poor people in the country were now getting LPG.

“In Tripura, people do not get their proper share of money allocated by the Centre, which is the main reason for poverty and such a high rate of BPL percentage,” he said adding, had there been good governance, the people of Tripura could have caught up with the national BPL average. Attacking the earlier UPA Government, he said the last ten years of the UPA Government were full of scams, and could be termed as government of scams. But, in the last two years of Narendra Modi Government, there is no scam and the coming three years would also be scam-free, Geete claimed. – PTI (The Assam Tribune 19/6/16)

32.59 pc people in state live below poverty line (21)

BHUBANESWAR: DESPITE claims of the State Government that poverty has gone down in Odisha because of  successful implementation of different welfare programmes, 32.59 per cent of the State’s population remains below the poverty line (BPL), which is one of the highest figures in the country. More than half of the districts are also behind the per capita gross domestic product (GDP) which is Rs 27,735 in the State. However, tribal dominated Sundargarh has topped in gross district domestic product (GDDP) followed by another tribal-dominated district Keonjhar. While the total GDDP of Odisha is Rs 129,27,445 lakh, Sundargarh tops the list with Rs 11,32,011 lakh. According to official sources, the GDDP of Keonjhar is Rs 10,41,317 lakh while Deogarh, which is at the bottom of the list, has GDDP of Rs 75,326 lakh. The per capita net district domestic product (NDDP) of Odisha stands at Rs 27,735. More than half of the districts including Sonepur, Rayagada, Puri, Nuapada, Nayagarh, Nabarangpur, Mayurbhanj, Malkangiri, Kendrapara, Kalahandi, Ganjam, Gajapati, Dhenkanal, Deogarh, Boudh, Balangir, Bhadrak, Bargarh and Balasore have low per capita NDDP than the Odisha average. Angul district has the highest per capita NDDP of Rs 53,920 followed by Rs 51,134 of Jharsuguda. While Keonjhar district has per capita NDDP of Rs 50,609, Sundargarh has a per capita NDDP of Rs 42,706. Nabarangpur has the lowest per capita NDDP of Rs 16,195. Nayagarh, Puri and Kendrapara also have NDDP far less than the State average. Official sources said the GDDP of Keonjhar and Sundargarh is more compared to other districts because of trade in minerals. Angul, Jharsuguda, Keonjhar and Sundargarh, who top the list of per capita NDDP, have mines and industries. While the GSDP of Odisha was Rs 3,32,329 crore in 2015-16, it was Rs 2,25,283 crore in 2011-12. (New Indian Express 20/6/16)

PDS control order in Jharkhand soon (21)

Dhanbad: The Jharkhand government will soon implement its own public distribution system (PDS) control order, instead of following decades-old Bihar PDS control order to regulate food and supply related issues in the state. The F&S minister was here to inaugurate a yoga camp organized by the district administration at Giridih aerodrome to mark International Yoga Day on Tuesday.”We have sought suggestions from the citizens including public representatives as well as intellectuals to make it citizen-friendly. If everything goes well, we will soon execute the Jharkhand PDS control order, said the Jharkhand state food and supply minister,” Saryu Rai said at Giridih circuit house on Tuesday afternoon. He said that like the Below Poverty Line (BPL), the Above Poverty Line (APL) citizens will also be provided with food grains and other such items at subsidized rates in the next few days. The state government has urged the Centre to allocate additional fund for this purpose. “Almost 1,78,000 ration cards for BPL families which were issued on false grounds, have been deleted from the lists. We have also planned to offer compensation to the BPL card holders that have failed to find food grains or other such items from the PDS shops due to unavailability or some technical issues,” Rai added. Meanwhile, Rai visited the Bodo based Krishi bazaar samiti and enquired about the available food grains in the stock. (Times of India 22/6/16)

Urbanisation can mitigate poverty,says PM at smart city launch (21)

Pune, Jun 25 () Making a strong pitch to consider urbanisation as an opportunity to mitigate poverty and not as a problem, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said cities have to be strengthened through comprehensive and inter-connected approach combined with increased public participation. Addressing a gathering here after the launch of projects under government’s flagship Smart City mission in 20 cities across the country, he said, “There was a time in our country when urbanisation was considered a big problem. But, I feel differently. We should not consider urbanisation as a problem, but consider it as an opportunity.” “People in the economic field consider cities as a growth centre…. If anything has the potential to mitigate poverty it is our cities. That is why people from poor places migrate to cities, as they find opportunities there. “It is now our responsibility to provide strength to cities so that it can mitigate the maximum poverty, in the shortest time, and adds new avenues for development. It is possible as it is not a difficult task,” he said. As the Prime Minister launched 14 smart city projects in Pune, and initiated 69 other works in other smart cities in the country, he made a plea for working in a comprehensive, inter-connected and vision-oriented manner and not in piece-meal. “There cannot be a transformation as long as we take things in bits and pieces. We need to adopt a comprehensive, inter-connected and vision-oriented approach,” he said. Modi added that every city has a distinct identity and the country’s people “who are the smartest” should decide on how to develop urban spaces. Stressing that the spirit of participative governance is vital, he said people of the cities have to decide about the development of their urban spaces as these decisions cannot be taken by people sitting in Delhi. He stressed on increased public participation in deciding the course of development of smart cities and called for intense competition among cities to develop them as modern centres of growth. “If we consider it as a problem, our approach to address it would be the same, but if we consider it an an opportunity we would start thinking differently,” he said. Modi also took a veiled dig at the previous Congress governments, alleging that while they took the country on the reverse path, his government was finding new avenues to move forward. (Times of India 25/6/16)

New Act for consumers soon: Paswan (21)

Ajmer: Minister of consumer affairs and food and public distribution Ramvilas Paswan said that the Central government is bringing new consumer protection authority act soon to safeguard the rights of consumers. In this act, government authorities will have the right to interfere and inspect if any violation is found. Paswan, who was addressing the media on Sunday along with the minister of states for micro small and medium enterprises Giriraj Singh, said that Modi government is performing and efforts of last two years are reaching to the ground. Paswan said that they will control the inflation and rates of pulses in coming days as they have prepared an action plan for buffer stocks. Paswan praised the work of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said that their party will contest the Uttar Pradesh state assembly elections under the umbrella of NDA. Both ministers also praised the work of their government and said that it is the first time when such development has taken place in India. (Times of India 27/6/16)

Food Security Act to be implemented in all states by next month: Paswan (21)

Ajmer: Union Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said the National Food Security Act will be implemented in the remaining states in July to bring the whole country under its the ambit. “National Food Security Act is in force in 33 States/UTs, and in states of Tamil Nadu and Nagaland it will be implemented in next month,” he said. Paswan, who was in Ajmer to celebrate two-years of BJP rule in the country, said government was working for the uplift of the weaker sections and has initiated various schemes for them is last two years.“The government is working for the empowerment of the weaker secton of the society, especially women and is providing financial support to them to improve their living,” he said, adding essential commodities like rice and wheat has been made availabe for them at cheaper rates. “Wheat for Rs 2 per kg and rice Rs 3 per kg is given to poor people,” he said. He said the country will not face problems of price rise in pulses as the government is mulling to procure the deficit stock from other countries. “Production of pulses will be 178 lakh tonne. While the demand is 286 lakh tonne, the remaining 108 lakh tonne will be bought from countries like South Africa,” the Union minister said. Paswan, who is also the chief of Lok Janshakti Party, said his party will allign with BJP in the upcoming Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. “LJP will be part of the NDA in UP elections,” he said. Hailing Narendra Modi, Paswan said the Prime Minister has ushered the country to an era of development. “Modi means work and work means Modi,” he said. He was accompained by Union Minister of State Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Giriraj Singh and and BJP, National General Secretary, Bhupendra Yadav. (Indian Express 27/6/16)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

India tops world slavery list, but activists see improvement (14)

NEW DELHI: Activists against forced labor said Wednesday that while India tops a recent global slavery index, the situation is improving in the South Asian nation thanks to public awareness, legal reforms and police-backed raids on factories employing workers illegally. The Walk Free Foundation counted some 18.35 million modern slaves in India in its index of modern slavery released Tuesday, or 40 percent of a global total of 45.8 million, an estimate 10 million higher than the group last reported in 2014. The figures include children and adults forced into labor, often unpaid or to pay off a debt, as well as child brides, child soldiers and migrant workers. Officials with the Indian Labor Ministry did not immediately respond to calls for comment. Experts and activists said, however, that while the problem has persisted for years in India, there are signs that the situation is improving. “We get 20 complaints per day from family members and public in general” reporting labor abuse — a sign that awareness of the problem was growing, said Ramesh Senger from Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi’s charity Bachpan Bachao Andolan, or Save the Childhood Movement. He noted that India’s carpet industry used to employ 300,000 trafficked children just a decade ago, but that the number has come down to an estimated 5,000-10,000. Meanwhile, the number of children forced to work making plastic bangles in parts of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh is now negligible, whereas thousands worked in the industry 10 years ago. India’s garment industry hub in the Indian capital has also eliminated child labor, Sanger noted as an example of how police-backed raids can make a difference. “We rescued nearly 400 children in the area between 2012-2014,” he said. “The garments industry in the area no longer employs child labor.” The global index showed China with the second highest number of modern slaves, 3.39 million, out of 167 countries surveyed for the report. China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment. North Korea was found to have the highest per capita rate of modern slavery, with 4.37 percent of its population affected. In India, the problem of slavery — including child marriage and bonded labor — has long been a challenge and cause for shame. Many saw the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for children’s rights activist Satyarthi, who was awarded along with Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, as a sign that India would be forced to improve. But child labor is widespread despite India’s rapid economic growth over the past decade. Millions of children are forced to work, some as young as 5 or 6. Many end up in difficult and sometimes toxic jobs including rolling cigarettes, mining in stone quarries, dying leather in tanneries. Laws meant to keep kids in school and out of the workplace are routinely flouted. On Monday, the Indian government published draft legislation to curb human trafficking without punishing its victims. “At present the law says the trafficked and the trafficker are both criminals and they both go to jail. Now, we are saying the victim will not go to jail,” said Maneka Gandhi, the government’s minister for women and child development, according to Press Trust of India. But some blamed the government for maintaining an economy where bonded labor can still flourish thanks to high unemployment of around 10 percent and abject poverty in the countryside.”The laws are there, but there is no political will on the part of the government to implement them,” peace activist Swami Agnivesh said. “The government can’t afford to annoy rural rich as well as the urban rich who are exploiting the situation.” (Times of India 1/6/16)

60% of Qatar population lives in ‘labour camps’ (14)

NEW DELHI: Figures from the Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics (MDPS) revealed that almost 60 percent of Qatar’s 2.4 million population live in “labour camps” highlighting that the emirate’s huge workforce is migrant. The figures from April 2015 census by MDPS revealed that 1.4 million people live in what the department officially designates as “labour camps”.At the time of the survey, the official population was 2.4 million which is just 58 per cent of the country’s present population. Since the census, Qatar’s population has grown further to just over 2.5 million. An overwhelming majority of 1.34 million were male, the statistics revealed. The accommodation of migrant labourers working on Qatar’s numerous infrastructure projects has long been a contentious issue. Qatar, which will host the football World Cup in 2022, has been condemned by human rights groups, including Amnesty International, for providing “squalid and cramped accommodation” for its large migrant workforce.Last week, 11 people were killed and 12 injured when a fire ripped through a camp housing labourers working on a tourism project in the southwest of the country. Qatar has responded to the criticism by building new workers’ housing complexes, including the $825 million “Labour City” south of the capital Doha, which incorporates shops, cinemas and a cricket stadium. The complex can house up to 70,000 foreign workers and is one of seven workers’ “cities” being developed which will accommodate almost 260,000 people in total. The population of gas-rich Qatar has soared over the past three decades as it has imported a huge migrant workforce to develop its infrastructure. In 1986, just 373,000 people lived in the emirate. (Times of India 5/6/16)

MGNREGA: Daily wagers foxed by banks in Rajasthan (14)

Jaipur: Bhanwari Devi, at least 75 years old, of Ralawata village in Ajmer, was at the Jawab Do dharna on Sunday sharing her experience of being denied old age pension for 10 months. Her husband, also a pensioner, died 10 months ago. The pension of the couple would arrive in a joint account at the post office. Once her husband passed away, she was instructed to open a new account in a bank. She did that, but no money has yet come into the new account. Bhanwari Devi is not sure what she must do now so the pension payments can resume. She says she paid Rs 12,000 for installing a toilet in the house, but the pension has still not arrived. She says she too will go with the delegation that is bent upon making the government respond to the demands of women like her. Before she sets out, though, she will have to return to her village and get all her documents so she is armed with all she needs to convince the government officials. Amri Devi of Nakoda village in Barmer had been paid only Rs 286 for 13 days of work of digging a pond for conserving water. Her son Vishna Ram was at the Jawab Do yatra on Sunday, trying to understand what had gone wrong – he said there were about 100 villagers at the work site, and all of them had received just Rs 21 per day. What was strange was that many of them, in the previous fortnight, had been paid Rs 130 per day. In the fortnight following the low pay, 15 days, they were given about Rs 130 per day again. Nikhil Dey of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan said, “It’s clear the payments are made arbitrarily. How could the same labourers, who were paid Rs 130 for one fortnight, receive so much less the next? Even Rs 130, though, is much less than the state’s minimum wage of Rs 200, and lesser than the wages fixed under NREGA. What is worse, this happened in March this year, at a time when rural families are reeling under drought.” Dey said those supervising the work too must be held responsible. “How could any worker at all under the programme have been paid Rs 20?”Bhanwari Devi of Ralawata in Ajmer, besides being denied pension, had also not received payment for work done in January 2014. She says she has one son, 40 years old, who is some support. She had been mother to 10, but this is her sole surviving child. “One died at only four, another lived to be nine. But what to do, nine of them fell ill and died,” she told TOI. Many workers complained that since they had no notion that their wages had been drastically cut, they waited imagining that the money was still in the pipeline. Dey explained: “When the payments were made at work sites, if they were paid very little they could get together and decide to protest, or they could turn down the lower wage. But with the money now going into a bank account, there is no telling how much one might actually receive. And there is no option of refusing it or asking the bank to send it back.” (Times of India 6/6/16)

Assocham to pressurise govt for labour reforms (14)

VIJAYAWADA: The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Assocham) pitches for land and labour reforms in the state so as to make the ease of doing business model more meaningful. The industry body seeks a flexibility in hiring-terminating policy and setting a code of conduct for labour unions as part of labour reforms. The Assocham is organising a conference with a focus on reforms in these two areas in Visakhapatnam on Thursday, according to M. Muralikrishna, president, and P. Bhaskara Rao, executive director, of the AP chambers of Commerce and Industry, a partner organisation of the Assocham. The government’s drive for an accelerated industrial growth hits roadblock in view of certain irritants in acquisition of lands and the rigid labour laws, feels the Assocham. Lack of an effective lad acquisition process has made land acquisition process complex and time consuming even as the process is stretched up to one year or even more in many cases.The Assocham in a press release underlined the need to dispel the myth that the business was anti-labour and to usher in a new era of manufacturing with a perfect harmony between the industry and workforce which can happen only with `progressive’ labour reforms. The existing labour laws do not address the well-being of the workers by only trying to save the jobs which is nothing but counter-productive, it said. The programme is expected to deliberate on availability of land, land allotment, labour regulation enablers, provisions of contract labour (regulation and abolition) act, 1970, building and other construction workers (regulation of employment and condition of services act, 1996 and the minimum wages Act, 1948. The Assocham bats for minimisation of political interference in the trade unionism in industrial functioning to address the problem of unrest which results in a spurt in lockouts and layouts. The labour laws should be industry friendly also in a manner that while working out `minimum wages’ for each trade/skill, a `minimum quality output’ should be ensured so that the industry pays as per government orders and the workforce delivers a given output for the salary earned, the Assocham asserted. .. (Times of India 8/6/16)

Forced to migrate for work, UP gives ‘jobs card’ to riots displaced men (14)

MEERUT: Hundreds of men displaced by the Muzaffarnagar riots of 2103 that rendered over 50,000 homeless and killed 62 are being forced to migrate from Shamli in UP, where they had been given temporary shelter, to cities as far as Chennai, Kolkata and Bengaluru in search of livelihood as they have lost all documents in the violence and can’t even get jobs under National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) in the absence of it.Now, though, to ease their hardship the district administration has in a first lot cleared a list of 80 names to be given job-cards under NREGA. “On Friday morning, we received a list of 80 people who had been seeking employment under the NREGA. We asked the applicants to furnish some proof of identity with a photograph. They will have their job cards within the week,” said additional development officer (ADO) Manoj Kumar. Afkar India Foundation, an organisation working for the rehabilitation of riot victims, said that most displaced families lost all their documents after the riots, which made them ineligible for government schemes. As a result, they have had to migrate to other states such as Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan for employment. Some have even gone as far as Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra as not many jobs can be found in this belt of western Uttar Pradesh. “After the riots, thousands were displaced. Countless others families were uprooted from their homes and wander around. Of these, close to 2,800 families came and settled in the neighbouring Shamli district. Some of these families were from Shamli district itself. It’s been almost three years since the riots and most of these families don’t even have ration cards yet, neither do they have water or power connections. They live in deplorable conditions and they resort to manual labour to make ends meet,” said Akram Akhtar, project manager at Afkar India Foundation, an NGO that works for the rehabilitation of riot victims. Akhtar added, “The authorities have known of this problem for a long time but they only started acting on Friday. To start with, these 80 people, who have some identification at least, have been marked for help. We have been asked to get their documents in place within a week. After that they will be put to work at a pond near Kandhla, which needs cleaning. It’s a good beginning.” (Times of India 10/6/16)

Construction workers contest govt over use of welfare funds (14)

NEW DELHI: Representatives of the workers unions in the Delhi Building and other Construction Workers Welfare Board are at loggerheads with the government over a proposal to use funds of Rs 900 crore for projects like hospitals, anganwadis and schools. Even as the government claimed that these projects would be used for the welfare of construction workers, the unions said that they won’t have exclusive rights to the facilities that would be opened up for outsiders. In a board meeting held on June 2, the government’s proposal for tentative allocation of Rs 100 crore for schools, Rs 200 crore for hospitals, Rs 400 crore for anganwadis, Rs 200 crore for temporary accommodation and Rs 50 crore towards cycles for eligible registered beneficiaries to commute to their work place, was hotly contested by some of the board members. “We know we cannot divert money and are not doing so. These facilities are being made for the benefit of construction workers — like the Army built the Research and Referral Hospital for its personnel,” said PWD minister Satyendar Jain, who chaired the meeting in the absence of labour minister Gopal Rai. Lata, one of the representatives who has opposed the government’s move, said that none of these schemes was meant specifically for construction workers. “Why are they giving out things like cycles and not safety mechanisms that labourers need? When we created a ruckus, the minister said that our objections should be sidestepped,” she said. “Every government hospital then should be counted under a welfare scheme for us if we can get free or subsidised treatment there. What is so special about the hospitals they are proposing? It is just a ploy to fund government schemes,” she added. Under the Delhi Building and other Construction Workers Welfare Board Act, the duty of the board is to “constitute building and other construction workers fund and to utilise the same for providing certain welfare schemes like financial assistance to the families in case of accident, old age pension, housing loans, payment of insurance premium, education, medical and maternity benefits to the workers registered with the board”, among others.An official in the labour department clarified that the board was authorised to decide what constitutes a welfare work and that the schemes for which funds were being sought were still in an initial planning stage. “Construction workers will get priority in these hospitals and schools; but it will not be exclusively for them. In schools, for instance, the government will have to compensate the board for every child who is not from a construction worker’s family. This infrastructure will enhance the facilities we are being able to provide for them at present,” he said. (Times of India 13/6/16)

Jharkhand lauded for implementation of MGNREGA scheme (14)

RANCHI: Jharkhand government has bagged appreciation from the union ministry of rural development (MoRD) for its effective implementation of MGNREGA schemes. The centre has allowed 50 more blocks– highest in the country– to be included in CFT project (Convergence of MGNREGS, National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) and Cluster Facilitation Team (CFT)). Centre directed other states to take lesson from Jharkhand model and implement some of the best practices in their respective states. Joint Secretary, MoRD, government of India Aparajita Sarangi, who was here to conduct three day review of 10 states said that the scheme was rolled out in 10 states of the country and Jharkhand performed best among them, Chhatisgarh and Rajasthan being next two in the merit list. “It was started in 2014 to enhance rural livelihoods through MGNREGA in India’s 250 backward blocks out of which 76 blocks were picked up in Jharkhand. We are now going to allow 50 more blocks to be included under the project,” she said. Each block must have three CFTs and Centre grants Rs. 28 lakh annually for each of the CFT. The three day event in Jharkhand included visit of a 70 member team along with officials from centre under aegis of rural development department, government of Jharkhand to villages in three blocks and study the impact of CFT project. Principal secretary, rural development government of Jharkhand and NREGA commissioner, Jharkhand Siddhartha Tripathy accompanied the officials from ten states which included Bihar, Chhatishgarh, Maharashtra, Telengana, Andhra Pradesh, … (Times of India 15/6/16)

Drought-hit areas in Rajasthan to get more work days under NREGA (14)

Jaipur: The Centre on Friday announced that 14,487 villages across 19 districts of state which were declared as drought-affected until July this year by the state government would get 150 work days instead of 100 under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in 2016-17. “In view of the likelihood of increased demand for employment on public works due to the drought situation, it has been decided to provide up to 50 days of additional employment in notified drought-affected districts ,” the letter from the joint secretary of Union department of rural development of the Central government said. (Times of India 18/6/16)

‘589 MP workers died of silicosis in Gujarat’ (14)

Indore: As many as 589 labourers, mostly tribals from western Madhya Pradesh, died due to silicosis in last 10 years while working for the quartz crushing factories in Gujarat, according to a study. The deceased were among 1,721 people from 743 families hailing from tribal-dominated Dhar, Jhabua and Alirajpur districts who had migrated to Gujarat, claims the study carried out by three NGOs including ‘Silicosis Peedit Sangh’ (SPS), between October 2015 and March 2016. Silicosis is a lung disease caused by breathing in tiny bits of silica, a mineral that is part of sand, rock, and mineral ores such as quartz. SPS worker Amulya Nidhi told PTI on Sunday that the study covered 105 villages in the three districts. He said the Supreme Court had on May 4 directed the Gujarat government to pay a compensation of Rs.3 lakh each to 238 people among the deceased on the recommendation made by the National Human Right Commission in 2010. Amulya said they have forwarded a list of remaining 351 deceased to the NHRC to facilitate compensation to their families from the Gujarat government. He said NHRC had recommended to MP Government in 2010 to prepare a rehabilitation plan for the silicosis-affected patients. The SPS worker said though some steps have been taken to help the silicosis patients in Madhya Pradesh a lot still needs to be done. “Many patients of the respiratory disease are unable to reap the benefits of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Act (MGNREGA) and Indira Gandhi Awas Yojana,” he added. -  (The Hindu 21/6/16)

Other states to adopt Raj model on silicosis (14)

Jaipur: The Rajasthan State Human Rights Commission’s (RSHRC) pioneering efforts to provide solace to silicosis victims in state have garnered appreciation at the national level. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has accepted it as a model programme in silicosis prevention and management for other states. Silicosis is an incurable occupational lung disease caused by inhalation of dust containing free crystalline silica. A large number of workers engaged in mining, construction, gem cutting and polishing, ceramics, slate/pencil, glass manufacture are at the risk of developing the disease. The issue caught the attention of government after RSHRC took suo motu cognizance of the problem of silicosis in 2012 and found that in Rajasthan the problem was much more serious than anticipated. It was followed by the Jaipur bench of Rajasthan High Court taking cognizance of the issue through a PIL on silicosis on July 10 last year and started monitoring the implementation of the 59 recommendations contained in the Special Report of RSHRC by Dr M K Devarajan, member, and RSHRC and to assist it in monitoring actions taken by the Central and state governments. The intervention by RSHRC has resulted in several concrete actions on the state government. Silicosis/asbestosis affected mineworkers were given ex-gratia payment of Rs 1 lakh, and further Rs 3 lakh if deceased, through the district collector by Rajasthan Environment and Health Administrative Board (REHAB). So far, REHAB and Rajasthan Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board (BOCW) have sanctioned over Rs 40 crore, he said. Similarly, in place of just one Pneumoconiosis Board at Jaipur to certify silicosis victims, seven such boards, one in each government medical college, were constituted in 2013 and in December 2014. It has now been decided to set up Pneumoconiosis Board in each of the 33 districts and most of these boards have become functional. In a first-of-its-kind move, Rajasthan had declared silicosis as a notified disease under the Rajasthan Epidemic Diseases Act, 1957, on January 22, 2015. On preventive side, state government has also started suspending/cancelling leases of mine owners who do not practice wet drilling, register the mineworkers and whose mines are not registered with director general of mines safety (DGMS). More than 200 quarry licences have been cancelled so far for violation of statutory provisions relating to prevention of dust emission, said Devarajan. … (Times of India 23/6/16)

Gujarat: 3.57 crore jobless, 3.57% of them want work (14)

Ahmedabad: Of the state’s 6.04 crore people, nearly 3.57 crore do not work. Most of those who don’t hold a job handle household duties. These numbers emerge from the data of 2011 census. Data indicates that job seekers account for only 3.57% of the 3.57 crore non-working population of Gujarat. Thus the state has the lowest number of job seekers, in terms of percentage, in the country. According to officials, only 8.33% of India’s 72.89 crore non-workers are job seekers. In Gujarat, only 12.22 lakh of the 3.57 crore non-workers are seeking jobs. Among the non-workers in Gujarat, the proportion of job seekers is highest in the Christian community (5.22%), followed by the Sikh community (3.81%). The number of job seekers is the lowest in the Jain community (2.81%). According to data, 56.89% of the non-working population in Gujarat is either involved in household duties or is dependent. Data reveals that around 50.44% of the non-working population across the nation is engaged in household duties or is dependent. The number of people who are dependent or deal with household chores is the highest among Muslims (61.37%), while it is lowest among Christians (47.14%). According to officials the number of pensioners in Gujarat is only 1%, that is 3.62 lakh people. The figure for the nation is 1.89%. Gaurang Jani, a sociologist, said: “The number of job seekers in the state is low because not many have themselves registered. The figure of 12.12 lakh seems to be very small.” He said if dropouts after class X were considered, the number would be around four lakh. “We have failed to target the segment which has passed class X or class XII. Also, there is no registration of such people in the state or the country,” he said. He said that in the state, a large number of women are not allowed to work and th